Best laid plans...

Yesterday in London was the memorial  of a dear old friend. P and I had been looking forward to it for months, as we'd been unable to go to his funeral. As I'm still struggling with peripheral neuropathy from the chemo, I'm not yet able to walk very far, so the journey would necessitate taking the wheelchair, sticks, cushions and other paraphernalia that have become a part of everyday life for me.

When I became ill last February, one of my greatest sorrows was that I couldn't play guitar (I could just about knit, although very badly!) and when I eventually picked up my guitar again five months later, I was shocked to find that I couldn't remember many of the songs I'd learnt in the weeks and months preceding my ill health. Added to that was the fact that my voice was so weak I could barely keep in tune and I must say the overall impression of the two together was not pleasurable.
Roland and Sheelagh in their garden
However, as playing guitar and singing had been a constant in my life for so long, I gritted my teeth (and probably so did everyone else around me) and continued to play and sing every morning, as much for therapy as anything else.  So when our friend Sheelagh asked me if I would play at Roland (her husband's) memorial, my kneejerk reaction was to eagerly agree, without thinking about the fact that I was still very rusty and hadn't played in public for over a year, nor for that matter, about the logistics of getting to London and back in a day.

So as the time approached I felt cautiously nervous. As time passed my voice was improving, getting stronger little by little and my guitar playing seemed to be in parallel. I only had to do one song, among 21 other performances, mainly from actors, producers and playwrights as Roland was a theatre director. Previously this would never have bothered me, but now I felt an unfamiliar feeling of apprehension.

Then came the first blip... the frozen shoulder! This made it incredibly painful to play guitar, especially at the bottom of the neck as increasingly my arm wouldn't stretch that far. No problem I thought, as the song I'd planned to sing was one which has a capo on the fifth fret and my arm could just about comfortably do that and, I reasoned, it would be good physio for it.

As the day approached we planned it in detail, arranging for friend Maggie, to come with us to share the driving with P. Another friend Peter, was bringing us a picnic lunch on our arrival. All was set for a smooth and enjoyable day and we were both excited about getting back into the swing of normal life with our first major trip since I'd been unwell.

In the week or so before the memorial I started to feel very tired and fluey, but assumed it was just some cold virus that I'd picked up over Christmas, as we'd seen many more people than usual. Then I started to ache and feel generally unwell and started to wonder what was happening. Was it psychosomatic? How could that be? I really wanted this trip and wouldn't wish to get anything that might jeopardise it. Also it was becoming increasingly difficult for me to sit comfortably as I had a stinging feeling across my buttocks.

I asked P to take a look at it. He quickly noticed that there was quite an extensive rash from my coccyx, down my left leg to the back of my knee. The district nurse was called, but couldn't really say what it was and thought it was a reaction to a new body butter I was using. Unlikely, I thought, so in the absence of any other advice I saw the GP who immediately recognised it as shingles and put me on a course of anti-virals. At this point it was still four days before the memorial and ever hopeful, I convinced myself that I'd be fine after taking the pills for a few days.

I had a routine follow-up appointment with my consultant two days later, who seemed to be quite sanguine about my affliction, but didn't recommend going to London as I might give it to someone else (highly unlikely I thought, as they would have to touch a weeping blister :) - on my bottom!). Anyway, next day dawned and I can't say I was feeling any better at all, so very reluctantly I wrote the email to Sheelagh telling her I had to pull out.

That afternoon P went off into York and in an idle moment I had the idea of making a video of the song. After a few minutes I realised that this was far too ambitious at this late stage and decided to settle for a recording. I could email it to the tech person at the Tricycle Theatre to be played when my turn came. Sorted. The recording went surprisingly smoothly, more because of my pragmatic attitude than anything else. By the time I got to the fifth take, I'd decided it was do or die - despite any imperfections there might be, this take would be it, warts and all, just like a live performance. I stuck to it, see what you think?

But that's not the end of the story. P planned to attend and worked tirelessly all day to get everything ready to be able to leave me safely on my own all day. He decided to get the train to London, even getting an upgrade into first class with complimentary coffee and sandwiches, arriving in good time for the event.
As consolation P thought I'd enjoy this surreal pic of
Kings Cross station taken as he was leaving
He spoke to the engineer and arranged for me to send the mp4 to him which I duly did. All well and good,.. except I didn't hear till P got back that only half the song had been played, as the equipment turned itself off in the middle, leaving the audience wondering what was happening, eventually realising there was no more and breaking out into frustrated applause. I checked what I had sent to see if the fault was mine but there it was in its entirety. Ahhhhh... the best laid plans...

Thanks for dropping by x


  1. Oh dear, :(...full points for trying though! Please get well soon. Sue.

  2. Goodness Jean, what a tangle. I thought your singing and playing were beautiful, and even more so as I thought about your not being well as you prepared to take part in the memorial for your friend. Bravo to your determination and talent, and affection for your departed friend. Your choice of song was quite touching.

    1. Thanks Frances, I really enjoyed recording the song. Having a limit to time and energy is a good thing for me as I tend to want something to be perfect and of course this is never achievable. So pleased you liked it :) xx

  3. Your voice sounds beautiful to me. I listened to this in my office at 6:00am and am crying like an idiot over your lovely performance. It's a good thing I'm alone at the moment as I try not to frighten my colleagues any more than necessary. I hope you get over shingles quickly and are feeling much better soon.

  4. Many thanks for your lovely message Wendy, glad you liked the song x


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