Yesteryear's flowers

Today I continue with extracts from last year’s diary when Margaret was recovering from her operation.

De Quincy and his confessions

I was recently discussing with a friend the propriety or otherwise of sharing a diary such as this, or at least extracts, with the public. Somehow the conversation turned to a discussion of De Quincy’s Confessions of an English Opium-Eater. The celebrated essayist had a problem with opium addiction for most of his life, and he was wary of writing his Confessions. He says: ‘Nothing, indeed, is more revolting to English feelings, than the spectacle of a human being obtruding on our notice his moral ulcers or scars, and tearing away that ‘decent drapery’, which time, or indulgence, to human frailty may have drawn over them: …’

An ‘apology’

He talks also of ‘that delicate and honourable reserve, which, for the most part, restrains us from the public exposure of our own errors and infirmities.’ His ‘apology’ for revealing the sufferings he went through was that he hoped the writing would not be ‘merely an interesting record’ but ‘useful and instructive.’ Well, I’m not sure how all this relates to a transitory and ephemeral blog, but it certainly raises some interesting points. If I was making an ‘apology’ it would be that the only reason I would venture to write a blog like this is because of the presence of the Third Party. (Those of a religious persuasion will know who I mean!)

Those who have followed our story to any extent will know exactly what I mean when I say that without God’s powerful dealings with us, through good times and bad, this blog would not have been written. Indeed, it wouldn’t have deserved to be written. If the glory is not with him, we are very poor souls indeed.

Friday 30th November 2012

Out of hospital

I phoned Margaret after 9am, not expecting her to get out till 10.30, but she said she had been seen by the doctor and that she could leave any time. So I went and collected her. She thanked the nurses and gave them a box of chocolates and I took her down to the car in a wheelchair. Then we drove to Skye. She was a bit weak and pale but remarkable nevertheless, just eight days after major surgery. I stopped at the shop in Broadford and got some groceries then drove to Portree where we collected Peasan the cat, and then on to Staffin and home.


Never was truer word spoken than ‘Home Sweet home’. Margaret had a sandwich for lunch and later on a good dinner. I am totally amazed that she can eat almost normally, as she is herself. Before the operation we had no idea how she would be afterwards, or what to expect. We were imagining that her diet would be restricted and that she would be able to eat only very small portions. But she can eat anything, more or less, and the portions she can eat are reasonably large.

If she had her whole stomach removed, things would have been very different. But she still has a part of her stomach and it makes all the difference. We hope and pray that she will continue to recover as she has been doing. She was so glad to get to her own bed tonight, and, with the help of painkillers, she slept like a log till morning.

Saturday 1st December 2012


Margaret must be better. She is taking an interest in the housework and even trying to do some herself, like taking the chicken out of the freezer for tomorrow! I’m amazed at the energy she has after such a major operation. She is pale and a bit weak and her stomach is painful, but she is walking about quite the thing. Her hair is also starting to grow. It appears to be darker than it was before. They say, after chemotherapy, to expect anything. We heard of one person whose hair was straight before treatment and curly afterwards.

The God of wonders

The first verses we read in the Bible tonight were in psalm 77:12-14 – ‘I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings. Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary: who is so great a God as our God? Thou art the God that doest wonders: thou hast declared thy strength among the people.’ These words struck me with amazement. I didn’t know they were in the Bible. They are so appropriate for our situation.

Monday 3nd December 2012

Post-operative pain

A quiet day at home yesterday. Margaret’s stomach was sore, but the painkillers helped. She was in bed in the afternoon for a couple of hours. Today we went to Portree. Margaret stayed in the car. In the afternoon the pain in her stomach was worse and the painkillers didn’t help that much.

Tuesday 4th December 2012

Tired but eating well

Margaret looks pale and rather poorly, worse than she was when we originally got home. She’s very tired and went to bed in the afternoon and that helped her. Probably what she needs is plenty sleep and rest. She tends to want to do things and move about which, after a major operation, is not a good idea. She went to bed early. The doctor will see her again on Thursday.

Wednesday 5th December 2012

Despite the increased dosage of painkillers, Margaret is still in a lot of pain and the painkillers don’t help it very much. She is a bit better when lying in bed and she’s spent a lot of the day in bed. The MacMillan nurse phoned. She was surprised that Margaret could eat as well as she’s doing. She can eat anything, more or less, but in small portions. Usually, eating can be a problem with this type of operation. We had Spaghetti and Beef Bolognese followed by jelly, strawberries and yoghurt for dinner. Because of the pain, Margaret went to bed early. I feel sorry for her, she is sometimes looking so poorly. Although, strangely enough, she is not losing any weight, despite eating so little. She is seeing the doctor again tomorrow.

Thursday 6th December 2012

Morphine patches

Margaret was in a lot of pain today. The increased dosage of painkillers hasn’t worked. Saw the doctor as planned at 11.15pm and she gave her a prescription for morphine patches. The patch has helped her greatly and eased the pain.

‘Blue Sky God’

I’m reading a book Blue Sky God: The Evolution of Science and Christianity by a Church of England vicar Don MacGregor. It’s a challenging read because it has a very liberal take on the nature of Christ and the atonement. MacGregor wants to bring Christianity up-to-date and in line with the latest discoveries of science. This means ridding the liturgy of any anthropomorphic references to God. God is rather the Ground of Being and the ‘compassionate consciousness’, which we can become one with, by a mystical process of inner transformation. Christ is not the Christ but ‘a Christ’.

Sympathy with the vicar but …

I have a certain amount of sympathy with MacGregor’s desire to take account of the findings of modern science when discussing the nature of God. There is, for example, the Zero field of quantum mechanics, the mysterious depth from which, according to scientists, material reality seems to emerge. But there is always the danger of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, of making Christ a mere human. That would, in a sense, be a denial of Christ’s divinity and of Christ as divine revelation, not to mention the resurrected Lord. Therefore, while I’m very doubtful about MacGregor’s attitude to the Trinity, I like how he talks about the mystical presence of God in the heart and how the spiritual path is a transformational experience. But, for me, you can’t have one without the other: the transformational experience is a relationship with the living Lord.

day 9th December 2012

Pain has eased

Since she got the morphine patches on Thursday, Margaret’s pain has eased greatly, although the chemotherapy and operation have weakened her a lot. I hope and pray that she will slowly improve, as I’m sure she will. A lot of people phoned yesterday asking how she was.

Tuesday 11th December 2012

Good news

Good news today. Margaret got the pathology report. The chemotherapy had reduced the tumour and they managed to excise the malignant area completely. And the margins were clear. So that is all good news. She will see the surgeon in three weeks time. She won’t know till then whether she will require more chemotherapy. Let’s hope not.

People with ‘no religion’

Some of my atheist friends on Facebook are delighted by the latest Census figures. Apparently the number of people describing themselves as Christian in England and Wales has fallen by 4 million in the past decade. A quarter of the population describe themselves as having ‘no religion.’ I doubt if this makes any difference to the existence of God! Fortunately, God is not a matter of democratic assent. Even if only one person, or none, believed in him it would not make his existence any less real. But should everyone stop believing in God it would certainly create a world not worth living in.

Friday 14th December 2012

On and off days

Yesterday, the nurse called and took a blood sample to check Margaret’s red blood cell count. She was very tired and couldn’t do much but sit all day, in contrast to Wednesday, when she had more energy. The MacMillan nurse said it would be like that, one would have good and bad days. Today she is much better. We went shopping in Portree and she went round the store with me. Later we both prepared dinner, the first time she has done that since her operation.

An absolute end or something else?

I often think of all that has happened to us in the last few months. In particular, I think of the hospital. In many ways, Margaret is fortunate in comparison to other patients. Seeing people young and old with cancer makes you realise what a terrible disease it is; how difficult to control, how unpredictable, how dreadful for the person who is afflicted. And yet, although people were so ill with such a terrible disease, I didn’t see fear or panic in the patients’ eyes. Most of them didn’t appear to have strong religious beliefs. Margaret was the only person I saw with a Bible. If anything, with a few patients, you could see a dull despair but not fear or panic. I wonder what a person in such a situation thinks? That death is the absolute end or that there may be something, but that God is love? Who knows? Margaret believes in a life after death and in a loving God and is therefore not afraid.

Friday 21st December 2012

Keeping a note

It’s a week since my last entry. How time flies. I really must write an entry every day, because it’s so easy to forget what happened three or four days ago. Or maybe I should write just once a week, unless something worth writing about happens. But then it’s not just the things that happen. Often I have thoughts that I feel are worth writing about, but if I don’t write them down on the day I tend to forget them. Perhaps thoughts prompted by a book I’m reading. But it’s not just the thoughts, it’s the feelings connected with the day.

The days become a blur

After a week the days become just a blur and it’s difficult to distinguish one day from the other. Time is a strange thing. It’s no use asking, “What was I doing four Thursdays ago?” unless you were doing something which deserved to be remembered. That’s how memory seems to work, it’s the things you did which you remember, not the day you did them on. That appears to be even truer for long term memory.

Almost back to normal

A few things stand out for me over the past week; four weeks yesterday since Margaret’s operation and she continues to make great progress. Amazingly, she is almost back to normal although they said it could be 6 months to a year before that would

Roger Scruton’s Face of God

In the past week or so I’ve been reading Face of God by Roger Scruton. This is a book by a philosopher who is familiar with Kant and who tries to make a case for God in contemporary terms. It is full of insights and a book which I could with benefit read again and again. His consideration of human consciousness, as evidenced in the I-You relation, and how this could relate to God consciousness is superb.