It was three days after my date with the doc, I wasn‘t due to see him again until we got back from holiday.
But where was I?
Sat in the bloody surgery again waiting to see McGivitup!
The call came, summoning me to his now very familiar consulting room.
“No I‘m not here for anything blood pressure related.” I stated as soon as I got through the door. It‘s something completely different. Somebody up there,” I shot my eyes heavenwards disdainfully, “is having a go at me…again!”
“So what‘s the problem?” The doc smilingly enquired, adding, “by the way Constantine, I‘ve got to say, since our little outing, I‘ve felt thoroughly refreshed, that element of underlying tension has just vanished. It’s certainly true what they say about a good old laugh lifting the spirits, you’ve been like a tonic for me, I feel wonderful.”
“That’s nice for you!” Was that sarcasm? I really didn’t care, I was seriously pissed off.
“Although,” he scowled, “you’ve opened my mind to things I hadn’t previously given much thought to…I’m finding it perplexing.”
“Well ,” whinged I, ignoring his bewilderment, “I find it perplexing that I was unable to get out of bed yesterday, one minute the sweat was dripping off me, the next I was frozen, I’ve also been as weak as a kitten and now I’ve got a swollen head!” I pointed to the rear of my skull. “And it’s not through excessive pride,” I quipped.
McGivitup grinned as he began to examine my skull.
“Ah yes, I can see a puncture mark. It looks like you’ve had an adverse effect to an insect bite.”
“Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news doc, but since our moor-land experience, I’ve been reliably informed that there would appear to be a tick explosion, particularly on the moors. It couldn’t be lyme disease could it?”
He momentarily appeared alarmed, but then said, “don’t be so melodramatic Constantine.”
He tapped his computer and studied it for a few moments before saying, “I’m going to prescribe bactroban cream, rub it sparingly on the effected area twice a day. That should sort you out.”
“Cheers doc,” I said rising to leave.
“Oh by the way,” he stopped me in my tracks, “you never did tell me about the dreams you had.”
“They were visions doc,” I sighed with exasperation.
‘I think you’ll find they were auditory hallucinations,’ he quipped back, ‘they are surprisingly widespread.’
‘They were spiritual visions, I’d never been near LSD at that point in my life!’
“Oh,” he appeared to be slightly taken aback but carried on regardless, “so what did they consist of?”
“You want to know now?” I quizzed, “in surgery time!”
“Well we allocate ten minutes to each patient, so you’ve got,” he consulted the wall clock, “seven and a half minutes left.”
“Okay,” I said, sitting back down, “which would you like, the first, the last or the one in-between?”
“The last.” Came his reply.
Bugger! It was bloody typical he would chose that one, the one that was most likely to scare him off!
“Well,” I began, “I was sat in the hairdressers, at my mothers insistence I might add, I hate those places, I prefer the natural look. It was only a matter of hours before I married my first husband.”
“I thought you said they were childhood visions?” McGivitup nit picked.
“I was seventeen, I was about to be catapulted out of a safe and secure childhood and into a harsh adult world.”
“Oh right.” He seemed slightly embarrassed that he hadn’t known I’d been a child bride. I could see him mentally vowing to check out my file.
“Yeah anyway, I was sat with a head full of excitement at the prospect of leaving home and being independent of my parents, when my mind simply cleared, one minute it was full of plans and ambitions for the future, the next empty of all thought, then, I wouldn’t say I heard a voice, but it just came to me that although I was on the right path, this man that I was about to marry was not my man, my man would come later.”
“So what did you think about that?” The doc asked.
“I just assumed he was destined to an early grave.”
“Why did you assume that?” McGivitup asked as he raised his eyebrows.
“Because not only did I have a very strong belief that once you were married it was till death, but he was also a character who regularly went over the top on any substance he could lay his hands on, be they legal or illegal!”
He didn’t appear unduly shocked.
“So why did you marry him if you knew that?”
“Apart from being pregnant?” I laughed. “No, seriously, I instinctively knew it was meant to be, the vision only confirmed my belief.”
“Why do you say you were catapulted into a harsh adult world?”
“Because we had nowt, we lived in total and abject poverty, plus he wasn’t exactly the easiest man on earth to share space with!”
I laughed as a memory found its way to the fore front of my mind.
“My eldest son was only a few weeks old when we were allocated a council house. A three bed roomed house and bugger all to put in it! Apart from baby paraphernalia. And no money to buy anything with! So there we were with a house and naff all to go in it. Then one of my uncles, who was a bit of a lad, was on his way to the bookies when he noticed a business like chap stood outside, surveying, two cottages that had recently been up for sale. Never one to miss an opportunity, my uncle struck up a conversation with the bloke and it was discovered that he was the new owner. Only the new owner had a problem. He wanted the furnished cottages unfurnished, so he could start a modernisation program. He was just about to visit the sale rooms to see if they would take the stuff to sell. Quick as a flash my uncle informed him that he’d been a good friend of the previous tenants… had he bollocks! But, he assured this bloke that the sale rooms wouldn’t entertain the tat that was in the cottages. However, if he could be of assistance, his brother had a van, twenty quid would cover the cost of a few trips to the tip. He also got twenty quid for his trouble, and the tip turned out to be our house! And thus we were furnished.”
McGivitup grinned broadly.
“You make humour out of everything but it must have been difficult starting out with nothing?”
“Yeah it was, but I had a good family around me, they all went through their cupboards and supplied me with bedding, curtains, pots and pans and such like.”
“I suppose his family helped you out as well?”
“You’d suppose wrong! His old man made it quite plain from the outset that we shouldn’t anticipate any help from him, he owned a big house and drove a merc but he made it quite plain, he’d made his own way in life and he expected us to do the same. My mother saw it differently, she said he was so tight fisted he wouldn’t give you the steam off his piss!” McGivitup laughed as I continued. “But, like I said, it was destined, and with the help of my family, I coped.”
“What makes you so sure it was destined?” He asked leaning in towards me.
“Because not only am I now in full possession of the facts, which I am attempting to relate to you, but with reflection I can see that it was through Gilbert, my first husband, that I passed through my shamanistic period.”
“What do you mean shamanistic period?” The doc asked, already knowing the answer.
“Oh is that the time?” I declared glancing at the clock, “times up doc!”
I left him in suspense.
Four days later.
The swelling had spread all over my scalp and into my forehead and eyes. I looked like Frankenstein’s monster! I was also running a temperature again. I decided I’d better have it checked out, as our holiday was looming, only it was the weekend and the surgery was shut. So I rang casualty and asked if I might be able to have a chat about it with a doctor. I was told a doctor would call me back in due course. And yes, you’ve got it in one, McGivitup was on casualty duty and he rang me back within the hour. After I’d explained the problem, he advised me to pay him a visit at the hospital so he could check me over.
Check me over indeed, it was all his bloody fault in the first place. If I hadn’t have been tear arsing about on the moors with him I wouldn’t have bloody lyme disease! So much for therapy, the bastard was killing me!
Anyway, when I got to casualty, McGivitup checked me over and said I was fine, it was only the infection running its course.
Meanwhile business must have been slow on hospital duty because he wanted to talk. He had obviously called me in, more to satisfy his own curiosity than to check out my condition!
“Right, shamanistic experiences,” he came straight to the point, “start talking.”
He sat back with arms folded, looking stern.
I suddenly felt as if I was under interrogation.
“Well,” I started nervously, worrying that I was going to lose his support, “Gilbert, my ex-husband, was a constant cannabis smoker.”
“Did you use?” McGivitup cut in, still giving it the authoritarian attitude.
“Damn right I did!” I blurted, “it was the only thing that stopped me killing the moronic twat!”
“Why was that?” He asked, not quite so sternly, but grimacing at my turn of phrase.
“Because he was a foul tempered moron who threw more tantrums than the kids ever did. If I hadn’t have been all ‘peaced out’ as it were, I might have taken his bleedin head off!”
I could see the doc was doing his best not to smile.
“Was he a violent man?” He asked.
“On occasion yes. He might have been more so had I not fought back. He lashed out and blackened my eye once, ” I giggled, “he didn’t count on me grabbing him by the hair and sticking my teeth into his nose!”
Mirth broke the docs face as I began giggling.
“He had teeth marks down both sides of his nose for a fortnight!”
McGivitup cracked and laughed out loud, I think his imperious attitude had been an attempt to wind me up.
“So what else did you do apart from smoking pot?”
I gazed into the middle distance, gathering my thoughts. The doc mistook my silence for apprehension.
“Oh come on Constantine, I am a doctor, I have come across drug abuse before. I passed through med school! I treat heroin addicts. I’m not going to be shocked.”
I ignored his words.
“Well Gilbert,” I finally said, “liked LSD, he liked it a lot.”
“And how did you feel about that?” McGivitup cut in.
“I can’t say I was fussed, I’ve always been of the opinion that people are free to do as they please as long as they don’t harm anyone else in the process.”
“But?” He quizzed.
“Well I’ve always been the curious type, so I wanted to try it as well. Only when it appeared on the scene first time round, I was pregnant and his brother, who had come up with the stuff, forbade me, rightly so.”
“But you did try it eventually right?”
“It was absolutely horrific! I thought I was going to die!”
“That’s mind altering drugs for you.” Said the font of all inexperienced knowledge. “They are a menace to society!”
“That’s bollocks!” I all but spat.
“You’ve just admitted that you thought you were going to die while under the influence of that drug, surely that is a menace to society, a danger that those in power should protect the populace from?”
“Sorry doc, I can’t agree,” said I, squaring up for a verbal battle, “I’ll freely admit I found it to be an unpleasant experience, but it was my experience, undertaken with free will, I didn’t hurt anyone while under the influence, so it had naff all to do with anyone but me! I neither want nor need an interfering nanny state telling me what I can and can not do!”
He evidently wasn’t up for a verbal slanging match, so he backed down.
“What precisely was your experience then?”
“It’s difficult to describe, it’s well weird. It’s like you enter this timeless zone, time just ceases to exist, you can see no way out of the experience, it was endless, like floating in eternity. And that’s without mentioning the hallucinations!” I was suddenly talking with my arms, waving them about like a mad woman to add expression to my words, “I saw a fire breathing dragon leaping out of a wardrobe! It was so real, right down to the last detail. I can still see the vibrant colours of its body as it flapped its wings, before stretching its neck to send forth its fire breath, while plumbs of smoke issued from its nostrils. It was strangely fascinating, but the experience as a whole freaked the fuck out of me, especially when the wallpaper took on a life of its own and started walking around! Still, that was my first experience of LSD.” I gabbled.
McGivitup wasn’t all that interested in the detail of my encounter with a fire breathing dragon, but he was incredulous.
“What do you mean your first experience? Surely you didn’t do it again if you disliked it so much?”
“I was following my instinct,” I shrugged defensively, “I just knew I had to do it again. In fact, I repeated the experience again twice.”
“With what results?”
“The second time, we were staying with friends. We were sat in a pub, a short distance from their home when the effects of the drug began to kick in, it suddenly felt as if the inhabitants of the very crowded bar all stood back from me, sort of forming a semi-circle round me, whispering among each other while furtively glancing and pointing at me. I couldn’t understand why. But then we set off back to their place. Only that short distance back to theirs stretched into an eternity. It seemed to take forever to reach our destination. It was a short walk that felt like an epic journey around the globe, it just went on and on and on! I vowed I was never taking that bloody drug ever again! And I didn’t, not for years. But then I got that feeling inside me, I just knew I had to go there one last time, I didn’t know why, I just knew I had to.”
“Why didn’t you fight the instinct?”
“I couldn’t have done that!” I said indignantly, “I was too curious. I knew it was going to mean something, it would be part of the mystic jig-saw I had to piece together. Even way back then, I was aware of the fact that I was on some sort of spiritual journey, only I didn’t know why?”
“And you believe you know why now?” He quizzed sceptically.
“Too right I know!”
“And what do you think this is all about,” I threw my arms wide in exacerbation, “I’m doing my best to fill you in on the background so that you will understand the end okay?”
He was getting bored with the subject, I could tell.
“So come on, if your experience is so integral to the end result, out with it.”
“The third and final time I took that drug, we went for a walk and ended up at the pub. The pub on the dock side in the bay. On arriving in the dock, the cobble stones leading to the beach appeared to me as a mass of writhing snakes, all entangled around each other, slithering, sliding and hissing their venom Then as we went to enter the bar, a clowns face was lying on the bench just outside the door. It was very much alive with grinning moving features, but it was just a face, no body. It was laughing up at me with a face full of merriment and glee. The next day I went back to check it out in the sober light of day, and discovered it was simply an abandoned bunch of flowers. However, when I entered the bar area, it was full of people I knew well, but I suddenly found myself to be looking down on them from the ceiling, I felt like Alice in wonderland when she was big! It rendered me to be totally incapable of communicating with my friends because I was so far above them, I found myself to be on a different level of consciousness to everyone else and although I tried, communication was impossible. I chain smoked until I landed back on earth.”
“That’s what happens when you dabble with mind altering drugs,” said the font of only scientifically proven facts, “things go haywire, the mind becomes badly disorganised, you see things that don’t exist.”
“Or maybe I’d entered a timeless zone, like the shamans and witch doctors of old, that gave me access to the future via symbolic imagery?” Suggested I, with knowledge he as yet lacked.
“Mmm,” he wasn’t convinced. “I take it that’s the full extent of your illegal drug dabbling?”
“Not quite…” I half heartedly admitted as he raised his eyebrows, “years after the LSD experiences someone turned up with a bag full of psilocybin…you know?” I looked him in the eye, “magic mushrooms! No one had ever come across them before, they were a new experience. A pot of tea was duly made with what was thought to be a suitable amount of the powdered mushrooms…only it wasn’t a suitable amount…the bugger seriously over dosed us all! It tasted absolutely disgusting, so I only had few sips as opposed to the others necking the lot…but it was enough to send me on a horrifying trip. The Water Margin was on the television, a black and white television, I started to see it in colour. We had balloons decorating the room, it must have been a birthday or Christmas…I don’t recall…but the balloons started to swell until they filled the entire room and left me gasping for breath! I ended up taking myself off to bed where I lay attempting to concentrate on other things until I fell asleep!”
“I take it that was the last time you entertained magic mushrooms?”
I looked sheepish. “Actually it wasn’t. All the talk was of this ‘new’ natural drug that was such good fun. It quickly became obvious we’d over-dosed, so I gave it another go, only in a tiny amount. And it was good fun, there were no hallucinations the second time round, just constant fits of the giggles as you saw the ridiculous in everything. We fell about laughing at just about everything during that phase.”
The doc was slowly shaking his head as if in despair.
Still, I was just happy that he had heard me out, without going off the deep end at my revelations, then refusing to have anything more to do with the woman of dubious reputation. I was relieved I’d managed to plant the seed that would grow with a little nurturing, without doing any damage to our relationship.
“For a woman who makes such a fuss about taking pharmaceutical drugs, the illegal variety don’t appear to have phased you much.” He scoffed.
“Oh but they did! Well apart from the wacky baccy,” I conceded, “with the LSD, whereas everyone else was dropping two, three or even four tabs, I only ever had the tiniest sliver…”
Then his phone rang.
“I’ll be two minutes,” he said after a brief conversation, “don’t go away.”
It was clearly a slack day in the hospital. I began to wonder what time his shift ended, maybe I could blag a lift home? After all, he’d dragged me seven miles just to interrogate me! He was beginning to act like a bloody politician using devious means for his own ends!
Left to twiddle my thumbs, I began to drift into the inner realms of Constantine when I caught sight of my reflection in a glass panel. Fuck me sideways, I was going on holiday with my family the following day and I looked like cousin Fester out of the Adams Family, all big bulging eyes and a massive head! Delightful.
Thank you God, I sulkily offered up.
He always had to pull that bloody power card, stop the nasty habits and I’ll stop the pain…got it earthling! Don’t you just hate perfection?
Fifteen minutes later McGivitup breezed back into the room, carrying two steaming mugs of liquid. He placed one in front of me.
“I took a guess,” He said, “tea with milk but no sugar.”
“Go to the top of the class,” I said with something akin to sarcasm.
He relaxed back into his chair, as if I had all the time in the world to sit there with him.
“I’m not keeping you from anything am I?” He asked, picking up on my vibe.
“I suppose not,” I relented, “the kids can run amok for a bit longer without a guardian!”
He was immediately alarmed.
“You haven’t left them alone have you?”
“No, I’m kidding. They are hanging out with her next door until I get home.”
“Right,” he said relaxing again.
“So what time do you knock off and head for home?” I asked, while I thought about it.
“Just under an hour,” he said as he glanced at the wall clock, “unless something crops up.”
“Right, I’m booking a lift home, you’ve already cost me a taxi fare here,” said I, pressing the guilt button.
“Oh I didn’t realise.”
“So how do you think I got here, cycled?” I looked at him through eyes that would barely open, while pointing at them, “doh!”
He turned the tables grinning.
“I could have saved you a lot more than a taxi fare if I’d been your doctor before you embarked on your sex life!”
My God, McGivitup had a sense of humour!
“Oh ha de ha,” I smiled back, “I’ll have you know I love my son dearly.”
“But seriously Constantine, even back then, you must have known that unprotected sex leads to babies?”
“Of course I knew that, and I wouldn’t care, but I didn’t even want to have sex at the time!”
“So why did you?”
“He was a pushy moron who put me under emotional pressure.”
“Why were you under emotional pressure?” The big man asked, obviously out to probe every aspect of my existence so far.
“I’ll start at the beginning, although it’s something I prefer not to think about these days, it’s like it all happened a lifetime ago. I was sixteen when Gilbert came into my life. He belonged to a big family whose parents were devout, church going, Methodists, his father was a loud, brusque, self opinionated sea captain. And although I’d never met Gilbert before, his family were well known in the village. Her next door, my life long best friend disliked Gilbert from the outset, she thought he was a swaggering, arrogant, self-obsessed egotist. And she wasn’t wrong, he was. But I was infatuated. I mean,” I gave the doc an incredulous look, “I’d only known him for three days and he was swearing undying love, then he promptly proposed marriage! I was sixteen, I was flattered.”
“Then promptly embarked on a sex life?” The doc cut in.
“No, quite the reverse, like I said, I was brought up to believe marriage was a lifetime vow and I only intended to have one lover in my lifetime, so I was saving myself for the marital bed.”
“How did Gilbert take that?”
“Not very well! Especially when I refused to take him seriously and laughed him off.”
“So what happened?”
“Well he worked at the other end of the country at the time, his letters became intense, full of flowery prose designed to play on the heart strings, describing the wonderful life we were going to share when we tied the knot.”
“Was he older than you?” McGivitup asked.
“Yeah, five years, he was a man of the world,” I said sarcastically, “or so he would have me believe. He was a man of the world who had needs and if I wasn’t going to full-fill those needs then he would find someone who would, was one of his threats later into the relationship. God, I was so naïve, I should have told him to take a long walk off a short pier there and then!”
The doc grinned.
“But, it came about that his work was going to take him abroad for four months, the month after my seventeenth birthday. He became even more sex obsessed. He wailed and whined and begged and pleaded, what did it matter if we began a sexual relationship early, we were going to be married anyway, who would it be hurting? When I pointed out that having sex makes babies, I might have guessed, he was a man of the world, he knew about these things, there was no way he would get me pregnant. Then instead of putting Riders On The Storm by The Doors on the juke box, which we both loved, he began putting on I’m Leaving On A Jet Plane by Peter, Paul and Mary. Then he’d beg, plead and implore me to let him have his wicked way!”
“Obviously it worked?”
“Yeah, the day before he was due to fly, his dad took us out on his boat, after that, in the early evening, we had a couple of hours to kill before we went home, so we headed for the castle and the rest you might say is history.”
“At least your son had a grand start to life?” The big man joked.
“But do you know doc, all that crap they write in trashy novels, where the heroine loses her virginity amid waves of unbridled passion, it’s all shite, it was agony, I couldn’t walk straight for a week!”
The doc laughed out loud.
“And I was pregnant the very first time I had sex! So much for the man of the bleedin’ world eh? Apparently he was going to use the withdrawal method, but like I learned later from Billy Connolly, a herd of wild horses can’t drag a blokes arse into reverse when he’s on the point of ejaculation!”
McGivitup attempted to stifle a laugh.
I was becoming bored with the subject but McGivitup wanted to know more.
“How did the marriage end?”
I think he was expecting me to tell him that Gilbert had overdosed and left me a widow. Had he been in full possession of the facts, he might even have suspected me of murdering the moron, because quite frankly, that had been a thought that had crossed my mind on more than one occasion.
“I divorced him.” I replied.
“So what caused you to abandon your faith in marriage?”
“What you mean apart from Gilbert being a foul tempered nightmare of a man who made all our lives a living hell on earth?” I didn’t give him the chance to reply, “It was actually Him upstairs,” I pointed heavenwards, “He sent the thunder bolt that finally forced my hand.”
McGivitup shot me a look of pure scepticism.
“Yeah, straight up doc,” I stressed emphatically, talking with my arms again, “I’m aware it sounds far fetched to you now, but what happened next was without doubt heaven sent!”
“What did happen next?” He wasn’t going to be easily convinced.
“Well I’d spent six lousy years working on that vile tempered schmuck, I’d slowly but surely calmed him down and made him see what a complete obnoxious, odious imbecile he’d been thanks to his short fuse. And although he’d done some truly terrible things to me for which I’ve never had an apology, and which were an abiding issue, life became not exactly happy, but reasonably tolerable. And that was when the Mighty All Knowing One sent His thunder bolt.”
“And what form did this thunder bolt take?” He asked, cynicism written all over his face.
“Gilbert had a head on motor bike crash, on a blind corner, at three o’clock in the morning, with his brother Isaac who had been travelling in the opposite direction! Isaac broke his arm, Gilbert suffered sever head trauma and was in a coma for days. The medics reckoned the chances of that accident happening were a million to one, but it happened.”
McGivitup was looking both incredulous and thoughtful.
“And you think that God caused the accident to happen?” He finally asked.
“I’ve no doubt about it!” Said I with total and utter confidence.
“I see.” He said carefully.
And I could see that he was assessing me for some sort of mental problem.
He obviously decided to persevere with the crazy woman.
“Okay,” he said with head bent and brow in hand, “what was the purpose of this accident?”
“To get me to divorce Gilbert and move on to the next chapter of my life.”
“And how did an accident accomplish that?” McGivitup asked, perceptively despairing, wondering if he would ever hold a normal conversation again. “I’d have thought the opposite would have applied.”
He was regretting calling me into hospital now, I could tell, but I was on a roll, I determined to make the most of this enforced conversation by covering as much ground as I could.
“You obviously didn’t know Gilbert! If I’d thought he was a foul tempered moron prior to the accident, it was nothing to what he became! He was like a volcano, he erupted several times a day! And whereas before, his loss of control only rarely developed into actual physical abuse, usually aided and abetted by whisky, suddenly he became terrifyingly unpredictable. Over the following two years I had a hammer hurled at me, while I was holding our daughter, an axe, even a heavy horse hair stuffed chair! He shot me with an air-rifle, luckily I had a duffle coat on at the time, so it didn’t penetrate.”
McGivitups face was full of concern.
“Didn’t you seek professional help?” He asked.
“I tried to get Gilbert to seek help, but in his head there was nothing wrong, he didn’t have a problem, he was perfectly normal. Apparently I was the one with the problem! And he was right there, my problem was him!”
I laughed as a memory surfaced.
“I remember getting really bad head-aches. So I was advised to go to the opticians for an eye test, although I could see alright and I had no problem with reading. I was prescribed with reading glasses and they cost! And you know what? That bloody optician robbed me! All he had to do was tell me to get rid of Gilbert, because as soon as he’d gone, the head-aches vanished as if by magic!”
McGivitup smiled ruefully.
“It’s good that you can joke about what must have been a nightmare, but why did you stay so long when it was that bad?”
“Well you try getting out of a relationship with a psychopath! It’s fraught with danger.” I gesticulated rather hysterically. “And there were the kids to consider, I had to put a lot of thought into how best to proceed, I had no intention of robbing them of a father, I’d made the mistake, not them.”
“Ah, so it was your mistake,” McGivitup pounced, “not some destined path?”
“No, not at all,” I stated frustrated, “I was only vaguely aware I was on a preordained journey at that point in time, I was the marionette on an invisible string, dancing to the tune that only the puppeteer saw clearly,” I gestured heavenwards, “my awareness of the plan, for want of a better phrase, was something that only crept up on me as the years rolled by. It wasn’t until much later that I realised it was for real.” My mouth began to run away with me. “Then, when I finally wised up, I totally freaked out at the weirdness of the whole thing and stepped onto something akin to a plateau of ice, slithering and sliding like a headless chicken. I lost the plot big time!”
By now the doc was regarding me levelly, his face unreadable. I’d said too much, raced too far ahead without giving him the benefit of what had passed in between. I could see he thought I’d never found the plot, let alone lost it!
I was aware that I was close to losing him as an ally, I could almost hear the thoughts going round his head. She hears voices in her head, she’s a former drug user, she thinks that God is directing her life to the degree of sending thunder bolts! Could she be schizophrenic?
“You can’t declare me schizoid until you are in full possession of the facts.” I cut into his thoughts, calmly, sensing that frenzied rants got me nowhere.
He ignored me and changed tack.
“Presumably Gilbert had a career when you first met, what happened to that?”
“Let’s just say his excesses put paid to that.”
“So how did he earn a living while you were together?”
“After a succession of dead end, low paid jobs, he found a job on a boat that took fishing parties out to sea. It didn’t pay much, but he loved the work, the sea was in his soul, he went on to work on a trawler. I began thinking of him as the fisher of men.”
“Why the fisher of men?”
“Well right from the start his fragile ego demanded that he was constantly surrounded by a cast of adoring worshippers, over whom he could hold court, regaling them with, preaching even, about the greatness of his alternative life style. He regularly turned up with a crowd of total strangers, just so that he could have an audience to listen to his waffle! I tell you doc, a lot of people passed through our house.”
“How did you feel about that?”
“I didn’t care for being besieged by total strangers, but on the whole I didn’t mind, I have loads of good memories of time spent with his entourage, they were a good crowd of lads who surrounded us then.” I scratched my head as I thought, “but do you know, I’m hard pressed to recall one good memory of my marriage to Gilbert! Still, in answer to your question, I’ve always been inclined to the tribal way of living, I suppose it comes from belonging to a big family, but as always, Gilbert over did it, there was little respite from the endless stream of people, normal family life was all but unheard of…”
“He must have had some redeeming features,” the doc cut in, as he leant back in his chair, his eyes on mine questioningly, “there must have been some good times for you to have stayed with him for so long?”
I thought about that for a moment.
“When we first got together, I was impressed that he could name all the wild flowers and herbs. He would tickle trout and cook them on stick fires by the side of the streams they were caught in. He had a deep love and respect of the countryside. I loved that about him. Mind you,” I veered off, “tickling trout was the only time he ever kept his mouth shut! They can hear you coming from way back, so not only was total silence in order, but creeping like a Red Indian too! Woe betide me if I stepped on a twig…he’d hit the roof!”
“I take it Gilbert talked a lot then?” The doc put in.
“Motor mouth had nothing on him, he just loved the sound of his own voice, I’m surprised he didn’t suffer from jaw ache!”
“But,” I continued, “I quickly discovered he had no sensitivity. He made an inebriated rhinoceros seem positively subtle and restrained. He demonstrated less tact than a parrot with a megaphone…I went on to think of him as rent a broadcast!”
The doc laughed out loud.
“But seriously,” I smiled back at him, “Gilbert had absolutely no regard for other peoples feelings. If someone made the mistake of confiding in him, it wouldn’t be long before he blurted the secret out, usually in a room or a pub full of people and to the mortification of the confessor. He would ride rough shod over anybody and every bodies feelings without so much as a backwards glance. He would publicly and loudly lambaste, tearing shreds out of some poor person who had done something he considered to be out of order, then at a later stage he’d do exactly the same thing himself! He had the ability to talk himself in circles, contradicting himself at every turn.” I paused for thought. “Yeah,” I continued, “it’s weird, when I first started out with Gilbert, Stealers Wheel, Stuck In The Middle With You was forever on the radio, everywhere we went it seemed to be playing. I began to think of it as our song. It was only on reflection I realised how significant it was, I really was stuck in the middle with him! But, he was only the result of his upbringing…sins of the fathers and all that.”
Then the phone rang.
A patient was being brought in for treatment.
And your not going to believe what happened next!
The patient was brought in on a stretcher looking all dazed and confused.
I heard the paramedic telling McGivitup that a call had been received from a concerned neighbour who had heard a loud bang followed by moans and groans. Worried that the elderly man next door had had an accident and being unable to gain entry, the neighbour summoned the emergency services. The police had gained entry, while the paramedics had discovered the patient in a crumpled heap at the bottom of a ladder that lead to a tiny attic entrance.
I thrust my head into my arms and down to my knees, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
I shook my head and couldn’t help but laugh at the absolute absurdity of it all.
McGivitup shot me an angry look.
“This man is in pain Constantine, it is not a laughing matter!”
At the mention of my name the patient turned and focused on me.
“Con…what are you doing here?” He dazedly asked, then squinting at me, “what the hell have you done to your face?”
It was Father Augustus!
Now Father Augustus holds a mild resemblance to Father Jack out of the comedy program Father Ted, in that unless his hair is plastered into his chosen quiff, it is all over the place giving the impression that he’s slightly batty. He’s mostly a snappy dresser and cuts a real dash when donning his suit. Add to that the fact that he always wears shades, lending the impression that he belongs to the mafia. The deep scars, one running across his nose, another blazing a trail down his cheek and yet another across his chin, only add to the hard man image. Although if people knew how he came by them, they’d laugh their socks off. When I was a kid, Father Augustus regularly went out with his pals for a few bevies on a Friday night. He never failed to come back home slightly the worse for wear. One night we were all in bed when he got in. Always being a considerate man, he crept upstairs in the dark, before slinging off his clothes. Now what you need to understand here is the fact that Father Augustus had a unique way of getting into bed. He would launch himself at the bed and be horizontal before he hit it! Only that particular night something had changed. My mother had spent the day spring cleaning and had rearranged the furniture. So, when Father Augustus did his horizontal leap, instead of hitting the bed, his face made contact with the dressing table, slicing through his cheek. Then as he made his way to the bathroom to access the damage in his drunken state, he walked slap bang into the half opened bathroom door and split his nose open! Two spectacular scars resulted and I’m surprised he didn’t sustain more that night because my mother was woken by the racket and thought there was a mad axe man in the house. She immediately sought out the fire poker she kept under the bed…don’t ask…and was poised ready to strike the intruder down when Father Augustus flicked on the light only to find himself face to face with a she devil!
The scar across his chin was come by again after a Friday night outing. We were watching a scary film, so Father Augustus crept in to try and scare us even more. Not succeeding and getting himself accused of being pissed, he tried to deny being drunk by performing a series of stunts, one of which was to swing his leg high over the back of the settee. One swing of the leg too many and he misjudged, went crashing into the china cabinet, where he broke the glass and sliced his chin! We could tell he was pissed because he didn’t feel a thing. Although that wasn’t the case the following morning when he copped for a right ear bashing off The Mother Superior, who incidentally got pissed sucking wine gums!
And now you can imagine the vision that lay before us!
“Argh.” Father Augustus moaned.
I shook my head attempting to feign disapproval, while McGivitup appeared confused.
“Don’t expect me to have any sympathy you silly old duffer,” I chastised, doing my best to swallow the giggles, “I know exactly what you’ve been up to! You’ve been up in that bloody attic again, scuttling about the eaves haven’t you?”
Before he could answer I ploughed on.
“Tell me how many times is it exactly that me and Lil Sis have told you to ask us to do it for you eh? But no, mister bloody independence has to do everything for himself…and I wonder why, it couldn’t be because he’s scared his daughters will discover his stash of grog could it?”
He flashed me the evil eye for having mentioned his habit of hiding his booze stash from us. I think he did it because he was worried we’d drink him out of house and home, leaving little or nothing for his nightly imbibes that he attempted to deny.
“Am I to understand this is your father Constantine?” McGivitup asked after having taken all in.
“Your to understand correctly, although I’m not sure I want to be associated with a silly old bugger whose too proud to ask his able bodied daughters for help!” I was out to make a point.
McGivitup began the examination of Father Augustus.
The doc declared there were no bones broken but he was going to admit Father Augustus for the night, just to keep an eye on him in case he suffered any side effects from the bump on his head!
Bollocks, he wanted the chance to give Father Augustus the third degree and find out as much as he could about me! Sly dog!
“I’ll ring Lil Sis and ask her to bring you some jim jams.” I shouted as Father Augustus was wheeled off to a ward . “I’ll come and see you before I go.”
“Is he going to be okay?” I asked the doc as soon as Father Augustus was out of sight.
“Yes I should think so, we’ll keep him under observation for the night just in case.”
“So will it be safe for me to go on holiday tomorrow?”
“I don’t see why not. Give me a ring in the morning, I’m on duty again at seven. But in all likelihood I’ll be discharging him in the morning.”
“Right, I’d better get on the phone to Lil Sis and see if she’s in a position to run about after him for a few days.”
“By the way Constantine,” the doc called me back as I went in search of a public phone, “what would your father be doing in the attic?”
“You had better not let on that I’ve told you,” I warned the doc gravely, “otherwise I’ll be dead meat!” A grin spread across my face as I related, “the silly old soak only has a fire proof safe hidden in the attic where he keeps his life savings. Me and Lil Sis often have a good giggle as we visualise the daft old bugger scuttling in and out of the eaves to count his wad like some sorry old Scrooge!”
“Why on earth does he keep his savings in the attic?” McGivitup asked grinning.
“The gospel according to Father Augustus is that if he puts his money in a bank, the government and every snooping bastard in authority will know how much he’s got, then the tax man will be demanding his cut and as Father Augustus has worked hard for anything he has got, the rest can go take a running jump cause they’re getting naff all!”
McGivitup bemusedly shook his head.
I went off to find a phone, where Lil Sis assured me she could cope with Father Augustus, she had a phone number to reach me if need be and I promised her I’d ring her as soon as we got to Scotland for an update.
Meanwhile bloody McGivitup had decided he needed to stick around the hospital to settle his new patient in.
Snoop more like!
So he arranged me a lift home with one of the nurses from our area who was going off duty.