It was two days ago, when Bink told me why she quit.
Or, as she put it to the friends I’d just introduced her to (a clergywoman and a university lecturer: nice, respectable people, you know):
I’ve just absconded from rehab.
(I have to admit, that does sound quite... no, no: not cool at all. I didn’t mean that. At all. But it is quite an attention-grabber, isn’t it? Bink’s always been one for that.)
If you remember, the way we’d parked our relationship on Friday night was not sunny. Bink was annoyed with me, as she so often is, for urging her to make plans in order to make her life better.
(I’d also had to tell her some tough news, not suitable here.)
Ben had been brilliant, explaining so much better what I had bodged... and after a long conversation he said, if you want us to come over tomorrow, ring before the Rugby.
So, obv, I didn’t expect to hear from her for weeks. Cross with me as she was.
Next day, Saturday – minutes before the Rugby – Bink on the telephone.
Could I help?
(Confession: my heart skips a little when Bink says this. Not because I want to spend my dotage helping my adult children, not at all. But because if you see someone that low, you can’t help wanting to help her up.
Years ago, in London, a member of our church said, You’re the solver, Anne. In your family. Aren’t you?
I hadn’t thought of it before. But I supposed this was true. Not because I want to be. I want to be the writer, not the problem-solver. I’m impatient to get off the problem and back to my study. So, present me with a problem, I don’t play the sensible long game, like Shaun: listen patiently, hour after hour, nodding silently and exuding sympathy whilst no doubt thinking of the Rugby score and the crossword and next week’s sermon. All the while presenting as the lovely sympathetic priest and all.
No. I do that really irritating thing – exactly what I want any therapist or counsellor to do for me, which is why I so hate therapy or counselling – and offer a solution.
My life stinks, says Bink. Yes, I say, it does a bit. So get off your rear-end and do this and that and the other until it isn’t quite so putrid.
See how annoying it is?)
If I can, I say. Of course.
I’m in pain all the time, she says. Back-ache; jaw-ache. I need medication. I’ve come off the Lorazepam too fast. These symptoms are unbearable. Can you get hold of a doctor for me?
I can call in all the favours from all my doctor-friends... but have you tried Professor Veale’s far less dangerous solutions? Icepack on the head. Aromatic oils. Music.
He said that?
I wrote it all down in my diary at the time. Can I suggest my own? Go for a walk along the river.
I can’t ever rest, she said.
You know what, Bink. Maybe you’ve rested too much, this last decade. Maybe rest is the last thing you need. Maybe what you need is to get out, fresh air, exercise, work... and get dog-tired like the rest of us. Then you won’t have any difficulty resting. When you actually need rest.
Can you come and see me? (Just a twinge of disappointment, when she heard Ben and Shaun weren’t free: not me, she really wanted.)
Oh, and can you get me an appointment with a hairdresser? I haven’t been able to wash for a very long time.
And are you coming? Shall I try and clean my teeth while I wait for you? I haven’t been able to do that for a long time either. I couldn’t wash at all, in the treatment centre.
An hour and a half later, I had insured myself on Ben’s car, she’d had a shampoo for a fiver (first quote, £39.50, Toni & Guy) and I said, Come on then, we’re going out, along the river. (I’d brought Shaun’s fleece for her. It had to be a very dirty coat, or at least one which could go in the wash afterwards, because she’s in Dirty Mode. In DM, she contaminates everything. In CM, everything contaminates her. And no, that’s right, of course you can’t. Win. That’s why she’s mad.)
You remember that thing we all used to do, when we were younger? Before everyone had mobiles and students locked their doors and all security was in decaduplicate? When we used to drop in on each other, unannounced? Like, just call round.
That’s what we’re going to do, I said.
Wondering as I did so, whether it was the worst breach of modern etiquette short of texting during a Royal Wedding.
And all the way along the river we discussed all the things I’ve been trying to discuss with Bink for months, stressing her every telephone call. But this time it wasn’t stressful at all because we were walking along the river and it was organic and she led a lot of the conversation.
(Memo to self. Bink is like Alex. Never, never, ever attempt to have a conversation with either of them, over the telephone, any more profound than: Alex, how do we get the internet going again? Or Bink, um, hello.)
And they were in! My friends Helen and James were in. I could see they were in because I could see their seven-year-old through the window, playing the piano.
But of course, this being the twenty-first C, after we’d rung and knocked at the door half a dozen times I had to ring Helen anyway, and say, We’re at your door.
And she went ooh! and they welcomed us and put on the kettle and I said Helen this is Bink and James this is Bink and Bink this is Helen and James, and James said, as you do, Hello Bink. What are you doing with your life? (Or some such.)
And Bink said. As you do.
I just absconded from rehab.