Tuesday, 12 October 2010

A discovery and sleep returns

On Tuesday 14 September 2010 I made a discovery about our famous Frenchman, first pictured in this blog entry and subsequently here.

Here he is again:

M Georges Pompidou (1911-1974) RIP
Still managing to make smoking cool. Was it a Gauloise, a Gitane or quelquechose d'autre?

Georges Pompidou, long-time Prime Minister of France under de Gaulle and his successor as President, is probably the most famous person to have suffered from Waldenström Macroglobulinaemia. His illness was mysterious at the time and the subject of much speculation. As you can see from his second appearance in this blog), where he is in the company of the infamous Jiang Qing (Madame Mao) and the much more highly regarded and benign Zhou Enlai (Chou En-lai), he became rather bloated. It is recorded that he took to wearing his hat low over his face to hide his appearance from view and became bad-tempered with his staff. There was a political crisis in France as a result of puzzling non-appearances by him on the public stage, the people needing a visible leader.

No doubt the poor man felt absolute rubbish, having apparently ploughed more energy into his work than the maintenance of what health he might otherwise have hoped for; and I do not know what sort of treatments would have been available in his day. It looks from the bloating clearly to be seen in our second photo as if he was on heavy and sustained doses of steroid (as am I, although the dose will be tailing off over the next week or so to avoid just such side-effects). For those of you interested in the man, you can read a whole book about his  political life gratis here on the fabulous internerd.

In the modern way, after his death he sort of metamorphosed into this:

The Pompidou Centre in Paris
Look, pipes on the outside and everything, maybe to convey away all the cigarette smoke?
Perhaps the first building that alerted the world at large to the work of Richard Rogers
(now Baron Rogers of Riverside, born 1933).

In the evening we received a visit from M, the husband of A, who left the beautiful little floral display pictured in yesterday’s entry. M was, like his wife, full of the wisdom borne of experience, in his case from the perspective of the anguished partner looking on, at risk of being left behind emotionally and physically. My wife and I were so grateful for his time, so freely given, and his insights. He and I a little while later talked on our own and prayed together for one another and he continued with grace and care to offer some very useful pointers to coping in the days ahead. This was a beneficial time, giving a welcome chance for some grounded thinking.

So eventually to bed, this time to sleep rather better than hitherto since the time of diagnosis. My mind—even at the best of times, which these are not quite—tends to race before sleep descends, probably not helped by my tendency to read or watch BBC iPlayer later than is entirely good for a person (Merlin–don’t laugh; actually rather good—and Spooks being currrent favourites). Doctors and other caring professionals rightly care about the length and quality of sleep, knowing its restorative power. Ungrateful, naughty me, I am often reluctant to welcome the unconsciousness of sleep, just in case the day has that bit more to offer in the way of piquing my interests. This is a mistake really, as in sleep, under the right conditions, the system can devote its energies to self-maintenance.

Mind you, I have a bit of an excuse at the moment since my system is full of strange and sometimes combating chemical agents: chemo to kill my cells and steroid to do some of the same, but also acting as a stimulant. It’s a strange time to be in this body and have this mind.

Enough. I will leave you with a picture of Morpheus, the Greek god of dreams, sibling, according to the ancient poet Hesiod, of Hypnos (Sleep) and Thanatos (Death). Interesting what these relationships tell us about the psychology of the ancients and ourselves—are we so very different?

Morpheus, Phantasos  and Iris.
Phantasos was the nephew of Hypnos and was left in charge when Morpheus came to earth to bring dreams; he appears in dreams as inanimate objects.
Iris is a messenger of the gods, so this little lot are all what we might now call "in communications".

The painting is by Pierre-Narcisse, baron Guérin (1774-1833) and the work is typical, it is said, of the rather pompous style popular in the French First Empire. Now who's getting pompous?

Anyway, it's all very French and sensuous, indeed sensual. The light is wonderful, n'est-ce pas?

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