Further prayer-email during Bink’s treatment in the Bethlem:
‘And what of Bink herself?
‘I knew something was up when I got a text message from her asking me to ring a landline. She was very precise. Not that day. Not the next.
‘The one after that.
‘She hasn't been able to use a normal telephone for as long as I can remember. Has she ever, in fact?’ [I’ve mentioned the time when she had to speak to a Cambridge Admissions Tutor from our borrowed house in Scotland, involving me in half a day’s cleaning of the handset and several days avoidance of the telephone myself.]
‘Not for years, as far as I recall.
‘In the early days of her illness, I could never understand why it was so impossible to rouse Bink by ringing home, if she was the only one in.
‘Serena gave her a mobile for Christmas two years ago, and it was five months before she was clean enough to take it out of the box...
‘Presumably it was going to take her two days to be ready for this momentous step.
‘Sure enough, when I rang at the appointed time, she came to the telephone. Actually picked up it up, and answered it. And used it, spoke down it, you know...
‘Imagine for a moment that your five year old picks up the car keys one day and successfully drives the car down the road to the garage. Or more to the point – because it is something you have dreamt of so long, though not consciously because you never believed could happen – your grown up paraplegic son gets out of his wheelchair and folds it up.
‘She told me her therapist had also made her touch a loo seat, and she was still around to tell the tale. This was one thing – having seen it done on The House of Obsessive Compulsives, the telly programme which told us of the treatment at the Bethlem – that she vowed she would never do, and still can’t quite believe she has.
‘She was allowed to wash her hands afterwards, though.
‘It’s good timing that she can use the payphone, because alas she has washed her mobile again.. This time possibly fatally.
‘I was surprised that they don't seem to watch more telly.
‘When Bink was in hospital last time, in the Florence Nightingale Unit, the tv was on all evening, every evening. All afternoon too. If they weren't in therapy, they were watching the box. It’s a shame they didn't watch more, really: it was a lot less damaging than the therapy. The only way to avoid being mesmerised by it was to take up smoking, which meant you were allowed outside. One of the many results of that particular stay – none of which was positive – was that Bink came out with an incurable addiction to The Simpsons. (You could hardly complain about the ciggies: smoking was almost the only sane thing you could do in there.)
‘But in the Acute Anxieties Unit of the Royal Bethlem, they don’t seem to watch telly at all.
‘The reason turns out to be beautifully simple.
‘“Someone washed the remote...”
‘On hearing this, Alex was very taken with the idea of a household full of people all with the same syndrome.
‘“How cool would that be,” he said, “to be in a house that is normal, but a different kind of normal.”
‘“Alex, it’s not normal,” I said. “The D in OCD stands for Disorder. They're ill. Asperger syndrome is different: thank goodness, they don’t yet shove Aspergic people in a nuthouse to ‘get better’...”
‘“Just think,” he continued, with a faraway light in his eyes.” (Warning: some readers may find this next sentence frightening or distressing.) “A whole house full of people thinking like me.”
‘(Actually, on unnecessarily honest reflection, he said, “A whole house full of spazzas thinking like me” – but I wanted to spare you Alex’s and Bink’s rather alarming levels of political incorrectness.)
‘“Like the Cambridge University Mathematics Department, you mean?”’