Saturday, 19 December 2009

Christmas is coming

Christmas is coming and Jean is getting fat. I've been enjoying going out for Christmas meals, and sod the diet.

It's snowing today. Brrr!! But I'm happily ensconed in front of the fire, making occasional trips to the window to enjoy the sight of it. It does look nice, I must admit. I could quite enjoy snow if it wasn't cold and wet and prone to turn to slippery ice.

Well, I've at last got all my cards sent and presents wrapped. Very few people are getting presents from me this year because I've made a donation instead to a children's hospice. I think now I've got everything done that needed doing today, I've no excuse but to get on with some writing. I wonder why I've started to put writing at the bottom of my list of priorities. Once I start writing, it's usually OK, but somehow it takes me a lot of time and effort to clear the decks and make a start on the writing.

If anyone happens to be reading this, HAPPY CHRISTMAS, AND BEST WISHES FOR THE NEW YEAR 2010.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Forty years on

Today I went back to the deteriorating former mental institution where I spent some time as a patient forty years ago. This picture shows that they cleaned up the stonework about a year ago, but not the clock tower. It still has an eerily, Gothic appearance to me.

As mentioned in an earlier blog posting, I did go back there recently to be filmed in the grounds for a documentary which goes out on BBC4 in the New Year and is to be used by the Open University. This documentary has been given the (purposely provocative) title of 'Mental: A History of the Madhouse'.

The filming today, however, was for another (unrelated) BBC documentary, one which will be shown on the Yorkshire and Lincolnshire Inside Out programme, and this time we actually went inside the building.

The West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum (as it used to be called until the name changed to High Royds Hospital) was once a magnificent building (from an architectural standpoint) with intricate mosaic floors, stained glass windows and elaborate archways. It is now in a dismal state of disrepair. At first we were told we wouldn't be allowed to go inside without wearing tin hats (health and safety rules) and boots, but this was later waived. I met up with reporter Charlotte Leeming, two camera men, and a site construction official who let us in.

With a camera man in front of us, Charlotte and I wandered along freezing cold, dim corridors with peeling walls and muddy water on the floor, while I reminisced about this place in the late-sixties and early-seventies. I remembered seeing institutionalised long-stay inmates shuffling along these corridors, some chuntering to themselves, and looking dejected. I was a teenager then, who felt I'd somehow strayed into a different world.

We went into the ballroom. Yes, among the labyrinth of corridors in this house of horrors, there had been a huge and grandiose ballroom. My mind travelled back to the teenage me at a Christmas dance there, and I could picture again the sad-eyed patients in paper hats doing a largactil shuffle around the floor to the sound of a band playing 'White Christmas'. It seemed strange to be there inside that same place forty years on, and the memories were so vivid.

Look back, accept, and then let go. Time to move on.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Damn it!!!

It all started when a magazine editor contacted me to ask if I could email a photo of myself. This was to go with an article I'd written ages ago and had almost forgotten about. Of course she needed it straight away. I hadn't got a suitable one. Husband to the rescue with his digital camera. 'It'll be best taking it outside to get more light,' he said. So out we went.

I closed the front door after us, not realising that when Ian opened it, he'd left the key on the inside. Closing the door locked us out! I'd gone outside with no coat and wearing a thin T-shirt and flip-flop slippers, as I'd expected to be only a few seconds. It was a freezing cold day.

After a heated squabble on the doorstep about whose fault it was that we were locked out, we decided we'd be best channelling our energy into thinking about what to do. We wandered around the house and decided it was burglar-proof. Meanwhile, I was slowly freezing to death. Ian, too, was only wearing a T-shirt, but he belongs to the strange species who go out jogging like that in all weathers, so I figured it was worse for me.

Our neighbours are usually out at work during the day, so what a relief it was to see our neighbour's car. It turned out she was off work sick. A few months ago she would have had our spare key for the back door, but we'd lent it to a workman who had fitted our new kitchen, and never given it back to her. Anyway, we rang a locksmith from her house, who arrived about an hour later.

The locksmith couldn't open our front door, so he had to drill into our back door and then fit a new lock. This cost us £132. Damn it!!!