I’ve been meaning to write something for several weeks. For various reasons I’ve written very little since the summer. At one point I was going to write something about Guerrilla Warfare, triggered by finding a book of that title in a charity shop in Morningside. The book, a 1940s Penguin Special, is by Bert ‘Yank’ Levy, whom I only know as a name from the Spanish Civil War. He served in the English Battalion of the International Brigades as a machine-gunner; and later worked as an instructor under Tom Wintringham in the Home Defence training unit at Osterley Park. I did wonder for a bit whether guerrilla warfare was the right response to the Liz Truss government. But then they blew themselves, and the country’s finances, up in a spectacular manner.
I also planned to write something about Christian Hope. Which was one of the central themes of the annual Anglo-German Men’s Retreat, down at Maredsous in the Ardennes, a couple of weeks ago. It was a really wonderful two days. We spent most of Saturday morning thinking about our obituaries.Followed by meaningful and supportive discussions about living and dying. Glorious sunshine on the Saturday as we walked in the local countryside. Rather better food in the refectory, with an excellent choucroute. And I discovered how to turn the heating in my bedroom, so that I wasn’t cold at night. I hope to write more about the Retreat in a week or two.
But the person that occupies most of my waking thoughts and virtually all of my prayer life is my lovely and much-loved daughter Joanna. As Dave said to me recently, we only have a limited emotional band-width. Some people reading this may know that she was diagnosed with cancer in the bowel and cancer in the liver in the middle of August. After a long-awaited family holiday in France, she underwent the first two tranches of chemotherapy in September. While I was away doing locum work in Chantilly. She coped well with the chemo. But was in hospital for a few days on a drip for an infection. And then early in October she went back into Stoke [Mandeville] for an emergency operation following a blockage in the bowel, It was a bigger intervention than I had realised. And in recent weeks she has found it very difficult to regain energy and strength.
Last week she was dehydrated and went back into Stoke last Thursday, six days ago, for IV re-hydration. Susie has been living down in Wycombe for several weeks. I went south to see her on Friday, an interminable journey because of severe flooding in Berwickshire. And I was delighted and mighty relieved to see her looking and sounding very well at the weekend. But they took further CT scans on Saturday and Sunday, and they didn’t like what they saw.
Since Monday afternoon she has been in a hospice at Stoke. The staff are lovely. Her church, King’s Church, Wycombe, have been wonderfully supportive of Craig and their two girls in practical ways.And they have been praying their socks off.. As have a host of friends around the world. She is the best and the most beautiful and the bravest daughter in the world. And my eyes fill with tears as I write that.