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This article is taken from PN Review 113, Volume 23 Number 3, January - February 1997.

Walking Off the Fear Roger Garfitt

In 1992 I spent six months as Writer in Residence at the Blyth Valley Disabled Forum, working with housebound disabled people and their carers. I had some experience of what it meant to be a carer, having nursed my late wife, the poet Frances Horovitz, in the terminal stages of cancer. Frances and I had started our life together in the North East and to return there was to return to an area charged with strong memories.

These first few days are not easy. The promised council flat is not ready and I have to stay on at William Martin's house in Sunderland, just a few streets up from Thornhill Gardens, where Frances and I lived in our first eighteen months together.

Each morning I wake at four. Not a gradual awakening, the head a lit window in a still-darkened body. I come awake like a surfer on a board, all my faculties braced, already trying to balance on the great surge of energy that is hurtling me into the day.

I distrust this energy. Vitality, it says, I am vitality, and tries to join in the dawn chorus. But it sings too loud. Deep down I suspect it is fear.

All I can do is walk it off. When first light comes at five, I slip out of the house and walk down to Thornhill Park.

It is cold for the end of June. I button my donkey ...


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