For a start, I love my husband. That helps. And, then again, I love our bed. It’s enormous – wide enough to fit an additional small child (oh, but that’s a long time ago…) – maybe even two. We’ve invested in wool-filled duvet, we’ve established our optimum pillow state. It’s a warm and comforting place to be. I like it there.
I particularly like it in winter, when we got to bed early with the crossword and a couple of books. The Guardian crossword, the Saturday prize cryptic crossword, that’s our crossword. Hi, Brendan! Hi, Vlad! Hi, Paul! We see you, we know you.
Anyway, there we are, in bed, on a dark December evening, heads together, puzzling over the puzzle. Or on a wet Sunday in February, hopping back into a warm bed with a nice cup of tea and the newspaper.
What do I like, then? There’s a sense of purpose.
It’s odd that these manufactured pastimes give a sense of purpose. Jigsaws are the same. It’s a picture that’s been cut up for you to put back together. It’s fundamentally pointless. Similarly, this is a word-game that somebody has put together, and yet it’s driving. I don’t get the same thing from Sudoku, I get a bit of the hit from Wordle, but a cryptic crossword is so fulfilling. I’ve always understood bird-watching more than train-spotting, but I’m a sucker for a satisfying anagram.
What else? It leads to conversation. To looking up the different kinds of silk, Google-mapping obscure villages in Scotland. Is this the definition? Or this? What exactly are the rules here? It leads to celebration. The quiet smug celebration of being right (and I do like a bit of smug) – but also celebrating each other. I admire his flashes of inspiration, he admires my ability to take a word apart and put it back together. I admire his immense general knowledge, he admires my knowledge of Yiddish and the carriages mentioned by Jane Austen.
I can measure my recovery from chemo in my capacity to do the crossword. It’s frustrating to stare at a bunch of letters with no idea how to even start making a word out of them – but it’s also strangely comforting to know that this is physiological, and it will pass. My inability to think clearly is kind of measurable. And the pleasure as it lifts, and I can feel my neurones sparking again!
I’m not going to boast, but we won the prize in May. I’m not going to boast, but I am going to sit here being just a little bit smug. Quietly, obviously. Smug is always quiet.