It is five months today since I had my brain haemorrhage and yesterday, I felt I needed to mark this with some new act of freedom. I promised myself that I would go on my first country walk since all this disrupted my life.
As everyone tells me I am lucky, well bloody lucky actually, to be alive, then I shouldn’t whinge about the length of time it has taken for me to get over it.
My neurologist says the first six months is crucial to my long term recovery but it could take up to two years before I am completely back to full health.
Great! Well, it may be a long time but, looked at another way, you are a long time dead. So patience, not my natural characteristic, has had to come into play – and it stinks.
I seem to be getting better all the time, with only a few bad days when my brain feels really bad, as if it is going to burst.
I am doing more and more and my other injuries, caused during the two brain seizures, are now well on the way to recovery.
Well my fractured spine was no longer a constant pain until I spotted a piece of broken biscuit on the floor on Saturday and bent down to pick it up. There was a crack and a sudden pain followed by a swear word.
It has been sore again ever since.
I go backwards and forwards health wise and since Friday I have had to miss two parties, one a male only beer and pie affair with my neighbours and, on Saturday, a James Bond fancy dress party. Maybe high-octane excitement will have to be postponed for a bit. There is now a long list of events that I have had to back away from.
This morning, I put on for the first time since last Summer, my faithful and sturdy walking boots and, on doctor’s orders, in case I slip or fall, I pulled out my fell- walking stick bought on a holiday in the land of my fathers, the Scottish Hebrides. I then went off on my first country walk in six months.
The town where I live in Sussex, England, is surrounded by downland hills made millions of years ago by chalk formations. The same geological structure that gave England its most famous landmark, those White Cliffs of Dover.
White chalk paths run in a network in all directions up over the hills and far away. I followed one of those paths yesterday, through some woodlands at first, enjoying the sight of the bursting Spring and accompanied by a small pioneering bumble bee.
Hawthorn trees, soon to be a dense cover, were beginning to show their virginally fresh light green leaves, young stinging nettles under them were producing fresh innocent looking foliage whilst primroses shone with delicate yellow from an undergrowth of discarded branches.
Holly and Ivy were still the monarchs of these woodlands but their dominance is soon to vanish as the deciduous trees paint everywhere with a bright green redolent of new beginnings.
Picking my way with the help of my gnarled stick, caution led me to look at my feet, as I made my way upwards onto the downlands themselves. Checking for exposed roots, slippery surfaces and dips on the path, why do we always hear Doctor’s voices, my eyes were drawn to the English Spring’s first native flowers, the bright yellow of the Lesser Celandine, purple and blue violets and the vivid yellow of the first crop of dandelions, now fresh and shining in their new livery and a welcome sight before they form their seed clocks and try to take over the Universe.
The chalk paths led me to an open, flat-topped hill that surprises with its unnaturally level surface. Was it a Bronze Age burial mound or the grass-covered remains of a disused chalk quarry? I don’t know but I do know that up here on this hilltop the spirits of long dead generations of human beings keep you company.
Looking up from my feet, leaving the miniature for the overview, there was a panoramic view with distant hills, a sky dramatic with cloud changes and below the flood plains of the River Ouse and the river itself, shining in the sunshine and carving its way towards my home town then on its way to the sea. Running through the centre of this view is the straight clean line of the London train which, when I was well, took me up to the centre of the capital city – fun in just over an hour.
To my right, lying at my feet in an orderly jumble, is the town itself, my town. I have spent the last five months down there, imprisoned, maybe, recovering, for sure, but today, I can see beyond the town walls.
Sometimes I have been ungrateful and impatient, but as I look around me, in the middle of this surge of Nature, I feel wounded, yes, but also, very much alive.
During those five months down there, I thought, I just may have found myself. Out of my vulnerability has come strength, a chance to look deep into my own psyche and at the frailty of existence. Not so much the drowning man reliving his past as much as being reborn with new life, enhanced and emboldened somehow by the experience.