2.45pm. Wave within wave of notes ripple across the afternoon roofs, spreading jubilation. Eight bells, some four hundred years old, each a different size and note. Bright ripples interweaving and dancing one over the other. A magical tradition of abundance absorbed from the Celts by the intruding Christians. Both majestic and radiant, a complex reverberation of joy and euphoria dispersing the love and rapture of a wedding which I should be attending, standing outside our beautiful honey-stone Minster, beaming smiles from my heart to the young groom we adore.
9am (same morning). We had caught the mood early. I had been sipping tea in bed whilst Camilla bustled around me selecting clothes for the occasion. “Pale linen top and trousers under this hand printed, knee length, pale indigo patterned coat….”
“Boho smart…” I smiled, ”weddings are about subtle bling….” “Celebration, more like. Mmm, this subtle red/blue silk scarf…?”
“Yes! That shocking pink-cum-burgundy one is spot on.”
A text pinged in from a friend taking my place. “Flung hat, scarf, dress on bed before dashing to sunny seaside.” Camilla and I looked out at dense low cloud enveloping our market town 35 minutes from the sparkling sea.
The beads were the real problem. She lifted them from the wicker box they rest in until released to create charm. Hmm, these ancient Tibetan ones, a mix of turquoise and amber? She pirouetted. This tribal Turkoman set or the Afghans? What about these Kenyans, a glance in the mirror, no, too bold… Oh, these Indian ones, remember the crooks who tried to sell them as…. Oh, I think these are perfect.” She lifted a demure but great necklace from Mali, chunky round beads of a pewter-silver mix.
Another text. “Iain, after the church, we’ll be round for a photo with you at home!”
I reply, “Hey! Forget me. Enjoy your wedding day!”
A collection of small handbags I didn’t realise existed emerged from nowhere. A cotton thing from India, demure blue with small silver beads dangling. “It goes with everything I’m wearing!” Her face was bright. “Or this small Kenyan sisal kiondu? Yes!” She looks elegant, arty, lovely.
2.50pm (yes, afternoon again). Alone, wide awake now, head out the window listening to those delightful bells, wishing my dressing gown wasn’t a bright white beacon. A woman I’ve not seen for a month, who asked Camilla why, walked by, shouts up. “Gosh, you're enjoying a lazy day! Must get on! Bye-bye.”
To those riding life’s spinning carousel, your stillness is a blur. Yet various doctors and consultants, astounded by my medical history, have reminded me the reason I still exist is my tough body. Luck also plays a huge part. However, I never stop thanking those cultured yet potentially fierce Kenyan tribesmen I grew up alongside, runners who keep winning gold medals, noble, rugged individuals who let me play/train with them in their savannah kingdom throughout my formative years.
It is interesting adjusting to being defined by your health. Our attitude circumscribes the quality of our existence. Back in hospital, two patients suffering far less pain, less serious conditions and who stayed less time, were deeply depressed by their condition (tonsils; broken bone). With the nurses, I tried to cheer them, but they were dug into themselves. It’s not easy catching self-pity early, particularly when a friend’s ten minute visit conks you out. More so when remembering that twenty five days ago you'd risen from nine months’ battering. Exercise helps, but gentle... last week’s one-minute exercise sessions knocked me down. The new pattern - slow stairs, recovering sleep, writing or reading or radio play, those stairs, sleep, reading, round and round… An occasional lifting mini dance.
3.40pm The ancient minster’s bells release felicity - they are married!
3.50 A single bell tolls as they emerge into sunshine. I skip around the bedroom.
4.35 Camilla texts: “They want to see you!” I throw on clothes photos show are a bit of a mix.
5.05 The happy couple. Wow! Stunning! What joy a wedding, true love emits sparks which trigger endorphins; for the first time in ages I feel alive, with-it, and beam out the love inside. We stand by a relative’s VWCamper, photos are taken, 5.25 they shoot off to the reception.
Exhaustion returns as adrenaline diminishes. Camilla and I toast the couple. Lifted, we recall our own day of absolute love flowing between us, pouring out to those we love and echoing back multiplied.