Then Sheila said that if only I could get together enough strength to stand moving, she would take me to a nature-cure place in the country. I made a great effort. ‘It’ had not grown in size, according to the X-ray photographs, and after a month Sheila decided to risk a move. It was a bad journey in a motorcar, but I arrived. Enton Hall was heavenly after the hospital. After the standard hospital diet, I was grateful for vegetarian food, with fresh fruit, and raw grated vegetables. I found that when it became difficult to breathe, a complete fast for two or three days made breathing a little easier. As soon as I discovered this I played it time after time, whenever breathing was too difficult to bear. A strange situation now arose, for instead of being encouraged to fast, as is usual in a nature-cure hydro, I was being advised either not to do it, or to cut it short because I had not the strength to stand it. My being there became a strain on the establishment, which was not intended for seriously ill people. My coughing disturbed others at night. They did not think that I could stay there much longer. Fortunately for me another patient was Ann Todd, the actress, famous for her part in the film The Seventh Veil. She had been coshed by a thug. The doctor suggested that she should go and talk to me. Hearing of her troubles did me good. She gave me a lift.
She said afterwards that I showed her plans of Gipsy Moth III, and talked of sailing out to New Zealand, but I do not remember it. There came a night when everyone gave up hope for me. My own doctor had driven down from London. He told Sheila that my heart was giving out under the strain. The house doctor said that I must be taken away to a hospital. Sheila was there, and I was left on her hands; dumped on her, as it were. The building seemed strangely quiet that night, as she applied hot and cold compresses on my back. I knew that they had given me up that night, and somehow it did me good. It infused the will to live into me. I think it was a crisis.
England Map Of Cities Photo Gallery
After surviving that night, I got a little better, and was able to shuffle into the grounds. It was a gorgeous summer. I loved the warm touch of the sun on my skin, the rising scent of the pine needles, the soothing green of juicy, young, curled-up bracken fronds. I liked to watch a big ant-heap of large fierce black-red ants at work. It was fascinating to watch them bury a piece of branch or a stone, completely sinking an object the size of half a brick into their nest in a day and night.
I was able to go home, to the only place where I wanted to be, to my room at the very top of the house, my cave, my kennel, where I could wrap a blanket round the remains of my shattered personality, and turn my face to the window. I could sleep only on one side, could breathe only propped on one elbow, but at least it was facing the window. My arm and shoulder joint began to change shape, and a muscle in my throat grew taut like a cord with the strain of staying in one position. Perhaps I suffered most at this period, and became most frightened with the suffocation attacks. I felt that I could not stand it, and was at just about as low an ebb as I could be. My personality had shrunk to almost nothing. This upsets people; they are used to someone’s having a certain personality, and if that personality changes, the person feels among strangers. My nerves were in a shrinking, cringing state. Physically I was no better off; one day I found that I was sitting on something in my bath which was hurting me. Gingerly I moved to discover what it was. There was nothing; it was my skin being pinched between my bones and the bath. My skin hung in folds; my weight had dropped 40 lbs. When I struggled for breath sometimes oxygen, always at hand, seemed to help, and at other times it seemed useless.
My map business had been running steadily downhill. Finally Sheila could not stand it any longer, entered the office and took charge. She had never had anything to do with business before, and on top of that she’s artistic, with a slow casual approach to an issue which can be maddening to the business mentality. On the other hand, her perception is brilliantly acute, her judgement excellent for half the occasions, and her imagination amazingly fertile for new ideas. Her chief asset however, is that if she makes up her mind to do something, she will do it. She overcame the inevitable frictions, introduced some new ideas, which, if not successful as money-spinners infused some new life into the firm. The hive had a new queen, and came alive again.
Early in the spring of 1959 I screwed myself up to visit my mother in Devonshire. I felt that I must go to see her before it was too late. My mother and sister never seemed to feel the cold, or to have any idea of comfort, according to my standards, and unfortunately the weather was cold and damp. My sister did her best, and dug out some more blankets for my bed; I think they were the same that I had used as a boy, but now matted hard with fifty years of use. She also put an oil stove in my bedroom, given her, by, of all people, my girlfriend of fifty years before, Nancy Platt. But the bad attack of bronchitis and asthma which I now had, really needed a dry, constant heat. I was in bed on the Sunday morning, feeling ill and miserable, while my family were away at church. My mother could not approve of staying away from church, whatever the cause. After church there was a commotion, a mix up of voices and steps, which permeated my semi-consciousness. Stumblings on the stairs brought me out of bed, to find that my mother was being carried up. I put on my clothes as fast as I could. My mother had failed to get up after praying in church. They carried her out, thinking that she was dead, but she came to in the churchyard. I did what I could to help, but it was a feeble effort. To make matters worse for my sister, who insisted on doing all the housework, I was a wreck. The doctor was called in, but he could not help me, and said to my sister, ‘Does his wife know how seriously ill he is?’
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