Renfrewshire Council

Musings of the Tannahill Makar: Slowness is my new best friend

Hello, here I am, making a welcome return to my blog after months out of action with my brush with the world of STROKE.

Let me tell you that IF you are suspicious that anyone near you is having a stroke because they can't lift their arm, or their smile is lopsided, or if their legs feels drunk, or if anything looks like the acronym F.A.S.T. (Face, Arms, Speech, Time) then time is important because the first hours can be the difference between medics being able to minimise damage, or not. Don't be like me and go to your bed to sleep it off then the next morning, get a bus to the A & E to get checked out. Immediately when you see any of these symptoms, call 999 for an ambulance. The A & E should have a triage system that allows immediate checking out and may save you untold misery.

Even a lesser severe stroke may result in your, speech, swallowing, walking, emotions, independence, balance, world, etc. being turned inside out making life a challenge like you've never encountered before.

You can operate one day as a normal fit person then the next day have become a wreck totally reliant on others. An insult to the brain is what some refer to a stroke as, because brain cells die and there's no predicting how it affects one individual to another.

I've been told that the initial recovery period is ballparked at three months then perhaps a year to try to get back to some sort of even keel (if indeed, such a thing is possible) but no one can tell for sure. You will probably always have some sort of souvenir to carry around with your being for the rest of your days, so think of non-action as a no-no. BEWARE OF THE STROKE, as the sign says in cartoons.

To continue on I'm posting two poems. First, SLOWNESS IS MY NEW BEST FRIEND. Rather than write something along the lines of, "I've been ill. Deary deary me", I've written a piece that highlights how we need the tolerance of others to perhaps take into account, a change that illness has resulted in.



My stroke-brain
has forgotten how best
to send messages to my hands
in a timeous fashion.

It appears
there is a delaying element
as slowness has become my new best friend.

In the supermarket
whilst my brain listens to the checkout assistant
telling me the price I have to pay
in the softest of voices
I can barely hear,
my change hand
deals with the complexities
of organising the various coins,
their dimensions ... their colours ... their shapes ... their values ...
my fingers sluggishly sorting
them into an intelligible order
that my brain feels comfortable with
so it can communicate to the checkout assistant
with the offering in my hand
ready to carry out my transaction.

Whilst my natural instinct is to explain
to the queue behind me,
that I think
is impatiently waiting,
that the delay is not of my doing,
but of course I won't
as I'd feel a bit of a twit, if I did

and on reflection
I doubt if the queue even noticed too much
being wrapped up
in its own day's priorities.

Brian Whittingham


Along with this, I'm posting a poem (WHATEVER MAKES YOUR HEART SMILE) written about Lilias Conroy, an artist who kindly supplied a painting of Paisley Abbey that was gifted to me on my inauguration as The Tannahill Makar which now hangs proudly on my living room wall.



In her studio, dangling over a workbench ... a charm.

A purple silk butterfly
ribboned to a small ceramic heart.
With the legend, 'Do whatever makes your heart smile.'
The heart is off-white as if echoing the silk road silk
pinned taut to wooden frames.
Paintings in various stages of completion.

But instead of being in ancient China, or India or Persia
We are in, what, from the outside,
looks like a hut In this Barrhead back garden.

And as she executes her Gutta outlines
geometrically to her draftswoman's eye
making ready for her delicate brushed dyes
she tells me
'There are never any people in my paintings.'

But I am looking at her Paisley Abbey and she is wrong.

I am there, clearly in my mind.
I am looking at the picture therefore I'm in the scene.

I can see the alien gargoyle
frozen in mid leap from its parapet
reminding us of the horrors of hell.

I can see the grassed over headstones
that the man will throw the ball
for his dog to chase over the dead, long ago put to rest.

I can see Marjorie, the daughter of Robert the Bruce,
in the embrace of her cold granite tomb.

So the silk artist is wrong
though her heart does keeps smiling
as unknowingly,
she puts each and every one of us into her paintings
over and over again.

Brian Whittingham


In coming months, there will be more posts to share with you the wonderful world of Renfrewshire.




Published 13 September 2019