Friday 12th January 2007
Friday today and, God, so looking forward to the two-thirty cake session at new friend, fellow mum, and hedge-fun wife extraordinaire Natalia’s luxus family home. But my close girlfriend Min (socialite and gallery owner's wife, and my confidante) is on the phone with bad news - shaking me out of trivial gossip mode and into the raw nitty gritty of REAL life. Min hails from Singapore and is one of the few women I didn’t meet through school but through an article I once wrote about expatriate existence in London. Min is exotic - half Chinese and half German, with a physique like a weeping willow and large caramelised almond-shaped eyes. Part-time gynaecologist and a sculptress to boot, and fortunate enough (evocative of the old mandarins) to have never had to lift her ‘Shanghai-tang’-clad wrists to clean, wash-up, clear-up or iron (lucky woman). Heiress to her paternal grandfather’s cloth and tea fortune and father's shipping dynasty, and her mother the daughter of a German furniture manufacturer. Fabulous dinner parties are Min’s speciality, many a deal being struck no doubt at her immaculately presented soirees: she's married to a leading dealer of oriental art with a recently-opened hip gallery in Shoreditch showcasing ‘New China’ stuff. Regulars on the London party circuit, Regency mansion (gorgeous herringbone floor inlaid with rosewood/rare oriental antiques interspersed with iconic modern pieces) bla-di-bla-di-bla. But I know that Min lost her mother to breast cancer at fourteen. She knows only too well that wealth doesn't bring happiness. She’s sweet, deep, philosophical - a good listener, a ready ear for all my grievances (usually, hubby Martin-related).
But,today, I‘m listening, almost incredulous: ‘Are you, I mean, are they sure? What is it, did you find a lump?’
‘No,’ replies Min. ‘Indentation, which could be just as bad: it’s a bit of a shock, Helen, I can’t help worrying!’
‘When did all this happen, Min?’
‘A few days ago in the shower. I’m lucky I know about these things, I got an appointment the next morning. I'm waiting to hear now.’ Min’s voice quavers a little.
I feel helpless. With her family history to consider, I'm suddenly frightened. My stomach's dark and hollow, out of breath. Someone says "FUCK!" inside my head.
'I haven’t, um, told Alan' continues my friend. 'He’s got a big exhibition soon and a consignment from China and meetings with the curator, it’s not really the right time....’
When is the right time to tell your life partner you might have cancer? That’s why I stay with Martin, because this type of thing puts my domestic tiffs in perspective.