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It’s Tuesday and I’m finally beginning to feel recalibrated to boat life. I got back to the boat on Friday evening, but it’s taken a while to get back here.
Altogether I spent a week adjusting to my new medication, failing to go for walks and travelling in many directions, mentally and physically. Today was the first day I’ve felt a stillness in my mind.
It’s not that bad things have happened, although some of what happened hasn’t been optimal. It’s that after a few years in fight or flight mode, anything that happens messes with my equilibrium. I am like a very old phone. It might say it’s on 100% charge, but after about four hours it is down to 8% and fading fast.
I remember someone very kindly saying to me, after I had had my first baby and was fretting about not having a washboard stomach after three weeks, that it takes nine months to get pregnant and at least nine months to get back to anything bearing a vague resemblance to personhood afterwards. It didn’t help much at the time, mainly because I was insane, but I have thought about it a lot in the passing years.
I believe that we do not appreciate how long it takes us to get unwell and we do not want to hear how long it takes to get well again, because in our impatient world, it is invariably too long. What I have had to learn in many and various ways is that it doesn’t matter what I want. It matters what I get. Fighting myself only makes things longer and messier. These days I tend to try to wave the white flag of surrender much earlier than I ever did in the past. I did too much last week, even though it didn’t feel like it at the time and I have paid for it in varying degrees ever since.
I spent most of Saturday being a bit of a basket case and attempting not to show it. I coped. I did not entirely thrive.
On Sunday, Jason and I went to visit Tallulah and her girlfriend in Brighton. The weather was lovely and we decided to take advantage of the fact that we only live an hour and a half away. It was a good decision. I hadn’t seen my girls in ages and there was something heartily restorative about a bone squishing hug or two. We took them out for lunch, went to see their new digs and spent the rest of the afternoon on the beach, watching a fierce sea beating its way to shore. It wasn’t swimming weather but just walking along, letting the sound of the waves wash away any noise in my head was a very good thing.
By the time we got home, I was in the grip of a migraine. I think it was a reaction to a week spent under pressure and the feeling that it was now safe to let go of things. I was still feeling it on Monday morning and it only really left the building this morning.
On Monday afternoon Andrea came over and we walked the loop of the Isle of Dogs, sticking to as much of the Thames Path as we could. I still had the remnants of the migraine but I was more functional and I thought a walk might slough the last of it off. It was sunny and warm and by the time we headed up into Canary Wharf we were sweating and in need of refreshment. We snuck off to grab ice cream from Mercato Metropolitano at Wood Wharf, sitting on a bench by the river to eat them. It felt good to be moving again. It felt better to be eating ice cream. My head disagreed though and when we got back to the boat I retreated to bed again.
I approached Tuesday with caution but apart from the odd twinge and some weird food cravings, I felt much better.
This afternoon I ambled into Poplar, noting as I passed, that someone has spray painted the words; ‘Chiara, will you eat beans with me?’ on the hoardings of a building site by the marina. I hope Chiara says yes. It feels like a humble ask and like it might change the asker’s life for the better if she concurs. I spent some time wondering what kind of beans. Probably Heinz baked beans, but in our neighbourhood it could be anything. I hope it’s not kidney beans though. I am against them.
I wandered onwards, cutting through Bartlett Park and dropping onto the canal towpath. I walked up to Limehouse Cut and came out into Ropemaker’s Field. This was called Ropemaker’s Field because back in the day, when all the warehouses were actual warehouses and not graphic design companies, rope was made here. The park is quite long and thin, because it had to accommodate lengths of rope. There is a very good bronze statue of an enormous seagull at one corner of the park. His legs are made of bronze rope. He’s one of the nicest statues I’ve found on my travels. I think he’s called Bertrand.
I dropped into the Three Colt Gallery and Cafe on my way back to the water. The owner is a lovely woman who supports local artists, makes great tea and is always up for a chat. She lives on a boat in Limehouse Marina, so we got quite into talking about poo pipes. Luckily, Tony - a regular who was having a quiet cup of tea, was delighted to join in. Apparently he once bought a plot of land in New Zealand and had to dig his own cess pit, so he was fully equipped to knowledge share. Once we had satisfied our plumbing needs, I took my green tea to the Thames Path and sat in the afternoon sunshine, reading my book and watching the boats working their way up and down the river. It felt good and I felt calm for the first time in days.
Back at the marina I saw that King Floofy Pants, whose name I am informed is actually Tot, has formed an alliance with the black, wisp of a cat that haunts the tug boat. They were having some kind of meeting as I was walking past and peered fiercely at me through some holes in the side of the deck. They were probably making sure I wasn’t eavesdropping on their plans. If I wake up tomorrow to find that there has been a coup and the marina is run by the cat mafia, I shan’t be surprised.