It was a long time before I had any idea what Bink herself was going through, that dismal winter.
For which, we need to go back a bit.
In the summer of 2012 Bink had at last agreed to see the so-called “top” OCD psychiatrist I’d found for her.
Would, oh would that she hadn’t!
It was obvious pretty soon afterwards how incompetent the woman was. You can almost tell by someone’s secretary’s spelling mistakes, can’t you? I am flamboyantly dyslexic myself, with a defiant joy in creative Shakespearean spelling, so I do try not to judge by a person’s i’s before e’s and so on.
But you can surely tell by someone’s secretary’s wild and hair-raising inaccuracies...
We have a bit of a joke in our family, when it comes to names and initials. (Bear with me: this is relevant.)
There are seven of us, right?
We are all (as were my father’s and mother’s families, and Shaun’s) customarily known by our second Christian names. Which gives some scope for confusion. In one’s NHS notes, as well as the precise delivery of one’s post.
This potential is further enhanced by our weakness for inherited names: when faced with a crisis of indecision at the font, we tend to fall back on what we know.
Thus, two of us are Austen Atkins (Shaun and Ben, first name: Shaun’s grandfather’s).
Two are Adelaide Atkins (Bink and me, first name: has been the second daughter’s for about two centuries).
Two of us are Davidson Atkins (Alex and me, third name: my father’s, shortened to David.)
Two are S Atkins (Shaun and Serena: pure coincidence).
Two are B Atkins (Bink and Ben: ditto).
And a whopping five of us are A Atkins (Shaun, me, Bink, Alex and Ben: sheer mischief).
(Rose, alone, is unconfusable. Well, except that when she won her scholarships to senior school she appeared in The Times as Felicity Atkins. Her first name.)
So it goes like this.
Can I speak to Mr Atkins, please?
Which Mr Atkins?
Mr A Atkins.
Which Mr A Atkins?
Er... Mr Austen Atkins?
Which Mr Austen Atkins?
Oh! Sort of... um... youngish?
He’s at work, sorry.
(Actually, they’re all at work. But it’s more fun this way.)
(There’s also a very entertaining story about Ben missing half a May Ball around the time of his birthday, in order to receive a parcel addressed to B Atkins – possibly even, Mr B Atkins; which Bink says is entirely my fault for allowing her such a whacky nickname – which turned out to be a delivery of half-a-dozen identical mop-heads. But Ben finds the memory very distressing so I won’t relate it here.)
Still with me?
If so, you will have already spotted that Ms A Atkins could be me or Bink. Given that she doesn’t open her letters for several years, if one looks interesting I might as well.
And as it was a medical epistle talking about a consultation with Adelaide Atkins (which is what the NHS calls me) I was onto the second page before I realised it was nothing to do with me.
It was from said shrink. Or, presumably, her secretary.
And highly confidential.
And really quite worrying.
I mean, it was worrying that this top bod had spent two hours with Bink and not realised she never goes by the name of Adelaide. (Lara, Bink, Robin, lots of other loony things to choose from. Adelaide, never. So shrink barely knows who Bink is. Certainly not well enough to know what to call her.)
It was even more worrying that she referred to her quaffing, or puffing, or ingesting, or whatever your preference, sixty quids’ worth of weed a week.
I was appalled.
Over and over again, I had warned Bink. Never, ever, ever touch the stuff.
We’d seen what it could do. Shaun had a parishioner in Parson’s Green whose mind had turned to jelly with it. Schizophrenia, more accurately. And violence. Committed Christian... and last we know, he was banged up for smashing up a bus shelter... after writing Gospel graffiti on a bridge over the M4 which, yes, genuinely brought someone to Christ. Shaun met the convert. Years later. Pure chance.
I’d also read Patrick Cockburn’s Henry’s Demons and Julie Myerson’s The Lost Child, and you really don’t have to be a top shrink to realise that the effect of this muck on a minority of the population can be utterly devastating.
I realise a lot of politicians, even a lot of doctors, are too stupid to join the dots... but you barely need a a pinch of common sense.
(A member of Bink’s prayer group lost her son to it. Completely. Though this hadn’t happened by 2012 and I didn’t know her yet.)
So don’t touch it Bink. Because you, of all people, would go stark raving bonkers on it if anyone would.
(When I heard Gatsby had shared a spliff with her, I went apeshit... but I think that was later too.)
So reading this, right under my nose, was not a happy experience.
Fortunately, Bink must have been on speaking terms with me, occasionally, around then. Because when I shared my concerns a few weeks later, she reassured me. Not only had the women got her name wrong. And addressed the envelope so that nearly half a dozen people might have opened it.
But Bink had told her she’d consumed sixty quids’ worth of cannabis in her whole life. About five grams. Next to nothing. In junkie terms.
(As we were to discover much later, she only used it to enable her to stay off the legal meds: she was finding withdrawal so excruciating.)
Nevertheless, this top shrink knew she was smoking pot.
Actually, thought she was using several hundred times more than she was.
And didn’t stop her.
(In fact, so did her wonderful therapist and she didn’t stop her either. Nor a very kind, wonderful and supportive friend, whom we still adore. Let alone bloody Gatsby, who smoked it with her.)
It gets worse…
Obviously, I don’t know what this daft prof actually said because I wasn’t in the room. But Bink came away with the very definite impression that it wasn’t doing her much harm
Shrink told Bink, you should be more worried about your alcohol consumption.
I can’t go on...
Everyone denies sixty grams of dope can wreck your life.
Talk to Bink about it.
Just talk to Bink.
Let’s end on something more amusing.
So… I rang the secretary, explained the confusion, and said if she could kindly address Bink’s letters to Miss A Atkins in future, I wouldn’t open them by mistake.
Natty little convention. Goes back hundreds of years. Prevents confusion.
Can’t do that, she said. We don’t use Miss or Mrs.
Oh good grief… get a life! (Not even if a patient requests it? Nope.)
I took a deep breath and counted to something.
The difficulty, I explained to this retard, is that Bink and I share the same first name. Adelaide. Perhaps you could address it to Bink? Or Lara? Or ALM Atkins?
Next letter. Ms Adelaide Atkins.
So I opened it again.