Thursday, 8 January 2015

Watching - Scene 2

Observations of a psychotic mind
- there and back again

Scene Two

Stage Directions:  A winter night, spot of Saul still at the top of the stool, spot on his Dad DSR sat on the floor facing the audience as if sitting at the edge of a bed. Vocal sounds of wind and waves and music then eventually fade to background noise and then out complete as Saul’s Dad begins to tell his tale.

Saul: (as a 7 year old) What do you mean you thought you were followed by a ghost Dad?

Dad: It was back when I was in the army doing my National Service as you had to in those days. I was on a train on my way home for a few days when it started snowing heavily like it has today. My stop was the one after the next one, but when we got to the next one all the passengers were told the train couldn’t go any further because of the snow. Tea was laid on at the station for those who were stranded but I figured I could walk home so off I went.  It was a dark night by then and the snow was falling so thick that it was quickly covering up my tracks. Deep, deep snow.

Saul: Weren’t you frightened?

Dad: I’d been trained to survive in all sorts of conditions by the army and I knew my way so no, I wasn’t frightened then. But I got to be later on.

Saul: Why? You never get frightened.

Dad: Well just this once I did. Once I’d left the town behind me I headed out through some woods and then across open fields. It was so very cold and still. So very very quiet that I could easily have heard someone coming and then it started. It was nothing really noticeable at first and when it started I can’t exactly say, but I got the strong sense of someone or something following me. And that whatever it was was up to no good. I thought I was going to be attacked. I didn’t have my weapons with me to defend myself as I wasn’t in my army gear. Yes, then I got truly frightened and this is why.

Every time I walked a few paces I heard a thud thud just behind me, but when I looked behind me there was no one there. When I stopped the thudding stopped. When I went on
again, it began again. With no one about and no tracks but my own the only thing I could imagine it could be was a ghost.

Saul: What did you do?

Dad: I couldn’t do anything. None of my training covered how to defend yourself against a ghost. I called out ‘Is there anyone there’. Nothing. I walked on and the thudding followed. I stopped and called out again ‘Who’s there? What do you want?’ The thudding stopped but still there was no answer. On and on it went like that, mile after mile. It wouldn’t leave me alone until... can you guess?

Saul: No, what... what?

Dad: It turned out that it was me all along.

Saul: You? You? You were the ghost?

Dad: In a way yes, because what I hadn’t realised was that it was the snow falling off the back of my boots that was making the thudding noise all the time! So when I stopped...

Saul: It stopped! Awww Dad! I thought it was going to be really spooky!

Dad: Sorry son, but there are no such things as ghosts, so there’s no excuse for staying awake all night. See you in the morning.

Saul: Night. (Dad exits) I wish there were ghosts though, that would be exciting, (yawning) so long as they were friendly though.

Stage Directions: An autumn day, general lighting and spot on Saul still on the top of the stool but kneeling. Vocal sounds of wind and waves. Lads call out to Saul to come out for a game of football. NB: Saul always faces the audience when remembering things.

Chorus: Saul, you coming out to play footie?

Saul: I can’t today, got important things to do.
Chorus: More important than footie?

Saul: Dad says no one ever did anything meaningful with a football.

Chorus: Your Dad’s silly then.

Chorus: What you doing instead then?

Saul: I’ve got chores and then I’ve got to do maths homework 'cos Dad was angry I didn’t get good marks.

Chorus: Your Dad sound like an ogre.

Chorus: I don’t know, your Dad comes and plays and that’s just embarrassing.

Saul: Well without maths my Dad says I can’t be a pilot nor get into the Air Cadets when I’m older.  And after that I’m gonna buy Concorde and join the RAF and fly Harrier Jump Jets. So it’s not silly.

Chorus: Cooool!

Chorus: You free tomorrow then?

Saul: Yeah sure.

Stage Directions: A winter evening cosy indoors. Vocal sounds of wind and waves.
Neither of his parents look at Saul but we see they are imagining him sitting with him. Saul only looks at the audience.

Saul: (as a young boy) I don’t like it. I don’t like carrots or potatoes or peas. Not eating them.

Dad: You have a simple choice son; either you eat it now or later. It will be served up every meal until you eat it. To think what my grandparents went through just so you can turn your nose up at good food. In the war they were lucky to get anything.

Saul: But I don’t like it Dad. It makes me feel sick. Mum, I feel ill. It hurts.

Dad: There’s no argument Saul. Eat what’s on your plate now or go to your room 'til breakfast and eat it then. (Long pause and Saul refuses to touch it) I’ll not tell you again.

Stage Directions: After a moment his father exits and Saul’s mother clears the plates and scrapes the remains into a bin with a sigh. She gives him a chocolate bar.

Mother: You know, your Dad is right. We may not be at war now but I can’t keep coming up with meals just to suit you. We haven’t the money or time for that. So from now on I want you to try harder or you’ll end up with me getting cross too and then loads of doctors taking over and you wouldn’t want that would you? (Saul shakes his head) No. I didn’t think so. Right then, have this and take it up to your room so Dad doesn’t see, but this has to be the last time.

Stage Directions: A spring day. DSR area only. Vocal sounds of wind and waves. Saul is half way down from the stool.

Saul: (As a 14 year old) “Dad, I’m stuck.” (to himself) I wish I hadn’t suggested this. These boulders looked like a giant staircase from the road but now (hoisting himself up) argh.... We’ve got no ropes, no phones. Out in the middle of nowhere and no one knows. Lord knows why Dad agreed, he normally thinks my ideas are daft and he’s right! This is madness.

Dad’s voice: Don’t grip the plants, hold on to the rock.

Saul: I can’t find a handhold!

Dad’s voice: If you rely on the heathers they can uproot on you. Look for a finger hold.

Saul: (to himself) A finger hold! How am I supposed to hang on by my fingers? What a supremely idiotic, stupid and dangerous idea this is. If I survive this I’ll never make another suggestion again.

Dad’s voice: Come on, over to the right there. There’s one. It’s easy.

Saul: (to himself and looking up) Oh and just look at his face. Boy is he loving this! Bet he’s looking forward to ribbing me later assuming he doesn’t have to go to my funeral instead. Great. Now what do I do? It’s just sheer wall now. From the roadside it looked easy. What an idiot!  (Reaching for more heather) Scrabbling about and tugging at this heather for dear life! Best test my weight against it, he may have a point. Well that bit was alright and there’s a decent hand hold.

Dad’s voice: Stick with the rock, the heathers won’t hold you. 

Saul: (to himself) Huh, well they just did thanks. Where’s he gone? He’s behaving like an excited six year old and steamed ahead without me. Thanks a bunch Dad, remind
me to dance on your grave when you’re gone.  Bugger, I wish he was still watching. Shit, I can’t see any rock to grip. It’ll have to be heather again but as he’s not looking... Yeeesss, the heather wins again. And (he slips as the heather comes loose) Fffffffffffudging hell. That was close.

Dad’s voice: You alright down there?

Saul: Yeah Fine! I just slipped a little on that last bit. My heart’s pounding in my ears.

Dad’s voice: Well take a moment and enjoy the view 'til you catch your breath. And when you start climbing, remember to plan and check every move like I told you at the start. Good metaphor for life that is.

Saul: (to himself) Great, he’s in philosophical mood, like that’s gonna help.

Dad’s voice: You didn’t use the heather again did you?

Saul: No!

Dad’s voice: Good, stick to the rock and you’ll be fine.

Saul: Stick to the rock, stick to the rock. No kidding, I’ll stick to the rock like a super-glued limpet. Not got a lot of choice now as there’s hardly any heather this high up. Oh please, let me not think about the height.

Dad’s voice: Wonderful view up here and a bracing wind.

Saul: Yeah? Will join you in a minute! (to himself) I hope! Then I can tell you what I think of you just leaving me to it when I’m petrified. You’re supposed to protect me and make sure I’m safe you bastard! I can’t help it I’ve got to look down. What if I have to climb down instead of up 'cos I can’t get any further? It feels like I’ve been climbing for years up this sodding rockface and... shit, it looks like forever to fall. I’m tired... and my arms are shaky. My arms are like water. I wanna tell you how scared I am, but that’s not something I can say. Oh shit, damn, fuck... Why did I open my big mouth? (Calling) How near the top am I?

Dad’s voice: About 18 feet.

Saul: (to himself) Only the length of three tall men. I can’t make it. So close, so far. (Calling) I’m stuck Dad. My arms are shaking and I’ve no strength left!” (to himself) I’m letting him down again.

Dad’s voice: You can do it. Saul, listen. You can. Just take your time as I told you, although it would be nice to get home for tea.

Saul: (He composes himself. Talking to himself) Jokes? He thinks it’s a time for jokes? I wish I could stop shaking. If I inch just a little to the left... (Tries and fails) No good. But I’m not going to panic. Maybe if I shimmy to the right then. He must have found a way up so I can. He may be stronger and his reach is greater but I’m lighter and have smaller fingers. (Finds a hold) Yes. There. And ... (hoisting himself up) up ...again. Yes. Getting there. Nearly there. Very nearly there. But my arms! I feel so weak! I can’t hold on. (Calling) How far now Dad? I don’t think...

Dad’s voice: Only another six feet, you’re nearly at the top. Come on, I’m getting lonely up here.

Saul: (to himself) The last six feet and I’m stuck. Unless... There’s another tuft of heather. I shouldn’t because it’s risky, but just for a split second. I can’t reach higher anyway. If I’m really quick it could help me get up to that last bit. Who’s to know? Yes. That’s what I’ll do. Got to do it. Carefully... quickly and decisively. OK... here goes...

Dad’s voice: (Talking not shouting now, really close) You’re there. Just swing your leg up to meet your hand and you’ll be at the top.

Saul: (to himself) You what! Swing my leg! (panting and stealing himself for one final push and calling) There? Yes? There? Dad! I made it Dad, I made it! You could’ve given me a hand to the top though.

Dad’s voice: But then you wouldn’t have done it on your own. Well done. But Saul... Never grip that heather again. You were lucky that tiny scrag at the end held you.

Saul: Yeah I know but I was kind of desperate.

Dad’s voice: Never be so desperate to risk you health or life on something so unimportant. That’s just dumb.

Saul: (to himself) Parents – eyes everywhere and never satisfied. (Talking to his Dad) Hey Dad, I never thought I’d ever sit on the edge of cliff just dangling my legs.  I’m not even scared anymore! I feel like I’ve conquered Everest. Funny, all that effort and it only seems five foot high now but you’re right it is a wonderful view. We’re two hero adventurers laughing at danger.

Dad’s voice: Yeah well it’s a stupid thing to do really without the right equipment, but well done.

 Saul: (to himself) Blimey! He’s proud of me, really, truly, actually proud of me! Wow, I’m never going to forget this... not ever. Never, never never.

Stage Directions: An autumn evening, general lighting. Vocal sounds of wind and waves.

Saul: (as an 18 year old pacing) We’re the only species on this planet that has been stupid enough to come up with the concept of money in order to be able to function to the extent of being able to eat. Even third world countries have to have money in order to buy seed in order to grow crops in order to have food to eat.

I cannot fathom how anyone would ever need a six-figure salary, nor understand what on earth could merit it. I mean how a person who shuffles accounts earns millions while a nurse who might be the only person capable of saving a loved one from death in that vital moment earns a pittance.

We live in a world where a person's worth is measured by their status in society which is either down to their title or the amount they earn, and usually both. Surely kindness, tolerance, understanding, consideration and compassion ought to rate higher but there is no measure of that. People who devote their lives to charitable works are considered abnormal, odd and often regarded as being strange or even insane.

Dad’s voice: Great, so now I’ve raised a communist. The reality is son that that is how society is and has been forever because people want and need to be rewarded for their input.

We can’t all be lazy shirkers like you and it’s because of the hard graft of others that this world lets people like you get so lazy and idealistic. High time you got into the real world and earned you keep.

Saul: The concept of capitalism is to reward people for their effort which I think is right, but I also believe in facilitating opportunities for all to be able to participate and this is where I believe capitalism has gone wrong. The extremes it's led to perpetuate a level of misery which in the 21st century really ought to have been eradicated by now. There is no viable excuse I can think of for the developed countries of this planet to still have large proportions of its population living in abject poverty.

Dad’s voice: Well you’re not going to change anything from dossing about. If you want to change things you’ll do far better from one of those positions of power that you despise so much and that earn respect. When you leave school and get a job you’ll soon change your tune.

Stage Directions: A summer day general lighting. Vocal sounds of wind and waves.
Saul’s friends are sprawled in the garden with some beers. Saul is holding a letter. Friends look at an imaginary Saul but he only looks at the audience.

Chorus: So you’re not going to university?

Saul: Not yet, no. We haven’t got the money, so I’m going to get a job and save up for it.

Chorus: Probably easier to get in that way, 'cos then you’ll be a mature student and your grades won’t matter so much.

Chorus: Oh I hope I get in at York at least, but that last exam.

Saul: You’ve done better than you think, you always do.

Chorus: So what jobs you going for? Something in science I suppose.

Saul: Well I toyed with journalism but to earn the money I’ll need I’m keeping my options open and well this... this could be it.

Chorus: Well open it then.

Saul: Dad! Dad! I got it! The job at the bank! I got it!

Stage Directions: Spotlight on Saul on the phone USL. Vocal sounds of wind and waves.

Saul:  Well it’s my money Dad. I never said I wanted to be a banker forever. I know it’s a shock and everything and you thought I was investing in shares for a bigger house and all that, but I wasn’t. I’ve wanted to do this for ages and now I’ve got the chance so I’m going for it. (Pause) Yes I know it’s a risk Dad. And yes I do know that I’m doing. Training in animal welfare is what I want. (Pause) Dad, you’re the one who taught me to take risks. And well, isn’t the most important thing in life to enjoy what you’re doing with it? Who knows I might even get a degree in it one day. I know it’s not quite what you had in mind for me but it is my life now isn’t it? You want me to be happy don’t you? (Pause) Yeah. (Pause) Yes I will. (Pause) Yes. (Pause)  Thanks Dad. See you soon? (Pause) Yes I think Mum would be proud of me too. Wish she was still with us don’t you? (Pause) Yeah. Love you Dad.

Stage Directions: General lighting. Vocal sounds of wind and waves.

Dad’s voice: What do you mean you’ve split with Jane? She was the best thing to happen to you.

Saul: You’re only saying that because she wanted me to go back into banking.

Dad’s voice: Only for a short time to get your finances sorted.

Saul: It wouldn’t be though, because then she’d want something else from me. I can understand why you liked her Dad because she’s just like you, wanting me as some sort of ornament to boast about among your friends. We’ll I’d rather be doing something that makes me happy. Sorry, but you’re just going to have to get used to it.

Dad’s voice: Like you are now you mean? Unemployed, and asking me for money to get you by?

Saul: Happier than I ever was in banking. If I have to get another job to get me through this than I will, but it won’t be banking OK? Now are you going to help out in the meantime or not?

Dad’s voice: Not! I’ll be lending it to Jane instead. She’s got her head screwed on and is more likely to repay it.

Saul: Fine! What’s it matter what I do so long as I have food in my belly and a roof over my head eh? I mean really, what does it really matter to you?

Stage Directions: Blackout. Part of Saul’s song fades in and builds and fades out maximum 15 seconds just as a hint of what is to follow. 

PLEASE NOTE: Currently in the UK no mental health professional ever wears white coats and seldom wear uniforms of any kind unless they are nursing staff. CPN is the abbreviation for Community Psychiatric Nurse and they do not wear uniforms. Sectioning in other countries is the term that used to known as committed i.e. placed in hospital by decree from a medical team. 

In the UK it takes a committee of medical staff trained in mental health to agree that you are too ill to be left to cope on your own and it is very common for a member of public not related to you to ensure that medical staff are not in breach of the law. 

All people in the UK can appeal against being placed in hospital under the Mental Health Act.

By kind permission of Mel Dixon, the Mindwalking team is proud to publish a joint venture in the form of a play. Copyright and performance rights remains with Mel Dixon who we would like to thank for writing this piece with us and for all of us. 

We hope this will enable every to understand what both isolation and loss can lead to if people are left unsupported. No one should suffer alone, but sadly all too many still do.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Due to threatening behaviour, comments are now for members only.

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.