On the eve of Virginia Woolf's birthday and because of a roundabout set of coincidences I picked up and read On Being ill, that strange little essay of hers republished a few years ago in this very alluring replica version by Paris Press.
I came to it on my shelves via a google on "Edith Wharton-Hermione Lee" in readiness for the forthcoming biography, thence to Hermione Lee's website which I didn't know existed and that pointed me to her introduction to this latest edition.
This time last year I wasn't a blogger but I was ill and dovegreyreader scribbles was the direct result of that.
Quick resume, I had a fairly everyday virus which I expect a dear little baby gave to me and it settled on the nerve endings in my neck and became a neuritis.It was an excruciatingly painful and funny (peculiar not ha-ha) time and I had to have 6 months off work because I couldn't pick anything up (eg babies) or drive anywhere (to visit babies) or sleep (to have the energy to talk to babies) or write (to say what I thought about the babies).
Virginia Woolf bemoans the lack of illness narrative in literature,
"the public would say that a novel devoted to influenza lacked plot".
In her introduction Hermione Lee mentions one of my stalwart illness narrative books which I've mentioned here before The Wounded Storyteller by Arthur Frank.Virginia Woolf would have identified 100% with this book.
But something else Virginia Woolf wrote struck me too,
"Directly the bed is called for,or,sunk deep among pillows in one chair, we raise our feet even an inch above the ground on another, we cease to be soldiers in the army of the upright;we become deserters.They march to battle.We float with the sticks on the stream...able perhaps for the first time for years, to look round, to look up.."
How true and what an excellent time it was for me to transform a bucketful of nightmares into a glassful of blessings.
One of the greatest lessons confirmed (because I did know it already) was that at work I am not indispensable.Yes, it was an awful mess cancelling my diary for the few weeks ahead but after that, well, life went on.
It has to be said that my arms and neck were rubbish and the drugs - enough to flatten a horse- made me even more ill.Plus my experience as an NHS patient was pretty shabby and I can't believe I ended up writing a grievous and very sad letter of complaint to a surgery I had previously worked in for 9 years, but I did.
However the rest of me was as happy as larry because all I was fit for was reading, night and day (not that book by Virginia Woolf , I mean the hours...no not that book by her either...the time as in, oh you know)
As I started to emerge from that excruciating and drilling pain that felt like my arms were being sawn off and on to the dull pain I found that I could type if I knelt at my desk and used my laptop at eye height with my arms sort of propped and wedged. It looked funny (ha-ha) but it worked and I was away.I was desperate to talk and write about all this reading.
Here's my first ever blog post and it's been good to remind myself of that day, how uncertain I felt about it all at the time and how therapeutic the writing was and has been ever since.
What on earth must it have been like for a natural writer such as Virginia Woolf to have been forbidden to write when she was ill? Had she been allowed to write what might she have produced?
Dovegreyreader scribbles all kept my brain ticking along while the rest of me plodded back to fitness, and what an exciting year it's been since.