Sunday, January 06, 2008

Relief

The pleasure of relief is often underestimated, not really counted as such. Iris Murdoch described quenching thirst in 'Under the Net' as such a delicious pleasure it seems a shame it can't be prolonged in some way (I can't remember the exact phrase, and my copy of the book went AWOL long ago), and much relief, to my mind, is rather like that; we experience it and then very quickly and ungratefully disregard and forget it. I suppose the Buddhist 'No toothache' thing is making a similar point. Relief is also associated with various bodily functions which evoke sniggers and are not considered amongst life's higher experiences, though none the worse for that. At some point I rather whimsically created a post label for 'relief', and am quite surprised how often it is appropriate, for it seems I can often only settle to writing when in a state of appreciated relief from previous worries and tensions.

So it is now. Relief from a big knot of dread about something miserable, and a smaller but apparently more intractable knot of niggling worry. The former did not make the latter seem less important, I find things seldom work that way. If I am unhappy about something personal and trivial, I rarely feel any better knowing there are people worse off than myself, if anything that just seems to compound it; crap here plus crap there equals even more crap, not less, their crap doesn't cancel out mine, though it might cause me for reasons of tact to shut up about it.

The big miserable dread was the death of Daisy the lovely greyhound, and the resulting necessity to bury her. She belonged to our friend E., who while a rugged and independent woman living on her own, is not quite up to the task of burying her loved dog alone and neither should she have to be. The awful thing is we helped bury her last greyhound in very similar weather and circumstances only just over a year ago.

'I don't want to be known as The Man Who Buries Dogs!', wailed Tom. Daisy only came to E. in the last year or so, to retire to the country from a hectic and less and less viable life with her daughter in Amsterdam, she was a good age for a greyhound, and went down very quickly, avoiding the necessity for painful decisions about treatment and other worries. We contacted the cheerful but sensitive young gardening friend who helped us last time, who unhesitatingly rearranged his family Sunday morning to accommodate it, and I made a point of mentally counting the blessing of him. Nevertheless, however you look at it, turning up at your friend's to bury her dog is not something to await with pleasure.

The niggling worry arose from the arrival of the TV viewing card. This necessitates using a false UK address and pretending to be someone you aren't. Everybody does it. Mild-mannered pensioners, retired Justices of the Peace, teachers, policemen, upright British citizens all, are sitting back in their homes in France watching test cricket and Midsomer Murders having nonchalantly fibbed through their teeth to Rupert Murdoch and his cohorts, who know perfectly well that they're doing it. This is no comfort to me. I hate lying. I am rubbish at ever in any way pretending to be anyone else. I have no moral objection whatsoever in the circumstances, I am just no good at it, I stammer and become utterly paranoid.

It was a surprise and a relief to me that the very helpful and generally incurious lady on the end of the phone did not point out that I didn't sound anything like the younger female relative I was claiming to be, but when she said if there were any problems receiving the now activated channels within the next few hours I should get back to them, I hoped and prayed I wouldn't have to, as I was certain more awkward questions would follow and my falsehoods would ultimately be discovered. I would be cast out into the wilderness and never accepted back into digital society again, and my family would share in my shame and punishment.

The day wore on, and Channels 4 and 5 failed to materialise. The appearance of Fox News did not compensate for the disappointment. So anxious was I at the thought of further contact that I was beginning to accept the possibility of foregoing the sight of Jon Snow's ties forever. I decided I'd contact the bloke who installed it today and tomorrow and see if there were any other options. Problems with new technology also always weigh heavily on my spirits, stupid though that may be.

I tried to write two different things on here, but they were mediocre and self-piteous rubbish, so I ditched them. Taking down the Christmas decorations for Twelfth Night was a welcome distraction; the crackle and pungency, reminiscent of badly dried home grown cannabis from another era, as I threw the tired holly and ivy into the fire seemed somehow quite salutory.

We trekked over with spades this morning and the deed was accomplished. As ever, it wasn't quite so bad as anticipated. E. seemed calm, and her remaining dog Moos will be a comfort; as she says, he is not melancholic. The fear of the sight of death is alleviated when it is seen as peaceful, and we worked together efficiently and came away with equanimity, though the line between necessarily realistic briskness and flippancy can be a difficult one to tread, as can avoiding the kind of apprehensions and imaginings that lurk in the shadows of such events.

But it was good to get home, and I thought I'd just check the telly before e-mailing the installer. Lo and behold, we have Channels 4 and 5, and there is no need for further calls to Sky. I am still enjoying the relief. Sunday is itself again, and to celebrate, I opened the box of chocolates my grown-up students give me every Christmas, which are without doubt the best I have all year.

One of the things I still feel is a bit special about this part of the world is that just about every patisserie, even the village baker's, sell their own hand-made chocolates, which are always good, but Quinton in St Brieuc is widely thought to be among the best of all. Setting up this photograph was a hazardous matter, as it was touch and go whether I could hold back from dipping in long enough to take the picture. There is seldom a key to what's in the chocolates, and when there is it is vague and puzzling, just a list of descriptions, 'black, flat, rectangular, with a violet metallic flash', or 'milk, square, diagonal lines'. This year there wasn't even that much, but that only makes it more of an adventure.

In fact I'm just off to eat a couple more...

14 comments:

Lesley said...

"The quenching of thirst
is so exquisite a pleasure that it is a scandal that no amount of
ingenuity can prolong it."

zhoen said...

Oh, torture of the chocolate photo.

So much here.

Lucy said...

Lesley, you're a wonder, fancy coming up with that so quickly! And it's a real beauty isn't it?

Zhoen - worth posting just for the chocolates really, slightly too many dark ones for me perhaps, but they're still so good...

Isabelle said...

Thank you so much for your sweet comment on my blog. So sorry for your sad and trying couple of days too... but those chocolates certainly look good, though I myself don't eat chocolate any more. Or at least, this would be a good plan if I could ever quite start it.

jzr said...

Chocolate always eases the pain for me! Hope tomorrow is a better day!!

Sheila said...

How wonderful to have friends who will be there in the hard moment of burying a dog. Your friend is blessed, indeed.

Lee said...

I argue that chocolate (and haircuts, for that matter) should be available under Medicare subsidy as they are therapeutic and aid general wellbeing. Perhaps it could be a platform for running for parliament?

meggie said...

Loved your thoughts about relief. It comes in many guises, & even small relief is wonderful- though as you say, too fleeting sometimes.

I would disagree with Lee about haircuts! They are my life's nightmare!

Rosie said...

oh Lucy, what a day! But all is always well when it ends well with chocolate...

Granny J said...

I too can understand your relief about solving minor problems that eat at you. Today I forced myself to make a phone call that started one such on the way to solution & a call from my stepson gave suggestions that might well solve another. Ah, sweet relief!

marlyat2 said...

My favorite "relief" poem is "After great pain, a formal feeling comes."

Those chocolates... It is good that they are not here, or I would eat them in too much haste. Really. It's for the best.

Lucy said...

Thank you all for your life-enhancing contributions as ever!

Still a few chocolates left in the box...

apprentice said...

Sorry about your friends dog, a bad time of year to lose a warm blooded friend.

Hope you can stay cosy and enjoy some good TV. Have you got BBC 3&$ as well? They have some good things from time to time.

Lucy said...

Thanks Apprentice. Yes, though she hadn't had her as long or been through as much with this one, she had rather stepped into the other greyhound's shoes and will be much missed.
Yes bbcs 3 & 4, though too late for the photoography series, also Film 4 which is a good one. All a bit bewildering finding our way through all the rubbish to find the quality, but we'll settle into it.