“Most of my tongue is arm”

The title is easily the best quote I’ve heard this week – I’ll explain it later. Several things have happened this week that have reminded me about what an amazing world we live in. The week started quietly, with emails and prison prep, and prep for a gig next Saturday, and a meeting in Bristol about some work I’ll be starting more or less straight away – good meeting, and I travelled down with Kim, who is a wonderful person for creating ideas with. In the evening I saw Anonymous. I had expected to get cross with this film, because of its claims that Shakespeare’s plays were written by someone else, but it was all so daft, and Rhys Ifans was so good, that actually I enjoyed it.

On Tuesday I did some prep for a concert that my prison guys were to do on Thursday, and did some more prison stuff – and then I had an email asking me to go for an interview in Plymouth – on Thursday. A quick calculation showed that I wouldn’t be able to get from the interview to the prison in time for the concert. I knew that it was unlikely that they would be able to rearrange the interview, so I had to phone reluctantly to say that I couldn’t get to the interview; I couldn’t possibly miss the concert and let my prison guys down. But they suggested a Skype interview! I cleared up some leaves and thought about how we could do this; The Bloke has Skype all set up and running, and he said I could do it at his house, so all was well. In the evening we went to see We need to talk about Kevin. I found this harrowing, but kind of uplifting at the end; better then the book, really. When we got home we set up the computer for a good position for the interview, which was to include performing a poem; the laptop had to be high enough for most of me to be visible.

I spent ages on Wednesday on the prison newsletter, which still isn’t quite finished, and did some prep for the interview. In the evening I had a long Ledbury Poetry Festival meeting, and did some prep for my GP surgery group.

On Thursday I couldn’t concentrate very well – it’s bad enough being nervous about an interview without the added worry over technology. – but did a few bits and pieces before going round to The Bloke’s house. And, although they were late calling me, it all went well – the line dropped a few times but was restored quickly; occasionally it was difficult to hear what they said; but it was all ok. At the end they said that they regarded it as a measure of my professionalism that I wouldn’t let my guys down, and valued that highly – just the sort of thing you hope people will think. So, off to the prison. I was in time to catch up with the guys before their performance, but there was a lockdown – the roll call was wrong, and a gate had been found unlocked – so I couldn’t see anyone. But the guys did a great job, and the performance (poetry and music) went really well. On my way out three men who had been in the audience stopped me to say how much they had enjoyed it.

I went to the hospital on Friday morning, and met a young woman who had had cancer of the tongue – rare anyway, but especially so in a young person. It was she who said Most of my tongue is arm. They had removed about two-thirds of her tongue and replaced it with flesh from her arm. She could speak almost normally, and should have full speech quite soon, although she has no taste or feeling in the arm section of her tongue – but how amazing is it that they can do that! I was (appropriate expression) gobsmacked. And what’s more, she has had worldwide support, because her dog has a global fan following – she regularly puts pictures of him on Flickr. She told her dog’s fans why there hadn’t been any photos for a while, during her treatment, and she had had cards and messages, and even presents, from all over the world. And ten years ago, none of this would have been possible. It’s all amazing.

On Friday afternoon I worked with my little GP surgery group, and pruned my butterfly plant. There are just a few stumps left, but next year it will grow again into a bush that is far taller than I am. I did some writeups and the ironing.

I did a little bit of work over the weekend, but mostly it was time off – we shredded the butterfly plant on Saturday (very satisfying), and went shopping; I needed a new phone. And on Sunday we went to Fairford – not for any reason; we just like taking off to see places we haven’t been to. It was closed, of course, but we had an interesting time wandering round the graveyard, which isn’t at all as macabre as it sounds. Graveyards are full of amazing things too, especially some really bad verse, and some very poignant comments. I still think, though, that Most of my tongue is arm takes a lot of beating.


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