Bear with me, please. It's been such a miserable week that I couldn't write a word. But I promise I'll be back soon with The Story of Flad and I'll try not to ruin my keyboard by splashing too many tears onto it.
When I was in my twenties, I naively supposed that, once you'd got over a few bumps and knocks, life started to get better and went on that way, blossoming into a soft, perfumed bed of roses by the time you were ready to drift painlessly into the after-world.
Wrong. And how! Which is why I now feel that, rather than landing on a bed of roses in my later years, I have sunk up to my neck in a steaming dung heap! I could cry myself to sleep every night bemoaning the wrong choices I made, the opportunities I turned down, the times I've let people down, the huge amount of money I've wasted through buying clothes to cheer myself up when I've been sad.
Some people can look inside themselves and draw on reserves of strength and courage. Rather than being made of stern, stiff-upper-lip grit, my soul, psyche or whatever is more like a leaky bucket from which the courage seeps as the regret expands. Oh, stuff the similes. I have a sieve for a soul. A sponge for a backbone. A tea-strainer for a spirit. I am not the type from whom burning-building-rescues and Amazon treks are made. When the shit hits the fan, you'll find me cowering behind the sofa, whimpering plaintively, clutching a packet of chocolate digestives, my universal panacea for panic and uncertain futures. I have eaten two today already.
Recently, life has squished me deeper into the smelly stuff. Twice in the last month I have had to ring for an ambulance because Mr Grumpy has suffered TIA's, or mini-strokes. The last occasion was particularly scary because he went blind in one eye, couldn't feel the floor beneath his feet and his left arm went numb. Fortunately, he recovered later in the day, but there is always the worry that a major event is waiting in the wings. (Pass me another chocolate biscuit.)
The other rotten thing that's happened is that poor old Flad is rapidly going downhill. He's thin, weak and has started having 'accidents', so I went out today and staggered back with a bag of cat litter, a litter tray and a scoop. I have suggested shutting Flad in a room by himself at night, so that Charlie, who is a big bully, will leave him alone. We also don't want Charlie to start using the tray. But Mr Grumpy has overruled me and insists Flad should be allowed to carry on sleeping on the sofa "because that's where he likes sleeping." And he won't allow me to close the door in case Flad wants to go out at night. The fact that our poor, doddery old mog is too stiff and weak to use the cat flap hasn't occurred to him.
I give up. I'm too sad to get on with writing my books. I feel in limbo. When we first met Flad, he was a few months old and living wild in the garden, eating the scraps we threw out for the foxes. This was in July 1997, three months after Mr Grumpy and I got together. From being a nervous feral who didn't purr till he was four, he blossomed into a beautiful, gentle, lovely animal who captured my heart. Seeing him decline not only tears me in two, it throws a parallel light on my relationship.
I shall say no more. Another biscuit, please. No - give me the whole damn packet.