In a couple of years writing here I don't think this has happened before. A hiatus this long, that is. Truth is I've had plenty to talk about - the Wreck, cider pressing, my relationship, fighting the girl and all - but not the time, or indeed the inclination, to commit it to print.
You've probably seen me referring to my friend Dawn here. She's been a true friend to me and my wife these last few years, providing humour and support just when it has been most sorely needed.
Now it's her hour of need, as the cancer she beat a few years ago has returned. Metastasised, not a good word at all. Her decline has been swift and alarming, as from accompanying us to Sparkle in July she moved to difficulties with mobility, then fluid retention and the indignity of incontinence. First a council home help, then regular visits from the district nurse and finally a Marie Curie nurse with her overnight before a move to our local hospice.
The fluid retention has gone, aided by a drain and a big plastic bag that filled surprisingly quickly, the nurse taking its volume as she emptied it. Eighteen litres, try picking up that number of soft drinks bottles and imagine a sick old lady walking around with that.
The hospice is a masterpiece of design with amazing standards of care. A very specialist hospital ward, its atmosphere is as close to that of a home as they can make it. For a week after the fluid had gone we had the old Dawn back, grumbling about the food and shocking the nurses with her make passport photo, beard and all. I bought her in a seafood pizza by request one evening and ended up sharing the half of it she didn't eat with her daughter.
But the inevitable decline continues. Fortunately there seems to be little pain, but she's nearly always asleep, and her lucidity seems elusive when she's awake. Medical staff do not make lifespan predictions for hospice patients, but it's becoming obvious that we should not expect many more weeks. However as I said to an acquaintance who was being something of a defeatist on the matter, I'll give up on Dawn when I'm following her hearse to the crematorium.
As the friend who lives closest, I've been to visit Dawn rather a lot over the last week or two. It's the right thing to do, her family are widely spread and she needs to know she's not alone. It's easy enough to nip up to the hospice and sit by her bed for an hour or so.
What shocks me though is how little emotion I've felt while some others are having difficulty containing theirs. I think it's the effect of antidepressants, they suppress such things, but it's engendered almost a feeling of guilt. Should I be showing public grief? Not if it's as false as that of a crowd of North Koreans at the death of the Dear Leader.
So yes, life goes on. Rather a lot of it, at the moment.