Every summer, my parents held open house for all their descendants at their home-from-home on the North Norfolk coast. Bink loved these holidays: sea; sand; stunning sunsets.
Most of all, cousins.
The summer of 2004, aged 18, she was looking forward to it as much as ever. As often before, Shaun and I were staying in London to work, and joining our offspring later.
I watched her, day after painful day, unable to pack or wash or even dress to go. I tried all I could think of: offering to launder her clothes; suggesting advice on what to take. Nothing could shift her out of the rut.
I knew how much she wanted to be there. It was pitiful. “What is stopping you?” I asked after a week or so.
“I can’t get anything ready.”
“Then take nothing,” I suggested.
“What... just go?”
“I can’t simply leave, like this!”
“I don’t see why not. Granny and Grandfather have most of what you need. It’s not an expensive town. A swimsuit only costs a few pounds; a toothbrush, less. And there’s a good library.”
“I’m not even dressed,” she objected. She was in the boxer shorts and tee shirt she had been wearing for many days. And nights.
“So?” I had a strong suspicion that if I suggested a pair of jogging trousers, it could take another week.
It was August.
“Here,” I said, and gave her enough money to cover her train fare. “Just go.”
Amazed, Bink took the cash and left: first the tube for Liverpool Street; then the train for Norwich; and finally the little pay-train to Sheringham. She was with my parents in a few hours, with nothing but the couple of garments she stood up in, and the socks and plimsolls she always wore.
She had a wonderful time. Of course she did.
And ever since, has taken wicked delight in telling people that her mother is so nuts, so unbelievably irresponsible, that she once made Bink leave the house and travel several hours by public transport, in nothing but her underwear.
She rang late last night.
Very obviously, within seconds, more upbeat than I can remember. As last Sunday but more so. The word which comes to mind is engaged.
“So much to tell you,” she said, “for your blog. All the other patients...”
“Bink, I can’t write about other patients. Not without their permission.”
Which is a shame. The next twenty minutes, I told her, would make her fabulous first novel.
Eventually she reached an anecdote about a gruesome suicide attempt... and stopped just in time. All my family knows, unwelcome images can haunt me for years.
“Bink you sound so happy!”
“Well, I’ve been up since 11 am. Don’t laugh! I didn’t get to sleep till 4 and wouldn’t normally have got up at all, but my therapist got me out of bed.”
“Why couldn’t you sleep?”
“Erm... I had a couple of melt-downs the day before.”
“Yes, I was told you were found hiding, terrified, under the stairs and they hadn’t seen you like that before.”
“Yeah, well. I feel really bad, because there’s a patient trying to get her sleep sorted out and I was screaming so much she’s had to abandon her regime. But she was really sweet about it, and said it wasn’t my fault.”
From something she said to Shaun, we wonder if perhaps Bink measures high on the scale of ill, even in a hospital of ill people...
“Anyway,” she continued in her babbling stream of enthusiasm, “I’ve been doing things all day. Like, useful things. For me. Except for an hour when I was listening to a really depressed patient.” I refrained from saying that a kindness to someone else can be very good for our own mental health. Bink has a track record of going into hospital and helping the others.
Another detail which has given me hope for the future.
“Just think,” I said, “how good you’ll feel when you’re well enough to work.
“You can be fulfilled and satisfied… every day!”