Q. So, still in the hermitage?
Q. How long has it been?
A. Forever, approximately.
Q. When will you be allowed out?
A. With a bit of luck, some time in the next decade.
Q. Do I detect a little impatience?
A. I prefer ‘frustration’.
Q. Any new accessories to help pass the time?
A. Oh yes. Scalextric! Everybody’s favourite trigger-controlled racing toy. A joy and a delight. It is truly wonderful.
Q. Having such little space, where do you put it?
A. The track leads under the armchair, past the scales, under the end of the bed, past the bathroom door, under the head of the bed and narrowly skirts the bedside table. Think Micro Machines…
Q. Is it a danger to people entering the hermitage?
A. Certainly not, as nobody ever comes in in the dark, and some of the track is currently removed to make it even harder to pretend it is in the way.
Q. Does it not prevent the cleaners from giving the floor a good wipe?
A. Apparently so. This is difficult to argue against. Unfortunately it ought to be packed up at the end of each day.
Q. Is that a problem?
A. Well, it takes a while to put it together or take it apart, particularly as the course weaves around the furniture. I guess I’ll have to try, though…
Q. How else are you filling your hours?
A. By watching season 3 of ’24’ with Harriet, and by reading my book (‘The Accidental’ by Ali Smith, though I’ve just finished that).
Q. So life is full?
A. In a sense, yes, as I have plenty to do. I cannot complain of boredom, as I have more books, films and toys than I could ever tire of. And there are so many other ways to fill my time: by writing letters, for example.
A. It’s all a little shapeless. I have many ways to kill time (though of course reading, writing etc are certainly not a waste of time), but at the moment that’s all I seem able to do. It feels very unproductive. It doesn’t lead anywhere. When I finish a book, I start another. But nothing has really been achieved. And that’s frustrating.
Q. But presumably it’s only like that until you go home?
A. As much as I’m looking forward to going home, it is still likely to be the same story, as I will not be there for long enough to get my teeth into anything.
Q. What sort of thing do you mean?
A. I really want to take up my position as Secretary of the OMV again, for example. In that position, I would have lots to focus on, to work towards and to achieve.
Q. So why don’t you do it?
A. A major part of the role is communication, which is also vital to enable the other parts of the job to be done. Without the internet, I am powerless to communicate in the ways necessary.
Q. What about when you’re at home?
A. Then I have the internet, but I would need to have regular online access, to send emails to volunteers when needed, for example. Not being able to do so for several weeks when in hospital makes the job of Secretary currently impossible.
Q. So you wish you had some sort of project?
A. I suppose so. Something to give my days a focus. At the moment the only thing I’m working towards is the end of treatment, which is not only a fair way off, but is also passive.
A. I don’t do anything in my treatment. I get given drugs in a variety of ways, but there’s nothing I can actively do (except make sure I drink enough) to help.Q. Have you had any other ideas for what you could do?
A. The problem with finding some kind of useful project is that most ideas I’ve had are impossible for someone unable to leave their room and/or lacking an internet connection.
Q. But isn’t it all about making sure you’re happy each individual day?
A. Yes, I still believe that. But that doesn’t exclude the possibility of taking other days into consideration. Having something to do with purpose makes each day better, and that purpose will often be in the future. It also helps to have something to look forward to.
Q. Like your birthday?
A. Indeed. But now that’s passed, there’s nothing of similar excitement in the near-ish future. There are a few little exciting things, such as seeing certain people, and getting home to a bacon sandwich, but the calendar currently looks like a long phase of treatment punctuated by occasional brief periods out.
Q. Is there anything to do about that?
A. Unfortunately I don’t think so. Because of low blood counts, the importance of getting on with treatment and the unpredictability of when it will occur, it’s nigh-on impossible to organise anything at all.
Q. So how will you shake off this frustration?
A. The best way would be if the hospital would allow the internet on the ward, and I could do things like the OMV Secretaryship.
Q. Any chance?
A. We’re working on it.
Q. And if not?
A. I’ll have to stop being silly, remember how good it is just to be alive, get back to appreciating small pleasures, learn a bit more patience and be grateful for everyone’s generosity and support.
Q. Isn’t that what you’ve been trying to do all along?
A. Yes. I guess that in the past I’ve often not felt up to much more than lying in bed, whereas this time particularly I’ve felt physically and mentally fine and alert, so not being able to do anything worthwhile has been frustrating. Especially as since my ITU trip I’ve been keen to make the most of every day.
Q. Any other problems?
A. My self-motivation’s not great. Maybe that’s why the OMV thing is a good idea – I’m motivated by many others.
Q. Why are you talking to yourself?
A. I’ve no idea. But I blame Ali Smith.
Q. So, still in the hermitage?