Pulling out of Chelsea

Suitably apocalyptic weather as I cross town in an Uber. We are in the heart of a storm. Crashing thunder and shocks of lightning over a city that has dried out. The roads are flooded.

Mel’s landlady would likely be pleased I’m heading over as there’s been a history of flooding in her flat and it’ll comfort her to know I’m there to bail out the buckets. It was hard to pull out of my flat though. There’s much there to attach me, not least that my idea of London is centred there. I know the shops and the buses and the trains. But these days transport is not a big concern, and shopping is more about efficiency and planning than it used to be.

I’ve been worried about the state I’d find it in here. I didn’t trust myself enough it seems. Last time I was here it was innocent February and we had no idea what was to come. Turns out I was reasonably tidy. A miracle. Needed to wash a couple of glasses and dispose of a toxic but thankfully unexploded vacuum pack of chicken in the fridge. I had made the bed before leaving. One pair of dirty socks was strangely laid out on floor as if I was supposed to leap into them. Plates in the drying rack. But on the Al Barclay scale of messiness, this is right up there with digs in a shared house with strangers. Better than I imagined by far. And evidence of hasty and indiscriminate scoffing of painkillers as a reminder of how I was inexplicably in constant agony with my shoulder for the best part of two months at the start of the year. Thank fuck whatever that was fixed itself. We forget so quickly when we have no pain what it’s like when we live on pain relief, counting the hours until we are allowed another one. Every morning I was pulled out of sleep early by the screaming of my nerves, augmented by my imagination that didn’t and still doesn’t know the cause so can put no time limit on the pain. I would frequently cut out the drugs for as long as I could bear, to “assess if it’s getting better” (aka to service my masochistic streak.) It wasn’t, until it did, and then one morning I forgot about it completely until I found all the Tylenol and Codeine wrappers by the kitchen sink here and remembered.

Some people live with chronic pain for their whole lives. Two months was long enough for me to know how much I respect those people for ever getting anything done. There were times when I was writing this and all I could write about was the pain because it filled my thoughts completely. I’m throwing away those wrappers. Respect to the memory but in the bin for now. Right now I’m one of the lucky ones without chronic pain. Long may it continue. I’m not getting back into those socks if I can help it.


The birds are singing to the dusk after the storm. London sprawls below me, and the sound of a siren rises through the gloaming. No river here, but hilltop heathland, doves and better air. Here’s to June.

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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