Around the same time, I developed an inexplicable fear of steps and stairs. Winding ones, glass ones, sloping ones, crumbling ones, short ones your feet overhung…I could ascend them with comparative ease, but descending was another matter. As they swayed before me I morphed into a scared old woman, clinging on to the railings for dear life. The stairs existed solely for me to break my neck. And as for escalators: I confronted these with horror. I could not get the timing right and lurched onto them, getting my feet sandwiched between the treads. Nowadays, when there is no option other to use the wretched contraption, I enlist help; but prior to my diagnose it was important to me to face my fears. I used frequently to travel to London and brave the Marylebone station escalator, waiting for a gap between the endless hoards streaming past me. Who would have guessed at my hammering heart? It became ever more difficult, but I continued to bluff. I could confide in nobody. Since diagnosis the stress has been much reduced. My very supportive husband is no longer impatient when I fail to see what is right in front of me, and shepherds me in unfamiliar places, as I lose my bearings. I can, to some extent, capitulate to the illness; that said, there are moments when I let myself down. The following happened not long ago: We were at a at a Michelin-starred restaurant for my husband’s birthday. Everything was perfect – the food, service, ambience… Without a qualm, I walked up the three, wide, tartan-clad stairs to pay; then turned to descend. The short run of stairs took on the proportions of Kilimanjaro. With a fixed smile, I placed one foot in front of another; and fell. My landing was soft, but was small consolation, as I lay, sprawled there. It must have appeared comical to the dozen onlookers, and I played-up to that. Laughed as I stood, an up, and offered an encore. It was not the time or place to expound on the curious affliction that is PCA. Other incident: It was about three years ago, shortly before my mother died. In an effort to engage her, I offered to read to her from a novel of my own. It was her favourite of my books, and a I noticed a spark of interest come into her eyes. Sitting close, I began to read aloud. Stumbled. Stopped. Started again. The same thing happened. I could not comprehend it; I had always been such a fluent reader. I continued for a few sentences, from memory and adlibbed, but had to abandon the idea. My mother had fallen asleep anyway, and I put the book, which had once meant so much to us both, back on its shelf. A week later I needed to write out a cheque. Like most people, generally pay by card or cash. As I attempted to fill it in, I couldn’t keep to the lines, and there seemed to be insufficient space. It took three attempt. I also had to complete a a form; and the same thing happened; I could not keep to the boxes and had to start afresh. Finally, in barely legible writing, I succeeded. I felt foolish and inadequate. And something else besides: I felt the prickling of concern. The months progressed. My husband commented I hardly read any more. I made some excuse. He did not know that reading had ceased to be enjoyable for me and had become a strain. I did not tell him that the letters and words danced in front of my eyes and I would lose my place or read the wrong line. However, ‘old habits’ and all that: I went on buying books. Unread, they taunt me with their pristine promise. More time passing. Newspapers were the next thing. If I read an entire article it was an accomplishment. Fancy fonts confused me, and finding my way round the columns was akin to searching for the exit in a maze. Then I discovered that I could no longer play the piano. It seemed to have gone from me overnight. In fact there had been an interlude of a few years, but I assumed that, like riding a bike, it was something I would always retain. Full of anticipation I positioned the Mozart sonata on the piano, and leant forward to remind myself lf the opening chords. Crotchets and quavers danced before my eyes, meaningless. I was unable to read a note.