Late January 2002
Bink was home again.
Except she wasn’t.
This wasn’t the Bink we knew. She went into the Florence Nightingale Unit with OCD. She came out unrecognisable. Feral. Insane.
For one thing, she was now on highly addictive medication. That this was doing her no good was evidenced by the fact that she was so very, very much more ill than she’d gone in. I’ve always estimated, by a factor of about ten.
For another, she was now understandably terrified of treatment. Even if we could find something appropriate for her condition, she didn’t want to have anything to do with hospitals or doctors ever again.
Thirdly she had now dropped – or rather been forceably yanked – out of school. She had no structure, nothing to do, and no reason to get out of bed any more.
“She must have an activity,” Dr Ratched had said. “A job in a shop, or something.” Three months earlier Bink had been half a term into A-level maths, further maths, physics and English at one of the most academically rigorous schools in the country. Was her education now over? Could she have no higher ambition than this?
It soon transpired that getting out of bed before noon was an ambition considerably higher than she could now achieve.
And her school didn’t want her back, after what the Unit had done to her.
More pressing than any of this, she was angry. Very angry indeed. Young as she was, she knew Robin had treated her appallingly. She wanted an explanation.
Robin operated from (and perhaps owned) a smart clinic in Sloane Square.
Shaun had given Bink a hat of his, presumably for the winter. Bink has always been petite: five foot three, seven stone. Since the Unit, she wore large clothes. I see her still, diminutive figure, large man’s coat, jogging trousers, all topped with the black beanie she now wore all the time, setting off with Binkish determination from our Vicarage in Parson’s Green, headed for Sloane Square. We tried to stop her a number of times. But, unlike the Florence Nightingale, we didn’t lock her in.
The crunch came during a working breakfast for a preaching group of fellow clergy. Earnest muscular Christians, good friends, getting to grips with the Book of Romans or whatever, over bacon and eggs at our large Vicarage kitchen table.
I don’t know whether you’ve ever attended, or indeed run, a smart counselling-cum-therapy surgery in Sloane Square. Even if you haven’t, you can probably imagine that one of the items you might not put at the top of your wish-list-business-plan, as a ploy for enhancing custom, would be an obsessive fruitcake, dressed like a tramp, camping out on your smart Sloane Square steps, day in day out and all day long, frightening the horses. And all the other patients going in and out.
Whether or not it was topped by a black beanie hat. It probably wasn’t the deciding factor, to be honest, but I don’t think the beanie helped.
Now it was Robin on the line, interrupting the working breakfast. I usually answer the telephone in our house, but for some reason Shaun had taken the call.
After ten minutes, he gave me a summary.
Robin was advising sectioning.
Every so often, in telling this tale, I have to break off to deal with my own anger. I had thought it all long gone, swallowed up in sorrow.
Sectioning is, obviously, an extremely grave infringement of anyone’s freedom: essentially, putting an innocent person behind bars, without trial, to prevent loss of life or serious harm. The one and only criterion, as I understand it, being threat to one’s own or someone else’s safety.
Never have I heard, read or seen anywhere discussed in the press the following additional criteria: that someone is threatening the reputation of your smart counselling business in Sloane Square; that you feel a bit freaked out; that you don’t like her sitting on your doorstep.
It also stands to reason sectioning is likely to have far-reaching implications: not just the immediate loss of freedom, but loss of possible future freedoms such as callings to the Church or the Armed Forces... not to mention working with children, the one consistent ambition Bink has had.
“Over. My. Dead. Body.”
I may have thought, but didn’t say, go to the frigging cops and get a harassment order, like a grown up.
“I’ll take that as a no, then, shall I?” Shaun asked tentatively.
The really frightening thing is how easy it could have been. If I hadn’t resisted, Robin could have picked up the telephone to Dr Ratched and Bink could have been banged up before anyone had even had time to think, “Human Rights.” Given the damage done to her by three months’ supposedly voluntary incarceration, I don’t even want to imagine what that might have done to the rest of her life.
Bink wasn’t then and never has been sectioned. Presumably eventually Robin had to man up.
Though Bink still believes, all these years later, that he should be prosecuted, sued or at the very least reported to the apppropriate regulatory body for what he did to her.
Perhaps now is the time to do it.