Archive for books and stories

Alternative Therapy

Posted in Biographies and Inside Stories, Blogging, jobs, careers and work, mental health, social work and social policy with tags , on August 12, 2014 by leovineknight

“You’re going through a tough time Steven” somebody commented.
“It could be better” I agreed, not really in the mood for talking.
My interlocutor was Stan, a man of about my age who had been admitted to the ward three weeks ago with an acute relapse of psychosis. He was stable again now, and I had been impressed with his articulate understanding of mental illness, society and the ward. He seemed curiously at peace, even though his family rarely visited and his early promise at university had been annihilated by schizophrenia and lengthy periods of hospitalization. His ‘romantic life’ had disappeared at roughly the same time as his success, and no doubt this had made him sensitive to my current plight.
“I’m afraid they don’t really understand places like this” he said. “It’s embarrassing and frightening to them.”
“I suppose you can’t blame them for wanting to be somewhere else” I said.
“Yeah. Love and morals only take people so far. Then it’s ‘what about the children’, and ‘I deserve a life too’. “
“You don’t think she’ll be back then?”
“Who can say? I’m only glad I don’t rely on things like that any more.”
“So what will you be doing when you leave?”
“I’ll go back to the village.”
“Where’s that?”
“C——- Village. It’s one of the religious communities up on the H—— hills.”
“Oh, one of the therapeutic communities?”
“I suppose you could call it that, but it’s really a way of life rather than therapy. About half the people who live there have never had a mental disorder, they just like the idea of working as part of a large family. It’s back to basics, of course, and ‘close to nature’ in a way which sounds cheesy, but really isn’t. You ought to come out and see for yourself.”
The tea trolley trundled around the day room, interrupting our conversation, and my mind began to tick. I was in the mood for radical changes, as people always are when a crisis breaks the mould of routine and complacency. Could C—— Village provide a solution for me? I knew that these places sometimes took whole families, and my imagination began to soar in a wildly evangelical direction. Could I persuade Carol…..?

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Review

Posted in Biographies and Inside Stories, Blogging, mental health with tags , on June 14, 2014 by leovineknight

My ‘aberration’ had certainly superimposed a liberating fantasy on the world, but the reality itself stood unchanged, leaving me balanced between the anaesthesia of collapse, and the alienation of recovery. I sat in limbo, sensing society waiting outside the ward, and fearing its incursion. I hid within the hospital, far away from my hometown and the embarrassments contained there, waiting for the past to heal and the future to happen. The unit, of course, remained gloriously untouched by my pyrotechnic delusions; its armour-plated system destined to kill the patients with disabling kindness, long after my nightmare was over.
So, time passed in the nondescript day room while people with parallel scars on their arms dived for broken crockery, others returned from the E.C.T. suite with glazed looks and cups of tea, and new admissions combined their paranoid delusions and hypo-manic flights of ideas into a bedlam of noise and threat. Staff chased fleeing patients, and sometimes patients chased fleeing staff, while opportunist anorexics made for the nearest toilet to regurgitate pellets of food under cover of mayhem. Snooker balls went through windows, and a 1950’s drug trolley squeaked around the ward four times a day, dispensing manna from neuroleptic heaven. Hours of boredom were punctuated with flashes of bloody violence, and intra-muscular injections peppered supine buttocks with daily regularity. Then I began to receive my first visits.
“Good morning, Dr. J—–” said a voice at my elbow.
“Morning” I replied, wondering who the pin-striped stranger might be.
“I’m Dennis G——. I represent Legal, Accident and Slow Recovery Ltd., a firm specialising in employer’s liability.
“Really?”
“Yes. Forgive the intrusion, but I think you may be entitled to substantial compensation for the stress which led to your recent…hem…difficulties, and I would like to offer our firm’s services.”
“So, you’re an ambulance chaser?”
“That’s not a term we would use ourselves Mr. J—–. We see our job more as defending the rights of the little man against large, negligent organisations.”
“Very noble” I commented “but I’m afraid it goes against my principles to suck money out of a system which is already riddled with users and charlatans, so I’ll have to pass on it.”
“Surely your family…..”
“No, sorry, please don’t wheel out your manual on persuasion techniques. I’m certain.”
“Well, if you’re absolutely sure you’re certain, I’d better call back another day” he said “Perhaps when your wife, or doctor, is present?”
“Look, the fact that I don’t want to pursue the easy money of litigation doesn’t make me mad. Maybe I don’t want the stress, or need the greed. Maybe I just don’t want any part of a society which is turning into an anarchic shambles.“
“Of course. Very well” he said, in a manner and tone usually reserved for unreasonable children. ‘Bye for now Dr. J—-.”
“Goodbye indeed.”
I watched his blue and white chalk striped suit disappear down the corridor, and wondered if ‘tosser’ ran all the way through his body, like ‘Brighton’ in Brighton rock. I also wondered where he’d got his information from, and why people seemed so determined to destroy their social organisations with individual avarice. It was like bees eating their own hive. A few days later, a ‘Legal, Accident and Slow Recovery Ltd.’ standard letter arrived:

Dear Dr. J—-,
Further to the interest you have shown in pursuing a compensation claim against your employers, we would be very pleased to act for you in the matter, and look forward to receiving your advices in due course. We hope you don’t recover too quickly from your injuries, and assure you of our best attentions at all times.
Sincerely,
D. G —–.

Solipsism or Bust

Posted in Biographies and Inside Stories, Blogging, life and modern times, mental health, social work and social policy with tags , on May 23, 2014 by leovineknight

On my way down the street, I noticed the old lady brushing the pavement in front of her house again, while the two post-punk wastrels were once more spending their valuable time taunting the old dear with monosyllabic insults and girlish tittering. Without further ado, I arranged for these fine young people to be escorted to the public toilets by four nightclub bouncers, who carefully supervised them cleaning the urinals with cotton wool buds, before enlisting them in the army. I then marched steadfastly on towards the council estate – ready to face my greatest challenge.
Happily, my super powers did not fail me, and I surged through the streets erasing graffiti, repairing fences, replanting shrubs, replacing broken windows, and sweeping up seas of glass shards and rubbish, like Robocop on a mission. The blue police lights were again illuminating the sky above the pubs and shops in the centre, and I observed an embattled young constable trying to control a mass of braying half-wits by wagging his finger at them. It was time for real action, and I transported the policeman to a safe position outside the estate, replacing him with a battalion of seasoned commandos who easily rounded up the gurning thugs and took them away in cattle trucks for a year’s moral retraining on Dartmoor. One jug-eared oaf temporarily escaped, and complained:
“This ain’t fair! They must be breaking some law doing this!”
Pointing out his hypocrisy in seeking shelter from the very law he had flouted with contempt all his half-life, I sent him spinning towards his whining chums with a contemptuous flick of my finger. The last truck moved off with shrill piglet screams emanating from the back, and rousing applause echoing down the streets as grateful residents reclaimed their lives for the first time since 1991. Handing my garlands to a young girl with large green eyes and raven ringlets, I then quitted the estate like Elvis Presley leaving Hawaii, and set sail for home at last.
A heady combination of fairground lights, perfumed air, and the stentorian boom of my own heartbeat, propelled me along the roads of Edwardian houses and down the gentle slope to our little ‘neighbourhood watch’ retreat. I put pink spots on the matching silver cars, introduced the workaholic man to his workaholic wife, and changed our three bed-roomed house to a four bed-roomed villa so that the copyists across the road would have an interesting experience the following morning. I strode into the house, found Carol waiting patiently for me in her dominatrix outfit, and gratefully accepted a glass of vintage claret which she handed across to me, whilst winking a welcome at my hump-fronted trousers.
“Welcome home esteemed husband. May I give you succour?”
“By all means, my dear.”
I settled back and watched the hypnotic grind of her athletic white flanks, while Motorhead played sweetly through my headphones, and a Cuban cigar sat snugly behind my right ear.
“I’m going to discharge myself, in a minute” I said.
All was well with the world; and perversely I slept.
—————————————————

“Wake up” said a distant voice.
“WAKE UP!”
The problem was, I couldn’t. I really couldn’t.

Reaction Formation

Posted in Biographies and Inside Stories, Blogging, jobs, careers and work, mental health with tags , on April 23, 2014 by leovineknight

In the mood to take all before me, I flew downstairs and entered the dining room, where Sidney appeared at my shoulder wearing an immaculate waiter’s outfit, red carnation in his button hole and hair slicked back with pomade.
“Would sir prefer the larks tongue, or caviar vole-au-vents, this morning?” he mewled pitifully.
“You can stuff that for a bunch of soldiers” I replied tetchily, looking over his shoulder.
Behind him, the residents were all sat around the dining room dressed in shooting tweeds and plus fours, barking instructions in our direction.
“Hurry up, you slackers! We’ve got a bed to catch.”
“Who do you think you are? We’ve got our rights you know.”
“Step on it, or there’ll be an official complaint.”
“Chop! Chop!”
Seeing the monstrous meal re-heating machine vibrating in the corner, I had a flash of inspiration, and armed with my new superpowers I quickly reprogrammed the fan-assisted warmer to ‘turbo suck’. Pointing the machine towards the carping crowd, I opening the aluminium door and watched them all disappear into its welcoming bowels, each delivering a parting comment as they went:
“It’s too hot in here!”
“It’s too cold in here!”
“Where’s the juice?”
“I didn’t order this!”
“These chairs aren’t very comfortable!”
I then whisked the machine down to the postal area, and taking a large white address sticker from my utility belt, wrote:
Please deliver this urgently to –
The Workers’ Co-operative Community,
Somewhere in Wales.

Office Furniture

Posted in Biographies and Inside Stories, Blogging, mental health, social work and social policy with tags , on October 27, 2013 by leovineknight

A state-of-the-art adjustable chair stood in front of the grubby 1970’s beech desk and our emblematic computer with Windows 98, and the charge nurse’s interesting personnel files – left on overnight by mistake. Drawers sat in the desk front at 30 degrees to the horizontal, like a Muller-Lier illusion, making the desk look as though it was subsiding into the corner. Perhaps, weighed down by files, and files, and more files.
Bent, vintage filing cabinets lined the walls, while shelves sagged and moaned in the old plaster; first victims of our administrative overkill. Five staff members sat around drinking coffee, tearing strips of flesh of each other’s backs, winning arguments, winning races, winning smiles.
The real office furniture.

Delivering the Paper

Posted in Biographies and Inside Stories, Blogging, jobs, careers and work, mental health with tags , on April 9, 2013 by leovineknight

I was just about to leave, when the unit manager said:
“Oh, by the way. I’ve got one or two little jobs for you to do here.”
An hour and a half later, I had finished transferring lots of old nursing notes into archival boxes, using W.H. Smith circular reinforcements to patch up the existing sheets and dividers, and adding up how many hours of overtime and agency nursing we had used for the last five months (a lot). I had also toured the entire unit documenting how many chairs, tables, wardrobes, beds, cupboards, dressing tables, pot plants, cookers, desks, monstrous food warming machines, shelves, and filing cabinets we had, comparing these figures faithfully with those gathered six months earlier, and accounting for any differences. I had additionally, checked through the maintenance book to see how many maintenance jobs were still outstanding (a lot), I had filled in the monthly patient status form which told us how likely the patients were to move on and why they weren’t, and I had undertaken to audit the care plan entries of my colleagues during the next week, so that we would know whether blue pens had been erroneously used, abbreviations had crept in, or any other capital crimes had been committed.
I didn’t challenge Richard, as I had many times before, with the reasonable contentions that some of these jobs were unnecessary, some were his, some should be given to a ward secretary not a clinician, and some were perfectly mindless. He refused to accept the view that somebody with a £100.000 nursing degree shouldn’t really be spending long periods wrestling with W.H. Smith’s sticky reinforcements. Today, I allowed myself just the one comment:
“Let’s face it. These care plan binders are so thick and heavy, they’re bending open the high tensile steel rings. We can’t really hold back the tide for much longer with paper reinforcements”.
“Hmm….hmm. Well, do your best. The clinical auditors may be coming soon, and we need the records to be as complete as possible.”
“I can only try.”
“I’ll give you the thumbs up then old boy.”
“I’d rather you didn’t, if you don’t mind” I winced.

Myopia Dystopia

Posted in Blogging, jobs, careers and work, mental health, satire and humour with tags , , on January 2, 2013 by leovineknight

I wandered on past the usual row of people on a pigeon-stained bench watching their lives go by, the greengrocer cracking jokes with his regular customers before turning back grimly to his cold shop, and three pensioners dressed as American children, pushing prams. A germ factory made a beeline towards me, coughing like a bazooka at everyone in his path, while the hive itself buzzed and droned without obvious product. Alongside the parking bays, stood an arms-crossed know-all; waiting for his daily dose of driving errors and the opportunity to shake his head so sagely (one day he would learn to drive and show them all how it was done properly)…….

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