Doris reckons her first reaction to the death sentence passed upon her with a shocking recent cancer diagnosis was to realise she is not afraid of dying.

She certainly doesn't want to die soon - too much to do - but considering so many millions of people have successfully managed to die before her, surely it can't be all that difficult.

As to religious theories and visions of the afterlife, Doris has no concrete propositions on which to hang any certainties. Accustomed to describing herself facetiously as a superstitious sceptic (which is a kind of oxymoron), she has no faith, she questions everything and she practises denial wherever possible, as well as the superstitions passed down to her by her long line of Cockney foremothers.

She figures that since they survived and so has she (so far), some of the old wives' tales they swore by - not walking under ladders lest a screwdriver falls off the top and stabs her in the head for instance - might have paid off.


Strains of the many hymns which entered her subconscious during her years as a childhood front-row soprano in an Anglican church choir are somewhere between treasures and hypocrisy.

Heaven is a nice idea. She likes the notion of all of her old friends who have predeceased her, being there, ready to party up large - and of seeing her dear old mum, godmother and grandmothers again, but she's not sure it will really happen.

As to physics, she subscribes to the theory that essentially we are stardust. The molecules/atoms/cells (she is unsure which bits are smallest) of which we are temporarily constituted were once part of something else. When they've finished adhering to each other in the form of, say, Doris or one of the Trevs, they will go on to new lives as fragments of slaters, cyclamens or some such.

In the meantime, Doris has become weaker, nauseous and wracked with pain. At least now marvellous Hospice staff is assisting, although even they cannot seem to manage the holy grail of the magical painlessness everyone seems to believe is possible.

Distraction is Doris' best weapon. Much of it has come in the form of music - Doris' son has saved daily music festivals on memory sticks for her - Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Van Morrison, Tom Waits, classics and more - which help her sing along instead of groan, and jiggle instead of creak.

The other major distraction, not to mention help, has come in the form of friends, family and kind neighbours who have provided overwhelming stalwart support with doing all of the many things Doris can no longer do herself because her back, thighs and ribs hurt like hell when bending, sitting or standing - lawns, weeding, dishes, filling hotties, firewood, cooking, metalling the drive, baking, cheering, conversation, sock pulling, laundry, cleaning, and vacuuming among them.. Hopefully some official home support services will come on board soon.

Doris is boggled by all of the gifts and support. She thinks of herself as a fairly grumpy old curmudgeon who - never having baked a cookie for a sick friend in her life - doesn't really deserve all of this wonderful outpouring of kindness... but nonetheless she appreciates it. What next? Who knows?