“I like the name Robin.”
Thing is, when I talk to Bink these days, she sounds almost completely sane. Which is, actually, very good news indeed. Because if she sounds sane, she probably is... in that moment, anyway.
And then I remember her utter misery on the morning of Christmas Day: nothing in her life to live for; longing only for the darkness of death; not having that to fall back on so staying under the duvet for as much of life as possible, the closest to such oblivion she can find.
And then I think, perhaps all Bink can do is the same as all the rest of us can do: plough on, with discipline and perseverance and as many cups of tea as it takes, to shift the balance from desperate to joyous moments – with all the bearable moments filling the sandwich in-between – so the latter outweigh the former just enough for there to be sunshine and birdsong to get up for.
I thought of another possible significance, when I was writing to the therapist about it.
At exactly the age Bink got ill, she very much wanted to be a boy. I did too, as it happens. (No, not when Bink was that age: don’t be silly…)
I was brought up in a school which educated one of the best-known choirs in the world. My friends, golden heroes of romance and privilege, blonde heads tall above me. thwacking sixes over the boundary in the sun, many of them going on to become world-class musicians.
Unthought of that girls could be so revered. Not even allowed to wield the willow, let alone sing.
It’s not rocket science, is it?
Bink, too, fought for recognition in a school still favouring the males: the only girl in the cricket and football teams.
We have agreed, she and I, that we both would have opted for transition if it had been available, we were that serious about it. And have thanked God that it wasn’t.
One of the corrections Bink made when proof-reading my book was to the spelling of a minor policewomen. “Always spelt with a ‘y’ for a women,” she said. “Well, except by me.”
“I’ve always like the name Robin. I thought at the time, What a shame that he” (her abusive therapist) “spoilt it.”
Never actually said so at the time, though, did you Bink? Never wanted to be called Robin, as far as I know, until several Robins had done you quite a lot of damage and you were very seriously ill.
Of course Robin is a lovely name.
I know several Robins, and like them all.
I have a cousin Robin, who came with his wife (my blood cousin) to visit my father the other day – as the world and his wife have been doing since I rather rashly told several hundred family members and ex-pupils that they might not have long to say goodbye – which reminded me that this particular Robin is one of my favourite people.
Since Christmas I’ve discovered another cousin Robin, living in Germany, who – without having met me (or even spoken or written to me: his wife reads this blog, and made contact) – has just bought me a book. Can’t get much better than that, for a writer, can you? Yes, indeed you can. The book is secretly hollowed out, which is pretty darn cool.
And inside the hollow are two bottles of whisky! And the book is called Writer’s Tears.
It totally wouldn’t be possible to like any Robin more than that, would it?
(I even received a lovely email a couple of days ago from a vicar I know called Robin, who had liked my most recent Thought for the Day.)
I’ve mentioned the robin that visits our bird-table. A few years ago the Today Programme discovered the robin is the nation’s favourite bird. (Cutting edge investigative journalism for you. They’ll be covering war zones next.)
Everyone likes robins.
The fact that I’ve illustrated the loveliness of the name by telling you of several Robins I’m fond of proves the point though, doesn’t it?
Nicola is a thin name. I pretend that this is because of the i and c sound, but it isn’t really: it’s because Nicola was tall and boney and came top of every exam we ever sat. (I bumped into her when speaking at a Christian conference decades afterwards, and she admitted with breezy honesty that it was the last time she ever came top of anything. Peaked in the fourth form. There’s a lesson in there somewhere about not taking your French vocab and capital cities too much to heart.)
Bettina is a short stubby name with curly red-blonde hair. Who picks her nose and wipes it under the bed. (I thought it disgusting aged six, but she assured me that no one would ever know.)
You can play this game at home.
Peter: son of our cleaner, who nicked everything. Crispin: tall, dark and utterly drop-dead gorgeous; chic and trailblazing to the last, he introduced us all to muesli and was my first friend to die of AIDS.
It’s how names work.
Anyways, as I say, Bink was sounding on pretty good form.
“What do you want to be called?”
“I really don’t care. I wished, immediately afterwards, I’d asked to be called Majesty.”
“I could do Majesty. Majesty would be fun. Is it too late to change?”
“Can’t do this, though. Sorry, Bink.”
“You mean, you can’t call me Robin?”
“No. I mean, I can’t engage with anyone who does.”
We all have our lines in the sand.
Bink’s therapist wouldn’t let her take bread-and-butter into the session. It was gone four in the afternoon and she hadn’t yet had breakfast, so I pinched some from the canteen. We had to start a couple of minutes late.
That’s ok: I respect that. No food in the classroom.
I have mine, too. I don’t do meetings in which Bink is going to be Robined all over the place. (Haven’t been invited to any since this business started, but just flagging up.)
My bread-and-butter in the sand. Reminiscent of all the picnics my parents ever organised. Not pleasant even then.
Which in turn means I’m very much hoping and praying she really doesn’t mind. Because if she comes out of the Priory full of beans and exuberance, as of course we hope she will; and starts making friends like a normal person, as has been my prayer (and that of many others) for many years; and invites all her mates home, as we love our children to do...
And they’re Robining her over breakfast…
Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
I suspect you’re as sick of names as I am now, so tomorrow we will revert to Shaun’s life-stopping letter in the snows of 2009. There is lovely snow now, all over our garden and the roofs.
I wonder whether that will bring my little robin back?