Archive for modern times

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…”
“Was she alone at the theatre, by the way?”
“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.”
“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?. ”
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.

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.
P.S. Don’t worry about the garden. Bill has brought over his new cylinder mower which cuts the lawn in stripes.


Posted in Blogging, mental health, social work and social policy with tags , on November 25, 2013 by leovineknight

In the 1970’s I was intrigued by Ronald Laing’s idea that ‘madness’ was actually a sane reaction to an insane society. But the case studies he used to illustrate the point were a bit convoluted to say the least and I later came to a different personal conclusion. ‘Madness’ is more often the insane product of an insane society.
What these views share in common, of course, is the proposition that society (rather than the individual) is frequently the primary source of mental health problems. If so, that is where ‘therapy’ should be first directed……

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.

The Community Dropout Centre

Posted in Blogging, books, journals and diaries, mental health with tags , , on December 23, 2012 by leovineknight

This place was so popular that a long queue always formed outside the front door before it opened at 9.00 a.m. The patrons were a liquorice allsorts brigade of red-faced, middle-aged men, young mothers, sullen youths with dirty university t-shirts, and those best described as Star Wars extras. The red-faced men generally congregated around the centre of the main room, discussing Iraq, sport and the Irish question in extremely loud voices, while the less red-faced read newspapers on the periphery. One man always selected the ‘Daily Mirror’, and then walked out with it through the side door.
The youths sat in a purple room, posting CD’s and DVD’s into the various slots which surrounded them, ready for an hour or two of electronic oblivion, while the young mothers quickly unloaded their offspring into the nearby nursery, and headed for the shops. Today, a man who looked like an amoebic Charles Manson opened a brief case full of computer games and booked himself onto work station number 7 for five hours, as a harassed member of staff tried to explain to an itinerant, wild-eyed psychopath that the world wasn’t perfect, and he might have to take no for an answer.

This place was reputedly the public library.

Does anyone know when the kids’ TV programmes finish and the adults’ programmes start?

Posted in Biographies and Inside Stories, Blogging, mental health, satire and humour with tags , , on December 11, 2012 by leovineknight

On one channel, I found thirty neurotic people raving in a studio about Viagra and facelifts, while a smirking demagogue told them where they were going wrong. The audience all came to blows, shook hands, and trooped off grinning at the cameras. This was followed by a repeat series of ‘Missing Link’, the popular general knowledge quiz show, where today the contestants’ specialist subjects were ‘Fred Flintstone’, ‘welfare benefits since 1948’, ‘the sociology of rap music’, and ‘me’. The news bulletin had been cancelled completely, because all the reporters were in Florida bravely covering the heat wave, and all the newsreaders were in rehearsals for celebrity dance shows.

Decide where you want to travel and what political message you want to impart, then design the news around that. Nice job.

Weather Sensitivity Syndrome

Posted in Biographies and Inside Stories, Blogging, jobs, careers and work, mental health, satire and humour with tags , , on September 7, 2012 by leovineknight

Our patients were generally very sensitive to inclement weather and often refused to leave the unit even if it was only lightly raining on a spring morning. There would be a major problem indeed if ‘bad’ weather coincided with a patient’s regular arrangement to visit a relative or the shops, because a compulsion would then be blocked by a phobia. The only solution sometimes was to book a taxi, and smuggle the patient out of the door with an old mackintosh over their head, as though they were a celebrity leaving the High Court. One lady was completely obsessed with the weather, spending long periods ruminating over the forecasts, gazing out of the windows, and getting extremely angry if it “took a turn for the worse”.
Being in England, she was generally apoplectic……

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