Jake and I modelling opposing tees

Cumulative Civilisation

“I want my love, my joy, my laugh, my smile, my needs
Not in the star signs
Or the palm that she reads
I want my sun-drenched, wind-swept Ingrid Bergman kiss
Not in the next life
I’ll have it in this
I’ll have it in this”

  • Rotheray /Heaton

This week I started the second half of my Chemolympics after a week off. My bloods had improved with the rest and my weight is steady, if a little lower than when we started. I put this down to copious amounts of gifted chocolate , gifted Rioja, and home baked meringue pies by Nikita from Blasta. My nurses and doctors asked if I’d noticed any changes. I should point out that I always refer to them as my nurses and doctors because they make you feel that you’re their only patient, Anyway I said I’d noticed that I’m a wee bit more tired lately and they said that was the cumulative effect of the chemo.

It put me in mind of the quote from Hemmingway’s ‘The sun Also Rises’, where two characters are discussing one’s recent bankruptcy :

“How did you go bankrupt?” Bill asked.

“Two ways,” Mike said. “Gradually and then suddenly.”

I hadn’t really noticed any significant tiredness at all, and now since mentioning it yesterday and my nurses and doctors saying it was to be expected, it seems to have given my body permission to embrace it and I’ve spent the day dozing in an armchair looking out at a beautiful day, drinking tea, reading ‘The Dawn Of Everything – A new History Of Humanity’ by David Graeber and David Wengrow, and watching ‘Classic Album’ documentaries downloaded from Sky Arts , The Band’s ‘Music From The Big Pink’ a particular favourite, and dining on poached eggs on toast and ham on crackers. I’ve had a lovely day. This cumulative malarkey is grand.

On Tuesday I walked over to Mum & Dad’s for a cup of tea and a chat. While there my friend Paula from Dublin said she was in Clones and would be passing our house and could she call. So I hightailed it home and arrived shortly after her. We had tea and some lemon drizzle cake that Ger had brought me from Wales and before she left I gave her a masked and socially distant tour of the house to show her where seven of her art piece were on display, including the block she used to make our wedding invitations. There are now six of her art pieces on display, as she tried to straighten one of her decorated plates, and it smashed on the floor!

At one point I shared a flat on the top floor of a lovely Georgian terrace house on Percy Place, along the canal near Mount St. Bridge, with Raymond and Dusty, and later Fintan. I think we rented that flat for three years and we went out every single night. Paula , Sharon, Anne and Oona had recently returned from Australia and had known Raymond from college in Letterkenny. They had a flat near the Burlington, and were regular visitors in our place and we in there’s. We spent many nights locked in The 51 on Haddington Road, both biologically and physically.

Then Coops called from England using Facetime, which was a first for me and he had to ask me twice to remove my phone from my ear as he felt like a medical examiner. I’ve known Coops and his long suffering partner Sonja, for half a lifetime. We’ve had many adventures on holiday in Pembrokeshore camping with our family , the Liddy family and the Coopers. Dave Liddy and Coops have known each other since they were teenagers. Coops had sent me a photo earlier that day from hospital where they were doing something to his heart…tickling it I think he said. I told him he wasn’t doing it right, as he wasn’t wearing a band teeshirt.

He called me , on Facetime, on his way home, and we had a great chat about our kids and families, business, politics, farms, and life in general. We agreed we were two incredibly lucky chaps.

On my way to Mum’s I took a photo of me in my Nick Cave tee ‘This Morning Is Amazing And So Are You’ and posted it on Facebook and Instagram. Within minutes our Jake mimicked my pose , wearing a Warren Ellis ‘Everything’s Fucked’ tee that I’d given him. He takes after his mother, my Soulmate.

I’ve had many other card’s , gifts, and beautiful calls and messages from friends. It’s incredible how cool everyone is.

Reading about civilisation, and more particularly , when it started and how, it seems the more we find out the further back we have to estimate it. A long held, and long accepted , theory was that it began with agriculture in Mesopotamia 6,000 or so years ago. Recently others have posited that it was completely unconnected to agriculture and began 12,000 years ago in Göbekli Tepe, in modern Turkey. The temples built there needed an organised society, and they were hunter gatherers.

But I love this idea from Margaret Mead, famed US anthropologist who answered the question ‘When did civilisation start ?’ from a student after a lecture in 1980.

She answered that the earliest evidence was a 15,000 year old healed male femur bone. In the wider animal kingdom a broken femur was a death sentence, you could no longer feed yourself, and were at the mercy of predators. The healed femur indicated that someone, at great personal risk and sacrifice , had hunted on their behalf, tended to them, and aided their recovery. And this was the first indication of a civilised society.

Fifteen thousand later I witness it all around me every day. I see it in the volunteers and participants at Parkrun on Saturdays , and with the Sanctuary runners. I see it in Marc Kelly visiting schools showing how kids can be a part of building our Giants in Rossmore Park. I see it in Brian, my pen pal from Donegal, travelling to Monaghan to meet me for a coffee, and bringing T-bone steaks from his own farm. I see it in MasterBaker, Claire who with her wonderful father Michael dropped me over her delicious Rocky Road, I see it in Geraldine who delivered grapes and Lucozade as soon as I mentioned a craving. I see it in my neighbours every single day for the last 18 years. I see it in Nikita’s home baked Lemon Meringue Pie. I see it in Karl who painted me a pictute, that I’m still working out. I see it in Nollaig who sends me terrible jokes….and just as I’m writing this , at 22.59 pm , he has finally sent me a funny one. I see it in Denise who is also a current Chemolympian, but reaches out to see how I am. Same with Pat, my fellow former Wild Dog Of Retail. I see it in my friends in the terribly titled ‘Mon Hollywood Greenway Challenge’ WhatsApp group, who message me daily to see how I am and offer encouragement. I see it in Gareth calling every Tuesday morning on his way to work to take my bloods, shaving three hours off my treatment days in Beaumont. I see in it Micky, Ronan, Fintan, Milo, Sean, all friends I was at school with , who always led by example and still do. I see it in Declan and others who sidle over for a quiet word of encouragement when they see me out and about. I see it in another Declan who sends me song recommendations every Thursday. I see it in my work colleagues that cover for me and reach out to me weekly. I see it in my brothers and family. I see it in all my friends who call, message, reach out, send cards, books, wine, chocolate, with offers of help and genuine affection. I even see it in Ray.

But mostly I see it in my Soulmate who is on this journey with me and experiences it first hand the highs and lows, allows me to be myself, and at great personal risk and sacrifice , has hunted on my behalf, tended to me, and aids my recovery.



P.S This is ‘Good As Gold’ by The Beautiful South.

Author: paul

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