My world view has altered, though. After years of banging on about houses – the one I couldn’t sell in Cumbria and the Cambridge one I really couldn’t afford even though I spent several very happy years there – as if by magic I have been ‘translated’. Still, no ass’s ears here: my extraordinary good fortune has delivered me to the top floor of a block of flats around the corner from the Albert Street house. So, new lamps for old: and indeed, the new place is full of light. Smaller, but more space; both a room of my own, and a room with a view. Views, actually: from the kitchen table where I work, I can see past the pines where I think the magpies nest to the tops of the buses moving along Gilbert Road. One regular visitor, an exotic thug of a jay, has just flown past. The other balcony, at right angles, looks out across Victoria Road to the tops of King’s, John’s and the University Library – rather more than the tops now that the trees are de-leafing into autumn. The development stands on the site of the old Cambridge City Football Ground where, in one of those satisfying coincidences, on a chilly afternoon some years ago Andy and I watched Jack play in a charity match. Curiously, each flat comes with a brass-plated ‘Thunderer’ whistle in a glass case, a memento of the last game the club played on its Milton Road Ground in April 2013 and of the ‘lost sound’ of the crowd. Our whistles are to remain silent, the accompanying notes tell us, save only for the Saturday closest to the April anniversary each year, when they may be blown once during the 90 minute afternoon slot, before being returned to their boxes.
The Parkinson’s itself has demanded more attention during the last year or so, the meds working less efficiently and the side effects more troublesome even with regular doses of the tango medicine. Fortunately I was deemed to be a good candidate for Deep Brain Stimulation and after some lengthy hoop-jumping the operation was scheduled for mid-October. Six hours of surgery (cutting edge?), a full head shave, electrodes planted, battery inserted, some very tidy stitching and an impressive scar became in surgeon-speak an ‘uneventful procedure’ on my discharge notes. Everything has healed nicely and I’m feeling pretty good though as yet not much has changed. At present I’m still between worlds, waiting for my poor old brain to settle down and taking the medication as usual, before my ‘switch on’ in a couple of weeks. Whilst DBS won’t cure the disease or reverse its progress, if it works it should maintain me as I am at best, rather than with the current peaks and troughs. I should also be able to reduce the drugs and hence the side effects. Potentially life-changing is what they say. Meanwhile, I’m massively grateful: to the NHS, of course, as always, to the neurology and neurosurgery teams at Addenbrookes, and to all those who have raised funds for Parkinson’s research. I’m also surprised not to be missing my mop of blonde curls. In fact, I’m rather enjoying my new svelte profile and contemplating making it a permanent feature although again my timing’s questionable, given the season.
Railways of Bulgaria by Chris Bailey was published by Mainline and Maritime Ltd in 2016. Unfortunately it is now out of print but I understand Chris is working on a second edition.
All photographs were taken in Cambridge University Botanic Garden on the morning of 5th November.