FIDELMA COOK

The Herald Magazine - - CONTENTS - FIDELMA COOK cook­fi­delma@hot­mail.com Twit­ter: @fi­del­ma­cook

ONCE again I find my­self at a cross­roads but this time I’m frozen to the spot, un­sure which road to take. For some­one who’s al­ways been de­ci­sive, believ­ing that any de­ci­sion, even the wrong one, is bet­ter than none, it is a dis­turb­ing po­si­tion in which to be.

Log­i­cally and for my health’s sake it is time to sell up and move. I know you’ve heard this an­nu­ally the last few years and it is true that I’m some­what of a mal­con­tent who be­lieves the grass is al­ways, al­ways greener some­where else.

And then I set­tle down again, hav­ing thrown up the usual ar­gu­ments for not mov­ing – houses not sell­ing, a flat mar­ket and the killer, where to? There has never been a plan B.

“Where to?” is re­ally the only ques­tion – ev­ery­thing else is ul­ti­mately easy to set in mo­tion.

But there is also the other lurk­ing part of the equa­tion – the fear­ful re­al­i­sa­tion that with age my op­tions have di­min­ished, my hori­zons shrunk, the time ahead much less than the time be­hind.

Real fear, then, steals forth. Not the adrenalin-surg­ing ex­cit­ing terror of leap­ing into the unknown and see­ing where one lands – that fris­son of an­tic­i­pa­tion I’ve looked for all my life.

No, this is the fear that comes in the early hours and leaves the heart thump­ing, the mouth dry as all the de­mons crawl from un­der the bed to whis­per: me­mento mori.

In youth and rude health the idea is an ab­stract one, im­pos­si­ble to grasp and bat­ted eas­ily aside.

But once hit with the con­se­quences of a care­less life and the aware­ness of the frailty of the body, the words can no longer be pushed aside.

And what drives me now is the need for some­one to be close by to act if I have an­other lung cri­sis as hap­pened re­cently.

Liv­ing in a field sur­rounded by farm­ers’ pol­lu­tants with tem­per­a­tures that fre­quently set­tle in the mid 30s is no longer an op­tion.

Nei­ther is the con­stant bat­tle with the damp, even with de­hu­mid­i­fiers go­ing non-stop.

If I am to stay in France then I need to head to­wards the sea, to a place with no ex­tremes of tem­per­a­tures to trig­ger prob­lems.

Need­less to say my sad, main rea­son for re­main­ing in France would be the health ser­vice.

Many years ago when my son was small we dis­cussed mov­ing to France. When I asked my mother, who lived with us, if that would suit her, she replied: “Yes, so long as I’m near a hospi­tal and a taxi com­pany.”

I rolled my eyes then but now I know ex­actly what she meant.

My son wants me closer to him but sadly Lon­don is no longer an op­tion ei­ther – nor is any city clogged with the fumes I once loved.

Per­haps a com­pro­mise would be Brit­tany or Nor­mandy, much closer to the English coast than here but still with the se­cu­rity of the French sys­tem – and with­out a Theresa May and her co­terie of the blind.

New friends would have to be made and no doubt lost, as hap­pened here, and be­hind me I’d be leav­ing the lit­tle sup­port sys­tem I’ve built up over the years.

A new vet, a new groomer and new kennels for Ce­sar, who re­acts badly to un­fa­mil­iar sit­u­a­tions, hid­ing his fear be­hind an ag­gres­sive stance and at­tempts to bolt. Rather like his owner, re­ally.

Hav­ing ig­nored all ad­vice to the con­trary and with the knowl­edge that I made a rod for my own back on get­ting Ce­sar, his well­be­ing is just as vi­tal as my own.

Which means an apart­ment is out of the ques­tion since he’s a dog used to roam­ing his own large space. He’s also, un­like most of his breed, a barker, a vo­cal guardian who re­acts to any and ev­ery un­ex­pected sound.

Do you see how the cons quickly out­pace the pros in rea­sons to move?

The truth is I am run­ning on empty and have no re­serves to give to a move.

For the first time in my whole life I need res­cu­ing; I need some­body to sort it all out for me and magic the in-be­tween bit away.

I’d just like a break, for a bit, from pad­dling my own ca­noe and let some­body else do it for me. I’ve never felt that be­fore.

If I seem de­feated and down­beat then it’s be­cause I am. It prob­a­bly won’t last and by the time this ap­pears I’ll be cross with my­self for writ­ing the words.

Usu­ally I snap out of my self­ind­ul­gent mus­ings on read­ing of real strug­gles; of chil­dren suf­fer­ing yet fight­ing against the odds; of men and women who smile on in spite of hor­ren­dous dis­abil­i­ties. Then I feel ashamed that life has brought me the good for­tune it has and how, when hit with my first real health prob­lems, I’ve crum­bled, am crum­bling, moan­ing at the un­fair­ness of it all. Pa­thetic. Ac­tu­ally, one of the joys of writ­ing is the cathar­sis of the words them­selves and I’m al­ready feel­ing much brighter.

What do you mean I’ve de­pressed you? Oh, sorry. Ah well, we’re all in this to­gether at the end of the day, aren’t we?

Me­mento mori.

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