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Inverallochy, Week 7: 12 February

There’s a scene in the first Matrix film where our hero is offered a choice between a blue or a red pill. The blue pill will return him to normality, while the red pill will uncouple him from the illusory virtual reality environment that he—and we—think of as the real world. He swallows the red pill and as he waits for it to take effect, he idly reaches out and touches a mirror. And there’s a wonderful moment when it vibrates like a membrane, sending ripples shimmering across the surface of something that just seconds before had looked solid and permanent. The red pill is working: the uncoupling has begun.

Soon be spring . . .

As I’ve got older I’ve realised that we all have red pills of our own, in the form of a phone call at an unexpected hour. You lift the receiver, you hear the news, and all of a sudden everything you thought was real and important—that work deadline, those mortgage payments, whose turn it is to do the washing up—simply evaporates, as irrelevant and insubstantial as Neo’s mirror, and you’re suddenly confronted with a harsher, starker world. This time the news wasn’t as bad as it could have been: my brother was in hospital after a heart attack. It was, diolch byth, a mild one. But just for a moment the world took on a distinctly red pill-ish tint.

It’s not been a great week, really, as I’ve also been struck down with whatever lurgy is currently doing the rounds, and confined to my bed: too ill even to knit. It’s passing slowly—my breathing still sounds like a sumo wrestler sitting on a basket of puppies and I’ve a cough like Darth Vader being tickled—but at least I’m (mostly) vertical again.

One night I sweated so profusely I soaked through my pyjamas, my pillows, the sheets, the duvet, and the under-mattress. As we disbelievingly peeled back the layers it was like the scene in Alien where the crew first discovers the alien’s blood is acid, and they frantically rush from floor to floor following the holes it’s burned through the ship’s structure. When I got up, the bed was so wet it looked as though someone had sprayed a rough body-shaped outline onto it with a garden hose, a sort of Turin shroud of sweat.

St Fergus’, Wick, on a sunny day

There has not, you will already have guessed, been a lot of knitting this week, what with one thing and another. But I have reached one milestone—I have finally divided for front and back, and am embarked on the back. It’s a nice, simple, clean, effective pattern, one where I don’t have to count the rows. Hopefully we can put this week behind us and, in every sense, move on.

And it’s funny how your perceptions change with age. Take The Matrix: when I was younger my sympathies were altogether with Neo and the other rebels. Now increasingly I find myself identifying with the traitor, the guy who sells them out for the chance to reenter the Matrix and lose himself back in the illusory VR world. TS Eliot, as ever, said it best: human kind cannot bear very much reality. Blue pill for me, thanks all the same…

Get well soon, Colin.

9 comments to Inverallochy, Week 7: 12 February

  • Annie

    Get well soon, Colin and Gordon.

  • meg

    hello gordon, sorry to hear about your brother. hope he makes good recovery
    i commiserate with you having the `lurgy`..I am just emerging from a similar experience! whatever nasty little gremlins found their way into my lungs they had a real party..the wheezing kept me awake..it was like stones rattling on the shore…and like yousaid ….. was dripping wet when I eventually rose up to meet the morning!…I had the flu jab ages ago….guess this was something else….hope you back in full swing soon with your needles xmeg

  • Lois

    Ah, Fate seems to be rattling the dice in earnest this week. I learned that one of my best friends had a mild heart attack. At her age and with other complications, the outlook was not good.

    I called today, to be told that she was sitting up, tucking away tea and toast, and demanding that her daughter be sure her checkbook was properly balanced!

    Best wishes and a speedy recovery to all.

  • =Tamar

    Watch out for dehydration – perhaps keep a bottle of water next to the bed, in case of need. You are not alone – my brother is recovering from an uneventful keyhole-surgery removal of kidney stones. They forgot to tell him that the incision would drain for a week, so he also soaked his bedding this week.
    Best wishes for an uneventful recovery for you and for Colin, and for everyone else who is sick, too.

  • Jane

    Ooh nasty. Plenty of warmth, rest, liquids and when ready nice food, be really kind to yourself, remember you deserve it!

    Very sorry to hear about your brother, it sounds like all the right things have been done, then progress happens.

    Gansey looks really good, take care!

  • Gordon

    Thanks, everyone. The latest is that my brothers out of hospital, Margaret’s off down south to help out, and just when I thought I was getting better my cold shifted to my chest and has pretty much wiped me out all over again. Sigh. I keep looking at my knitting, which I think is a hopeful sign, even if I don’t have the energy to actually pick it up…

  • Dave

    Glad to hear Colin is on the mend. Please send him my best wishes for a speedy recovery.

    Hope you are getting better too. I am way overdue a good game of backgammon – hmm… where am I going to find one of those…

    Llanelli half marathon for me this weekend. Have you thought about writing a will ?

    • Gordon

      Hi Dave, definitely on the mend. I now only cough when I breathe in (this is a significant improvement).

      I have indeed made my will, a service offered for free by our local solicitor when we bought our house here; perhaps he had more experience of life in Wick than I thought… I have opted to be cremated, and my ashes secretly stirred into the sugar bowl at work.

      I don’t think I’ve played backgammon since I saw you last, dammit. If this keeps up I’ll forget the odds of throwing a double six, and then where will I be?

      Enjoy your half-marathon. (No wonder you’re thinking about wills with a hobby like that!)

  • Sharon in Surrey

    Geeze Gordon, you seem to pick up every damn bug that comes visiting!!!! The latest flu incarnation is clobbering us here on the Wet Coast of British Columbia as well, leaving some of us with pneumonia & some of us with a bug that just keeps on coming back. It seems to hit the Over-the-Hill bunch & the Pre-Teens the hardest. So, take it easy, drink lots of fluids, get up & dressed every day but get lots of rest as well. I recommend Miso soup.The knitting can wait a week or two. Get well soonest. Glad to hear your brother is doing fine, too.

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