Bustin’ out all over

Tuesday is the day I get to see my bust. I had a plaster cast made a few weeks ago and it has since gone to an artist to go wild with their creative juices and slap paint or whatever on it. I am grateful mine has not gone to Gilbert and George. During the day I feel tired. Beyond tired. I do my mindfulness practice mid-morning and fall asleep. I could sleep anywhere. In the afternoon I have a little nap, thinking this will help. It does not. I hurt in all kinds of places. The soles of my feet feel bruised so walking is painful. My back hurts and, given the choice, I would curl up on the sofa and not go out but I am determined to attend the private view of my cast along with at least 3 of my friends’. My friend Mo calls to confirm she is going with another friend, Margaret. It’s nice to have moral support as I don’t know what I will be faced with. She floats the idea of a meal afterwards in Brick Lane. It sounds lovely but it’s so long since I have been out in the evening that I’m just not sure if I can do it.

On leaving the tube station, we miss Brick Lane by a mile and walk past the end of it, totally in the wrong direction. I am feeling hot and in a lot of pain so this is not the right time to make a mistake. If I felt energetic or even pain-free, it would not be a problem but this evening is not one of those occasions. We walk back in the direction we have come from and cross the road to ask a community police officer where it is. He points across the road to the junction we have been standing at. Sigh. We walk down Brick Lane and are assaulted on all sides by people wanting us to eat in their restaurants. Every type of approach is tried, including “Do you want to eat in the worst restaurant in Brick Lane?” an offer which, like others, we refuse. Eventually we reach the Brick Lane Art Gallery which is bursting at the seams with people who are spilling out onto the pavement, drinking wine and beer and happily chatting. We make our way inside and see our two friends who have already arrived and point me in the direction of my cast. On the way I see Jane who organised the whole exhibition and made the casts. She looks happy and rightly so. The exhibition is brilliant and people are clearly enjoying it. It is so hot inside the gallery I am immediately a soggy, over-heated lump. My glasses steam up, just to make my joy complete. My cast is exquisite. In hues of pink and green, it is simply beautiful. As I am exclaiming over it, a young man approaches and asks if this is my cast. When I confirm it is, he tells me he is the artist who decorated it. Skev  has done a superb job and it is really good to meet the man who handled me!

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We meet up with other people we know who have also had themselves cast and Mr Mason takes lots of photos, many of them with me looking damp and slightly demented.

Eventually we wander out into the warm evening and make our way back down Brick Lane with Mo and Margaret. We are enticed into a curry house which is nice but feels a bit as though it’s lost its heart and is now a tourist attraction. I suspect there are many more authentic curry houses in the vicinity but the food is fine and the service is good. By this time I am seriously in pain and very, very tired so we agree to take a cab home as we all live in a similar area. It is so wonderful to be whisked off without having to slog our way to the tube and also good to have friends who just understand without making a fuss.

Once my bust has finished its tour, I will be able to have it back. I have no idea where I will put it but it will be a reminder that there are more adventures to be had post cancer diagnosis and that I will keep on having them for as long as I can.

Getting plastered, no wrestling

So, today was THE day. The day I get my chest encased in plaster for all to gape and wonder at. A bit of a first in our household as no-one has been encased in plaster except Master Mason and then it was because he fell foul of a car. And we all know that was really down to Billy and his malign influence :-).  I seem to recall Miss Mason was temporarily enased in some plaster when we thought she’d broken her arm hitting someone much bigger and older at her martial arts club but in the end it all turned out to be a false alarm. OK, so it’s not much of a first in our household except I have never been encased in plaster of any shape or form. And I don’t believe Mr Mason has even been the subject of a drive-by plastering, either. Actually, Miss Mason believes she was the subject of a drive-by prank by a monk. She lives in Bangkok and was walking blameless back from the supermarket when a truck went past with a huge statue of Buddha, supported by a monk who, on seeing her, flicked water at her with some large twigs. She hopes it was a blessing but rather feels she will be on the monks’ version of ‘You’ve been framed’.

But I digress. As you know, a real skill of mine. I ask Mr Mason nicely if he will give me a lift to Fulham where I am to get plastered. He acquiesces, not knowing the traffic on the way back will be outrageous. Alas, Serena, she of the Sat Nav, gives us advice which is confusing and we end up in the wrong road but close enough to where I have to be so I jump out of the car (well, heave myself out if you’re going to be pedantic) and high tail it to my appointment.

Jane, the woman who will be plastering me, is very nice and has just finished plastering another lady. The floor is covered in plastic and sheeting and Jane herself is in shorts and vest and a liberal covering of plaster. First, I have to be covered in baby oil and I enquire if we are first going to wrestle but no-one seems inclined to take me on. Perhaps I look invincible. I stand with my hands on my head in a hopeless attempt to make my outline look more svelte. Clearly, this does not work and Jane needs an awful lot of plaster strips to get me covered. We chat while she covers me and I find out she was diagnosed with breast cancer a while ago and, like me, has been through chemotherapy and radiotherapy with just a lumpectomy in terms of surgery. She decided to form a charity to help younger women so I feel a bit of a fraud standing in front of her but she reassures me she thinks I am quite young. She plasters and squirts me with a water bottle (but not in the form of a blessing, like the drive-by monk) and after 45 minutes or so, we are done. Cleaning myself up takes almost as long as getting plastered. While I clean up, Jane tidies my bust up, adding plaster strips along the edge and smoothing me out generally. Compared to the woman who was plastered before me, I look like an amorphous blob. But hey, that’s life.

We say our farewells and I leave, thinking I will walk down North End Road which is one of my new favourite places with great food stalls and shops and a really good atmosphere. I buy pasties from the Lebanese bakers, chorizo from the butchers and some fruit and veg from the stalls along the side of the road. After a bit of wandering, I decide to get a bus which will take me to Chiswick and from where I can get a bus home. The idea really appeals. I can get a seat and sit and read my book or stare out of the window, indulging in more people watching. At the bus stop I am viewed suspiciously by an elderly black lady with enormous sunglasses. After a while, she mutters something to me. I apologise and ask her to repeat herself. She does and I still don’t know what she is saying except she looks really cross. I guess it is the fact that the bus is taking so long to arrive. Buses come and go but not the one the black lady and I want. I try and engage her in conversation but she mutters about being at home and 4-o-clock and I am none the wiser so I try and sympathise about the lack of our bus and leave it at that. Another lady tries to pick up the loose conversational thread as she is waiting for the same bus. She was originally from the area but emigrated to Australia in 1958 and has returned to visit her sisters. Amazingly, she still remembers the numbers of the buses and suggests that we could go around the corner and get another bus which would get us somewhere else from where we could reach our separate destinations. After yet more wrong buses arrive, we decide to leave and say goodbye to the elderly lady who is still looking like it is our fault the bus hasn’t arrived. Around the corner, the bus stop is empty which we take as a good sign. Of course, our bus doesn’t arrive proving there is an almighty snarl-up somewhere in the Hammersmith region which is having an effect on buses all around the area. I give up and decide to take any bus that will get me anywhere near a tube station. A bus arrives and I jump on, even getting a seat. The bus moves about 10 feet from the stop and then sits there, ensnared in the steadily growing traffic snarl-up. After 20 minutes of shuffling forward slowly, I ask the bus driver if he will kindly open the doors and let me off. London bus drivers are not allowed to do this, presumably in case you are promptly mown down by something large and fast-moving but this bus driver is sensible and says “Watch out for the traffic” before opening his doors. I start to make the trek down Fulham Palace Road, past the hospital, past Maggie’s and eventually get to Hammersmith station. I am tired by this point, very, very tired, and my shopping bag is heavy and I’m not supposed to be carrying heavy things because of my stupid lymphoedema. As the tube pulls in, I climb on, wondering if anyone will give me a seat. Resigning myself to standing all the way home, I move into the middle of the carriage where I spy an empty seat. Unless you have spent years travelling on the London Underground you may possibly not comprehend quite what a marvellous, stupendous thing of beauty this is. Even better, no-one is hurtling down the carriage in the opposite direction trying to beat me to it. I would like to say I sank gracefully into the seat when, in reality, I dropped into it like a sack of spuds. Oh, the relief.

My bust will be decorated by an artist of some repute before it goes on tour, as I mentioned before. We have a stint in an art gallery in Brick Lane before our table-tennis tournament on 20th October in Holborn. Open to all, it should be entertaining and, as I have so many competetive friends, I am hopeful some will enter the competition. Come on, you know who you are and you know you want to. My bust will then do a small tour of the UK, residing in galleries and hospitals before it returns to the bosom of my family- sorry, I couldn’t resist it. It really will be a feat to decide where to display it. It is, after all, lifesize and, therefore, quite big. Still, we have a year to decide and in the meantime, I’m going to brush up on my table tennis skills.