Pains in the night
On February 1st I was woken in the night by a stabbing pain in my back. It lasted about two hours. The next night I had an ache all around my left side and this lasted all night. I hardly slept. In the morning I phoned for a rdv with the doctor. Two more nights of inexplicable pain as if suffering electrical shocks. A general feeling of malaise. On Wednesday the doctor sent me to urgencies/A&E, worried that I had an inflammation around the heart. Cardiogram, chest x-ray, ultrasound and blood test, all clear. It might be nerves said the doctor and he was right for the next day I discovered the tell-tale blisters of shingles.
If you have had chicken pox then the varicella zoster virus (VZV) remains dormant in you forever. And where does it lurk? In the crossroads of nerves, the ganglia next to the spinal cord (called the dorsal root ganglion) or at the base of the skull. It is of the herpes virus family, and that word herpes from the Greek word herpes, means to creep. Zoster comes from the Greek too, zōstēr, which means belt or girdle. And the common name shingles comes from the Latin to girdle.
In Arabic its name means belt of fire, while in Spanish it means small snake; in Norwegian its name is helvetesild, literally hell’s fire.
I can vouch that all these names describe it well. It was excruciatingly painful and altogether lasted about 6 weeks. Sleepless nights followed until I begged the doctor for something to knock me out, which he prescribed and so the recovery began.
How did I spend that first week of no sleep? Distraction is advised so a million games of Tripeaks patience took me from novice to Grandmaster Level 130. But that was during the daytime, what of the nights?
I watched The Devil’s Crown on my IPad. Suitable because I felt I was living in hell and suitable because this was all about that Angevin family and I watched a fascinating portrait of a young John who became King John and the husband of Isabella of Angoulême. It shows a spiteful boy and a treacherous lecherous young man. A BBC production from 1978 and superb despite a tight budget (no battle scenes are ever shown) and painted backdrops. An excellent cast and an intelligent script.
Episode 10 introduces Isabella and this was an interesting adaptation of the story of the meeting between John and Isabella, reinforcing some of the things I researched and wrote, including a description of ‘red gold her hair’. I am glad I didn’t see it before I wrote the trilogy for it might have been such a strong influence on my imagination. As it was it kept me company through some long nights and I will watch it again. I recommend the production for all who are interested in this period in history.
And now as the world reels from another virus, we are all watching many different programmes and entertainments at home. How lucky we are to still be able to do that, and to connect with our friends and family at this time of physical and social distance. I do hope all the people who read this keep well and safe.