Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Moping with Mithradaites

The weekend not easy. I wonder to myself why, when I am marooned with a disabled and dolorous dog, a consequently miserable and tormented husband, missing walks with dog, stalked by fears and fantasies of losing her, generally strung out and unhappy, have I chosen to read WG Sebald's Rings of Saturn, and to sit down and watch 'The Hours' with a lapful of dog and knitting on the Sunday afternoon? Neither book nor film were exactly cheery. Or perhaps choosing rather bleak and mournful stories to read and watch and listen to is rather as listening to sad music when one is sad: cathartic, a kind of homeopathic treating like with like, Mithradaites swallowing a little poison every day, died old. Better to turn and face the shadows, let them in and sit with them a while and than turn them away, reject them in favour of company that cheers you up. "A sad tale's best for winter..."

The Sebald is quite literally a marvel, not like anything else. I like the way it's so clearly not English, its dreamlike, melancholy (overused about him I'm sure but really the most apposite word), alienated lugubriousness vaguely reminiscent of Bergman, if of anything, very northern European, but so English in its setting. I keep wondering, didn't he have any ordinary, banal encounters or conversations with anyone? But if he did, he probably wouldn't have remembered them as such. And frequently I can't remember how on earth we got to where we have, wasn't he talking about something else just now... but it turns out that was pages ago, and he's taken you somewhere else altogether just à propos of an element in a dream he was having while in Lowestoft or somewhere, or because someone or something reminded him of someone or something else... This sense of dislocated narrative is increased by the way he switches into different first persons without much warning or indication of reported speech. It's also increased by my lack of concentration while readng it.

About 'The Hours' I can't really think of much to say ( the link above is to IMBD, which I decided on finally, having got thoroughly absorbed reading various reviews, including one from a Depression and Bipolar website, which explained it positively in those terms, and another From a World Socialist site which trashed it completely, found I agreed with both and gave up...), except the rather shallow observation that for some reason I found Nicole Kidman with a false nose marginally less annoying than usual, except that the nose itself was distracting because I kept looking to see if I could see the join. Again, counting knitting stitches and with a part of my mind on the dog, I wasn't concentrating fully, so sometimes missed a switch from twenties to fifties to nineties narrative, thereby increasing my general impression that I was in a fragmented and twilighty limbo.

I got around a few blogs, but didn't accomplish my usual Sunday afternoon scroll down (or up, depending on how the fancy takes me...) the blogroll. Sorry if I haven't been around for a bit. I'm sure your lives will continue notwithstanding.

Tom very sensibly immersed himself in 'The Hobbit', in between distressing episodes of ministering to Molly. He has taken on cleaning the wound, and does it well and better than I, being generally neater and lighter handed. But he suffers agonies of anxiety about it. We feared our dog was becoming a mistrustful and disturbed neurotic, who would never be the same again. I didn't care, as long as she got better, as long as she lived. That was until we went back to the angelic Docteur Monnerie, she of the philosophic bulldog and the still small voice of calm, yesterday.

We'd already been back on Saturday when we saw her younger male colleague, who is impressive and competent but slightly scary, to have the dressing off. They called us back yesterday because the swab from the laboratory indicated a change of antibiotic was called for. We had a pitched battle with the cleaning before we left, which left us shaking and exhausted. Moll, on the other hand, is clearly picking up. The fight seemed to energise her, which we were glad to see; at signs that we were going out, she was up and at it, racing round and leaping into the car, bucket on her head and all, apparently forgetful that the last three journeys had been to and from the scene of her suffering.

The journey to Plérin is becoming wearily familiar, but I can't say boring, because I am unfailingly charmed by what must be the most beautiful autumn after the lousiest summer ever. We don't tend to get a lot of autumn colour normally here; the climate is too maritime, the weather strips the trees before they can put on any show. But now Moncontour sits in a bowl of russet beechwoods, oaks and chestnuts luxuriate in unaccustomed amber, single glowing yellow apple trees decorated with rosy red fruit stand proudly in empty fields, occasional gash-gold-vermilion cherries, scarlet sumacs, rainbows of liquidamber and shocking pink spindleberries add splashes and accents. Quite a show.

Edging his way along the roof ridge of a house by the road I see a man precariously wrestling like Laocoön with the fat, segmented, convoluted coils of a steel chimney flue. Not worth drawing Tom's attention to it, it's past too quickly, and I wouldn't be able to convey the oddness and interest of the image. I'm glad for the man it isn't a cold wet November day to do the job, when he might lose his unco-operative, serpentine burden or even go slithering down the slates after it.

Molly's chirpiness has given us heart. I think, I say, perhaps we have turned a corner. Shortly after, I glance down at the offending ear, which earlier had seemed inflamed, and it is clear that at least some of the stitches have torn. My heart sinks. Tom is about to negotiate the imbecilic drivers on the quatre-voies, so I elect not to mention it. But when we arrive, and Docteur Monnerie greets us, she says, not to worry, annoying but not serious, the last dog she did it on lost all the stitches and it still healed. Mol trembles a bit but calms down in her presence; without tying her muzzle she cleans the wound with barely a flinch from the dog. We are impressed, relieved, envious. We sit down at her desk, and Molly on my lap watches with alert and cheerful interest as she portions out new pills and potions, explains their application. Now and then the vet looks into her face with an intelligent and complicit smile, tells her she has been a good girl today, occasionally touching her on the nose with a finger or her pen, like a kindly teacher in an infant school, and at the end of the consultation picking up a cellophane-wrapped bag of healthy dog-treats tied with a ribbon, showing it to Moll, and popping it in the bag of medicines. I have never known a vet at once so calm yet so warmly engaged with the animals she treats, and with such a magic touch, to say nothing of the humans. We are all three besotted with her; Tom asks if she would like to come and stay with us for a few weeks. Reassurance is not so much what she does as what she is.

Of course, Molly is not quite so angelic at home with us, and Tom is still painfully anxious about treating her, but we have returned calmer and more confident about handling her. The wound is still an ugly, sore, mess, but she is remarkably brighter all the time, insisting on coming up, with only the odd bang and crash of misjudged bucket on stairs, to jump on the bed for the first time again this morning, and very pleased with herself when the cleaning routine is finished, and she gets oneof Dr Monnerie's special healthy dog treats.

We are all feeling better.


Fire Bird said...


leslee said...

Sounds like a wonderful vet. Glad to hear that things are improving. Dogs are remarkably resilient, aren't they? They don't care how nasty it looks or worry about its healing.

Sorry I haven't been able to keep up on my blog reading either. And now everyone's posting every day!!

Zhoen said...

Such turmoil, such sad anxiety, and Molly bounding out the other end. Heal well, all of you.

Anonymous said...

So glad she's on the mend. The cat-related anxiety chez casa frizzy has really taken its toll even though short-lived and not requiring wound-cleaning. Take it easy, take it slow and don't forget to knit :-)

jzr said...

Having an ailing pet is a horrible thing. I hope Molly keeps getting better and that all will once again be well.

andy said...

I'm only just catching up after a fortnight's very light blogging, so I missed the most tense moments,
but I'm glad you had so many blogging friends to offer comfort and support and I'm glad to hear Molly is on the mend now.

With our cocker spaniel, Gemma, it was her teeth and gums that caused problems - many visits to the vet, including a dental specialist somewhere in the middle of London, several extractions under general anaesthetic and a regime involving doggie toothpaste and toothbrush. Not as traumatic I don't think as Molly's condition (except perhaps for the morning we found her happily eating breakfast but with with muzzle and paws covered in blood from a tiny wound in her mouth. We were frantically trying to clean it up enough to find the source, and all she wanted was to get back to her breakfast!)

Lucy said...

Thanks all, for your kindness and concern.
Leslee - yes, I have to remember that. Don't worry about the blog reading, part of the point, I think, of posting every day is to get away from worrying about who and how many are reading - nice when people do though!
Zhoen - such a lovely image, I hold it in my mind to cheer and strengthen!
RR - I dunno, if she weren't eating and the problem wasn't evident, as with your puss, I think it might be worse... fortunately a cocker spaniel appetite is a difficult thing to suppress (see Andy's comment)! Seeing her eating with enjoyment gives us heart. Knitting coming on OK, but I must soon apply to Emma for more yarn, I misjudged that.
JZR - thanks, she will if she has anything to do with it, she doesn't stay down for long. Tom said he felt very largely that her days were fairly long periods of being mostly fairly happy interspersed with a few moments of anxiety and discomfort, whereas his are long periods of anxiety intersersed with shorter ones of relief! I'm aware of a general level of anxiety I can keep a handle on but which is making other unrelated minor sources of worry - going back to work tomorrow, needing to take the car in to get the starting checked etc - feel worse and loom larger.
Andy - it's ever so nice to hear! I didn't know you had a cocker, spaniel. I think on balance if it were a choice between dealing with the ear and having to mess with her mouth the latter would perhaps be worse... With the bucket on her head she's not able to do the usual routines of licking and washing, so she washes the inside of the bucket! It seems to satisfy the urge.

Ramesh Gandhi said...

I've read the Rings of Saturn twice, and plan to again. Wish I could write like that! But it's not cheerful. I haven't like his other books quite as much. His untimely death almost fits in with his own stories. He compared his style in an interview once, to a dog crossing the field -- it stops wherever it finds something interesting, sometimes backtracks - but does reach the other side in the end. :)

Lucy said...

Nancy, lovely to see you!
I'm sure RoS will repay re-reading. Even to have half as much in my head to write about, never mind the skill to write as he does. I knew little of him until recently. The writing is so timeless somehow, in many ways like Victorian accounts of walking and travel, yet he was really so young and of his time. I wonder what he was like as a prof?
I'm interested to try the other books, are they as digressive in style?

meggie said...

I read of Molly with such concern. I can almost feel her body. Her tremble. She is a brave & wonderful dog, with gifted 'parents'. I can understand Tom's wonderful patience, your timidity.
She is sure to effect a really good recovery.

Lucy said...

Meggie, your a darling!