I hear the music still

Two years ago next month I was diagnosed with advanced prostate. I took the pills and the injections but six months ago I'm heading for a holiday with my son and family in Spain when I got as far as Paisley before having to get back on a train for Inverness and home. Never will I forget being met off that train by my good friend Jackie and a young porter with a wheelchair. Nor will I forget, having got back home, collapsing and not even being able, for some long time, to open the locked door to admit my helpers.. At that point I realised that, if I thought I had experienced extreme pain before in my life, I really hadn't! So it's Saturday night and I'm back to Raigmore hospital by ambulance. 'I'm putting you on these new chemo type pills,' announced the head oncologist, 'And you'll be staying here for a week of lying stock still plus a short, intense course of radiotherapy.'

'Thank you, doctor,' said I, believing I was on the last page of my final chapter. I wasn't.  Now, half a year later I'm virtually pain free and have mostly resumed normal service, (well, whatever that might be for an eighty one years old!). And I've managed to finish and today self-publish a new novel - Like An Angel Sings - plus my autobiography, SO WHAT?

I'll keep taking the pills and writing to the very best of my ability and reading good books and having good moments with good friends and family. But of course I think a lot about my wives; Dee who passed away from me an astonishing two and a half years ago and Joan, mother of my beloved children, who left us eighteen years back. In a roundabout way Joan is remembered in the title of my latest novel.

Imagine: it is almost midnight, I'm sitting up in bed reading Shakespeare's The Merchant Of Venice, Dee fast asleep beside me. I come to this passage where Lorenzo, a gentile, is wooing his hoped for bride to be Jessica, a jewess - a liaison strictly forbidden by both families.They are walking in a moon-lit wood ... Lorenzo wants Jessica to understand the music of the spheres - the rhythmically sweet sounds of our living, breathing universe. He says ...

How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank!
Here will we sit and let the sounds of music
Creep in our ears: soft stillness and the night
Become the touches of sweet harmony.
Sit, Jessica. Look how the floor of heaven
Is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold:
There’s not the smallest orb which thou behold’st
But in his motion like an angel sings,
Still quiring to the young-eyed cherubins;
Such harmony is in immortal souls;
But whilst this muddy vesture of decay
Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it.

As I finish re-reading this passage the phone rings. It's the night sister at Joan's nursing home. She tells me that my wife, my lover since our teenage years, the mother of our children and the sufferer of some twenty years of multiple schlerosis has finally ceased to live.

I see the stars. I hear the music still.

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