. . . . at least on the outside! Confronting doubts and fears can be for outward appearances when inside something is churning away and you’re not altogether sure why. I slept well, opened my eyes at my usual; 5.15 A.M. start to my day, but it wasn’t to be in my usual direction for the day’s start. My bags were packed for an overnight stay in Derby tonight but what was this unsettledness I felt? Was it the journey? a mix of car, walk, bus ride and train ride followed by taxi at the other end or was it the procedures to take place on my hands tomorrow morning? Perhaps it was a longer-term consideration post-op in the days, weeks and months ahead. And could this be how I might feel if someone eventually tells me I will have to give up woodworking as age has caught up with you? That I should put away my tools forever now because the days of using them are over? An age-related surrender I needed to consider. Well, I really did not feel that at all though that may well not be in my own hands down the road from here. Today was my day into an unknown future. In the morning my hands would be in the hands of another Let surgery commence!
I resolved that it was a mix of many things ranging from feelings to emotions to expectations and then too the unknowns. I had so many mixed feelings over the last 24 hours that stemmed from years and even decades of influences on my life. Thoughts of considering how brave my father was when he alone went for surgery to remove parts of his feet due to poor diabetic information and knowledge 40 years ago when he was diagnosed back in his early fifties. Repeated eye surgery ending in blindness, things like that. The mixture of travel with the possibility of cancellations due to rail and hospital strikes and such. I needed to go ahead the day before rather than leave at 4 A.M. for my 7.30 A.M. surgery
In Oxford we were told not to board the train arriving at platform four: the one we were supposed to get. It seemed that a fault had occurred on the train and the train’s journey would therefore terminate in Oxford now. Not sure whether the train would be cancelled altogether at this announcement, I was relieved when another tannoy announcement told of this train’s replacement arriving in a few minutes. In the waiting room, three scousers (Liverpudlians) within two seconds of opening their mouths had us in stitches with jokes and accents we could no way ignore. It’s a scouse thing, the ability to turn tragedy into humour. The sighs from the woman sitting next to me were transformed into deep belly laughs as those of us from the North roared with laughter, eyes streaming as the joking poured out so naturally from our Liverpool travellers.
On the train, my seat to Birmingham faced forward, a great preference for me. I am three stops now to Derby and travelling through the countryside I grew up with. As the train reversed out of the station I got a close look at Birmingham, a city of ever-changing faces. Someone leaned in on me and said, “Hey, you’re not…? You are. Are you? Yes, you are! Paul Sellers! Wow!” Slightly embarrassing when no one else has a clue who you are and they are all wondering what they are missing.
The winter colours on the trees are stunningly rich as they flash by even though it’s otherwise overcast. Bright leaves hang from the branches of different trees as back-lit domes to the sides as we flash by at speed. I feel completely settled now. My responsibility in having my hands done is to prevent or at least slow down the rate of deterioration. My work is not yet completed and neither is the happiness I get from it. Passing on everything I know will be ongoing for a few more years to come. Every day I say to myself several times, ‘Oh, I must remember to pass that on. Mustn’t forget. Mustn’t let it die with me.’ I am now 17 hours away from the scheduled surgery I need. The passing fields covered with winter cover crops transport me back to times when large flocks of lapwings were commonly seen lifting off and circling on floppy wings and sheep grazed in adjacent fields alongside cattle grazing the pasture and horses in their paddocks. Is it the light that seems so different to me? Something welcoming me back? A homing thing, perhaps?
The driver just announced that we were now approaching my destination Derby Station but then apologised because we had yet to stop at Burton on Trent. More humour as everyone laughed at his premature announcement. I’m enjoying the gleaming tracks we’re riding on and remembering the train tracks that were once my playground. The rust below shining and cambering steel strips with the wild invasion of Buddleia thrusting up from chinks in the stones seems so natural to me. I am ten minutes to my destiny of Derby. so not far now.
It’s 2.30 P.M as I leave not taxi for the hotel. I’m settled in my room and ready to chill. All anxiety, if that is what was, is gone.