My word, you do look queer!

My father loved Stanley Holloway’s monologues, and would recite ‘The Lion And Albert’ at the drop of a hat:

Then Mother said, “Right’s right, young feller;
I think it’s a shame and a sin
For a lion to go and eat Albert
And after we’ve paid to come in!” 

The one I was reminded of today is of a man who thinks he is feeling better after an illness, only to be told by everyone he happens to bump into how very, very bad he looks.

I’ve been very poorly but now I feel prime,
I’ve been out today for the very first time.
I felt like a lad as I walked down the road,
Then I met Old Jones and he said, ‘Well I’m blowed!’
My word, you do look queer!
My word, you do look queer!

Sadly, the meanings of some words do change over time.

Well, I celebrated the 1st of October in style by indulging in one of my quarterly (ish) hospital check-ups, audits or assessments – they call them something different each time. Friends and relations have a nasty habit of sending me good luck texts in advance of these, or putting on that sad, sympathetic face.

‘You’ll be so worried, but I’m sure it will turn out OK’.

‘Don’t let the nerves get to you. Think of something nice while you’re waiting.’

‘I’m keeping my fingers crossed.’

‘Thinking of you… xxx xxx’

By the time you’ve received a whole lot of these anxious, condolence-type good wishes you do begin to wonder if they all know something you don’t. Should you be more worried? Maybe you should be chewing your fingernails or tearing your hair out in little clumps?

Actually, I don’t worry so much about the appointments. The initial diagnostic sequence of events was a bit of a shock to the system, but now it’s just wait around for ages then get told a lot of numbers you don’t entirely understand by a dishevelled, distracted young lady who is reading them off a computer screen, generally indicating that not much has changed since last time you met. Then you go home.

Two things really stress me out, the twenty-two mile drive to the hospital through the morning rush hour, and finding the one remaining space in the hospital car park. I set off at seven this morning for a nine-thirty appointment, having been up since three-thirty feeding and mucking out the cats. Nose to tail traffic. Headlights, more headlights. Rain on the windscreen. Listening to local radio as I drive. The helicopter has spotted long, long queues on the very road I am on, and have no option to get off. By the time I get there my hands are stiff from gripping the steering wheel in fierce concentration. My eyes are beginning to hurt. Since I gave up the TV I haven’t needed to wear my glasses, except for driving.

The reason I opt for the earliest possible appointment is to stand a chance of finding that elusive space. The hospital is huge, reached only via a maze of tiny street lined with pigging little sooty-looking houses, like something out of Dickens. There is nowhere to park in these pigging little streets and indeed every one of them for miles around is double yellow lined, just in case you might be tempted to try. Even early in the morning the queue just to get in to the hospital stretches out into these streets. It stretches round the corner and through the traffic lights and back up the preceding road. The lights change, but nothing can actually move, because of that queue.

And once inside the gates there is another queue, to get to the car park barriers. Above one’s head giant red signs inform you how many spaces there are, theoretically, remaining. These signs bear no relation to the actual number of spaces.

You have to draw up next to the barrier, wind down your window and press a button hoping that a ticket will, eventually, slide out and the In barrier go up. Sometimes it doesn’t slide out. You can be pressing that button every few seconds for five minutes or so. No ticket. This is because the machine believes there are No Spaces Left. Effectively, you are waiting for one person to come out the hospital, amble to their car and leave.

Then suddenly you get your ticket, which you have to grasp between your teeth whilst accelerating madly and fumbling with the button to wind up the window at the same time. If you’re too slow the ghastly yellow thing might come crashing down again – chop the car in half. Or maybe you.

And then when you get in there are no actual spaces only theoretical spaces and cars circling, and circling. And once in it’s like the Hotel California – even if there is no space, you can’t leave. Not without having spent several hours in the hospital first, and then inserting your little cardboard card in another machine, which will not, of course, pay any attention to your bank card when you attempt to ‘contactless’ it…

No, the appointment is the least of my worries.

Her mind is Tiffany twisted, she got the Mercedes bends

Well, this is going to be a post about Heaven – or at least my idea of Heaven – and I was going – rather obviously, in hindsight – to use that line from The Eagles’ Hotel California This could be heaven or it could be hell. Then I came across this other line and couldn’t resist it. How could anybody think up a line that brilliant? It’s got everything. I am lost in admiration.

What set this weird and wonderful post off? Well, I was lying on the sofa, as is my wont (what is a wont I wonder?) watching TV and half asleep. There was a cat wedged under my chin, making it impossible to turn my head – so technically I was listening to TV – another cat on what would have been my lap had I been sitting up, and third cat half on, half off of the sofa arm, reclining heavily against my bare foot. And I was thinking – it wouldn’t be Heaven without cats.

How many cats? I wondered. I concluded it would have to be every cat in the world, plus all the cats that ever had been. Heaven would not be Heaven with a single kitten or manky old stray excluded.

You would be wading through cats, I told myself.

No, myself replied. Heaven – if there is such a place – must be infinitely vast. Heaven, if cats are involved, must also have trees, and shelves, and cardboard boxes. It must have an infinite number of hidey-holes and secret places. A cat is not happy without a perching place and a hidey-hole. That would make Heaven the classic house with many mansions – a rambling, Victorian, wood-panelled, bookshelved, mouse-holed, secret-passagewayed sort of set up. It would need to be full of dusty, half-open carpet bags, broken luggage trunks with interesting, pattable metal clasps, spiderswebs to get caught in, spiders to pursue and, eventually, chew.

It would need dirty window panes through which could be glimpsed acres of rolling countryside. It would need coaches coming and going, and gardener’s boys, and at night, foxes on the lawn. It would need moss-covered statues for butterflies to alight on. It would need a moon, and starlight.

It would be a kind of indoor place with an outdoors to watch.

It would need owls, and bats. That would be for me and the multitude of cats.

It would need books and paper, and pencils, and pencil-sharpeners. That would be for me. The books would need to be old. Musty, their pages uncut for centuries. Hidden knowledge. Sleeping stories.

It would need a park, because maybe I could go outdoors sometimes. In that case it would need to be a park emptied of people. A park with broken benches and flower beds full of pansies, daisies or daffodils, according to season. There would need to be chestnut trees, and sparrows, and blackbirds, and worms for the blackbirds to tug at.

And there would need to be the sea, somewhere or other in this particular Heaven. A warm sea and an empty beach. And fishes in the sea, all colours of the rainbow. Fishes with stickle-fins and iridescent scales. Maybe a mermaid or two. Mermaids wouldn’t bother me as long as they kept their distance, as they probably would because mermaids are not very sociable.

And it would be possible to fly, of course. Who wants to be earthbound in Heaven? Maybe the cats could fly with me.

I suppose that’s it, though. That would be my Heaven. But supposing I was a cat-hater or a dog-lover? Supposing I was by nature a sociable type, the life and soul of the party? How could it be Heaven, to that person, without parties to go to, champagne to quaff, the tinkling pianos and the dancing girls? Ergo, there would need to be a separate Heaven for each of us, a self-created paradise – and maybe that is the case.

My own feeling is that we move from lifetime from lifetime in a continuous process of learning and growing. My sense is that we are God Becoming, or God Conscious. We move from lifetime to lifetime, perfecting ourselves and enhancing or enriching That of which we are fragments. Except that linear time is an illusion, so whatever it seems like, all is happening now – is happening, has happened, will happened –in a single moment. We are, in a way, angels dancing on the head of a pin.

After each life we are able to rest for a while. Then we begin to design or to be attracted back into, the next life. And maybe at some point we come to some kind of transition or translation, where rebirth becomes voluntary rather than obligatory, and we can rest for ever if we want to. We experience what we set ourselves to experience; when in life we suffer and are enraptured and all stages in between, daily, hourly, from one micro-second to the next, moving between a multitude of levels and states of being.

Which could be Heaven, or which could be Hell.

What do you think?