That October, improved as she was by her treatment at the Bethlem Hospital (albeit not enough of it) Bink started at Cambridge University.
I felt so guilty that she hadn’t got into her college of choice – that she had funked her interview because she lost her medication; that she lost her medication because we were homeless; that we were homeless because Shaun and I had been so gullible in believing that a church and a vicar we had known so long would keep their promises – that I spent half the summer shopping for accessories to beautify her room. And half a week helping her settle in, and arranging them.
Throws and cushions, pictures and a clock, mugs and teapots. In co-ordinating blues and greys.
Her college had given her two rooms, because she still couldn’t share her bathroom with anyone else, which meant that she alone of all the students had both a sitting room and a bedroom. Which was presumably why I bought throws and cushions, to turn the second bed into a sofa.
Yet again as if I needed it, I am reminded how disability discriminates against all the others in the family. I didn’t spend a week helping Serena move in, when she had started a Cambridge a few years earlier, did I? I never bought her cushions and a throw for her room.
Nor Alex, come to think of it.
I was probably up to my eyes helping Bink with something else at the time...
I even bought her a piano, for a joke.
Ok, I realise this sounds a bit OTT. Put like that. It honestly did seem perfectly reasonable. At the time.
“Do you want us to bring a piano? Given that you’ve got two rooms?” (We had two pianos. We’d been given our upright for £25. When all four of them were doing piano practice straight after school it was handy to have two.)
“No,” Bink said. “There isn’t room.”
So I found a compact piano on eBay. Going for the proverbial song. So small it fitted in the car. An estate car. Boot of. Just.
And turned up with it. And put it in her room when she was out. With Alex’s help. And a few other blokes I grabbed because they were hanging around, as students do, looking as if they needed to help lift a solid iron-framed piano.
Like I said. For a joke.
Well I laughed a lot, anyway…
Now, come on: whatever the rest of the family still says, the only thing wrong with that piano, apart from that it was the sort you’d sell on eBay for a song, was that it only had three octaves.
Bits of Bach, lovely. If you’re not too particular on tuning.
Rachmaninov? Hmm. Bits missing.
Still, as I say, I laughed.
Because Bink was at a modern college, with modern security; and because she had a room on the ground floor, looking onto the garden; and because Bink seldom has a telephone clean enough to touch, so the porters couldn’t easily ring and ask her to verify a visitor... Because of all these things, Alex and Serena both found it far quicker and simpler to visit Bink through her window rather than bother with all the palaver of going round through the Porters’ Lodge. I even did it once or twice myself.
Which meant that sometimes one would be sitting in Bink’s room, or presumably she might be asleep in bed, and a great thump would appear from nowhere, as Alex dropped on to the floor like an extremely incompetently-noisy burglar.
Probably not quite the intended purpose of all that security at the Porters’ Lodge.
And although in truth she was still far too ill to have shared a bathroom, and every time I visited there was piles of washing up because despite her twelve weeks in the Bethlem she didn’t know how to do it, and the fact that she was still extremely vulnerable as was to be rather shockingly demonstrated before the year’s end, Bink seemed so much better to us, who had seen her so much worse, that it was almost as if she was living a normal undergraduate life.