September Mornings

Neil Diamond's September Morn always reminds me of a quiet moment years ago. Click To Tweet

At that time I was based a way along the coast from where we live now. My wife was pregnant with our third daughter. I worked in a small team, and on that day we’d arranged to open up our bar on the base and meet for a lunchtime drink. I can’t remember why it was a quiet day, but there was no one else around. Only us four, with our families.

The kids played out in the garden and we sat on a line of stools at the bar, chatting about non-work stuff while a mixed tape played in the background.

When September Morn came on, we all shut up for some long thoughtful moments. I don’t know why. I don’t remember having any sort of premonition or anything, but you know how sometimes a moment catches you? Like that.

Just a few years later, our close team was broken. One died, two of us got hurt, and the fourth got the hell out.

I’m sure we’re all very different people now, in many ways. But whenever I hear this song I remember us as the fit, strong young men we were that September day, with our wives and little kids around us, sharing a quiet moment of mutual trust and respect.

Neil Diamond – September Morn




What do you do all day?

Someone asked me this last week.

Not in a judgmental way. I was asked this same question by several action men from my old life after I got hurt and stayed too ill to even move for a long time, never mind to be an action man anymore. Their voices always carried varying degrees of horror and fear. I didn’t feel badly towards them. Already felt bad enough, and had sufficient fears of my own without taking on the weight of theirs too.

Anyway, the person who asked this question last week on a forum I frequent was coming from the opposite direction. It was a general question for everyone there, and he was genuinely interested in our answers.

I’m not going to give an hour-by-hour account of my days here, partly because my health condition means there is no routine day for me and it would be too exhausting to type out the many variations on a theme. And also because my days contain an awful lot of pain-bastard-pain and I don’t want this to be a whine session.

So here’s a snapshot of the sort of day when, in between the writing of novels and maybe dealing the business side of being a novelist, I lie in my hammock slung beneath the big old eucalyptus tree and let the silences of summer take me.

hanging beneath teasing breezing
washing through paper leaves
twinkling dappling strobing light
on violet eyelids
stroking warm skin
almost awakening libido
inhaling sunskinsmell
remembering another silent summer
pretending to read course notes while
studying bikini lines
to the tinny tunes of Young and Cohen
remembering I still have those albums somewhere
is that a record
good to listen again
without having to explain
that sad isn’t necessarily depressed
supposing that nostalgia really is a thing of the past
and when half-thoughts start to half-rhyme
it might be time to let the memories lift me

How about you? What do you do all day? 🙂

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That person

Yesterday, I had my annual eye test to check for the broken blood vessels and clots that can occur in steroid-induced diabetes. All clear. Today, I’m battered from the car/road vibrations of those two ten-minute trips. It’ll probably be a week or two before the severe and exhausting pain of that dissolves.

This morning, I tweeted this…

I used to do yoga in our roof garden at sunrise. I wish I could be that person again. The thought is making me tearful. #vulnerabletoday

…then I sat to have a think, and here’s what I thought.

I used to be fit and strong, an endurance sportsman, running, swimming and cycling, thrilling at the superhumanity fizzing in my muscles and bloodstream. I wish I was that person again.

At the same time I had a good job and hard-won expertise, and I enjoyed an influential position with responsibility and respect. I released those things from my heart years ago. I no longer wish I could be that person again, but having the health and strength back would be wonderful.

Later, I got badly hurt and caught a virus that developed into myalgic encephalomyelitis, which lost me my enjoyable job and my professional future, and made me so dangerously ill in those first scary months that we thought I was dying. I certainly don’t wish I was that person again.

Later still, I started the long fifteen year climb back from partial paralysis and deathly illness to a sort of regained mobility and chronic illness. I’m glad I’m not that person again.

Still later, I reached the point where my chronic illness was well-managed with medicines and good sense, and where I could enjoy gentle yoga in our roof garden at sunrise. I look back upon that time fondly and wish I could be that person again.

Later again, those good times crashed when the steroids that saved my life in the early days and helped me sustain my fight to recover in the longer term, turned against me with side effects that were, apparently, inevitable, and that would inevitably kill me if I didn’t get off them. Which, it turns out, is similar to getting off heroin. This, now, is the reign of the severe chronic illness, and I wish I didn’t have to be this person.

I wish I was the person doing gentle yoga on the roof at sunrise.

And then I realised, I am. I’m still that person. I’m still all those people. They’re all still in me.

In this respect, I am the sum of my experiences. I am the sum of every person I’ve been.

This is why I can write my people. The people I love. Why I can be a steampunk princess flying a great iron steamship with loyal rebels in my crew. A modern day schoolgirl who inherits her family castle and all the ghosts of her ancestors. A starship engineer battling to save her ship and the thousands of people who live in it. A boy being dragged into a fictional world of his novelist father’s creation. And a chronically ill girl who leaves her illness at the covers of her books when she enters their stories and interacts with their characters, first as an observer and later as a heroine.

I’m all the people I’ve ever been, and I’m all the people of my imagination, and if it weren’t for my circumstances over the past twenty years I wouldn’t be the person I am today.


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