On my bedside table

On my bedside table

A favourite book of mine is An Equal Music by Vikram Seth. I first read this book back in 2000 when I had not long stopped playing music. The book spoke to me for a number of reasons, but mostly because Seth completely nailed the way that he wrote about musicians. Having been one for a long time, married to one and surrounded by friends who are musicians, I found myself smiling at how right he got some of the nuances. I’ve lived through and participated in detailed discussions about composers – deriding those not as beloved as others, hours upon hours of intricate dissections of performances, passionate debates about the quality of one Shostakovich string quartet over another. And Seth’s version of this was so spot on!

We develop a language when we are part of a community. The music world certainly has one and I consider myself still quite fluent due to the people I am around a lot.

And the diabetes community has one too. The language itself is full of words and abbreviations that only make sense to those who use them on a daily basis. And there are distinctions we insist upon that make others consider us pedants. There are in-jokes that make sense only to those who ‘get it’.

But it is about far more than just the words or the descriptions. It is about the way we talk and the meanings behind the words – often resulting in confusion from those not part of the group. It can be exclusive for this reason, which whilst usually not great, does make us feel that we are part of something distinctive. I’m not necessarily sure that is a good thing when we haven’t actually chosen to join this club, but regardless, I know the way I relate to others with diabetes often employs shorthand to get straight to the point and avoid detailed descriptions and explanations.

Think about it. When you say to someone with diabetes that your BGL is 2.1 (or 21) mmol/l, they will immediately know what that means. Say it to someone who has no connection to diabetes and the will not understand that it means you need to do something. Immediately.

I come back to An Equal Music every year. Sometimes I read it all, other times I skim through, finding passages that are particularly significant to me. I get swept back into the world of chamber music and Beethoven. It was a different time in my life. I feel lucky that I can recapture it – even in just a tiny little way – in the pages of this beautiful book.

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