Saturday, 15 October 2011

Still voices 2


A chance meeting in a damp autumn street. A friend and his closer friend cycled on the pathway I walked and stopped to pass the time. These were two worldly wise people. I knew them out of the mainstream of my usual social life. They were employed. or one was. The other, a failed degree student clung to his mate like glue. I mistakenly took this for affection. In retrospect. Affectation of friendship was more likely.
They had a new man demeanour. Both cooked or aspired to cook and knew all the names of the great dishes of the world and their secrets. I was to join them for a dinner of Coronation Chicken and Souffle that evening. I was the audience.
Bob, the hanger on left to sign on. I remember thinking that even this was a sign of nonchalant ambivalence about the future. His friend, Steve and I walked on for a bit, talking about this and that. The Vietnam war mostly I think. Steve had read books about the effects of war on younger men and was keen to regale me with his knowledge. It turned out that he had recently been posted to the local Psychiatric hospital on placement from his course. He was to be a nurse. Whilst there, he had discussed trauma and felt that his destiny lay somewhere between the management of fractures and the glamour of new therapies. I was impressed. The temptation was of course to find a way to steer the conversation back onto firmer ground for me. To regale him back with quotes and anecdotes from what I knew of madness through the plays and poetry that had suffused my childhood.
I needn’t have worried about that. It became quickly clear that this new knowledge he was keen to share was too fragile to support a discussion. He filled the gaps in his understanding by finding his footing on the solid shores of nursing tasks. he quickly outlined how a therapy designed to help a trauma victim or the like could be assumed by most and delivered via a manual in stages. In a blatant backhanded compliment he suggested that I visit him at work. He would introduce me to the school of nursing and I could look at options for employment whilst there.