Forgive a brief change in direction. I can only revisit memories of that black hole, which so suddenly gaped beneath us, for so long without respite. It takes energy to fight off the destructive, dragging, dogging guilt.
Why blame myself? Why do I say, I made this decision or that, when God gave Bink two parents? That’s the point, isn’t it: two different parents.
Shaun is the sea on which the rest of us sail. He is there. He is calm... or occasionally not. He thinks slowly, deeply and very well. I react nimbly and confidently and not always correctly. I am the skipper in the little boat, making day-to-day decisions which determine our immediate direction. If I had said, “We take her home again, right now,” he never would have gainsaid me.
And that evening, I didn’t think quite quickly enough...
My mother taught me, repeatedly, never to regret. Never to say, If only. Never to lose the future to a helpless mourning of the past.
We have a hopeful future for Bink for the first time in many years.
So allow me, today, to go slightly further back to a happier history, and introduce you to Bink the little girl. Not to sadden us with What Might Have Been, but gladden us with What Will Still Be. She is still there, that wild child who brought us all such delight. True, her joyous soul is currently trapped inside a mad mind: the jealous faeries stole our beautiful Bink and left a crippled changeling in her place. But she is not gone: not at all. The real dinkum Bink is just biding her time, waiting to be released again like a bird into the sunshine.
Before that evil genetic mental infection, which we now know runs so devastatingly through the veins of my birth family, began eating Bink from the inside out – and certainly before the canker was visible – I can barely remember her without her impish grin. She was always plotting mischief.
You don’t want a three volume biography so I will restrict myself, by way of example, to one holiday in Ireland.
Bink was 9. Serena, Alexander and Benjamin were 11, 8 and 6.
It was raining and the children cooped up indoors, so I put a jar of flowers on the kitchen table, gave them each a sheet of paper and pencil and some paints, and announced a competition.
The others started drawing, meticulously and painstakingly.
Had Bink already started falling out of love with her pencils and brushes? Time had been, when she was six or seven, that she would arrange a still life – fruit in the shape of a face, say – and execute it with the passionate commitment she gave to everything.
An artist told us that a perfectionist child can eventually find the discrepancy between what she sees and what she can execute so frustrating it can lead to renunciation: a phase which successful artists work through.
“I’m not doing this rubbish,” she said dismissively that day, scribbling for a few scant seconds before getting down.
It was a valid entry, so it was presented along with the others to the unknowing judge.
Poor Serena, with her careful, conscientious petals and stamens, accurately and competently represented! Poor Alex and Ben, with their childish bright colours and hopeful splashes!
It hardly took Shaun longer to decide than it had taken Bink to draw. Her few slapdash lines had conjured up the glass bottle; the shape and movement of the sweet wild blossom; even the romantic atmosphere of the surroundings...
That was the holiday when we came home from the pub and told the children we wished we had taken them to hear the live guitarist and singer.
The next day, as we were walking through the village, Bink briefly disappeared. She was nine years old, I tell you.
We turned about, wondering where she’d gone, and saw her emerge from the pub.
“We’re performing tomorrow night,” she told her siblings.
What astonishes me (other than that I’d happened to strap their fiddles, ’cello and harp to the roof of the car) is how she marshalled them. There was no let up under Bink’s rule, practising all that day and the next. Shaun and I left them to it and went for a walk. On our return we could hear harmony and discord alike resounding through the valley, emanating from that little cottage like the argumentative spells flying through the windows in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty.
That night Shaun and I sat at the other end of the bar, pretending to know nothing while they played jigs and reels and folk tunes for hour after lively hour, paid in lemonade and chocolate bars.
An English couple sat down near us and we learnt they lived barely a mile away from us in Kensington.
“We weren’t planning on coming in,” they confessed, “but we heard these authentic Irish children, from the street, and couldn’t stay away.”
Sometime in the night Bink asked the landlord how long he wanted them to play.
“Ah my dear,” he replied, with his canny Irish charm, “I could listen to ye till marnin’.”