We were going to be celebrating our wedding anniversary today, as it happens, because yet again Shaun is due to be spending the actual day itself, next week, in a ditch with a bunch of cadets from CCF.
Happens most years.
Not sure we will have the energy, to be honest.
Yesterday, around five thirty, I just back from a meeting in London and Shaun just wrapping one up at home. Rose and Ben coming back from the airport with Rose’s French exchange.
Serena on the telephone. A lot of screaming in the background. Well, Serena has a mini-Viking and a psychopathic dog so, you know...
Bink is in Addenbrooke’s, she said. They are trying to evict her. That’s her screaming now.
Get in the car, I say to Shaun. We have done this so often before.
So often, I can’t count.
So often, it has become the most boring thing in our lives.
At least I manage to grab the tea I’ve just poured myself. But don’t think to bring a telephone charger. Which turns out to be a nuisance, an hour or two later: there will be many calls to make.
Just before driving off, to one of the people from Shaun’s meeting, just breaking up: please could you go back in the house, find my father’s carer and tell her? Make sure she’s in? If not, lock up: we have a key.
Who is the first person to ring?
Number one. Serena, to find out what she knows. Security evicting her. No idea why. But now I’ve managed to speak to a doctor with a brain, who has seen her and stopped them. Try this name, she says.
Number two. Who is the most competent person we know in Cambridge, who could get there immediately? Shaun mentions a clergyman. Serena, an ex-boyfriend, a solicitor: I’m not sure what they’re doing is legal, she says.
I try both. Neither answering.
Number three. Try the hospital. The automated service mis-hears the doctor’s name and offers me the Chaplaincy. Good idea.
By the time I have spoken to the ward sister; our solicitor friend (baby at home, sorry); Ben; Rose; my father’s carer; the person we were supposed to be meeting up with for the evening; Serena several more times; my father (can’t hear me); the person we left locking up our house; anyone else we might be letting down for the evening; the editor I was supposed to be writing a piece for; (and someone completely inconsequential I had a previous telephone appointment with, to tell him I couldn’t talk;) – many of them simultaneously on both my telephone and Shaun’s – I had very little battery left.
But at least the ward sister had promised that they wouldn’t a) evict or b) medicate her before we got there.
Hour after hour after hour.
Turns out she’s been wanting to see a psychiatrist since April. Instead of asking me – I would have taken her to Professor Veale; surely she knows that? – she asked friends instead.
There is nothing for her.
She isn’t about to kill herself. She isn’t drunk. She doesn’t have any physical symptoms, like a broken leg. She could, I offer to the lovely young Chinese doctor, jump out of a window and break it, so you could keep her safe overnight.
(I say she isn’t about to kill herself. Turns out she has heroin amongst her self-medicating stash, in case she ever needs to.)
Eventually we see the head of A&E.
(How did you manage that? Bink asks afterwards. To see the man in charge. For goodness’ sake, Bink. Don’t you learn anything?)
He spends a long time with us. Several times.
You wouldn’t believe, I said, how non-existent mental health services are. There is nothing, nothing, NOTHING.
I know, he says.
I’ve seen it so many times before.
It is truly shocking.
I am so sorry.
She won’t take the medication he offers her, which is so much less damaging than what she has been using.
I haven’t even the energy to be angry. With her. With the non-existent system. With the too-kind friends she is living with who have allowed this to happen.
Someone in her prayer group has just emailed me. I didn’t even know, she lost a child. A year ago today, newborn.
“This week is the anniversary of the death of our child. It strikes me that you have lost Bink so many more times than just the once.”.