Sunday, 18 March 2007

The truth about tonsils, appendices and Raymond Carver

I am still awake at 4 am, nursing something. I think it’s my tonsils that could be nurtured and developed into a hefty pair of screaming twins. Tonsils are a strange part of the human body’s immune system. They can sit there one minute, as Dr Jekyll, doing whatever it is they are designed to do for the welfare of the body and then they become Mr Hyde and reverse their function and start to infect the whole of the system. The Boo ( Beloved Only Offspring) has tonsils the size of those spherical Fylingdale Early Warning system buildings. As a child the GP eventually just gave me powdered anti-biotics to make up as and when needed to prevent me constantly having to present her and her tonsils at the surgery. We managed to avoid removal, she was attached to them and I had a strange need to try and keep her as whole as possible, given that she had slipped from the womb fully equipped.

Evolution may dictate in another few thousand millennia (should we survive that long as a species) that the human body can dispense with the need for tonsils, appendix (or is the plural appendices as in books), little toes and other bits and bobs we can manage without. However I tend to think that if we have them we ought to hang onto them unless they are making life intolerable. I lost my appendix, when it malfunctioned spectacularly in Kings Lynn, to a very diminutive Sri Lankan woman surgeon. She obligingly entered via a previous scar; as she said to me afterwards, it seemed so much neater. Her neat work has often been commented on by other doctors, who always seem to feel the need to say something when they are in that area. I think it is a question of professional courtesy. I feel almost proud to be a walking example of fine needlecraft. Twenty-seven years on it is a neat faded red line which I look at and think; another human being cut me open and put their hands inside my body, took something they had no personal use for out of it to heal me and then sealed me back up…the evolution of the opposable thumb and true altruism is a wonderful thing in the right hands.
I have been reading an essay, to while away the throat, written by Raymond Carver on the principles of a story in which he says one of the postcards taped above his desk is a quote from Ezra Pound.

‘Fundamental accuracy is the one sole morality of writing’

The definition of what fundamental, accuracy and morality mean of course is open to interpretation. That sounds like the start of a lazy and padded out undergraduate essay…in the ‘let us define our terms for two sides so I can get my word count up’ time honoured way. However I’m not a student and it’s my blog to indulge myself with as I see fit; the dictionary says accuracy is the correctness or truthfulness of something. Once you mention the nature of truth that’s a whole can of worms opened up as Pontius Pilate once said at a board meeting. I love Raymond Carver’s short stories they have an economy of language that passes into that realm where the precise and accurate placement of one word or even a full stop conveys something entire and I can believe what he is telling me is true at an emotional and intellectual level.

Fiction and poetry have their own truth, in the interests of which I ought to tell you that my appendix was not truly spectacular in its malfunction, as that implies a level of visual impressiveness. I think the word, to be truthful, would be a painful malfunction. I have reined in the use of agonising as I do have a high threshold of pain and I want to be accurate both emotionally and factually.

E mail from the Boo at 4.30am, to wish me a happy Mothers Day, I point out the time to her in my e mail response and tell her that she should be asleep in bed. I think she will probably be thinking the same thing about me. We will bond over tonsils on the phone at a later, more civilised, hour; if I am able to croak, I am hoping to sound like a husky Lauren Bacall.

1 comment:

Anne said...

Thanks for the Carver link. Very satisfying.

I hope you are feeling a lot better tomorrow, or shall I get out the hot towel and the oil of ecalyptus?