This was a seminal moment for me. I assumed he was speaking with the authority of one who knew about the toxic properties of Jeyes Fluid. Also, and this was a plus, there was loads of the stuff in the New College School cloakroom.
It must have been obvious by now that I didn’t want to go to Bootham, so mum contacted the school and arranged that dad would take me there again in two weeks time. I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to live. All I could think about was the idea that Jeyes Fluid would be my salvation.
The day arrived for me to be returned to boarding school. I went to the cloakroom, filled a mug with Jeyes Fluid. and drank it. Even though it’s now 45 years on I can still recall the smell, the taste, and the sensation in my stomach.
Mum found me, told Dad what I’d done, and I was driven to Warwick Hospital A&E to have my stomach pumped. I was kept in hospital for a couple of days for observation.
I was interviewed by another psychiatrist, who also wore a dark pinstripe suit with a coloured handkerchief protruding from the breast pocket. It must have been the fashion for the profession in 1972.
‘How are you?’
‘Why did you try to kill yourself?’
‘I’ve had enough.’
‘Ah! You’re the kind of person who likes to “throw your hand in”.’
What on earth was he talking about? You can’t throw your hand anywhere. It’s attached to your arm.
‘The previous psychiatrist helped you, didn’t he?’
‘Yes, he did.’
No he didn’t. He’d asked whether I’d messed about with the boys and I still didn’t know what he meant. Should I have messed about with the boys? Was that what was wrong with me?
‘When you were a child, did you ever set yourself challenges? I mean, did you say things like “if I can do this, then that will happen”?’
‘Yes, I did.’
Yes I did. I was always doing that when I was a child. Practically every day. It was mild to begin with: If I can run up the stairs two at a time, then mum will buy me a cornet when the ice-cream van arrives. But later it became sinister: If I can’t count to fifty before that red car passes me, then I’ll die tomorrow. I used to scare myself witless with these bogus ultimatums. Was this important? Were we onto something?
‘Jolly good! Is there anything else you’d like to say?’
What? But weren’t we getting somewhere just then? There were countless things I’d like to have said, but they evaporated whenever I tried to frame them with actual joined-up words. Why did the pressure of the moment always produce this mental paralysis?
Dad collected me and shouted all the way home because I had been sick in the back of the school minibus. It had taken him
“a whole afternoon”
…to clean up the mess and he had…
“Better Things To Do With My Time.”