Archive for the books, journals and diaries Category

Reunion

Posted in Blogging, books, journals and diaries, jobs, careers and work, mental health with tags , on December 2, 2014 by leovineknight

The next day, one of the nurses told me I had some more visitors and I craned my neck with anticipation as the clattering footsteps echoed down the corridor. The hammer came down and my emotions hit the bell, but on seeing three familiar faces from the unit turn the corner, those same emotions crashed to ground with a sickening thud (and kept on going).
“Christ” I said involuntarily.
“Well, that’s a nice greeting” said one of the nursing assistants, cheerfully.
“What brings you here?” I asked knowingly.
“Oh, we felt like a long run out in the car, and this was a good excuse” he answered with disarming honesty.
“We had a dump on the way here” said Sidney.
“Pardon?” I said.
“We had a bump in the car, but no damage done.”
“Oh, good.”
”How are you, Steven?”
“Well, I’m due to go on home leave soon, but my wife’s decided to divorce me so it’s looking a bit awkward.”
“Bloody Hell Steve” he chuckled. “Never mind though, there’s always a bed for you at the unit.”
“That’s reassuring.”
“I thought he looked as shite as a sheet” said Sidney.
“Still, you’re a dark horse really Steve. I never thought you’d screw the system like this.”
“What do you mean?”
“A nice few months on the sick, most of it recuperating in the pub.”
“But this is real sickness.”
“Ha! Ha! That’ll be the day. God, you’re a droll bugger. How do you keep a straight face?”
“Change the subject will you?” I said, feeling a strange anxiety creeping up on me.
“Oh, well, things are pretty much the same at the unit, with plenty of new initiatives, zero movement, lots of sickness and….”
“Are you still doing the charity walks?” I said, noticing for the first time that all the staff were wearing Telly Tubby costumes, beautifully co-ordinated with Pearly King top hats and antique red noses, dating back to the early din period of charity mindlessness.
“Oh, no Steve. Charity walking is so yesterday. We’re into charity hawking now.”
“Hawking?”
“Yes. It’s dead simple. We all dress up and stand around spitting at each other’s boots for an hour while people queue up to watch. It’s an absolute riot of 21st century fun.”
“Ha ha ha ha” we chuckled.
“Well, as long as you’re having fun, that’s the main thing” I said. “And it’s all for charity, of course.”
“Oh… er…..yes…..naturally.”
“Have you heard about Cecilia, by the way?” interrupted the other assistant.
“No?”
“She died in hospital last week.”
“Oh.”
“Yes, she was in a coma you know.”
“No, I didn’t know.”
“There’s one hell of a stink going on about it. But at least you’re well out of it.”
“Yes” said Sid “There’s a big noise coming down from hindquarters…er….headquarters, to sort it out……”
“I need a cigarette now” cut in a familiar voice.

It was indeed a familiar voice with a familiar question, but for some reason it sent a seismic shock wave running up my back. The tribulations of the last few months seemed to hurtle back into full view, and my numbness vanished. The future opened up nightmarishly around me and a sickly phlegm filled my throat. The air crackled and hissed, and an old enemy returned; refreshed.
“I need a cigarette now! Now! Now! Now” Hettie suddenly howled.
“We’d better be off Steve. See you soon. Sorry it’s all a rush.”
“Wanks very much” said Sidney, pointing at me.
“’Bye Sid.”
“We’re buying a new house you know – I can’t wait to put down a deposit.”
(silence).
“Home is where the fart is….”
(silence).
I wasn’t really aware of the squad departing, and after a while I wandered down to my room and sought the refuge of bed. My head hammered, but sleep seemed to arrive instantly, and I twisted away into a dreamscape of schoolyards, fruit machines, sickly sweet smells, and sadness. I saw my mother’s white face accusing me from the shadows, and the sagging shell of our old house with its cluttered rooms and grates with ashes. I ran through endless streets of rain and sorrow, panting and terrified, until at last a yellow light appeared above a varnished door, and I saw my children looking silently down. I shook the bolts, and circled the house, finding a narrow view inside – where familiar thighs gripped a half-known man, and convulsions merged with spider blackness.
Then all around a pink sea span with hypnotic swirls of crimson, and a bright red sunset appeared before me.

The Body Blow

Posted in Blogging, books, journals and diaries, mental health with tags , , on October 22, 2014 by leovineknight

he following day, I sat slumped in ‘my’ chair in the day room, thoughts neutralizing one another, clouds gathering, nerves jangling and…..

“Hello, Steve.”
It was Kate, and my heart jumped into my loins.
“Hi, there” I murmured. “Fancy seeing you in a place like this.”
“Well, I told you I was starting the training. I’ve got my first placement on the elderly ward, downstairs.
“Oh…. Still, it was nice of you to look in.”
“Well, I saw your wife at the theatre and she…. she explained that things weren’t exactly…”
“Brilliant?”
“Er…yes.”
“Was she alone at the theatre, by the way?”
“Well…no.”
“So you probably wondered if she’d traded me in for a new model?”
“Well yes, but she explained how she was getting a bit depressed about it all. Apparently, she was trying to cheer herself up on a works outing, but only one other person turned up…… He was a cocky bloke with a very long nose. I didn’t like him much”
“Yeah, I get the picture.”
“I feel really sorry for you Steve. You look dreadful.”
“Well….. never mind about me. What have you been up to?”
“Oh, apart from really enjoying the training I’ve……er…..I’ve got myself engaged.”
(silence)
“Say something Steve.”
“Congratulations, Kate.”
“There’s something else Steve.”
“What, even more wonderful news?”
“Yes…..I …..I don’t really know how to say this. You may have heard about it already. But the night you had your breakdown….you were saying all sorts of horrible things in your sleep. It sounded like you were really angry and you wanted to kill somebody. Then you talked about Cecilia, and how you’d “fixed” her once and for all…..It was awful Steve…..I had to tell somebody.”
“Ah….I wondered what Richard meant in his letter.”
“So you know about it?”
“I can’t remember a thing about that day Kate, apart from seeing you. But Richard wrote to say I was going to be interviewed about Cecilia when I’m better. Now I know why”
“I’m sorry.”
“You’re certainly an idealist, Kate. The book comes before everything else doesn’t it?. ”
(silence)
We prolonged the meeting for another ten or fifteen minutes, exchanging platitudes and slightly uncomfortable looks, before she bid me an unlikely farewell. I looked at her departing hour-glass figure like the man with X-ray eyes, imagining myself taking chances rather than leaving them, seeing my tongue flicking down her spine to the coccyx, feeling the nylon over her knees, drowning gladly in the flesh and blood.
“Hello, Lawrence” she said to the tweedy young doctor wedged in the doorway.
“Hi” he said, waving his hand (although it was still in his pocket), then strutting away, his impression left on the woodwork, his plans in the toilet.
Gazing through the grimy, cracked window which overlooked the car park, I saw Kate and Brad Pitt getting into a nice red and white Mini Cooper (with pepper pack, no doubt). At least she had the grace to look a bit sad.
But only a bit.

Dear John

Posted in Biographies and Inside Stories, Blogging, books, journals and diaries, mental health with tags , on September 2, 2014 by leovineknight

The next day I woke up with the larks (two patients were making love in the bathroom, and another was absconding down the alarmed fire escape), and after an early breakfast I set to work writing the most important letter of my life.

Dear Carol,
I don’t want to revisit the problems we’ve had over the last few years, and I certainly don’t want to apportion blame. I remember the good times as well as the bad, and underneath it all, I still love you.
There may be a way out of these problems, and I want you to think carefully about what I’m going to say, for all our sakes. One of the people here has told me about a place not too far away, where families can live and work together in a farming type of community. He says it brings people closer together and restores their sense of value.
Please tell me that you would like to hear more about it. It could make all the difference to our lives. It could be what we really need.
Tell the children I’m thinking about them.
Love
Steve

Putting this in the post, I picked up my incoming mail, dodged the tweedy doctor who seemed to be stuck in the doorway, and returned to my room. I went through the usual invitations that mentally ill people receive from credit card companies, and at the bottom of the pile I found a letter from Carol which must have been have been posted the previous day.

Dear Steve,
Sorry I’ve got to break the news to you this way, but I didn’t have the heart to tell you yesterday. Things have been very difficult between us for years now, and your illness was the last straw. I can’t go on like this and I would like us to spend some time apart. We’ve talked about divorce before, and when you’re better I think we ought to go through with it. I won’t even ask why you were in that girl’s flat that night.
I’ve met a man (Bill) who really cares for me, and who has shown me the things I’ve been missing. He’s been very kind bringing around toys and sweets for the kids while you’ve been away, and they both seem to like him. He’s so honest and open, I just can’t throw the chance away.
You may think I’m being insensitive doing this while you’re in hospital, but Bill says a clean break will probably do you the world of good. He’s so thoughtful, he even asked me if it would be okay for him to send you a ‘get well’ card – you can see why I want him to move in with me. Please say you understand.
Love
Carol
P.S. Don’t worry about the garden. Bill has brought over his new cylinder mower which cuts the lawn in stripes.

Changing Sides

Posted in Biographies and Inside Stories, Blogging, books, journals and diaries, mental health with tags , on June 2, 2014 by leovineknight

When I did wake up, I was still disorientated, and the room hung around me like a pointillist painting, with dots of colour forming half-familiar images on a dazzling white canvass, forcing my eyes firmly closed again.
“Dad”
The word brought the room vaguely into focus, and now I could make out three people looking down on me, in my white sheets in a white room with white light.
I was back.
Almost.

For a while I felt bewildered and numb, with my memory mercifully dim, selective and distant. I was drained rather than refreshed, and my mind seemed to stall whenever it met the past, and the problems preserved there. Drugs had obviously put out the fireworks, but when I tried to refocus my mind, uncover the causes of my collapse and get things back in perspective, I struggled. It was difficult enough for the therapist to help me revisit past events, but it was impossible for him to change the world which had created those events, and would create them again – if it got the chance. Therapy could only help me ‘adjust’ to things I thought were wrong. In a sense, it could only help me fail.

Catharsis

Posted in Biographies and Inside Stories, Blogging, books, journals and diaries, mental health, satire and humour with tags on May 13, 2014 by leovineknight

Punching the air like a triumphant quarterback, I revelled in the emptiness of the unit and the cathartic moment. At last I was free, and the quivering front door appeared in the distance like an approaching star gate, but when I got near enough to touch it, all I could see was a massive grey portal towering above me at an impossible height. Devastated, I wondered why fate had dealt me such a cruel blow at such a late stage; until a spectral hand rested on my shoulder and made my soul jump through my throat:
“I need a cigarette now!” roared a familiar voice in my ear.
“Then I’m afraid you’re going to be bloody disappointed for once” I said.
“What! I need a cigarette now! Now! Now!” she yelled.
“Not now” I whispered.
“Now! Now! Now! Now!” she chanted, as I turned my back, and waited for providence.
“Now! Now! NOW! NOW! NOW!…… BANG!”
My head jerked around and I saw that the lady was no longer there. Instead, a huge effigy sparked and flashed, sending plumes of white fire into the air, filling the corridor with acrid smoke and thick soot. The door swung open and I fled.
Silently, I watched the flames licking the gable ends of the empty unit, the windows cracking and the walls going slowly black. Resisting the temptation to bring a toasting fork and loaf of bread, I contented myself with warming my hands on the inferno, singing one chorus of ‘Roasting Chestnuts on an Open Fire’, and walking past the nearby telephone box without delay. Richard and some of the other stragglers stood next to his customised bubble car with Roll Royce grill, looking like stunned survivors of a broken Chinese terracotta army, and decidedly ill. Saying nothing.
From then on it was easy. My magical powers were unstoppable, and as I strode through the frozen streets my imagination performed effortless miracles of reform and revision. The moon became full and bathed the town in friendly light, a warm breeze began to thaw winter’s grip, and curtains were opened revealing cheerful families with smiley faces. Children played without being cruel, adults waved without design, and dogs approached with wagging tails and no bite. I replaced every cheap and nasty concrete carbuncle with wonderfully restored period buildings, emptying Swiss bank accounts to pay for it. I removed all signs of graffiti by organising chain gangs of graffiti artists to lick the buildings clean, and I ensured that every scrap of litter was returned to the perpetrators, through their letterboxes.
All those who continued to fill the town with their pets’ dung, woke up to find the excreta occupying their living room carpets, and every criminal was automatically victim to the same crime themselves until they stopped. There was no more career unemployment with twenty-five year old men skate boarding all day, no more compensation for being stupid and falling over a matchstick, no more sick pay for professional hypochondriacs, and no benefits for those who only used their walking sticks when somebody was looking.
People stopped climbing over each other in their thirst for toys, they accepted they weren’t always right, they grew up and had a sense of history, tradition, nationhood and community. They gave up wearing baseball caps and living off their parents until they were 40, they stopped talking about things instead of doing them, and they promised to forget about money for at least ten minutes every day. They rediscovered the idea of God, thought about how feeble and short-lived human beings really were, and put arrogant sneers and smart suits into smart perspective. ‘Fat cats’ were put on crash diets, and golden handshakes for corporate failures were re-routed to state pensions for ordinary heroes. ‘The Age of the Ego’ was reviled, outlawed and forgotten.
Well, that was the long-term plan.

Knightmare

Posted in Biographies and Inside Stories, Blogging, books, journals and diaries, jobs, careers and work, mental health with tags , on May 3, 2014 by leovineknight

Taking a look around, I was pleased to see that the unit was now quiet and peaceful at last. Like no man’s land after a terrifying artillery barrage had ceased, the world stood still, and a profound silence baffled the senses. The clocks had stopped, the T.V. sets were dead, the activity board was blank, and there was not a person to be seen. It was obviously time for a well-deserved break and so I sat downstairs drinking champagne, eating truffles, and watching the manager’s favourite Marilyn Monroe video; until the feeling slowly returned that something was still wrong.
Something remained unresolved.

“Open the door” a voice rasped.
There was indeed a violet coloured door on my left, and with heart bounding, breath shortening and flesh creeping, I moved reluctantly but inexorably towards it. In best horror movie style, it swung open of its own accord and I was pulled into a dark chamber by invisible hands. The flickering light was provided by three or four black candelabra set on crumbling stone walls, before which I perceived a large Jacobean table surrounded by a dozen satanic forms. Looking like a group of gigantic ravens they wore sable cloaks, and peered at me through leather masks with hard, black eyes.
“Good grief, what a ridiculous getup” I said irreverently.
“Silence!” boomed the head honcho. “You are here to be sentenced for the most heinous crimes known to HealthTrust law. Now, kneel before your masters!”
“Piss off you pretentious sod” I responded. “And take off those masks, so I can see my accusers.”
Stripping off their masks with a synchronised flourish, the satanic beings revealed a row of hideous, slavering animal faces.
“Ah… ha! I thought as much – the senior managers making a rare clinical visit” I said “What can I do for you?”
“Silence microbe! We are here to dispense omniscient justice!”
Although I should have been quaking in my boots, I couldn’t help noticing that the weird animal faces were actually more recognisable than the managers’ everyday physiognomy. Their true personalities shone through the grey, anonymous uniformity of their normal appearances, and I gazed with growing interest at the mean-looking weasel, the breast-beating baboon, the assortment of over-promoted aardvarks, and the strange hunched creature from the Island of Dr. Moreau, who said:
“You are charged and convicted of (a) insisting that patients take more responsibility for their own lives, (b) arguing that paper work is less important than effective clinical care, (c) suggesting that managers are overpaid, out of touch poseurs, and (d) implying that staff who receive £1,200 a month for not being at work should be sacked. …….This is unspeakable blasphemy of the highest conceivable order, and you are therefore sentenced to the most ghastly punishment it is in our power to inflict.”
“And what is that?” I enquired.
“You will continue to work at the hospital’s Psychiatric Rehabilitation Unit until the day you croak”
“Aaaaaarrrrrrcccchh!!! No! No! No! Not that, you vile fiends” I shrieked in despair and outrage.
“Yes! Yes! Until the day you croak!” the drooling managers chanted, beating their fists on the table, and wetting themselves with delight.
“Please don’t make me angry” I warned in a deepening voice, my pupils involuntarily dilating, and my shirt splitting open to reveal a barrel of bulging green muscle above modesty-preserving elasticated trousers. “Oh, too late! Now it’s your turn for a bit of natural justice!”
Seizing the oak table with irresistible force, I whirled it around my head and watched the managers hanging onto it like bats in a tornado. On and on I span the table, seeing their puke pebble-dash the walls and their dribble splash the floor, thinking of the time and money these prize buffoons had wasted, enjoying every little moment of their overdue comeuppance, until at last I flung the table down into a dim, slimy corner; the perfect resting place for their ilk. But the managers had been carefully selected for their mindless obduracy, and I watched with interest as the table scuttled out of the room, propelled by pairs of cockroach legs, scurrying for freedom, pausing only briefly at the coffee machine.
“Hang on a minute” I said.
And there was just time to stick on the address:
Flip Chart Heaven,
Pie in the Sky,
Never Never Land.

Dystopia

Posted in Biographies and Inside Stories, Blogging, books, journals and diaries, jobs, careers and work, mental health with tags , on February 10, 2014 by leovineknight

The cadaverous form of my neighbour approached again, and this time I blocked his progress with some clever American footballer tactics, until he was forced to reward my extravagant salutations with an incoherent grunt. Twizzle-headed people with laser eyes dissected me as I passed, and bumptious heroes with blimp egos and bold postures filled the bars. Audiences and stars assembled on every street corner, and the news boards spread joy:
“Thugs kill hamster by tying it to a Catherine Wheel firework”
“Pity the hamster couldn’t return the favour” I commented to a mute passer by.
“Huge rise in youth crime” crackled a distant radio.
I gladly left the area, but after a short time I brushed the edge of a nearby council estate, and saw the blue glow of police lights reflecting off the night sky, like the aurora borealis of a penal planet. This area had degenerated into a post-apocalyptic bomb site, with decent people held prisoner in their own homes by roaming bands of giro-paid thugs, intent on vandalising cars, stoning windows, dismantling ‘bus shelters and burning wheelie bins. With ultimate pathos, a few brave souls continued to cultivate their gardens amidst the wilderness, but these little refuges were routinely devastated every weekend by gladiators returning from the well-patronised pubs. Just now and again somebody would come out to remonstrate with the chanting heroes, and they would be rewarded for their courage with a relentless campaign of unremitting violence, or arson. The police were well aware of the situation and a new community constable now met the Residents’ Association and Play Group once a month, while the estate burned around them.

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