I write this to you on route to Hay-on-Wye. The train gently rumbles my body and has cast a fatigue upon my eyelids. Truly they feel as contently heavy as a suckling babe. I am now ‘restored’ shall we say- intact with a lovely, yet unrecognizable ear on the right side of my head. My new ear and I are obliged to each other, but the bond between us is still somewhat superficial. I feel as though the ear perches on my head like a newly hatched songbird, a part of me fears it may yet fly away!
After nearly three weeks (the recovery period prescribed to me) it appears to me that the surgeon who so skillfully cut away the cancer has masterfully bunched the good cartilage and skin left in to the convincing shape of a near perfect human ear.
In my mind it seems to me that during the operation my ear posed as a vegetable rather than my ear. The surgeon intact with scrubs and steady hands began to competently slice my ear, just as one would confidently cut into a tomato or a courgette! Not only did the surgeon cut out the cancer like one might remove the bruised part of a banana, but he continued to create a small, intricate sculpture out of the remaining flesh. Incredible! Liking my ear to a fruit or vegetable is the only way I can make sense of my operation- I am afraid this metaphor will have to do, as I cannot communicate my thoughts on it in any other way.
When inspecting my ‘new’ ear in the mirror I find myself viewing it objectively. For weeks I have lifted swathes of my hair out of the way for others to view and comment on it, as if somehow I were displaying an artwork. Everybody who looks at it has something to say about it, this new ear seems to provoke a subjective nature of its audience unlike the one I had been born with.
Instead of praising a plastic surgeon for my healthy ear I would feel far more comfortable praising a ‘sculptor of flesh’. Perhaps the term plastic surgeon is too clinical and impersonal to me? However the Sculptor of Flesh sits much better for me because I can understand the great care taken in curating the unassuming artwork for the exhibition titled ‘New Ear’ displayed on the side of Annie Driver’s head.
What struck myself and other viewers were the delicate stitches that had the job of holding the elements of the new ear together for a week. The fine nylon stitches were transparent resembling Elizabethan silk embroidery, boasting of an exquisite skill both in a practical and ornamental sense. Thinking of it now, perhaps a ‘tailor of flesh’ better describes the artist who created my ‘New Ear’.
My mind recalls a snippet from ‘The Tailor of Gloucester’ by Beatrix Potter
“The stitches of those buttonholes were so neat—SO neat—I wonder how they could be stitched by a… man… the stitches of those buttonholes were so small—SO small —they looked as if they had been made by little mice!”
And so my new ear is largely healed and I look forward to having the privilege of growing old with it. Below are some pictures of life in Hay-on-Wye during my first few months living here.
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