When we saw Bink on Sunday she gave me an article she had torn out and kept for me, from the previous week’s paper.
“I thought you might want this for your blog.”
It is worth reading in its entirety: the same bleat I have made a number of times. The appalling lack of any help whatsoever that passes for modern mental healthcare.
Bink had marked several passages for my attention. In particular she had circled a section in red, which ended:
It wasn’t enough. My referral was rejected on the basis that the teenager hadn’t yet tried to take her own life.
‘If she does make an attempt, then do call back,’ I was advised before the woman hung up.
(Precisely the reason Bink herself took an overdose at the age of 16.)
And underlined in black:
We know early intervention can reduce the impact mental illness has on people in years to come, so there is a good rationale for making sure everyone who really needs help gets it.
How much pain does this represent in just one person’s life? How many wasted years?
As it happens Bink also gave me back my novel, which she had kindly marked up with errors she had spotted in time for the final proof-read. The copy I’d given her had already been professionally, and very competently, proof-read.
Bink had spotted at least another hundred typos. And many more tiny quibbles of grammar and punctuation, about both of which I consider myself more than averagely fanatical. Several hundred corrections, to a novel ready for publication. I honestly don’t believe I have ever come across a mind so attuned to detail.
And still not worth the tax-payer’s while – apparently – to treat her any time over the last eighteen years.
“Bink,” I said, “you’ve got to become a barrister. You would be terrifying.”
“Hmm,” she said. “It would be against my conscience.”
One of the things to be said for life is that you can get wrong-footed by the most unlikely googlies. Who’d have thought Bink had one of those, eh?
“Though I wouldn’t mind taking on the large corporations.”
You read it here first. If you employ more than fifty thousand people, start ducking now.
Something in yesterday’s post jogged me. So many tucked away little voices of loss, you get used to the echoes and stop noticing.
Shaun’s brother was getting married in Pakistan. For us as guests, a one-off to last a life-time. Bill had been, for some years, working as a clergyman in Sharjah. The penny finally dropped with his Asian friends, and they faced the shocking fact that his own family back in the West was never going to arrange his marriage. And Bill himself couldn’t organise his socks into pairs. So his friends had referred him to a vicar in Lahore and asked him to find Bill a wife.
This was Billy’s arranged marriage. This white, Irish, Church of England clergyman’s wedding to a gorgeous Christian Pakistani vicar’s adopted daughter. They’d met once, I believe: to her bemusement, Bill insisted on her informed consent.
As so often before when the need arose, I went in search of an editor who would commission me to write about the trip, to pay for our flights. Once there, everything would be taken care of by our wonderfully hospitable new Pakistani in-laws.
A trip Thomas Cook could never pull off:
Taken for salwar-chemise fittings as soon as we touched down, in beautifully comfortable cotton, delivered the very next day; joining in searingly hot and delicious meals; washing up with the women under a cold tap; 16-year-old Alex being told at breakfast that – as the oldest unmarried male in the family – he was best man and he’d have to learn the rituals as he went along; following the crowds, none of whom seemed to have received a formal invitation, more and more joining in as we went along the streets; being unsure which day was the wedding itself, they were all so full of celebration; eating from vast vats of curry in an open courtyard; dancing under the stars.
Only one sad shadow casting its cold finger over the memories.
Serena, bless her generosity and big-heartedness, never once breathed a word of complaint, then or since. But she too had to miss out on so much, staying the other side of Lahore in an hotel, so Bink wouldn’t be completely alone. Neither of them sleeping with the rest of us, blanketed by the warm night, on the roof of our new family’s home. Bink must have asked, months beforehand, what she would use for a shower and loo.
No one in this culture, I thought, could afford to have OCD. You wouldn’t survive, would you? Presumably they would never have heard of such a thing…
But after we arrived the bride’s brother told me of a cousin with the same ailment. He couldn’t touch anything either. All cousins come together for such an event. We never heard any more about him.
Amidst all the proposals and offers we received for Serena’s hand, none was interested in Bink. No one took us aside on Bink’s account, and said, “I have a nephew studying to be a doctor. Please, let me show you his photograph…”
Could they not see how beautiful and clever Bink was too? They couldn’t even tell whether she was a girl or a boy – dressed as she was, as baggily as possible, with her hair all shorn off.
I like to hope there is an etiquette that you have to ask for the oldest first.
That’s one excuse the NHS couldn’t really use, isn’t it?