Monday, 20 June 2011

And Here's To You Mr Robinson...

My book is finally complete :)

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’
“Like what?”
“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.”



  1. Oh, Rory Grant! You really are a determined wee bugger! I suspect if you'd given into Scotland's answer to the male version of nurse Ratched, you'd never have realised your dream - McMurphy would've been proud of you ;-) Can't wait to read the whole book!

    PS Just got back from Carcassonne last night, enjoying catching up with your blog. Have also commented on your fav painting blog - great idea btw

  2. Oh, yeah, I forgot to ask, what was the name of your band?

  3. Is your book going to be published? If so when and where? x

  4. Hi Annie - Good to see you back! I'll Message you with the name of the band and why I can't go public! Sorry it sounds a bit bizarre but there's good reasons behind it :)

    Hope you loved Carcassonne!


  5. Alec - It's being edited now and has been getting edited for a wee while bar that last chapter. If all goes to plan it will be available as an e-book and on Kindle on Amazon by the end of this week. The Paperback maybe the end of the month before it's ready. Thank you for the interest - it's inspiring!

  6. I'll be looking out for the paperback...have I missed the title somewhere?

  7. mybabyjohn - It's called 'For Auld Lang Syne' (Letters from Scotland) - and there's a little info about it on my blog from May entitled 'Do women see differently from men?' which can be accessed down the sidebar here on my blog.

    Good to hear from you :)

  8. I'll be looking forward to it. Love the post from May as well - you should leave the artwork to your wife! Not to say your cover idea wasn't grand! :)

  9. Great news! Congratulations! Can't wait to buy it- will it be on Amazon?

  10. rory as an ex psyhictaric nurse and a spinal injury nurse ..Ihave found your writing....facinating!

  11. Congrats, Rory, on getting published. I got chills reading about your experience and determination. "Fuck you Mr Robinson" sounds like a great song title. ;) Me and my kindle are waiting!

  12. Goddess, where do I start?

    1 - Congratulations on your fetus becoming a child! May your new creature spread far and wide, wreaking beautiful havoc wherever it goes!

    2 - Cannot wait to read it, of course. (That's a given).

    3 - This excerpt hits me on more levels than you know...I had a psychiatrist tell me when I was 16 look at me straight in the eye and say, "You're nothing. You've never been anything and you never will be anything until you conform." Almost 30 years later, I JUST started to close that infectious wound.

    When Mr. F'n Robinson told you that you weren't being "realistic," I heard the same crack of that evil whip and I can't describe the pain I feel experiencing that happening to anyone else, especially someone like you.

    Of course, you're the amazing Rory and you always seem to manage stand up, brush yourself off, and jump right back onto your horse into the next sunset -- but, still, witnessing soul oppression in action just sucks.

    *Standing O!* Thank you so much for this incredible "sneak peek" and Congratulations again!

    And when you're a huge success, I promise I'll act surprised.


  13. Austan - Yes it will be on Amazon!

    John being in a psychiatric unit for so long was one of the most terrifying, and yet strangely revealing and moving experiences of my life. I met so many wonderful people there. I could have cried at the personal tragedies which were unfolding there however. I made friendships with other patients I hope will last a lifetime. Although there was quite obviously 'issues' with many of the patients those issues appeared grounded in either personal tragedy or socio/economic problems.

    And apart from Mr Robinson who if truth be told appeared to be working to a political agenda where 'Care Plan' and 'Care in the Community' were concerned - the staff were genuinely terrific and I made quite a few friends amongst them too.

    Never in my life have I encountered so much good humour and all from people with very little hope in their lives. Just silly little things. Like the day we caused chaos by removing everyone's names from their bedroom doors before switching them around, or relabeling the names on everyones false teeth which had been taken away for cleaning. It really was a nightmare to sort out. God knows we needed the humour though.

    I remember things like waking up to find a woman lying in bed beside me. When I asked her who she was she said 'We got married yesterday - didn't we?' I had no idea who she was or when she had climbed in there.

    It was all just so surreal - probably could be a book in its own right lol.

    I'm delighted to be out - but I really do miss some of those wonderful characters.

    Ray! Welcome aboard this runaway train. I have a real fire in my belly for writing just now and in no little way it's thanks to the encouragement I get from people like yourself. I really can't thank you, thank you all, enough.


  14. Good on ya,mate! I am just floored by you authenticity and your stubborn streak is to be commended. ;) Yes... Fuck you, indeed, Mr. Robinson! I hate power hungry dictators who abuse their position and push their agenda on others. Can’t wait to read your book, Rory. :)

  15. I'm looking forward to reading your book via Kindle Rory. Please let me know when available. Fascinating stuff. All the best, Marian

  16. Love the pic, love the story, and I truly enjoy your blog. It is for that reason I've awarded you with The Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award. There are rules in accepting this, so be sure to check out my blog to view them. Have a great day, and thank you for inspiring us, one blog at a time!

  17. An excellent read - it's whetted my appetite for the rest, damn it. Nice blog BTW, I'm following.

  18. I read your book. I'm burying this way back in an old blog because it's a small piece of doubt. So I'm getting it out of my system while three-quarters hoping it won't be noticed. I find you easy to read, and funny, but I think that you are driven to moralise in a sentimental way. Sometimes that's a bit too obvious - a kind of relentless need to find the feel-good factor. Funnily enough I rabbitted on about this sentimental aspect of the Scottish character in a recent post. My problem with this perhaps reveals more about my cup-half-empty personality than is any criticism of you, but there it is. If I had your talent for story telling I'd be wanting my editor to say to me 'you'd be better still if sometimes your prose was tougher'. Still, it's all personal preference isn't it? And what do I know. Love, Alec. p.s. I'm still glad I downloaded the book. You're underselling it.

  19. Alec - I can't thank you enough or your honest appraisal of my work. I'm dissatisfied myself with it to a certain extent. I know and take all the points you make on board - you're absolutely right. I've struggled for a very long time to find a 'voice' and I felt that in that book I used several voices when it should have only been one.

    I'm determined the next one will be more honest to who I really am and have that 'one voice'.

    Once again I can't thank you enough for without the criticism no one can really refine their art.

    Thanks my friend!


  20. Yeiks! That was a civilised response! Now I feel like some sort of rat. If I ever again write something so ungenerous about your stuff, I'll bury it even further back in the undergrowth of your blog. And I do look forward to your posts, and now your next book. Good luck in the future with everything. Love, Alec