8th March 2013 — Tales from the Clinic

Tales from the Clinic — 1

Where do ideas come from?

I’ve been thinking again about this – the subject of an earlier post – because lots of people have said I must be getting ideas for novels as a result of being first, in a French hospital, and then in a maison de réadaptation (convalescent home).  I’m still in the maison de réadaptation and am likely to be here until mid-May.

I fell in a cinema in Bordeaux on 24th January. When the firemen arrived (the front line emergency service in France is the fire service) they diagnosed two ruptured Achilles tendons – a diagnosis confirmed by doctors in the Salle D’Urgence at Pellegrin hospital (the main hospital in Bordeaux). The surgeon decided not to operate – the ruptures were too complicated – and put me in plaster for 9 weeks.

Five done, four to go. I’m lucky to have had lots of messages and visits from family and friends. They all say, “You must be getting lots of ideas for your next book,” (or a variation on the same theme). I nod and say, yes, maybe, perhaps. Because of course, it’s not that simple. I have no idea whether or not my fellow convalescents will appear as characters in a novel, or inspire a plot. I’ve certainly met some engaging characters and heard some wonderful true stories.

Madame C., an 80 year old recovering from a hip-replacement operation, has told me about her current romance with Monsieur D. a childhood friend, also 80 years old, whom she met again after a gap of more than 60 years – both of them having been married and widowed in the interim. “We are lovers,” Madame C. told me, crossing her arms across her heart. “We don’t live together, but Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday he comes to lunch at my house. On Thursday night, he stays in my house. On Friday, we decide whether we will spend the weekend in his house or my house. It’s an arrangement that works well,” she says. “We each have our own space. “

Monsieur D. had a heart attack and pneumonia recently. He spent 3 weeks in intensive care in the hospital and then two weeks in this convalescent home. Madame C. visited every day. No sooner had he recovered, than Madame C. went into hospital to have her hip replaced. She then came here for rehabilitation. It was Monsieur D’s turn to visit. Last week, on his way home from seeing her, he was momentarily dazzled by the setting sun. He crashed the car. “C’est foutue,” said Madame C. (She meant the car, not the relationship.) Monsieur D was unhurt, despite the car being a write-off. He went out the next day and bought another car. He turned up, as usual, to visit her. “The heart never grows old,” said Madame C.

I don’t know if their romance will inspire a novel, but it has done my own heart good to hear about it.