Cruise Control

It’s great to be back home once again. After 8 days in hospital with the constant barrage of nurses, technicians, doctors (much as I appreciate what they are doing for me), to be relieved of all the tubes protruding from almost all of my body’s orifices- including a few new ones, and to wave goodbye to hospital food, to be able to sleep in my own bed and to eat nicely cooked meals, is marvellous. I was let out on Monday evening – my young friend drove me home – trying to avoid the many potholes as we neared Henley so as not to aggravate the pain too much.

In normal times I am a very fast walker, so on my first outing two days ago, when I had to have the sutures removed from my chest, I was constantly kept in check by what can only be described as a ‘human cruise control’ as each time I tried to walk faster I was firmly held back.
Although the operation was a success and the two tumours removed, the pain, swelling and general tightness of my chest, will remain for several weeks. Luckily I’m fit (or so I’m told) and have good stamina, so will soon be able to walk the two miles my surgeon recommends every day. Only managed one mile today – along by the river.

Nigel, the lockkeeper, saw me on the bridge and came out for a chat, and later, Tracy - his partner – deposited six freshly laid eggs outside my front door. There’s nothing I like better than eggs from chickens I’m personally acquainted with, so later this afternoon a couple of them are earmarked for my tea when Val calls in. (The eggs, not the chickens!)

On Thursday evening we were invited to dinner by Guy and Marjorie Hart - (they live in the flat below me). Guy subscribes to an Austrian TV satellite system, which, that evening, was transmitting the Vienna Opera Ball live from Vienna. This prestigious affair – famed across Europe – is a marvellous finale to the Austrian Ball season and takes place in that city’s wonderful State Opera House. The whole ambience of the evening with its ravishing music and elegant dancing couples formed the perfect background to the delicious Bavarian meal, which Guy had prepared for us.

I had tried getting back to painting on Thursday, but could only manage an hour or so, but yesterday painted for just about 8 hours. I’m told I mustn’t tire myself after such a major operation but, quite frankly, painting is my form of relaxation.

I wish Halcyon Days had pursued their request for me to paint profile silhouettes of Prince William and Kate Middleton for one of their limited edition enamel boxes, but the timing coincided with my time in hospital. So far the portrait profiles I’ve seen on coins and other proposed wedding memorabilia don’t seem to have caught good likenesses in my opinion.

Good to see Colin Firth getting the Oscar for his portrayal of King George V1 in the film ‘The King’s Speech’. Since the publicity surrounding the release of the film I’ve heard a number of programmes on the radio about stammering – the affliction the King suffered from. I could really empathise with him as from the age of 13, till I joined the army at 19, I stammered quite badly. Certain letters at the beginning of words were more difficult than others to get out and I know we all tried to quickly think up alternatives to the s’s,d’s, r’s, and especially m’s. At my school, each time we had to call out our names in the mornings and afternoons, I actually paid one of my school-mates threepence a week to call my name out at these times. (As an alternative I’d sing my name!)

So many kind friends have called in to see me since I got home – my flat is heaving with flowers, fruit, chocolate, biscuits and all sorts of goodies – I’ll be a real Billy Bunter if I eat it all.

Louisa, my niece came over with her children, Max and Kate an hour ago. Here’s little Kate – she’s just turned four.

And here’s the little card she made for me