I’m thankful for the clouds outside Nick’s window

In Sickness and in Health: He’s looking beyond the end of his nose and seeing something of the world

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The Independent Online

Last year, Rebecca’s husband, Nick, was hit by a car and seriously injured. Here, in one of a series of columns, she writes about the aftermath of his accident.

When Nick started telling me about a book called A Pig with Six Legs, a few weeks ago, I assumed that it came from the same place of confusion that sees him convinced he’s still the tenant of a flat in Liverpool or when he calls me by the wrong name. I did him a disservice. The book, strange title and all, exists. Sally, one of his lovely carers, had given him her old copy, thinking he’d enjoy it. It’s a collection of photographs taken by cloud spotters and put together by the Cloud Appreciation Society – and while each picture has a sensible subtitle of what the cloud in question is (cumulus congestus; altocumulus undulatus), it also has the spotters’ descriptions (a barking dog; fusilli pasta) of the clouds they’ve snapped. The titular animal is an amazing cloud, not just because of its porcine likeness, but because this little piggy has inspired Nick to start looking out of the window.

Since I became occasionally responsible for a child, I’ve found myself trilling about the wonders of nature and trying to enthuse my stepdaughter. “Look at the leaves!” I’d say in autumn, or “Oh, the blossom’s out, how lovely!” in spring. I’d try to get Nick involved, too, but unless the nature in question was edible (herbs) or in a pub garden, I got scant response. Like father, like daughter. The older I get, the more I notice the changing seasons and have found myself patting trees fondly as they sprout new leaves, congratulating them on making it through another winter.

So I’m thrilled that Nick is taking an interest in the view from his room, which, if you ignore the car park below, is full of sky and trees. It’s not just so that we can talk about foliage, it’s also because he’s looking beyond the end of his nose and seeing something of the world.

We were peering out of the window recently when I spotted something strange on the grass a couple of hundred metres away. Nick couldn’t see it from where he lay, so I described it. “I can see something out there that looks a bit like a dead dog.” Nick’s eyes lit up – clouds are one thing, expired spaniels obviously something else, even though he loves dogs. After a day or two of debating what it could be, we went to investigate, with Nick proudly telling his carers that we were off to check on the dead dog. “I’ve never seen him look so excited,” one said.

I parked Nick at the edge of the grass and went to take a closer look. I was relieved to find that the dead dog was in fact a battered cardboard box, which I retrieved in order to put in the bin. “That’s a shame,” said Nick rather mournfully. I think he’ll be keeping a lookout for nature outside his window more avidly now, even if he’s more interested in mouldering remains than in spring’s new splendour. There’s no accounting for taste.