Thursday 26th January 2012
By the time I had soothed Bink’s fears enough for her to find the chaplain’s room, via a circuitous route along the river because that was the only way she knew, we had missed his visitor.
He gave us tea while we sat with Bink’s tears. He offered her cupcakes from a deep tin, left over from some student gathering the afternoon before.
If he had any opinion about the recent interview with the Director of Studies, or Bink’s version of it, he was far too professional to show it.
Bink, he asked her gently, if you don’t degrade, have you planned how you’re going to cope with the work? If you didn’t manage any last term? How will this one be any different?
With respect, I believe that’s the wrong question. I suddenly saw it clearly.
There are two issues here. Bink’s study. And Bink’s health. I can quite see that it might – possibly – be better for her academic work if she were to degrade now. If she hasn’t done any work at all, this academic year.
(And I could certainly see, though I didn’t say this, that it might be better for the college’s academic record.)
She might indeed come back next year and start her second year again, with a better chance of completing assignments.
(Or she might never come back at all…)
But for her health, her well-being, her spirit… I believe she wants to stay, I said. For the moment anyway. And that is far more important than her degree.
The chaplain graciously inclined his head. How could he object, pastor that he was?
Do you, Bink? Do you want to stay? What do you want?
I want to finish the essay I’ve started.
Then that is what you will bloody well do!
But... she was terrified. What about being out by Sunday?
She could never be out by Sunday. Even if she had wanted to degrade. She couldn’t have done it by Sunday.
Suppose the Porters move my things?
Bink, the Porters will not touch your belongings. I sincerely hoped I was right. You will not think about moving or packing until you have finished your essay.
But what about...?
Forget your DoS.
I had never been more sure of anything in my life.
The chaplain discreetly inclined his ears the other way.
He cannot evict you by Sunday. He can’t make you degrade if you don’t want to. He can’t expect you to leave before you’re ready. You have a disability.
And if you want to write an essay, then don’t give any thought to packing up your room or leaving or what you will do after your essay.
Just do that one thing.
I think now, years later, how very nearly I didn’t stay for that half hour, while Bink was seeing her DoS. How I might not have been there for her, when she came out in tears.
How different the outcome might have been.
How different so many things might have been in Bink’s life.
If I’d taken the beach path, not the clifftop one, she said to me years later.
If I hadn’t let her go into hospital at the age of sixteen.
So many. So much...
Bink soon forgot that breakfast and the hour or two after it. She didn’t remember my intervention.
Only Helen’s, her psychologist’s.
It doesn’t matter, does it? Who scores the goal… Or indeed lets it through. What matters is the team. Whose side you’re on, when the score is announced.
Besides, I won’t forget that morning.
Thank you, Bink, for involving me in your life.
(I was woken by a text at one o’clock this morning.
Sorry I didnt wish you a happy mothering sunday or come to the lunch. Everything's really difficult at the moment. I hope you had a lovely Mothering Sunday. Sorry I didnt get you anything.
When you are a mother the simplest things can make you cry…
Or laugh, actually. A few minutes later I received a rather different one from Rose:
yes sorry I didn’t have time [to buy chocolates for her hostess] it's ok ill send a peng thank you card to make up for it yes the party was really fun thank you)