For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a prolific writer and correspondent, while I’ve been an equally enthusiastic conversationalist and raconteur who, in the tradition of Samuel Johnson, loves to “have out his talk”. All these aspects of my character have virtually disappeared in recent times, sadly, but while I’ve described the reasons for this as best I can on many occasions, my increasing inability to engage with others who’ve contacted me in various ways means that I feel I have to do so again, although this is the last time I plan to embark on such an explanation or deliver such an apology.
At around this time last year, my dog Blueboy started to go into a physical and mental decline at what I’m told is the impressive age of thirteen. His back legs are unsteady, so he cannot get about anywhere near as much as he once used to, while it’s also obvious that he’s suffering from dementia, a condition that manifests itself in a variety of ways. I’ve had to sleep downstairs for months because if I were not at hand to calm him, his random, shrill yips and howls would wake not only the rest of my household, but also a sizeable part of of the village where I live.
There’s no pattern to Blueboy’s outbursts, because his behaviour is largely unpredictable, but I’m regularly woken during the night by him padding around restlessly and barking at things that are invisible to me, while he often comes across to me in the night and licks my face. As he’s given me an immeasurable amount of company, love and loyalty, and as he’s provided countless children with the enormous pleasure of being able to pat and stroke what they’ve seen as a big, black wolf, it is the very least I can do to console him and offer him my company. I have no reason to believe that he’s in pain, other than having some predictable creaks and groans, so I intend to be with him until the end, whatever form that may take.
In the meantime, while Blueboy often sleeps for hours on end, leaving me free to conduct my business as best I can, there are often times when my communications with others are interrupted by him, which can be exasperating for me and difficult for others with whom I’m trying to converse. On top of that, my sleep patterns no longer have any pattern to them, as I sleep when I can, while there are nights when my sleep can be interrupted as many as five or six times when Blueboy’s particularly unsettled. I don’t resent him for a moment, but it’s surely understandable that after all this time, I’m exhausted and often incapable of concentrating.
At the same time, in addition to my other cares and concerns, I’m in unrelenting agony on account of an unresolved dental condition. I’ve explained this on innumerable occasions to doubtless well-meaning enquirers and my patience is at an end, so I’ll describe my circumstances one last time.
Seven or eight years ago, I received ‘treatment’ at a dental practise here in Britain’s Deep South. I woke to discover that work had been done that I’d not asked for or consented to and the pain was indescribable, top and bottom, left and right. The next day, the practise’s receptionist made what she admitted was a token call, so I informed her of my distress, but the practise refused to treat me again on the grounds that I’d been “a difficult patient”, although how that could have been possible when I was sedated remains a complete mystery to me.
My suffering eventually abated and when I next felt I needed treatment, I told my doctor about what had happened, asking her to find me some other practise who would guarantee I’d be treated humanely and professionally, as no one in their right minds would voluntarily undergo such a horrendous ordeal a second time. In brief, the health professionals to whom I was directed treated me with reactions ranging from complete indifference, through to contempt, mockery and even hostility, so I was forced to seek treatment in London.
While I remain eternally grateful for the humane way in which I was treated and for the temporary respite from my pain, the cost of travelling and accommodation eventually put an end to these visits to London, although there was and is the added problem that I needed someone to look after me after I’d been sedated and received treatment. So, until such time as my fortunes change, something I’m working on as best I can, I experience brutal, debilitating pain for every second of every minute of every day and this has pretty much been the case for three years or more. I try to be stoic about this and to count my many blessings, but the unfortunate fact remains that I’ve become extremely irascible, in complete contrast to how I was formerly, so I’m not really fit to speak to right now.
Yes, I find all this distressing and no, I don’t have any answers. I feel bad about how anti-social and withdrawn I’ve become, but rather than follow Machiavelli’s example of railing against a malignant Fate, I’m simply informing those who know me of my circumstances and of how I’m doing my level best to change them.
The Roman governor of Africa at this time was Sextilius, a man who had received neither good nor ill at the hands of Marius, but whom, as it was expected, pity alone would move to give him aid. Hardly, however, had Marius landed with a few companions, when an official met him, stood directly in front of him, and said: “Sextilius the governor forbids thee, Marius, to set foot in Africa; and if thou disobeyest, he declares that he will uphold the decrees of the senate and treat thee as an enemy of Rome.” When he heard this, Marius was rendered speechless by grief and indignation, and for a long time kept quiet, looking sternly at the official. Then, when asked by him [the governor’s official] what he had to say, and what answer he would make to the governor, he answered with a deep groan: “Tell him [the governor], then, that thou hast seen Caius Marius a fugitive, seated amid the ruins of Carthage.” And it was not inaptly that he compared the fate of that city with his own reversal of fortune.