'… so many different lengths of time…'
In 1999 Adrian Henri gave a reading at the Plough Art Centre in Torrington, North Devon. He was having a new lease of life. There were publications afoot and a prestigious gallery in Cologne was exhibiting some of his paintings. In short, a lot to look forward to for a sixty-seven-year-old man whose customary enthusiasm for life — the sheer possibility of it all — was completely undimmed. On the Saturday morning prior to the reading, Henri was asked to drop in on a children's writing group and listen to some of their work. 'He couldn't have been better', Arts Officer Bill Grainger maintains, 'he did it without any fuss or proclamation, commenting on the poems and talking about them in an informed and helpful way that the children both understood and could take encouragement from.' 'Helpful' and 'encouraging' — these are good words to describe Adrian Henri. Unfortunately recent tests regarding his health were far less so.
For some months Henri had been complaining of chest pains and, following a thorough examination, he was strongly advised to have a pacemaker fitted. He expressed his concerns to Roger McGough: 'He'd say this is all bad news and I'd try and put him at ease saying it's quite common nowadays, not what it used to be — he wasn't ill exactly — just slowing down — no big problem — then some weeks later I was doing a gig in Liverpool and Catherine rang up in a terrible state saying Adrian had had a stroke and was in the Royal…' 'He was making these noises in the middle of the night', Catherine Marcangeli remembers, 'he woke me up but couldn't talk or move so I called an ambulance and we rushed him to the Royal and I spent the night there waiting for a doctor to tell me what was going on.'
Henri's right side was paralysed and he was unable to talk or swallow. He stayed in the Royal Liverpool Hospital for several weeks before being moved to Broadgreen Hospital for rehabilitation and physiotherapy. He could move