Sunday, 24 June 2012


After my experience with the doctor in the menopause clinic who wanted to pump me full of drugs, I am still reflecting on my apparent loss of libido. According to the doctor this "lack of chemicals." 
It is strange to think something like that can have happened without my knowing – it’s like the theft of something I hardly used, still a shock when you realise it’s gone. You look at the space where it used to be and wonder about it, but it doesn’t mean a great deal and you vaguely hope you might just have mislaid it somewhere.
I toy with myself by thinking of things that used to excite me. There is a moment of anticipation – then nothing. Like pressing a button or flicking a switch, expecting a power surge which doesn’t happen.
I now look at people in a very detached way, and observe beauty very coolly,  easily, without any envy. That has died too and I’m glad to lose it.

One trial of getting older is that many people you know, old and middle aged, die off. But this also  includes the people who remember your most embarrassing failures.

The Daily Telegraph has a whole Saturday spread on what they call “predatory” women, single women thy call “lone wolves,” and married women who try to snatch innocent husbands.
It was very like a Daily Mail piece with reckless chariacature and deep mysogeny.  Perhaps if  us “lone wolves” were invited out to dinner by married couples more often we wouldn’t be so desperate. There is of course another syndrome they ignore  the married ladies who think that if you talk to their husband for more than a minute you are “after” him. That is often horribly insulting.  

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Still feeling surprisingly sunny

Follow up letter from the doctor in the menopause clinic arrived today.
She describes me as a “nulliparous lady,” never heard that said about me before.
Says I finished chemo in November 2010, wrong, once had “severe menopausal symptoms,” wrong, and “continues to be troubled” by night sweats, decreased memory, and irritability. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. 

I used to feel panic when I thought about the past, the fact that there was now a great chunk of it behind me. I wanted to run back and change things, do it better,  differently to produce better results. I don’t feel that horrible regret now. My days have separated out like a child’s, each one enough and I don’t think much about  past or future.

My only problem is money. Well a lot of people have that worry and it’s not fatal. Everyone wants salmon on a herring diet. And I worry about getting fatter. I noticed recently that my friend Pam who has always been rather round, seems much slimmer. She insists she hasn’t lost a single ounce, it’s just that all her friends have put on loads of weight. That is one answer to the middle-aged spread issue. 

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Feeling young again

I went to a birthday party last night, put on make-up and pretty dress and felt like a teenager again. No eligible men around though so it's a good job I didn't take the testosterone. 
It was in the church hall, with two vicars present but a jolly, boozy time was had by all. I was sitting opposite young, perfectly formed Fr Steve, and another young man of the parish. The generation gap showed strangely when I tried a joke. To wit:
The Scots are like haemorrhoids. If they come down and go back up again you are OK, but if they come down and stay you have a problem.
They both stared at me uncomprehendingly.  Fr. Steve blinked and said, “I think we will have to find out more about haemorrhoids before we can appreciate that one, Jane.”
Oh well.
Got home late and slept well. I can sleep now after over two years of insomnia. I used to struggle hopelessly for sleep then wake up at 3am. I would lie there my neck and shoulders aching,  hands tingling and I couldn’t find any comfortable position. Looking back I think that I was literally scared stiff.
The sleeplessness started with the menopause, got worse with the chemotherapy and the doctor’s dire words. Time goes on. Words fade.  I remain well and slowly my mind unclenches. The fight or flight response retreats to normal and I can sink into my pillows like a child. 

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Jubilee final day

Tuesday 5th June 2012

Have spent almost all day spread out on the sofa in my pyjamas, only getting up to feed the cat and the birds. I never usually do this unless I have a really bad cold. Even when I was having chemo I always managed to get dressed in the morning. The Queen has turned me into a slob.

I was pleased to receive this message from a friend in Chicago:
“Have been having a very good time watching the Jubilee, particularly as the British people are enjoying themselves so much and seemingly feeling at home in their own skins despite decades of PC social engineering trying to effect the contrary.”

It’s quite moving to see the crowds on TV, so jubilant despite the wet. The Mall looks like an Impressionist painting, with a great mass all pinks and greens with threads of blue.

I am even catching up with a repeat of the concert which I missed last night.  It sounded like a lot of good natured but excruciating acts, egotistical outpourings so diametrically opposed to anything that the Queen represents.

Robbie Williams introduced it, waddling about the stage like a cross between Norman Wisdom and Little Richard. His movements are strangely erotic, but it seems he has no voice which is rather a let down. In the end he provides a poor pastiche of Sinatra.

A lot of old faces are there ready to parody themselves, but happily no sign of   Engelbert, Steven Cowell or the normally ubiquitous Stephen Fry.  It was a bit worrying that  there are a few guests I’ve never heard of. Who exactly is Gary Barlow?
I will stick with it until Rolf Harris comes on with his wobble-board.  He is sure to be there as like the Queen he has recently started to become a cult figure.

Madness were best, even though they sang an old song they managed to be funny and interesting, or at least the lighting engineers did, opening up Buckingham Palace like Queen Mary’s doll’s house, and sometimes turning it into a simple terraced house.

The Queen arrives  wearing a long cloak  similar to the one she wore when she was painted by Annigoni in 1969. Perhaps she goes flapping around in it a lot, much more theatrical than one would have thought.

I know that many republicans out there think that the utterly dim British public has been hoodwinked by the evil “meedja” into coming out in force to support the Queen’s Jubilee, as if they’ve been herded into the streets and forced to smile and wave their little flags. They’ll dismiss it all as “bread and circuses,” but I think this outburst of enthusiasm has put paid to their miserable, boring agenda for awhile.

It’s still out there though  – the struggle between fun-loving Cavaliers still proud to be Brits and pious  Roundheads who insist that Britain and particularly the English part of it an immoral concept which happily no longer exists. 

Those doctors again

On May 30th I trundled off rather reluctantly to the menopause clinic at Queen Charlotte’s hospital. I did this because when I had my check up three months ago, I told the doctor I had some hot flushes and insomnia. The symptoms weren’t bad but she referred me, and I thought I’d go as I am worried about weight gain. Even though I am reducing what I eat, I seem to be increasingly shaped like a turnip.
I saw a young woman doctor who looked rather like one of those women in Personnel,  girlish some how whilst being slightly over-dressed with stiletto heels. I noted the sapphire engagement ring on her finger.
She fired questions at me and I tried to explain that I have hardly any symptoms now.
She ignored that and recommended HRT.
 I was surprised as I’d always thought women who’d had cancer had to avoid drugs containing oestrogen. Glancing up briefly from her pad she said they had no evidence that HRT would cause ovarian cancer to return, but then she admitted they had no evidence that it didn’t. I said no thank you.
“How’s your sex life?” She asked. I said it’s  non existent but I don’t really care.  I don’t fancy anyone and no one fancies me.
“That is probably all chemical,” she said.
Perhaps I would get my libido back if I met an interesting man? I suggested. She  flashed me a line of straight pearly teeth and prescribed a course of testosterone saying  “there might be some increase in body hair but it would be alright.”
 I pictured myself, with beard and moustache  out on the hunt for men, returning to those dingy speed-dating venues and trying to find someone honest on line. I pictured the depression that was sure to follow these adventures.
I questioned this too and she admitted it worked partly with oestrogen. I said no thanks again and  realised she was one of those doctors who are clever but mad, or perhaps unashamedly working for the drug companies.
“I can see you are a bit sad,” she said. “Frustrated with the hand life has dealt you.”
There she was, young, full-health, brilliant job, ring on finger, what could she see when she looked at me, nothing she could really understand. She went on asking for my medical history. I said that I once had vaginal warts and saw the look of surprise register briefly in her eyes. She didn’t think I had ever been that kind of woman, but how could she tell.  She thinks I’m sad, does she know anyone who isn’t at my age. As a matter of fact I am happier than I have ever been before. 
I said I was sorry if I came across to her or anyone as sad and anxious.
“Well, you’ve got a lot to be anxious about” she replied.
There was the doctor’s killer line.  I had felt it hanging in the air above me all through this interview, just waiting to descend and stick in my head.
She prescribed what she called a “mood enhancer,” and I certainly needed it by then.
I sat sadly in the pharmacy for an hour and a half waiting for the happy pills, and got home feeling glum and rather scared.
Perhaps she was right and I do have sad, bitter, regretful feelings, I am just repressing them. Even if you feel quite happy you might in fact be suicidal without knowing it until someone tells you.
When I took out the box of  pills and read all their contra-indications, such as,  be careful about taking them  if you have ever been depressed, had negative thoughts, had conniptions or felt like kicking anyone, I decided to put them away in a drawer.
When I was a child I was depressed. As a student I was on Librium, Valium etc and I do not intend ever to go down the path of pharmaceutical hopelessness again

Sunday, 3 June 2012


Sunday 3rd June.

Last week I found a Coronation copy of Good Housekeeping in a second hand shop. It wasn't as lively  as I hoped but it did include a recipe telling readers how to make an exact replica of St Edward's Crown, the great state crown, out of jelly. I think some of those bored ladies on the staff were having a bit of a laugh.
Ventured up to Piccadilly in the rain and watched on a big screen set up in the street as Queenie boarded  her boat looking very vulnerable her white hat sticking up. I watched standing next to a friendly policeman as tables were laid all along the highway for a festive lunch. I had just had mine at St Michael's Church, far too much of it; Coronation Chicken followed by at least three puddings.
This image show me standing in the RA in front of my painting, "Dead Hand."
In the  Royal Academy again,  found that my painting has now sold, which was a bit of a relief. A red dot can mean a lot.