The following Thursday morning, 26th January, I was broadcasting Thought for the Day from the BBC studio in Cambridge.
I offered to call on Bink (now back in college) for breakfast afterwards. The previous week I’d breakfasted with Ben, so it was Bink’s turn. We arranged to meet as soon after 8 o’clock as I could get there.
Throughout the Christmas holidays Bink had kept saying she needed a psychiatrist. She had even rang someone in America, whom she’d met once on college High Table, because she was married to some top shrink.
I thought she needed one like a hole in the head, myself. Psychologist Professor Paul Salkovskis’s approach sounded much safer, healthier and more likely of effecting healing than any psychiatry I’d ever come across. But, unless she is clearly having an off-her-head episode, I prefer to believe Bink knows what is best for her, and try to help in whatever way she believes in.
If I had stopped to think for five minutes – instead of rushing around finding solutions – I might have asked myself why she wanted someone whose speciality is chemicals, brains, and the effect of the one on the other…
But then we all might ask ourselves all sorts of things. Had we but world enough and time.
Instead of having the tiny studio to myself as usual that morning, I found myself sharing it with an academic psychiatrist doing the item after mine.
I stayed to listen.
And then stayed to talk.
Yes, she happened to know the best psychiatrist in the country (in her view) for OCD. Yes, of course she would put me in touch.
So I was a few minutes later for Bink than usual. It didn’t matter. We were still in plenty of time for college breakfast.
Smoked salmon. Buttery scrambled egg. Luke warm tea. Thank you, Bink.
At nine o’clock she had a meeting with her Director of Studies.
I rose to go.
Don’t, she said. I’ll only be half an hour. Wait for me.
I am not a patient person. Doing nothing for half an hour, used to be (before I learnt to waste my life, with Bink’s illness and other aggravations) unbearable agony for me. It still doesn’t sit easily...
Unless I have a book.
Suppose I’d left my book in my overnight bag? Suppose the car had been too far away to fetch it?
Suppose I’d decided it was silly to stay? That I needed to get back home, to my desk, to my poor abandoned writing, stranded with the driftwood of Bink’s madness so many years ago...
I sat reading in the college bar till half past, then went to meet her out of her DoS’s room.
Coffee? I said, as we walked round Henry VI’s gracious courtyard, his fountain sprinkling the winter sunlight.
She nodded and burst into tears.
Oh, if only I had asked you to come with me! She cried and cried. Surely he wouldn’t have treated me like that, if you’d been there?
Tell me, I said when we had our coffees and were sitting by the window, overlooking the lawn and Chapel.
I have to be out by Sunday...