From the Vikings. For Shaun and me.
And for my father…
From the Vikings. For Shaun and me.
And for my father…
Yearning towards his forebears across the waves…
Perhaps plotting fresh pillage…
How is Bink? I asked her friend.
I’m encouraged, he said.
I think she’s doing well.
She is renting her own room for the first time ever, paying for it with her own housing allowance.
She’s on a fairly even keel, and she’s only had one melt-down in recent weeks, in hospital, which she had to do in order to get medical attention.
She is living near her GPs’ surgery, and sees the doctor regularly.
She is controlling her medication.
She is getting out and meeting people. And planning to join a choir.
She hasn’t ruled out further treatment.
She’s even interested in doing more work: the proof-reading she did. She said it was really boring but she did it efficiently and promptly and expressed interest in doing more.
And, I said. She’s been ringing me. Almost every day, before we came away. The last time she even said it was “just for a chat”. That’s never happened before.
(By the time Bink was old enough to ring home for a chat, she was far, far too ill to use a telephone.)
Yes, he said. She used to find the prospect so stressful she would put off thinking about it for ever.
And she has been on holiday with all her family. Including the Little Viking.
Is this the very, very slow miracle we have been praying for, for so long?
Is Bink beginning to get better?
* * * * *
This is why we love the seaside. One of the many, many reasons…
Here is the sundown.
A good day for kite-surfing (photograph by Rose).
(Is that Bink in the foresea, there?)
A good year for wild-flowers (photographed by me).
Sniffed by Horatio.
Enjoyed by Shaun, too.
Though sadly this was not, apparently, because we’re reversing the trend of decades. Just the weather suited wild-flowers this year.
When I was a child, I never once walked these cliffs without being drowned in lark-song…
Friday 16th August.
Blackberrying… with Mama and the dogs, and Annie and Hatman.
Bink has washed. For the first time this year.
She had a bath yesterday, for the first time this year. For a mere four hours. Which is pretty amazing, given as it’s the first time this year.
Which means that she is clean enough to go in the sea. Also for the first time this year.
So she has had a swim, for the first time this year.
So it’s in the sea with Auntie Binkie!
For the first time.
Happy Little Viking!
And Bink having her own swim.
And yes, this is also Bink swimming. Going under the water.
And plunging with the waves.
I love England.
I love the seasons and the weather.
I love the blazing sun of June. I love the too-rare snow of winter. I love the blustery autumn and soft deceptively-warm spring.
And I love the dreary rain.
I even love going away for our summer holidays to North Norfolk, and having nothing to do but watch it slosh down outside all day long...
Partly because I love reading and never have enough time to read all the books in the world.
Partly because... remember my play? Now finished: it was only Act I before. The pinnacle of ambition for my first dramatic effort is for it to play in the theatre where I trained in my provincial weekly rep.
Which just happens to be here, where we go to the seaside every year.
And of course, the more it rains, the more people need to go to the theatre.
As we did last night. All of us. Including Bink.
Aren’t you impressed at how well I am? she asked me the other day, as we ordered coffee in the sun.
Yes, Bink, actually I am.
Well enough to see the Little Viking.
And get this: today she is having a bath at my sister’s seaside house in the next road. She’s already been in there for three hours, my sister said. By now, her husband was threatening to barge in for his shower.
But that’s amazing! I said. I think that’s the first time this year. First time in 2019. First time since Christmas at least, if not longer.
She’s so dirty (in her mind) she won’t even go in the North Sea in case she contaminates it all the way to Holland.
So you can see why I love the rain. Even if I hadn’t already loved the rain. Which I did.
I have a quaint little eccentricity, which is that I’d quite like Shaun to hang around on this earth for as long of my life as possible. Given that I hate his going away just for a night or two.
And given that the number one – and two and three, four, five, six – killer in the developed West seems to be being a pound or two overweight, I am always trying to encourage some faddy diet or other. Usually keto, because I love butter, clotted cream, double cream, cream in my coffee, steak, streaky bacon and so forth. Whereas I could happily go without pizza, pasta, rice and spaghetti for the rest of my life.
Though I can never resist a glass of fizz or decent Rioja so actually it’s more like a sort of alcoholic keto. So doesn’t in truth work that well.
Also doesn’t work very well because Shaun’s favourite room in the house is the larder. First thing on coming home from work, check out the larder. Then the fridge, in case that was more interesting. And usually back to the larder again, for the sake of comparative research.
Not only do we have a proper old-fashioned larder in our house at home, but my father’s house by the seaside has a larder too.
So, last night, there we were, Ben and Alex and I, Shaun disappeared presumably to bed, and we went into the kitchen for a late night cup of tea or similar (believe that, you’ll believe anything). And Alex innocently opened the larder to get some mugs. And there staring him in the face a few inches from his nose was a full-size Shaun eating his way out of the larder.
Despite the fact that he’s grown up with this all his life, the shock was so great that the next ten minutes saw Alex on his back on the kitchen floor, mostly under the minuscule table, laughing his spectacles off.
What would you have done, he said eventually, when he had not quite recovered exactly but recovered the power of speech enough to ask, if you’d got locked in? (Since my father’s larder has a handy bolt on the outside for just this exact contingency, presumably for locking people in.)
Suit me fine, Shaun said. Given as I’d be in the larder.
So we then got to discussing how he would have escaped, and Shaun pointed at the larder window the size of a generous letter box, and claimed he could have climbed out of it.
Well at least, I said, you wouldn’t need to diet for a while, since you’d be stuck like Pooh in Rabbit’s door, until you could.
At which point Shaun rashly repeated his claim that he could through it the size he is now.
So I offered him a thousand squids if he could.
All if which being by way of a completely pointless shaggy dog preamble to show you my excellent photographic skill showing Shaun attempting the larder window.
And Alex helping him by climbing in through the kitchen window, though strangely I can’t now remember quite why that seemed relevant.
(And none of which has anything to do with Bink’s illness at all. Except that people sometimes ask how we keep going...)
Glorious Twelfth, 2019
Annie annie annie annie annie!
[Google-translate from Little-Viking into English: Mama’s asleep. I’ve still got a dry nappy so if you know what’s good for me you’ll put me on the loo. Now that you’ve done that, Mama’s Papa, let’s go and see if Mama’s Mama is awake and look at the sea…]
Good morning, Little Viking.
[I’ll just try these shoes on for you.]
[They definitely fit.]
[I just need to get used to them.]
[See. I told you they fit.]
Little Viking, I’m going to go and wake Mama, and ask if she wants to come in the sea with me while you look after the Hatman. (Because the great thing about the North Sea is that it buffets all the sadness out of you. As Professor Veale explained to your Auntie Bink.)
[I’ve even got them on the correct feet, haven’t I?]
And if you’re lucky, later on, you might get to see Auntie Binkie yourself.
It has been a year and a day since I started this blog. Today, as then, we are just arriving at the seaside.
I am sad that, over the last two or three weeks, I haven’t managed to post quite as regularly or punctually as previously. We have had a couple of particularly challenging issues to contend with over this summer which I can’t yet share with you.
I hope to, eventually.
I’m also disappointed that I haven’t quite brought you up to date with the history of Bink’s illness up until this time a year ago, as was my original intention. To be honest I find it quite dispiriting, going back through my diary and email history to work out exactly what happened when.
Again, I hope perhaps I will in due course. If you keep with me, and I keep going.
Continued and constantly frustrated attempts to get treatment.
Wild excitement at the award of supported housing after three years’ wait.
The cruel disappointment and appalling behaviour of the association providing it.
And consequent collapse of support and housing, both.
Further soaring hope at the hospital referral.
Perhaps I will find the time and the courage to relate. If there are enough of you wanting to stay with me.
I sat at a wedding breakfast yesterday, in the beautiful slanting sun’s early evening of the Orangery at Kew, and an old friend I hadn’t seen for years said to me,
I’ve been following your blog every day.
Oh dear: that’s more than I have in recent days, I confessed.
Ten o’clock every day, she said. Since the beginning.
And? I asked. What has it done for you?
Given me an understanding. Made me wish I’d spent less time on work and more on friendships.
We had no idea what you were going through.
If this blog has given a little understanding, it has certainly been worth it. If somebody has been reading my blog every day for a year, it is worth it.
It has also given me a feeling of great friendship out there.
From now on, however, I won’t be committing to any particular days or times. I will write when I feel moved. So you might get nothing for six months, or I might write twice a week.
And as of today, we are all at the seaside. For several days. When did that last happen, that all Atkinses were on holiday together?
Bink seems to be doing well enough that she might be able to build sandcastles with the Little Viking.
Perhaps I might even post you a photograph... Like these ones, which I took last year.
Rose spent the afternoon with Bink in Cambridge.
Who is still on track to spend next week at the seaside with us.
We are coming up to a year (this Friday) since this blog started. And I always said I would do a year, every day, and then reassess.
I had planned – if I hadn’t been interrupted by laptop bereavement – to have covered all the history of Bink’s illness by now. I haven’t, quite. We still have mid-2016 till the Priory in 2018. I will. I hope. But from Friday onwards, it will be when I can spare the time and energy, rather than a daily commitment.
In the meantime, let me update you for today.
We are hoping and praying that next week, we will all be at the seaside together. That is all of us, yes.
Which depends on Bink’s not taking any chemical support that she shouldn’t be taking.
By shouldn’t, I don’t mean: shouldn’t from the point of view of common sense and her own health. I mean: shouldn’t, legally. According to the medical profession and letter of the law. As in: if it’s a prescription drug, you shouldn’t be buying it from street corners.
As we all know, yet another idiot of a psychiatrist has just prescribed her more of the poisonous muck. That’s not something we can rightly hold Bink to account for, really.
if she is the windy side of the law, Bink and the Little Viking can consort together on the beach.
So…, last night, she had been eighteen hours clean of anything she shouldn’t be taking.
Let’s continue to hope and pray, eh?
Hope and pray.
Much of what being Bink’s mother is about.
Wow. You answered your telephone again, Bink: that’s twice in two days!
(More than in the rest of the previous decade?)
We’re on our way to Ben’s gig. If you jumped on a bus now you ‘d make it.
I can’t. There’s no late bus back to Cambridge, and you said my bedroom has paying guests in it.
Fair enough. How did the meeting go with the shrink yesterday?
You’re not going to like this.
He didn’t? Please tell me he didn’t! Prescribe you more Lorazepam? For goodness’ sake!
What else could he do?
Find an effing solution! Not be such an f-wit. What’s the matter with these people? Are there only two psychiatrists in the world who aren’t the most moronic, dangerous, stupid, drug-happy, life-wrecking...
Which two would those be?
Professor Veale and the one you like, Rex Haigh.
You don’t know anything about Professor Haigh!
I know you like him. And you’ve told me he doesn’t do drugs. Does this complete effing eejit know you’ve just had about a hundred grand’s worth of treatment to get you off the stuff?
He knows I’ve spent five months in the Priory.
What a total, utter, idiotic...
[There followed about twenty more minutes of this tirade. Eventually...]
I’m sorry, Bink. You must feel very got at. I’m not really blaming you.
I know. I don’t feel that. Not at all. Say what you like.
I am very angry and upset. Sorry. I’m not saying it’s your fault.
There is one good thing about this.
(I’d worked that out for myself. She won’t be banned from seeing the Little Viking on account of abusing prescription drugs, because she’s now actually been prescribed the bloody stuff.
And what about other substance she’s relying on to survive? Has he told her how to come off that?)
He said it would be better if I could.
Great. Absolutely effing great.
(I’m sorry my vocabulary is getting rather boring. It’s quite boring being mother to a junkie. Specially when her supplier is a licensed professor doctor shrink.)
Most of them are.
Ok, I said.
You want to come off it all, yes?
So what’s your plan? Given that this fathead isn’t going to help you.
I have got a plan, actually. And the thing is, now that I’ve got a prescription, I’m not putting all my energy into working out where I’m going to get my next supply, so I can put my energy into quitting ....
(I’ve heard that one before. Several times.)
... and attending the awful drug place that helps you come off it.
Well that’s going to be a fat lot of uselessness.
Not necessarily. You’re four times more likely to quit smoking if you have help and support.
Yeah. Sorry. You’re right. I shouldn’t have said that. Well done, Bink. Well done that you plan to go to them.
Try and be clean by next week. Please. So we can all have a seaside holiday together. I can’t bear a repeat of a few years ago, when you came with Gatsby and we all had to spend our holiday working out how to keep Rosie from seeing you, and how to avoid each other, and all that palaver. It really wasn’t much fun.
Don’t worry: if I’m not allowed to see the Little Viking, I’ll keep myself away from him.
Thank you. Please try.
I just want to give you an update:
Bink has send me the corrected work back and I had – together with my sister – a look at it. Her work is fabulous – so detailed and clear, so that my sister now is making all the adjustments needed and then finishes her last pages.
I really think Bink could offer an editing service :-) I don’t know about England, but in Switerland so many students are looking for someone who proofreads their thesis in German. I also let my master thesis correct by a guy who studied german at uni and it was so worth it as I got a great mark. One spends so much thinking about the content and structure of the thesis so that I simply didn't see my own mistakes anymore even though my level of german is quite high too.
Anyway: I was writing back and forward with Bink and she wrote me that she will send me her bank details, so that I can send her the payment.
I wrote you this mail as you acted as an “mediator” between Bink and me and so the editing work could be done. So I know how happy you will be to hear that it worked out well and I just you deserve it to know. Maybe Bink will tell you about it herself and if not, at least, you know and you can be calm about it :-)
This is really, really encouraging, Esther. I was wondering how it all went: Bink told me she was sending the material over yesterday.
Do PLEASE tell her all this! It is the first paid work she has ever done. And perhaps you could pass her name around to other students who need to write their thesis in English and might find it helpful? She was absolutely amazing proof-reading my last novel. I've never known anyone even a tenth as thorough. She picked up much more than the professional proof-reader.
I'd like to update the readers of my blog by quoting your words verbatim, if you give me permission. Would you mind if I were to do this, please?
She was concerned that being paid would mess up her benefits, but I don't think it will. It’s such a small amount (I assume!) and the only work she’s ever had. But if she asks you not to pay her, that will be why.
I'm so glad it worked out so well for everybody.
I’ve apologised for my rubbish photography before. A few years ago, a pair of firecrests visited our garden. Here they are again… I sent Shaun a text to tell him to come quickly, but he didn’t get it before they’d flown.
(I seem to start every post with an apology now. A reader wrote to me two days ago, worried at my silence. It has, indeed, been a difficult week... but alas, I will have to update you on this at a later date.)
The dawn service on Easter Day in Rose’s cathedral is the most beautiful in the year.
It starts by moonlight in the cloisters. The choir processes in through the pitch-dark shuffles of the many hundreds who have left their beds half way through the night.
The story of the Exodus accompanied by the lighting of the brazier.
(We attended for all Rose’s three years in the choir. Year two, the brazier wouldn’t come to life even at the entreaty of an entire persuasion of cathedral clergy. Year three – Rose’s final, confirmation year – some enterprising verger had preempted embarrassment. The tiniest match lit a whoosh of petrol into a bonfire and Alex’s eyebrows were almost singed off in surprise.)
The night-lit candlelit faces of the choir sing to the Old Testament readings, and long before we have had too much we go shifting off in crowds into the vast nave into which you could fit a dozen parish churches.
All clutching our old saucepans or wooden spoons… or, in our case, Alex had brought the Toy Symphony box of all the instruments I gave Bink for her seventeenth birthday performance: whistle and nightingale and toy trumpet and cuckoo and drum. For use much later.
For the moment when the liturgy says, with italicised understatement, The congregation makes a joyful noise unto the Lord.
The service combines the awe-inspiring with the dramatic with the hilarious with the profoundly moving.
Towards the end, the confirmation candidates, thirty or more, move to the vast font – one or two will require baptism first – to be sprinkled by water thrown from branches of hyssop and anointed with oil and prayed on by the rest of us.
We had borrowed our friends’ house again. The whole family invited to witness Rose confirmed: her very special day, barely short of a wedding in anticipation and celebration.
My father, now nearly ninety-nine, going to sleep in his clothes, the more easily to rise at 4 am.
And after a service which lasts two and a half hours and feels like forty-five minutes, down into the crypt for a bucks-fizz breakfast for all.
What kind of an awesome as well as awe-inspiring cathedral serves a bucks-fizz breakfast? How blessed Rose was to be there for three glorious years!
Though that year, we barely ate the breakfast on offer in the crypt.
Because one of Rose’s best friends was being confirmed with her, and her grandparents owned surely the loveliest, most quirky house in the city, clinging onto the cliff overhanging the river, its apple-garden and class-roofed conservatory with the most stunning views imaginable.
The cathedral almost close enough to touch, on the other bank a deep-dropping chasm away.
The brunch was champagne, smoked trout, prosciutto, scrambled eggs, freshly warm croissants, fruit, yoghurt, home-dropped blinis flipped on pans before our faces... and far, far more that I have forgotten in my mixed sad-joy of that glorious, sorrowful morning of Rose’s last Easter at the cathedral.
Because... guess what? We hadn’t seen Bink since Rose ended her wash-cycle prematurely three months earlier, in the New Year, to catch the Sunday afternoon train to get to school for the start of the Lent Term.
Run away and not come back.
Still in trauma at the imagined traces of soap which had once come close to kissing Rose’s suitcase.
Her adored baby sister – she always claimed – and she couldn’t be there for her.
Yet again, Bink the dark hole in the family, casting a shadow on the mid-morning sun rising over the lawn spanning the golden morning, with the tears on the river glistening far below.
(Again, apologies for the lateness and brevity...)
Esther was the only au pair we ever had who prompted tears when she left.
Esther is awesome.
She wrote to me a few days ago, asking if I could proof-read her sister’s thesis to check the grammar. (Since, for some bizarre reason I haven’t yet ascertained, the sister’s thesis has to be written in English, not German.)
The critical mistake Esther made was to insist on paying me.
Unpaid, I couldn’t have refused.
Paid, I had to confess I really, really don’t have time.
What about Bink? I said.
Or my father?
Bink and my father are both Cambridge classicists. And grammar freaks.
I consider I am a bit of a grammar Nazi myself. But (I think I’ve told you this) Bink made about a thousand corrections to my last novel.
And you can tell my family, from me, that this isn’t “journalist’s exaggeration”. There were, like, lots of pages in my last novel. And lots of corrections from Bink on each one.
Anyways, Bink said she couldn’t possibly complete the Esther’s sister’s corrections in time for the deadline of next Monday.
So I gave my father a copy. Knowing he would never accept payment. So Bink could have all the spindolas and my father all the responsibility.
He couldn’t make head or tail of it, and handed it back after a day.
Bink read it on the bus home (blimey, this is boring, she said: that’s what the money’s for, I said) and finished it yesterday.
That’s two pieces of paid work, now, since she was fifteen.
Life looking up...
(And by the way, I said, you left your box of choccies here.
I know, she laughed.
Funny thing, she said. I’m not really into chocolate.
I know where you’re coming from, I said. I wondered why that was the chosen currency.)
Bink was living at home.
That November, she made an Advent calendar for all the boarders in Rose’s school: one present a day for each of twenty-five choristers in the cathedral. Each gift personally chosen for each child, depending on what Rose told us about them all.
That Christmas, we borrowed a house from friends a few miles from the city. My father, aged 98, with us too.
He had been interviewed for the Today Programme, by Mishal Hussein, for the second time – the first being for his D-day memories as a conscientious objector – as being the last person alive to have sung in the first BBC broadcast of the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols.
His interview was broadcast on Christmas Eve. That Christmas, nine decades later, his youngest grandchild sang the Once in Royal solo in one of the Christmas services. It was fun, turning up at the cathedral, the verger having heard him not long before on the radio, and showing him (and us) to the best stall seats he was allowed to give us.
Mishal had come to the house a few weeks earlier for a pre-recording. I’ve just read her email again. She is an exceptionally lovely person... but even so, what is it about Bink that people reach out to her?
“I really enjoyed meeting Lara, please give her my very best. How much she has been through. If she is remotely interested in broadcasting I would be happy to host her at Broadcasting House anytime she is in London and she can see the programme go out. Of course it may not be her cup of tea at all!”
How rare it is, for all of us to be together. How much I must have treasured it.
Going in for Christmas parties and drinks in the cathedral close. Shaun cooking the goose we all shared together. Having our friends in for a drinks on Christmas Eve. Going to theirs for drinks on Christmas Day.
Driving back to Bedford in time for our cousins on Boxing Day.
You’d think it must be lovely to have Bink living with us at last?
If only... if only she had been well.
If only she had been well enough not to live with us!
Soon she was too ill even for that.
Rose was due back at school on a Sunday evening in early January. Already, on the chorister discipline Bink herself would have enjoyed so much at that age – which might indeed have changed the next two decades for her – Rose, at twelve and a half, was responsible and mature. She was getting her uniform ready. It had been put in the washing machine, but the wash was a long one and she worried that she might not get it dry in time.
Skip some of the programme and put it on a rinse, I suggested. After all, it would be through the school laundry system and out again by the middle of the week.
Advice with very far-reaching – and desperately sad – consequences. And, of course, all my fault. Bink can never blame her beloved Rose.
There is nothing in the world, to Bink, as dirty as soap. Isn’t that the point of it? To bind with dirt and stick to it?
I might as well have told Rose to roll her uniform in dog poo before packing it in her trunk...
This is Bay Dat. Otherwise known as Araminta.
Bay Dat was born in our bed at two am on 14th May. When we were asleep in it. That is to day, Shaun was asleep in it. I wasn’t very asleep by the time my cat, Sophie Afternoon otherwise known as Artemis, shoved a squealing grey blob in my face and said, Look what I just did. (Yes, just the one: what’s wrong with that?)
Some years ago, Rose was promised a kitten when she got into senior school. She is just about to embark on A levels. There are some presents – some apologies; some offers of help – that come so late they are meaningless.
The Little Viking would love to have Bay Dat for himself. Bay Dat is Little-Viking for Baby Cat.
Bay Dat was busy catching my toes through the sheet and killing my dressing-gown cord – she had just driven Shaun out of the bed squealing with pain having done the same to him – when a little mouse ran across our bedroom floor.
Put her on the floor, I said to Shaun, so she can do something useful.
So Bay Dat went under the wardrobe, washed her face for a while, then came out and caught her tail.
Meanwhile, in the tree beyond our window box, the two parent wood pigeons (you remember?) faff about tending what appears, as far as we can see, to be a completely empty and pointless nest.
Some animals are just useless.
Then Shaun came back from his shower saying that, apparently, my father’s carer has just told him, he missed one of the hens when he shut them away last night. Only six came out of the hen-house this morning.
Did the fox miss it too?
There is a white wing on the lawn.
A few minutes later the carer knocked on my door and said could I help, please? There is a small mouse on the stairs and she wanted to remove it before the guests saw it, but it’s still alive and she can’t do that.
Small mouse humanely dispatched; remains of white wing removed; all safe for hen party of fourteen, who have paid vast amount to use our house for their special weekend, to go downstairs and enjoy the garden in the rain without coming across a mouse on the stairs. Quick or dead. Or half-way betwixt the two.
Not that this would have spooked them: they’re all very sensible Cambridge vets. Hen party of two weeks ago would have run squealing to the European Commission for Human Rights and sued us for life-long trauma if they’d so much as seen a beetle at the bottom of the garden.
How does this relate to her?
It’s the doing-versus-being, isn’t it.
Our cats don’t really earn their place in the household.
Sit and look pretty.
Horatio certainly doesn’t. Just makes us all laugh, and love him.
Week ago, Bink was home, spent the day playing with our cleaner’s little boy. That evening, exhausted. Eleven hours, she said, without a ciggie.
Being. Not really doing, much.
It’s the Little Viking’s second birthday party today.
Bink isn’t going to make it.
Rang Serena yesterday. Had to be forty-eight hours off substances, Serena agreed with her, and she hadn’t been.
But don’t, she said to Serena, relax the rules for me.
I expend a lot of energy hoping, praying, trying to persuade Bink into any kind of useful activity. A job, I say, any voluntary activity even, would solve so many of your issues.
But that’s not all there is to life.
Bink is still with the living. With us. Being.
(That little mouse has just run across my floor again. Three more times, back and forth.
Where are those blasted cats?)
Late autumn into early winter, 2015
We had been praying for Bink, as a group, for a year that December. I thought life had taught me not to believe in prayer – interesting, then, that I still galvanised a group to pray for her – but looking back over that twelve months it was astonishing how much had changed.
She was living at home. No longer seeing Gatsby. Much better than she had been.
And how much hadn’t...
Ben had a new friend. Fortunately, working in a medical field.
I believe the very first (or possibly second) time she ever came to the house, we tested her sang froid to most people’s limits.
Christian has Type 1 Diabetes, and (specially in those days, before we’d got used to the fact that he needs several meals a day, unlike Atkinses who need can survive on one meal in several days) made a rare habit of life-threatening sugar-crashes.
Bink chose the same evening that Christian conked out cold on the floor in a near-coma, to grab a knife and threaten Alex with it.
No connection between those two events whatsoever.
Just, Bink was in a panic, needed the emergency services, last time an ambulance had been called for her she’d been compulsorily chemically conked out herself so understandably didn’t want any para-medics anywhere near her, and thought threatening her brother with a foot-long knife was the way to get the police instead.
Ben walked in with his new friend.
Run, I said, thrusting my purse at them. Sainsbury’s on the corner. Chocolate and orange juice.
I couldn’t go because I was on the telephone to the police.
It was, Serena said, greatly to her credit that she never turned a hair. Or asked why.
Just returned in under two minutes with the necessaries to save Christian’s life.
My life is studded with memories of Bink and crises.
Bink outside in the rain, in late November, standing on a garden chair, screaming and screaming till the police came. All I really remember is her feet, soaking wet, just socks on.
And Alex, calm and explaining that there are simpler ways of getting help than drawing a knife on someone.
And Bink explaining, much, much later that evening, that she couldn’t think of any other way, on the spur of the moment.
There is method in her madness – in everyone’s madness, presumably – and some sense: Alex is the one person you could draw a knife on, who wouldn’t go mad himself.
How wearisome it all is...
And Serena saying, if Ben’s new friend can cope with Ben’s brother-in-law having a sugar crash and Ben’s sister drawing a knife on Ben’s brother and Ben’s mother shoving money at her and saying, run for chocolate! and no other explanation given... well, she will make a good friend of the Atkins family...
13th October, 2015. 17.51
To: Bink’s prayer group.
Subject: Miracle or Nature?
And do we care which, anyway, since God heals all?
(Note: in a sermon once Shaun said, “Every time I've ever been ill, God Himself has healed me.” Gasps of wonder from a few enthusiastic ladies in the congregation at so many miracles for one so young.)
I wrote this last Sunday but never had time to finish:
Mental illness is so mysterious, so almost invisible in some ways, that I have often imagined it possible for Bink simply to wake up one day and be well. To bounce out of bed early one morning full of sunshine, saying, That's it: no more destructive washing, no more anxiety, no more lunacy. I'm going to get a job and be well and have friends and flush all the little white pills down the loo and simply be happy, from this day forth. And for that to be true and real and lasting.
And now she has sprung back like a piece of elastic, almost as if she had never left us. She sits patiently with my father, going through a beautiful coffee table book with him about the college they share, to keep him company in the early evening. She gives Rosie a two hour maths lesson to help her with her scholarship papers. She has been out of bed at a fairly normal time almost every morning. She eats, she laughs, she is beautiful again. She is even – and this is saintly, believe me – set to go church with my father (hard work) to sing in the choir (even harder work) which no one else in the family is kind enough to do for him!
Who ever complains when God uses the ongoing miracle of Nature to bring about healing?
So much hope.
So many times.