Friday 17th April. The Coronet Diaries.

JEM CROW Jardin des Tuileries (Photo John Haynes)

So they canoniz’d him by the name of Jem Crow ! (The Jackdaw of Rheims: Richard Harris Barham.)

I had no idea this was such an ugly poem and maybe Browning read it before he wrote The Pied Piper. However, the reason for my quoting it here is because in my last book I nicknamed myself a Magpie. I think of myself as a professional magpie, my self-appointed nickname. (The magpie and the Jackdaw are both varieties of crow.) Rather than repeat I will quote directly:

 I am not taken with magpies but sometimes I feel like one in the sense that I am privileged to receive and even to collect all sorts of glittering and precious gems of random and sometimes unconscious knowledge as I listen to so many patterns and varieties of human nature and intention every day. It occurs that magpies steal, whereas I most commonly receive, although I do a bit like magpies collect the bricolageof other people’s intelligences.  Such extraordinary and variegated pieces of information, whether they are jokes, dreams, misused pronouns, or the casual name of an artist, book, film or exhibit, let alone the unsolicited photographs of a Carnac landscape of primeval stones, have led me towards the unconscious.

(If I Chance to Talk a Little Wild Quartet Books 2018)

Yes, and especially during these ‘unprecedented times’ I am continuing to receive glitters of information, while remembering all that glitters is not gold. Yesterday’s jewel which came not far from the horses’s mouth, albeit not sure who is driving the chariot …While we are able to test accurately for the presence of COVID we are still months off in the UK of having an authentic scientifically sound test for anti-bodies in the required quantity. Almost all of the ones on sale at scandalous prices are unreliable.

To return to ‘Today’. I am on holiday today, properly, without a Zoom sounding until Sunday afternoon. I was meant to have been on holiday all week but it didn’t work out that way. The privilege of still being able to work and linked intimately to so many people is not quantifiable: it is a great privilege. This morning I have done Yoga at dawn, hoovered the living room floor, except I don’t know how to change the hoover bag, another PhD seems to be required. John will have to remonstrate with it; if he can be persuaded away from his easel. I have bathed, and most importantly of all we have changed the duvet cover. Yes, laundering took place on Tuesday as scheduled but we still balk at returning cover to duvet, albeit today we found it almost effortless. I need to mention my duvet antics because they are constantly referred to in the diary and there have been interesting consequences. I will return to them, but first I need to make a small confession.

My confession is that we do not do our own ironing! The thought of battling with Caesar sized linen would require an anti-depressant, The thought of sheets that had not been ironed, another. We have one leakage in our lockdown that our much loved house-keeper and Nanny to Zac who has worked with and for us for over twenty years, dearest Eileen, sneaks in every Saturday where she is confined to solitary confinement in what used to be my ‘home’ consulting room but has since COVID been requisitioned as a children’s playroom, while she irons. The ironing is then left to air for twenty-four hours. Eileen arrives with her dog, Bruno, who is as confused as Zac was as to why he is no longer allowed to roam with Dido downstairs.

Bruno is depressed

Eileen is a sprightly 70 year old who loves company. She says if they extend the lockdown she will insist that she is sixty. Talking of Dido, she is displaying more anxiety than we are except when she is asleep. She insists that I keep my door open while I am Zooming so that she can come in. And out. Most of the time she lies on her sheepskin beside my feet soaking up the anxiety in so many of the dialogues. I don’t think I am projecting or being anthropomorphic. Anyone who has an intelligent type of dog will know how affected they can become by human emotions.

Dido in recovery mode

It is no secret that my bed making has become something of a preoccupation to say the least. It has also provoked an important issue about the ‘clinical’ consequences when a psychotherapist takes to writing a public diary during ‘unprecedented times’. I will leave it for tomorrow to talk more about the ethics of writing about ‘patients’ and my own attitude which has – in more conservative quarters and organisations – led to me being accused of heresy. Today, I want to report a moving narrative episode that happened on Monday. Was Monday really Easter Monday, it seems ages ago.

I have already referred to the fact that my daughter Tanya and I are both therapists who in better times used to share premises in Marylebone. She is now locked down with Daniel and Portia and Dan’s girlfriend Alanna in Hove. To our surprise neither of us have ever been busier. We both find that working online is more challenging and that is a topic for another day, more of an essay as warned.

We are usually too exhausted to speak to each other in the evenings. Sometimes, we manage a 7AM call but inevitably that is consumed by our discussing clinical issues. We also share several patients who may see Tanya as a couple or with their children and consult with me individually. Anything personal gets squeezed into parenthesis. The only person in my family who reads my blog regularly is John. He is censor and editor too. I am used to my family not reading what I write but I did ask Tanya to find the time to read the diary. She managed this over the weekend. On Tuesday morning she happened to ask why my diary had taken a darker turn. Or to be more precise my personal voice. I replied I thought it had been quite witty. However, it is true I did wake up on Monday with a heavier heart…

To my consternation the first person I Zoomed on Wednesday morning – who is someone who has been consulting with me for over ten years – he knows me well. He is, having had challenging parenting, a ‘gifted child’ at picking up other people’s emotions or their absence. He was looking well as he emerged through the cameras. He happens to prefer Zooming from the bathroom where he has most privacy and from where I can share the bucolic view. To my consternation he began our conversation by saying, ‘Jane I have concerns about you.’ ‘Concerns why? I am feeling pleased to be seeing you this morning and you look in good spirit.‘ ‘I am concerned about your blog which took on uncharacteristically dark tones yesterday.’ Having had the earlier conversation with Tanya, I was conflicted as to what to say but I decided in the instant not to reveal myself by a confirmation but rather to explore further. Also I knew that he had pressing issues that we needed to spend our time focussing on: ‘Can you say any more ?’ ‘Yes, I can. You were writing about your bed and how you are becoming superstitious. You started talking about the four corners needing to be precise. You referred to magical thinking. I know these are not things you normally give much credence to. You specifically do not like superstitions to take hold of people’s psyches. It worried me.’ I was still battling with whether or not to disclose to him that he had hit a psychic bull’s eye. I did not but moved the conversation on to explore the fact that he had needed to write an email in the middle of the night. Yes, I shifted the focus as we therapists are wont and need to do.

Yet, I know that if I do not affirm him in his hypothesis I am, by maintaining an inscrutability, or the prescribed blank screen, stealing something precious. The fact that he also has intuition and can accurately interpret something subtle and be right. And sensitive. (Curious too!) I know him, but he ‘knows’ me even if he doesn’t have access to what I choose to keep private. Private, because although I don’t want to be inscrutable, I do want to choose what I reveal, or share and what remains personal.

I am going to send him an email now and recommend he reads today’s diary. Needless to say the majority of people consulting are are not aware of the existence of my compulsive daily jottings. But others are. And some are even happy to be identified.

By extraordinary serendipity I went into my emails just now to find this message about anti-body testing kits from a supplier I had approached who I understand did obtain their kits or ingredients from ‘Europe’ and who were only supplying limited companies, or healthcare organisations:

  • SUMMARY OF THE ISSUE:

There is a global shortage for one of the key components in our testing kits, which will cause a delay to us fulfilling your order/enquiry.  This is because governments all around the world are starting to utilise rapid testing as part of their screening protocols.  This is a global issue, and other rapid test manufacturers are all in the same position.  We are doing all we can to get production back up and running along with supply. 

We became aware of this issue late yesterday, and are passing this informing on to you right away.  We will continue to keep you updated as soon as we can as we understand the importance of these kits. 

  • What mitigating actions are being undertaken 
  • What is the latest view of manufacturing recommencement and delivery: 
  • Approx. 5-6 Weeks Due to sheer demand and availability we are however doing our best to improve on this.

A very important and moving cultural event is happening this afternoon at 5PM curated by the National Youth Orchestra: Young Musicians of the UK invite the world to a massed performance of Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’:

https://www.classicfm.com/artists/national-youth-orchestra-great-britain/mass-virtual-performance-beethoven-ode-to-joy

Dr Michael Gill, Former Regional Director for Public Health for South East England, also a neighbour, has written an important document in the BMJ:

Mike Gill: Whitehall has locked down its own capacity for flexible thinking 
‘She’ or ‘Rapunzel’ is not Zooming , or baking croissants but playing Ode to Joy at 5PM this afternoon from her tower.
Photo by courtesy and permission of ‘Rapunzel’

2 thoughts on “Friday 17th April. The Coronet Diaries.

  1. Dear Jane,

    Writers block?! Or perhaps that was yesterday’s diary entry- but you seem to be in full flow. Associations and thoughts following from the physical, from the broom out on the patio to the pen (and heresy mentioned too). If I can push the image a little further along, I’d say you seem to be stirring the cauldron with more vigour, and more wisdom. What I mean is, as a reader of your blog, I am hearing you weave more strands together, and letting other themes join the chorus, so it feels more multi-layered today.

    I would enjoy talking more, at a later point perhaps, about that moment where your patient strikes the psychic bullseye, and your honesty about ‘moving the conversation along’, back to him, as we ‘therapists are want to do’. It seems the recalling of it in the blog today- that he will later read- is as you say an acknowledgement of both his intuition and of your own moment of diversion, deflection, of retreating to role. I read that and it felt generous, your knowing that he would read about his impact on you. I find these moments are so full with meaning and complexity. To be continued another time…

    I did want to share, as a fellow dental phobic, my own experience yesterday. I have had an accumulatively painful toothache for several days, waking me at night and also bringing with it all my shame about avoidance and dental self care. There’s something about the whole scene that makes me squirm. The marriage of shame and complete dependence, when they are leaning over your face, poking and prodding and asking why you didn’t floss as advised, or why it has taken years to deal with that root canal, and I try to answer but of course these questions must be rhetorical because how can you answer with an open mouth and barely any right to your tongue? Back to yesterday- I also discovered I had to dial 111. Luckily the dentist rang the next morning when I wasn’t working, I was told to visit a clinic an hour away with all the telephone Covid pre-screening questions. I drove and parked outside, a hazmat suited administrator gave me the forms to sign and I waited some more. Then another NASA looking agent escorted me into the room, ordered not to touch any doors or walls, and there were two more dentists whose PPE garbs and visors added to the surreal experience. They stood either side of the dreaded chair, and I dully sat down. Happily I had a temporary filling rather than an extraction! Any other work is off the books apparently till dentists return to business as usual. This dentist predicted 3 weeks, otherwise they would all be out of business, but I don’t believe much of what I hear these days, I just hear it as a hope/fear and then examine it alongside my own.

    Take care Jane, so good stay connected !

    Rob xxx

    On Fri, 17 Apr 2020 at 12:49, in the consulting room wrote:

    > Jane Haynes posted: ” JEM CROW Jardin des Tuileries (Photo John Haynes) So > they canoniz’d him by the name of Jem Crow ! (The Jackdaw of Rheims: > Richard Harris Barham.) I had no idea this was such an ugly poem and maybe > Browning read it before he wrote The Pied Piper.” >

    1. Dear Rob, An amazing letter to receive. I really cannot believe that our own dentists could not manage the same safety precautions. After all they are experienced at working with HIV and blood and without hazmat gear. I do hope you are going to start doing more writing than just replying to me although I love our communication. Imagine, when we can sit and share a coffee again. When, but when? X

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