The poet Jo Shapcott used a nice phrase recently about confessional writing: ‘chasing your own ambulance’, she called it. I am guilty of that. In my defence I can say that I am fascinated by the line between writing and physical survival. In the days after the procedure I was sometimes so exhausted by movement that I would wait patiently for someone to come in and give me a paper cup of pills that was almost, not quite, out of my reach. But somehow, I would always contrive to get my pen in my hand, however far it had rolled; my mood was even, despite uprushes of shame, and the only thing that would really have upset me was running out of paper. The black ink, looping across the page, flowing easily and more like water than like blood, reassured me that I was alive and could act in the world. When Virginia Woolf’s doctors forbade her to write, she obeyed them. Which makes me ask, what kind of wuss was Woolf? For a time, into September, my religious preoccupations continued, as if the operation had been on my brain and not my guts, as if the so-called ‘God spot’ had been stirred up by a scalpel. Even now I am content that the unconscious should continue to empty itself into waking life, like some constantly flushing lavatory. ‘Are we somebodies?’ the voice on my right asks. ‘Yes, we are somebodies,’ comes the reply. ‘The church counts us all. But very few of us are saved.’