Friday, December 13, 2013

F. got the results of her tissue tests yesterday, and they weren't as good as we had all psyched ourselves up to expect. She will have surgery on the 23rd to take more tissue – still not a radical mastectomy – and more lymph nodes. A bummer. My experience of life is that the last-minute-improvised Christmasses are the best ones, but that may not apply here. The 23rd is her younger son's 10th birthday.

Our newspapers are full these days with stories about how the NHS is crumbling beneath the weight of our demands on it. Our personal experience has been – as here – that it's terrific.

I got Archie safely to the airport. Like his father, and like me, but strikingly unlike my husband, he prefers to get there in plenty of time. It was a disease with my mother and her father, getting there early. But it makes for a relaxed drive, certainly, and I've mastered the complexities of airport parking by now, so there was nothing to do but enjoy Archie's company. He asked on the way why Edinburgh is called the Athens of the North. He had difficulty, himself, in thinking of two places more different.

I answered in terms of Hume and the Enlightenment, as corresponding to Socrates and his pals. With a nod to architecture. When I told my husband about the conversation, he thought I had it about right.

Not much knitting, and still no mattress stitch. The front of the Milano is approaching neck-and-shoulder-shaping time. The comfort of those wonderful yarns on my fingers, and the sight of those satisfying stripes, are very welcome in these dark days. An argument, perhaps, for going to to the Ravello.


I have still about 20 cards to write, and I'm not going to get them done. I must examine the list and pare it down to people from whom I am anxious for news.

I realised earlier this week that, despite the daily inflow of parcels, a book I had ordered from Amazon 10 days previously (as their website confirmed) hadn't turned up. Most unlike Amazon. I decided that it was no use fussing – by the time we got the matter straightened out, Christmas would be over and done with. So I ordered another.

You'll have anticipated the punch line – both copies arrived yesterday. The costs were significantly different. It's not a book it's going to be easy to offload on anyone else on the list. Bill Gates recommends it, and the reader-reviews on Amazon are enthusiastic. That doesn't help.


I am engrossed in Kate Atkinson's “Life After Life”. I used to like her a lot, but recent ones have seemed increasingly preposterous. You've probably read reviews of this one – it sends its heroine (and therefore the people she moves among) down different possible life-paths, dipping and weaving back and forth. From the reviews, it sounds confusing and irritating. I don't know why I ordered it for my Kindle app – I needed something to read, I guess.

It's not confusing and irritating. It's brilliant.

And it sets one thinking about the cruces (plural of crux) in one's own life – the moments when everything, or at any rate most things, or at least some things would have been completely different if matters had turned out otherwise. If my husband hadn't come to that party I and my flatmates gave in February, '57 – he was only the friend of a friend of a friend. We needed a few more chaps. It was unlike him, then as now, to accept such an invitation.


  1. I am sorry to hear about your niece, and I certainly feel for the 10 year old. Nothing can make that memory better.
    I have to admit to not persisting with "Life after Life". The premise is true, but I did not feel engaged by the characters. There is a new genre of novels with elderly protagonists which I find intriguing. I enjoyed "Norwegian by Night."

  2. I just started Life After Life on the kindle, and so far so good. Do you find it hard to remember the name of a book you are reading on the kindle, as opposed to a hard copy. I think not seeing the title lying around, or every time I pick it up is a problem for me.

  3. Anonymous1:56 PM

    So sorry to hear about F., but its very good that they are aware of it all, and will treat it aggressively. In the USA now, people with breast cancer have genetic testing which can help to predict the likelihood of it recurring, and this helps to determine the treatment plan. I hope she is able to have this.
    I, for one, loved Life after Life; it could have gone on for another 800 pages, and I would have been happy as could be. Definitely my favorite for 2013!

  4. Leslie2:47 PM

    "Life After Life", by Kate Atkinson: simply the best fiction I've read this year -- and I am a voracious reader of fiction. This was my first novel by Ms. Atkinson, but not my last. I have another "stand alone" on my kindle as well as the first novel in the Jackson Brodie series. Happy reading.

  5. Much mojo for your niece. I agree with Anonymous about the genetic testing. They do it during the preliminary visits and tests. A friend of mine is currently recovering from her surgery for breast cancer and is doing fine.

  6. I, too, am sorry to read about your niece & hope that everything goes well.

    Thanks for the heads-up on Life after Life. It sounds interesting, so I just placed a hold on a Kindle edition through my library. (Thank you Andrew Carnegie)

  7. The genetic test that is often done is called Oncotype DX and is available within the NHS in many areas but it only applies to certain tumour types. Breast cancer care on the NHS is generally fabulous.

  8. I too loved Life After Life. But except for cards to those who celebrated Chanukah I have not even begun to do holiday cards.