The last chapter (not the last chapter of the book but the last chapter to be written) was one of the most difficult to write as it contains so many horrid memories. But here, just for you, is that final chapter...
And Here’s To You Mr Robinson
It had all happened so quickly. We were driving along, my friend and I, on a beautiful autumn day. In the back of the car we hauled an unwanted metal filing cabinet my Mother In Law had threatened to dispose of. Money is tight in Universities and my lecturer friend had taken up the offer of installing it in his office. And so there we were, heading for Stirling University with our booty, when the car in front slowed to a snail’s pace to turn left into a wooded area, we slowed too – the car behind didn’t. In the time it took to hear squealing brakes behind us my life had changed forever. The cabinet shot forward, the impact caused it to hit me square in the back.
I couldn’t walk properly or any great distance for years afterwards. This troubled me less than the pain. The pain was quite simply unbearable. From that time on, my back would spasm regularly, leaving me a crying heap on the floor. My wife did what she could, my children would look on horrified. The Doctor would arrive and stab me in the ass with Pethadine knowing I’d still be lying there in forty eight hours time – there was nothing he or anyone else could do.
And so the slow descent into dependency on prescribed drugs started. The Doctor as a matter of course would stop by on his way to work and stab my ass with Pethadine, then again on his way home. I slowly became someone else.
Eventually I needed four shots a day until I was given the okay by Docs to go ahead and do it myself. It became eight a day. I was a wreck.
Things reached a head when on a cold, snowbound winter at 3am I was found walking naked alongside a motorway. Apparently I had been trying to get ‘somewhere’.
I woke up to find myself in a psychiatric unit. Worse than this however was the fact it was a locked ward. The realisation was painful to say the least. I was assured I was there voluntarily and had not been ‘sectioned’ – the aim was to wean me off Pethadine which would take six weeks to complete in detox. The ward it seems had two halves, one for people with psychiatric illnesses and the other for detox. It was little comfort to know.
Strange things happen when in such situations, suddenly you become powerless. Everything you do is decided by someone else. Even your ultimate release is dependent on the approval of others. I’d been told in no uncertain terms that although I was there voluntarily – any attempt to leave would lead to me being ‘sectioned’ – the legal term for being held against one’s will. I was so distraught with what I had become I resolved that regardless of the pain I would beat Pethadine. I did precisely that in four weeks – two weeks ahead of schedule.
A weekly staff meeting would be held to determine who was fit for release and who wasn’t and of course - I would sit in when it was my turn for the thumbs up or down. One Nurse, Senior Staff Nurse Robinson - was responsible for my ‘care plan’. His approval or disapproval meant everything when it came to being given the all clear to leave. In conversations with him in the ward he continually pressed me on my plans when I leave.
“I’m going back to music – put a band together and have a successful career’ I’d tell him.
“Not very grounded in reality is it Rory?” He’d say disapprovingly. “Let’s face it you’re in your forties, disabled, grey haired, and I don't know of anyone who has succeeded in the music business from that starting point.”
“I’m not ‘anyone’ – I’m me and I can do it” I’d insist.
“You know I can’t approve your release until you come up with realistic objectives”
“I am being realistic”
“Oh no you’re not”
“Oh yes I am”
And so the discussion would descend into pantomime farce every time.
I actually became great friends with my psychiatrist at the time, Adam – a genial giant from Australia. Eventually when I was released we’d go for a beer at weekends and relive that terrible time – but for now, I was stuck. Pleading with Adam didn’t help.
“They are my staff Rory, I have to work with them daily. I’m dependent on them. I daren’t overrule them. I’m trying diplomatically to let them know I think you’re ready for release but I can’t run over them, can’t ignore their opinions. Mr Robinson most definitely has the opinion that so long as you harbour the ‘musician’ dream - you won’t be going anywhere. He feels he can’t justify it within the care plan and the criteria he has to meet”
I was despondent, six weeks had become two months. Every Friday I’d hobble into the staff/patient meeting on my walking sticks and sit listening to what they said about me and then Mr Robinson would ask;
“So what are you going to do about money Rory? How are you going to live?”
Every Friday I steadfastly refused to say anything other than the same thing “Musician”
“I’m sorry but I have to deny your release Rory. You have to become realistic.”
Adam would come to my room and offer words to alleviate the distress but nothing would work – so long as I said “Musician” I was going nowhere. He urged me to take another tack, to lean on my degree and just say “I’m going to work in an area suitable to my degree”. I refused.
And every Friday we’d go through the denial ritual. Two months became three months. I hated Mr Robinson.
I lost a lot of friends whilst in psychiatric hospital. I guess it was the ‘stigma’. Very few people I knew visited other than my sons, my wife and some former band mates.
I was into my fourth month in a locked ward, sitting in a lounge facing the entrance doors when I could have cried at the vision I saw walk through them. She was a friend, she was my lawyer but more than this – she was the Scottish equivalent of the District Attorney (Procurator Fiscal). Well known throughout the region she was a true ‘Public figure’. I swear I saw some of the staff go weak at the knees when they realised who she was – they had no idea why she was here – was it an investigation? She told them crisply and clearly but politely that she was here to see Rory Grant and they almost fell over one another in their haste to lead her toward me. I stood up and we hugged. She sat in the chair next to me and apologised for not visiting sooner – but she’d been under the impression I’d be getting out ‘sooner rather than later’ and had fully expected to be visiting me at home by now. We talked for an hour or so before we smilingly parted company – she to her delightful house overlooking the Moray Firth and me to my locked room. Mr Robinson unlocked the door for her and I swear I thought he bowed to her on the way out.
He caught up with me in my bedroom later.
“Don’t ever give me a fright like that again Rory’
“Why did you have the Procurator Fiscal here?”
“She’s a close friend. That’s why”
“A friend? Of yours?”
“Did I also mention she’s my lawyer Mr Robinson?”
“No but you mustn’t frighten staff like that. You should have warned us she was coming” He was clearly shaken by the experience.
Mr Robinson raised his clip folder at the following Friday meeting – “I feel Rory has made spectacular progress in achieving all the criteria laid down for his release though the question of what he’ll do for work is still a thorny issue – Have you had any further thoughts about that Rory?”
Without even looking up I murmured my usual response “Musician”
Adam piped up – “And why not a musician Mr Robinson?”
Mr Robinson flapped around with his papers and clipboard before announcing to all "Yes, well...I agree. You’ll be recommended for discharge today Rory if everyone else agrees.”
Everyone else had always agreed.
Three months later the band had been back on the road for a month. I listened as the announcer welcomed us on stage. I was forty four years old, disabled and grey haired. Haggerston Castle was the venue and two thousand folks rose to acclaim us before we had even struck a note. I smiled at the audience and stepping back from the microphone triumphantly muttered, “Fuck you Mister Robinson, Fuck you.”