Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Sick to my stomach: Poor Akmal Shaikh

For the first time I agree with a foreign office minister of this government. Ivan Lewis described his feelings of revulsion with the Chinese authorities. He was, he said 'sick to my stomach.' How I know how he feels. When I heard that the Chinese had executed - or, rather, killed in cold blood - a man with severe mental health issues, my heart dipped downwards. I felt quite coldly sick. This is the twenty-first century. Haven't we learned anything? How can we tolerate a country that murders the vulnerable like this?

The worst, though, is reading the comments at the various media outlets. I would say that 99% of them utterly agree that the Chinese have done the right thing! Would these people concur that the Chinese would have had the moral authority to execute a 53 year old man who, although he had smuggled heroin, had cancer or MS or Parksinsons' Disease? Would there have been a huge outcry if he had been a white Englishman?

The sheer callousness and ignorance of the posters is astounding. I agree, no one should smuggle heroin. Heroin is simply disgusting. God knows what it's done to Zach. Or, rather, what Zach has allowed heroin to do to him. However, there but for the grace of God goes Zach. He says that even in his most psychotic moodswing he would never have involved himself with drug smuggling but having seen him at his worst, when he is unable to determine who he is, then is this likely?

Chinese human rights? An oxymoron if there ever was one. A thirty minute trial? A man, who for two years on death row, was refused psychiatric help for his Bipolar disorder? This is a country that the UK and everywhere else in the world wants to do business with? A juggernaut that rides roughshod over everything. China that sits on the UN Security Council while executing the sick and the vulnerable.

I'm sickened. It doesn't matter how often Bipolar disorder or other mental illnesses are discussed in the media, no one seems to want to understand it. I looked at the photo of Akmal Shaikh in the paper today and it's heartbreaking. Maybe being as ill as he was he was unaware of what was happening to him. Maybe his life was so awful that it's better that he's no longer alive and suffering in the way he was. It didn't sound as though there was a great deal of happiness there. His behaviour was just too manic and his decisions too extreme. Maybe if he'd received treatment here in the UK and was taking the right medication, then none of this would have happened. Who knows? Although from my experience here, it's more than likely that he fell under the radar of the NHS or slipped through whatever basic 'treatment' that is available to the mentally ill. Let's just spend the millions on more beaurocracy and backhanders.


Tuesday, 22 December 2009

The grounding of Britain and no to Chinese human rights

Isn't this country quite insane? 2" of snow and the whole place has ground to a complete halt. Why is it that every time that we have 'extreme' weather here, nothing works? The trains stop. The buses collect together into little groups and refuse to budge. Cars are abandoned at the roadside (and are dealt the ignomy of parking tickets) and airports and ferries hunker down. It's bizarre. We must be the laughingstock of the world. In the 'States, where they have this weather every year, homeowners are bound by law to clear the paths in front of their homes and gritters work 24/7 in order that people can get to work and school, hospital appointments or to do their shopping. Here, shoppers had to spend last night in John Lewis in the bed department because they couldn't get home. Local authorities didn't have the presence of mind to grit the roads to major malls and hospitals.

It's a national disgrace. When I walked the dog on the Heath yesterday morning, slipping and sliding along the paths, I saw two men in green uniforms coming towards me. They were walking on the snowy, leafy bit (just as slippery though). Workers, with their Westminster badges highlighted on their anoraks. Ah ha, I thought. Just the men! 'Why don't you grit the paths?' I asked. 'They're lethal. I've almost fallen over three times!' The older one laughed. 'Yeah,' he answered, 'We've also been sliding all over the place.' 'Then why can't it be gritted?' I reiterated. 'Health and Safety,' was his response. Eh, what? 'We can't grit because of Health and Safety..'

I have now heard it all. I guess this just reflects the malaise at the heart of our society. The staff melted away on the Eurostar, afraid to take any decisions on their own so that off-duty police had to man the tannoys. No one was available the whole weekend to inform the public what was happening on the channel tunnel. No one took responsibility. And here the excuse, any excuse it would appear these days, is effing Health and Safety. It's an effing oxymoron (excuse the pun).

As an aside, it looks as if the English/Indian guy arrested in China for drugs smuggling will be executed, even though he has mental health problems. Human Rights in China, you see, don't exist. Where are the demonstrations? I hope and pray that Zach doesn't make it that far east. He's still insisting on travelling yet again. Yes, I know but what can I do? Unless we go to court, he's entitled to his passport and in his present state would convince a judge that he is compos mentis. Irrespective of his Health and Safety!

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Global chill, Copenhagen hubris and sanity

It's a quiet time of year. Thankfully. No histrionics. No tantrums or mood swings. It's like being with a human being. Let's hope it continues along this line. We take it on a day to day basis. 'Did you speak to Zach today?' 'Yes,' 'How was he?' 'He was fine. No different to yesterday...'

Christmas is upon us again. It actually feels slightly Christmassy too. It's bloody freezing! Yesterday it snowed. Great, big, fluffy, white globules that descended upon us from the skies above. It settled on the cars in the street and on the garden gnomes and the trees, making everything appear as if It's a Wonderful Life was about to reign supreme over our reality. I think, in some ways, that Copenhagen must be Pottersville. Full, it is of anarchy and hubris, hysteria and hypocrisy. All those do-gooders flying there in their Golfstreams; Chavez being applauded every time he opened his mouth and Mugabe denigrating the west. 'Cos of course these guys are just the epitome of goodness. Now we await the delights of Ahmadinejhad. Yummy. What can he possibly say that anyone can applaud?

It was -28C in Winnipeg the other night. The high in Moscow today is -24C. We are expecting winds from Siberia and snow of up to 8" overnight. I hope that I can get to my hairdresser in the morning. It's the firm's Christmas shindig and I can't possibly go with yucky hair! Will London be able to deal with the white stuff? What will the buses do? Will they make their ways out of the terminus (terminii?)? Will we have a repetition of last March when the whole of London ground to a standstill because, even though the meteorologists had (for once) rightly predicted snow, nothing was done about it?

I'll keep you posted. Meanwhile I'm going to put the heating on.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Climate change, courses and Zach

It's extraordinary how time flies. I can't believe that it will be Christmas in two weeks. Where does it go? Of course, it doesn't feel too much like Christmas because it is so mild this week. We've had mild Decembers before, of course. I don't buy into 'Climate Change.' The climate changes. That's life. A bit less pollution. A few less forests in the Amazon chopped down. Less building along low slung beaches in the Far East could help but it's all such hypocrisy for these thousands of 'enviornmentalists' to fly over to Copenhagen, rent copious amounts of limosines, eat and drink and make merry and spend OUR money doing it, and then piously tell us mere mortals what to do and how to lead our lives. And as for recycling our slops - do me a favour! Rant over. Two minutes. Is this a record?

I see that the UK is still lagging behind in the heart and cancer leagues. Not surprising when so much of the NHS budget is wasted. The graft that goes on is in a league of its own. All very well being proactive in screening but what do we do when we have a patient with symptoms? I think that there are so many well meaning people in the NHS who would love to do a good job but their hands are tied by managerial tampering. It's jobs for the boys. Oh dear, another rant...

An update on Zach: He's still good. Says that he's still taking his meds. Looks fine. Has put on weight. He's applied for a course and hopes to hear back this week to see whether he's got on it. Hope so. Will open all sorts of doors for him and it will be good for him to have something to do on a daily basis that will involve his intellect.

I also participated in a course yesterday. Now I know more about cancers than I really wanted to know and their treatments. It's fascinating but frightening but the knowledge that there are cures is a bonus. Maybe I should pursue it more proactively. Could I manage yet another degree course? Medical ethics sounds interesting... We'll see.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Marriage guidance counselling on the NHS? Whatever next? Beds for the insane?

I see that the NHS are proposing to offer marriage guidance counselling for free as one of its services. That's ripe. There's no money for drugs, beds, staff or research. A friend of mine is a scientist at the local hospital. She's working in oncology and attempting to find various cures for leukemias. It's a privately funded department because there are no government funds available for this kind of blood testing. Most of her colleagues have already been made redundant as a consequence of the recession. Private money is also wanting. She thinks that she will be next and doesn't know where her next job will be. But who will then be there to find the cures?

In addition to the above, the local hospital - in the midst of a huge refurbishment - and another hospital within the vicinity, are now the subject of a proposal to merge their two A&E departments. There's no money, you see, to keep the other, alternate, A&E open. This is also after a huge refurbishment of that particular hospital. The local hospital is already ill-equipped to deal with the huge catchment area for emergency medicine. How it could possibly cope with adding the fall-out from the other establishment is anyone's guess.

The psychiatric department where Zach has spent many moons was recently closed and a new one reopened. The problem is, though, that the local authority has to keep occupation at a minimum because there's no funding to offer the mentally ill the beds that they need. This is borne out by their 'criteria.' It used to be the case that if someone was considered a 'danger to him/herself or other people' then they would be sectioned. Well, this no longer seems to be the 'criteria' to which the NHS subscribe. God knows what it is. From experience, there's no 'criteria' at all.

NICE restrict medication that is proven to work for liver cancer sufferers; NICE operates a post-code for other medications and, this morning, I heard John Frieda on the radio proposing that hairdressers raise funds for a new operating theatre at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children. An operating theatre? What is going on here? This is just after Children in Need, an annual private fund-raising event for the very same hospital raised hundreds of thousands of pounds. Great Ormond Street is an NHS hospital.

It's a scandal. Who is actually proposing that the NHS offer marriage guidance when there's not enough money for drugs, for childrens' operations, for mental health patients or even sufficient staff to provide urgent medical care for the elderly? Has anyone heard of the word priority?

Friday, 20 November 2009

SAD, Katie Price, celebrity and rattypoo

Hi guys. I'm sorry. I just haven't had the energy or the inclination to write the blog for a bit. I think it has to do with the days - they're so short and so dark and so dingy. I get up in the morning and it's dark and then it's dark again at 4ish and I get fed up. I didn't think that I would suffer from SAD. I crave the bright blue skies and the sunshine and the beach and the smell of the pine along the boardwalk, running towards the port. There's not much of that here. Only the floods in Cockermouth.

Zach's good. I ought to bring you up to date with that. He has put on weight and looks 'normal', for once. Doesn't have the gaunt, haggard, withdrawn 'Twilight' pallor. He's not shaking or drooling or shuffling his feet. He's eating and has developed a tummy. Of course he's not too happy with the tummy effect and I catch him looking down at himself or glancing at himself in mirrors, side on. He's usually concave, not convex.

The meds are working. Zach sleeps and eats and we have conversations and he's got ambitions to do something that doesn't entail finding a dealer or 'smoking brown.' It's a new sensation. He's applied for something and wants to start something else in January. It's small steps but they're steps.

Just as an aside, I've been watching 'Celebrity'. I know. I'm sad. (Apart from X-Factor, of course!) I've been wondering why the 'public' have been voting for Katie Price on a daily basis. What is it about her that they want her to do all the tasks, however ghastly they are. And, golly, aren't they nauseating? What sadist comes up with 'tasks' such as these? Is there a groundswell of wanting to see Katie suffer? Or a groundswell of wanting her to do well? It's pretty odd, whatever it is. I think that she's one ballsy lady, whatever... Dunking your head into slime and being showered in cockroaches? Ugh. What does she have to prove? Is she the masochist, being manipulated by the public or is she manipulating the public?

The above is, of course, quite a red herring to Zach's machinations. I don't know whether he watches any of that. I think that he prefers real animals. He's got his own ratty in situ.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

'Health and Safety' insanity

Can someone please tell me what is the point of 'Health and Safety'? I ask simply because I'm just so bloody frustrated with the all-purpose answer from anyone who works for anything to do with utilities. It's the saga of Zach's electricity. I spent half a day in his flat a few weeks ago, waiting for the man to turn up and 'do' something with the electricity meter. It's in a room along with every other tenant's meter - gas and electricity. At waist high. All you have to do is to bend over to read it. Nothing dangerous there, I swear.

The meter was supposed to be moved inside of Zach's flat on Tuesday, for 'health and safety reasons.' He waited in all day but no one turned up (at least he didn't see anyone from the electricity company). The appointment had been made weeks ago. I rang them for him to find out what had happened. He didn't have enough juice left on his mobile. 'Someone was there,' I was informed. 'But they couldn't do anything for "health and safety reasons".' What were those, I enquired. 'I don't know,' came the response from the very nice man at the end of the phone. There's nothing unsafe about the meter, I told him. It's got good company with everyone else's. They're not having to be moved for 'health and safety reasons.'

Zach was down to his last £1 on the meter and called out for an emergency add-on. You have to do that, I was told. Not before the last £1. Nuts. The meter man turned up first thing this morning, Sunday. Of course Zach was asleep. The phone rang once to say that someone was there but when Zach got to the door, the add-on man had disappeared. Now he's out of both gas and electricity. Sitting in the chill and the dark and unable to boil a kettle. He's effectively cut off. What a botch of a system.

When I rang the electricity company once again on Zach's behalf and explained the situation, I was told that if Zach had paid his bills, then he wouldn't be in this situation. I agree entirely. But we're not dealing with someone who necessarily thinks like everyone else. He's got problems, I told her. He's not unique. I'll bet there are plenty just like him. She agreed. Then, I posited, this is not a very effective way of dealing with vulnerable people who should benefit by health and safety but who, evidently, are being let down by those very same laws.

Meanwhile we have an extension cable. There's a plug in the hallway of Zach's block and, because the landlords have still not mended the stove, the doorbell, the shower unit or replaced the rotting carpet in the bathroom - not to mention their recalcitrance with dealing with Ratty - he can use some of their electricity while he waits yet again for someone to turn up and add on the electricity because 'health and safety' meant that no one moved his meter without him being there because god knows what could possibly happen to the meter man confronted with a waist high electricity meter.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Back on earth

I'm back. It's still autumn. It's still warm and the roads are carpeted with leaves. It's quite beautiful really. Stunning. I'm lucky because I can take the dog for a walk and see other people that I recognise as other dog walkers and the shop and stall owners who know us and we can meet and greet. It stops me from being invisible. Of course I'm still invisible when I'm dog-less. I think that Zach needs to be less invisible, although I suppose he'd rather be invisible if it means that no one knows him as the 'nutcase' of Ladakh.

We've reached terra firma again. It's reasonably firm. I'm not too sure what damage he's done to himself this time. It's taken a toll of him. He's quite exhausted and unfit. He still looks quite well though. He says that he's taken all the meds. He's not sweaty and he's eating. His conversation is constrained. I think that he's making an effort not to inject any 'Zachisms' into what he says to me. The stuff he knows that I dislike with a vengeance having to listen to. He says that he'll give the music one last try. So there's insight there. He still wants to do something abroad though. He says that London is bad for him. Absolutely. But to work in the mountains? In the altitude again?

Ideally, Zach says, he'd like to find something to do every day. Keep himself busy. See people. But what? Does anyone have any ideas? There's Oxfam in the High Street. They want volunteers for some hours a week. But is that any good for Zach? He would like to take some courses. He said that he'd go to the local library to see what was on offer. The inherent wishes are there but the motivation to get up and go is something else. I wish that I knew the answer. Again it's how much do I get involved? But if I don't, could he do it himself?

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Greetings from 'the Land.'

I must apologise. I'm away. In 'the land', among the sun and the palm trees and the absolutely azure Mediterranean and having a sublime time. It's nice because I can try and switch off. Sam is with me and we have seen Beth in situ and she's fine and having the best moments of her life. She asks about Zach in a tangential way, almost as if she doesn't really want to know. And I understand that. We're returning to what I understand is a cold and noisy London on Monday night and the blogs will recommence from then on.

We hear from Zach when Sam calls. He's been to see his GP but decided against the drugs counselling and has stopped the medication that's supposed to eradicate the need for opiates. He said that the pills were giving him terrible side effects. Don't opiates give you 'terrible side effects'? Quite frankly I would have thought that some side effects, thus negating the need for heroin. would have been worth while. But then I wouldn't have started along that route in the first place...

To some extent I'm quite despondent about Zach's future. He says that he's taking all the Bipolar medication. Maybe if he continues to do so, then the need for other forms of highs will be prohibited by the fact that he's 'balanced.' However, he's not of a mind to want to be 'balanced' at the best of times. We shall have to see.

In any event, I'm going off to enjoy the sun for the next couple of days because I know that next Saturday I won't be able to walk along the shore, watching the dogs and their owners having a whale of a time at the dog beach, or the gays on the gay beach or the orthodox on the orthodox beach. I won't be able to sit outside a beachside cafe and drink upsidedown coffee or ice cafe or eat humus and techina and tiny salad in freshly baked pita or pungent black bread. I won't be able to watch the cyclists and the skaters and the runners and the walkers. I watch the surfboarders and the windsurfers and wonder how they have the termerity and bravery to stay atop the waves. I'd drown. And noisily.

It's not a question of it being a dreamlike quality and reality hitting back when we get back 'home.' I'm saving it all up and will bring out a memory each time that I hit the blackspot when it all gets too much and imagine that I'm still here. And Zach will have to deal with that.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Doomed to repeat those errors again

The sun is shining now. When we walked on the Heath this morning, I had to cover myself in my burka-like hood so that I wasn't a sodden human being. The dog dragged his bedraggled body along the paths. He doesn't like getting wet but unlike ex-dog he, at least, doesn't avoid puddles. I hate the wet. I live in the wrong country for walking dog. I went out at the wrong time. Now it looks like a summer's day again. When will I ever learn?

Indeed, do we ever learn? Why do we keep repeating patterns of behaviour, as if past experiences were part of an amnesiac's brain? This can be extrapolated globally, cif. the UN. But on a macro level we appear doomed to repeat the same mistakes.

We saw Zach on Wednesday night. A birthday dinner with Sam's mother. A nice evening. Zach was quiet. Controlled. An improvement over the weekend when he was, evidently, elated. He says he's taking all the meds but I'm not too sure about controlling his addictions. I hope that his mind will control his urges in that direction. But from past experience I can't say that I'm too hopeful. I know that he wants to but doesn't the desire far outweigh the hope? He needs to accept the right help. I can't see it happening though.

Are there times when we meet ourselves re-walking the same paths that we have walked before? Would that there be something new. Something positive. Only time will tell, they say. Will it?

Monday, 12 October 2009

And so we begin (Again)

An endless line of cars stretched into the short term parking at Heathrow. Saturday night. Around 6.30pm. Probably, apart from the 'red eye', the busiest time of the day. All the flights arriving were from the Middle East, the Far East and Africa.

You would never have believed that you were in England. The terminal was heaving. Thousands of passengers. Most of them alighting from flights as diverse as Oman, Lagos, Jakarta, Delhi, Yemen. A crush besides the barriers. Families vying for positions close to the doors from whence their mothers, fathers, siblings and friends pushed their trollies and buggies. A couple in full African regalia were pushed along in wheelchairs. They looked like the king and queen of an ancient African state, glistening with gold, diamonds and bright red lipstick. Another young woman in a burka appeared alone with one child in a buggy, another toddling at the side and a baby grasped around its middle in a pink all-in-one. She looked exhausted and sad. There didn't appear to be anyone with her apart from the children. But then where was her baggage? Presumably her husband had gone along in front but I couldn't see him.

We both peered around looking for Zach. He'd texted us on someone else's phone to say that the plane had taxied to its spot and was about to stop. Then I saw a lone white face waving towards where I was standing. For a moment I didn't recognise it. Then I realised that it was Zach! How well he looked initially. He'd put on some weight and didn't look gaunt and haggard. His face had filled out and he'd had his hair cut well and was wearing a clean and elegant purple linen shirt and new jeans and shoes and bag. He hugged me and, I thought, gosh, he looks older. Like the 30 year old that he is...

A return car journey. A meal locally and an analysis of how Zach presented himself psychologically. There wasn't really too much that we could talk about because he was still somewhat delusional. A coup in Ladakh. A Chinese take-over. The entire area overrun with Chinese soldiers. A trek to a lake through 'enemy controlled countryside' where gurkha soldiers aided him and from where he was accompanied back to Leh on the back of a motorbike. Of course it had nothing to do with his state of mind that he took himself off without provisions or water. He met only the best people. How much of this is true? It's so difficult to determine. We took him home. Much appreciation for my cleaning and happiness to be back in London but after we had left he took himself off to Camden with a friend...

The problem is that Zach now wants to revert to how things were before but without the attendant heroin. He's happy to take the medication that obviates the need for opioids and the meds that should control the mood swings. He'll even take some of the anti-psychotic medication that will help him sleep but for how long is anyone's guess. He's been prescribed a cocktail that should really make a huge impact on his life but he's still resistant to lithium and, I do believe, has discarded it already.

Yesterday evening Zach came around for a quick visit full of plans. He's got some insight into when he's warbling on and when he's talking complete nonsense. He says how much he liked the psychologist and that he wants to continue their sessions online. He's still not well though. Maybe he has what is called a 'mixed state.' He's elated but, I believe, quite depressed. How the mood goes over the next few days is something that we shall have to watch. It could go either way. If he stops sleeping, stops taking the right amount of medication or starts smoking weed, then I'm not hopeful. Maybe he should have stayed in hospital longer. Maybe we were too impatient to bring him back here.

More interesting times.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Phew! Return returns and stressful situations

Zach is coming back tomorrow night. I can't say that I'm excited about it. More like stressed, enervated, anxious. He's excited about it. So much so that Sam was worried that he was spiralling again. That's all we need. Another reprise of 2007. Weeks in hospital, then return to London and a squat among the market stalls in Camden. I can't see that we'll get any help from the NHS. Zach's been 'out of the loop' for the last two years. No CPN (community psychiatric nurse) has ever been doled out; the social worker disappeared off the scene. The hospital psychiatrist left his post and no one has bothered to contact Zach. Great.

The past few days have been spent waiting for the man from the electicity company to come back and switch on the lights. I got a parking ticket for that. Four hours backbreaking cleaning. The bathroom and kitchen look far less squalid now. I kept on looking for ratty but he didn't show his face. Maybe the smell of cleaning fluid and bleach frightened him. It was a new experience. I don't think that the kitchen floor had ever seen a mop before. I doubt that it will again but I left it behind. No doubt if I go back in six months it will still be in the same place.

Apart from dust and discarded cigarettes and ash, there wasn't too much to clean in the main room. The poor plants had mostly died. How can you kill a cactus? Poor sad things, all wilty brown leaves and crumbly earth. I tried to revive them but my Hippocratic skills, learned when I started my MSc at Imperial, were weak. Dosing them with water only created crators among the scorched soil. Maybe he can leave them outside in the rain. They need tender loving care.

The bits and pieces of groceries have been put away. The kitchen and bathroom almost shine but I wonder for how long. Other friends ask their cleaners to clean their respective kids' flats. I don't know if I could do that. It makes sense but then he'll never even lift a wet cloth to a tea stain in the knowledge that L. the clean will come along and make it pretty again.

The psychiatrist has sent him home with two weeks' meds. The psychologist has given him her advice and directions as to how best live his life. Ragesh is making his way back to Nepal, no doubt having made a friend for life. But at what cost? And the wonderfully kind men from the High Commission have extended their friendship. So rare among the various embassies and high commissions and consulates.

We'll be at the airport to see Zach among the crush of bodies on the New Delhi flight. Once again. How many times? He says that he's bought new clothes. That we should be 'proud' of the way he looks. That he wants to continue 'some' medication. I can't bare the thought of the extended conversation. The one that's been ensuing for twelve years. The thought of relapse makes me breathless. Then I think of the man with no arms and legs. It's not THAT bad!

Monday, 5 October 2009

Worry-men and inspirational talk

There's an old parable about the 'worry-man.' From place to place, village to village, shtetl to shtetl, he goes around with his long wooden stick. In each village they come out to greet him and he shows them the stick and asks them to tie their worry to it. After half an hour it's emblazoned with worries. 'Take one!' he tells the people. 'Take any one. Any one that doesn't belong to you!' The villagers look at one another. Can this be true, they ask one another. Can we take someone else's problems, anxieties, worries?

One villager steps forward and pulls off a piece of paper and the string attached from the stick. Another one follows suit. Then another and another. Each person takes a new worry. Something that they hadn't had, something that they didn't want. They look at the writing. They look at each other then, after some seconds, stealthily they tread towards the worry-man, while he regards them with a short smile around his lips, his eyes beady with intelligence.

'I'm not sure that I want this one,' a tubby woman tells him. 'I've enough worries of my own...' She reaches up to where she had initially tied her problem. 'I think I'll keep it. If you don't mind.' On and on the villagers untie their problems. Half an hour later, they walk back to their houses, crushing the paper between their fingers, throwing it into the fires that burn in the blackened grates. The worry-man continues onwards, towards another village, another shtetl. Who needs someone else's tsuris, or worries, when you know your own?

I watched a short video yesterday about a man who was born with no arms and no legs, apart from a fin attached to what must have been a stump. A torso with a head. A young, handsome man who goes around to schools and colleges, talking about his particular tsuris, making the point - not necessarily elegantly - about things being far worse than you think they are. You wonder how on earth he manages to pee or scratch his nose, shave, eat, move from school to school. He's supposed to be inspirational. Your weight gain or your insecurities or your cancer or insanity are nothing compared to me! Yes, they are inconsequential if it means that the alternative is to have no arms or legs and to be reliant on a host of people to do the basic, basic things.

So I guess that I'll stick to the insanity on my doorstep that permeates my existence. I don't want someone else's problems. The worry-man can sleep peacefully knowing that I won't tie my problems to his wooden stick. Although sometimes I do dream differently.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Of utilities and a waiting game

I've spent most of the day on the phone. In his infinite wisdom Zach doesn't pay bills. Therefore the red ones spirit their way to him predictibly. At the moment there's no electricity in his flat; his filthy flat with the dirty dishes still in the sink. Everything is sticky and I think that Ratty has made himself at home among the piles of pots and pans and garlic bulbs. There's no washing up liquid, of course and the bathroom - you don't want to know. Miraculously everyone I've spoken to, from EDF electricity to Thames Water and British Gas have been incredibly polite, helpful and humane. I've had none of the 'I can't speak with you under the Data Protection Act.'

Obviously call centre personnel are now trained to deal with problems regarding customers with problems. Severe problems. When I explained to the chap in the call centre for the gas supply that Zach was in hospital in the very same city that he was working in, he was just charming. He was probably happy to divert from his script and discuss something outside the usual parameters within which he has to work. He knew of the hospital and where it is situated and wished Zach better and only the best for him.

Now I have to go and spend the day at the flat and wait for a man to switch on the lights. I could well do without having to do that. I'll have to sit in the car, as there's nowhere to park legally and wait for someone to turn up. The things I do for Zach. Does he actually appreciate anything? Unlikely. Frustration turns to anger.

The latest is that Zach may be leaving for London in about ten days. He won't be entirely well but it comes to a point that it will be unproductive having him in hospital. Ideally he would be an outpatient for months to come but he can't live in Delhi. No doubt it will be fun and games when he comes back because, naturally, none of this episode will have been his fault. It never is. He put the phone down on me last time I spoke with him because I told him that I personally would have left him in Ladakh. This time I'm going to sit him down and tell him exactly what I think of him. How well will that go, I wonder.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Blogging blogs that are hopefully read

The inherent problem about writing a blog is that you don't know who's reading it. You look at the number on the stat counter - when it works. Mine, for the second time, decided to give it up and now I've had to start again at the beginning. Frustrating but, ultimately, egotistical. No?

You sit down, you stare at the screen, you begin to write something and then, hopefully, you find a rythm, and something that makes sense invariably turns up. It's like the (famous) Henry Mancini concept: you sit at the piano, you know you have a piece of music to write, you know that you have x time to write it in, so you do and it gets done. Don't ask me how.

So I'm writing my blog and people are reading it and sometimes you get a comment (I wish that there were more!) that floors you. Who could it possibly be from? Who knows so much? Who is it that actually offers more information than you actually have yourself? Your imagination flows. So why be anonymous? And angry?

Little has happened this week. I think that the meds are kicking in. I believe that Zach is now taking a medication that counterracts the desire for heroin. I also believe that he's far less manic but, in a conversation with Sam, Zach still expresses his desire to use cannabis. So, then, what is the point of all this? Just a re-hash (sorry, my pun) of all the previous histories. Isn't it about time that he actually took stock of his life and there was some self-examination? How about going completely clean? You know, no drugs, apart from those medically prescribed? Wouldn't that make sense?

What makes sense is that Zach continues at the clinic in Delhi and enjoy the weather once it clears up and somehow make use of the facilities of detox and rehab and introspection and if and while that happens, I'll write my blog into the ether but hope that I do, indeed as a consequence, get more comments - whatever they are and whoever they are from.

And, by the way, Happy New Year!

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Bipolar Days in sodden Delhi

It's been a bipolar week, so to speak. At one end messages of stubborness and starvation, at the other, some better news. It's still raining. The consular official is still stuck on the road to Kashmir because of a landfall during the last days of his holiday. Ironic really, considering that only a few weeks ago Sam, Rickey and Zach were driving along the very same road. At that time only the bridge was out, delaying them for about five hours. This time the side of a mountain has landed on the only road west and so far it's taken five days while Her Majesty's representative has wasted his hours among the trucks and four-wheel drives and their angry and irate travellers, truckers and vacationers. No one knows when he'll get back. The thought of this having happened while Zach, Sam and Rickey were on their way is just too awful to consider.

So another member of HM's High Commission visited the hospital, umbrella at the ready, trousers lifted high above his shoes, his suit jacket splattered with the tumbling rain. He met up with Ragesh and Zach and noted Zach's 'jolly, jovial mood.' Yes, indeedy. Zach was 'jolly and jovial' while he was able to get what he wanted. When he didn't, said HM's rep. he retorted to 'violence.' The reason that poor Ragesh is needed so desperately is that Ragesh keeps Zach calm. I remember a large hole created in a wall in a well-known London hospital. The flat that we had bought so that Zach had somewhere to live other than the streets here was pretty well destroyed before we threw him out two years ago. I doubt that he's violent towards people. It's inanimate objects that he tends to lash out at. Doors, tv controls, walls, guitars.

Yet for the first time since Zach has been diagnosed Bipolar we received a written report from his consultant in Delhi. Isn't it disgraceful that even though he's been sectioned here what, nine times, that we've never had this before? Dr. J. in Delhi was thorough. He wrote about the medication prescribed and it's effects; he wrote about Zach's behaviour and also what they are doing about his drug problems and how they are tackling them. At the moment there's no time scale involved. Another local patient would 'recover' somewhat and then go home and go back to the hospital as an out-patient. Because Zach has no home or family there, he will have to stay in hospital until he, too, 'recovers', if at all he does. The irony is that he travelled to India in order to be cleaned up. Maybe, in this convoluted fashion, he may well end up being 'clean'. How bipolar is that?

Sunday, 13 September 2009

It's a Hard Rain Gonna Fall

New Dehli is awash with streams and puddles and it's steaming. The temperature outside is around 35 centigrade and it continues its monsoon. No one is left out of the downward cascade. Around the corner from the hospital is a slum. Sam described the moment they came upon it, trying to find their way back to their hotel. Dozens of women, bottoms up, using the lanes around and about for their personal toilets. He said that the smell was indescribable - as was the sight of such squalor juxtaposed with the skyscrapers of Delhi. I don't think that Zach will want to escape into this - without money or passport.

Things aren't too pretty in the hospital either. Ragesh is fed up with the situation that he's found himself in. The staff at the hospital don't treat him well. Class and caste distinction in India may have eradicated itself on paper but on the ground it exists well into the twenty-first century. Ragesh is a Tibetan Buddist. This is almost on a par, it would appear, with the dalits, or leatherworkers, of the lowest caste. He's called names and treated as Zach's skivvy and Zach, in his mania, isn't too nice to him either. What a gem he is. He's still there. I think that maybe he doesn't want to lose face and leave or that he's totally loyal to Zach or he's frightened to tell us that he wants to go. We ask him each time. 'Ragesh, do you want to go home? You can, you know. Don't feel that you have to stay with Zach...' But Ragesh demurs and he's still there. 'It's been the worst time of my life,' he told Rickey. What to do?

Then there's the other thing. The thing that Zach refuses to eat hospital food. Initially I felt that it was spoilt behaviour but remembering the swill that they served up in the clinic in Greece, I can guess that it's not Le Gavroche or even Wimpey. I've a bet that Wimpey would be gobbled down with alacrity. Indian hospital swill is probably not too inspiring. Being almost 6' and skinny as a broomstick, Zach could do with calories. He's not going to get them by going on hunger strike. I guess that other patients have their families bring in food from home. It's a bit far for us. Ragesh gets pizzas for him but one can't live on pizza alone.

So Zach's angry and he's kicking out and breaking stuff and I presume it's because he's hungry and the meds don't work properly without food and he's not well and it's all very frustrating being so far away and unable to do anything proactive. I thought, for about a minute or two, that I would go and then jumped back. What's the point? Apart from taking in food, within quarter of an hour Zach would be at my throat metaphorically and we would be shouting at one another.

So the rain continues to fall. Ragesh is bemoaning his fate and Zach is starving himself but not into submission. I've asked Chabad to visit him and take him something to eat. I've not heard back. It's a 'good deed' I said in my email. Hopefully someone will plop through the puddles and the downpours and deposit a pot of chicken soup on the hospital cot. Am I dreaming?

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Safety in Delhi?

I made a friend recently. Elsie, I'll call her, runs the antique stall in the village. A real eccentric, smells wonderfully of expensive perfume, hugely charismatic and jolly in the extreme, she asked after Zach. 'How's your boy?' she enquired while Monk, my waggy Max replacement, bounded up at her in joyful exhuberance. She knows Zach. When he's reasonably sane he takes Monk for walks on the Heath. He passes by Elsie's stalls and stops, no doubt to louchely light a cigarette and chat to Elsie or to talk with Ken her partner about the latest football stories.

I imagine Zach there on a cold winter's day, collar up, huddled over lighting the fag, while Elsie regales him with the latest local gossip. He's charmed her. When she saw me after Sam had returned from Delhi, she then too enquired about Zach. 'Where's your boy? I haven't seen him for weeks...' I told her what had happened to him. The journey to Leh. The meltdown. The drugs he had apparently been fed by the 'friends' he had made while they watched him as one does a clown or the funniest comedian. Her face fell and tears reached her eyes. 'I know just how you feel,' she said to me. She didn't have to say much. I could tell that she really could empathise. 'You know,' she continued, 'it's not his fault. When you start to lose it, the distance between the time that you can stop and do something is so small, so very tiny that it's almost an impossibility to do anything about it...' So she knows a lot about this, I thought.

Today, after being dragged around the corner by the ever-affectionate Monk, almost knocking over the bric-a-brac and pictures and into Elsie's arms, she asked again after Zach. I considered the question. How do you answer it? 'He's safe,' I said. She looked up at me and smiled. 'Well, that's something, isn't it? At least he's safe.'

I suppose he's safe. We're, what, five, six thousand miles away? We have to trust the hospital, the consultant, the attendants, nurses, Ragesh... We don't really know what's happening there but then we didn't know what was happening to Zach when he was in hospital in Greece or Ecuador or Thailand. Various people gave us feedback. The only feedback we get from Zach is that he 'shouldn't be there.' When asked by Sam why, his answer was that he should still be in Leh, 'fighting the fight in Iraq/Afghanistan...' Whatever that means. Still delusional, is the reply.

So safety is paying hospital bills and bills for Ragesh and extra bills for Ragesh to go and buy food for Zach because Zach refuses to eat the food at the hospital and then there's more clothes to buy for him and... Well, it's still safer him being there than here because at least we know that he's not knocking around the streets of Delhi, making his home in a market and scoring as much as he can from the local dealers. Well, at least I hope he's not...

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Football's wonderous clarity

I suppose that clarity returns when part of a 'conversation' turns onto football. That hadn't happened for something like two months. It's a semblance of sanity and something that we can grasp on to. The rest of the conversation didn't much resemble the sanity we want but there's time yet to go.

The call is now for money. The problem is that by sending money to Zach, we don't know in whose pocket it will end. Ok if it's for McDonalds or pizza but not such good sense if it's the local dealer and knowing Zach's propensity to smell out the ones who take the money and then deliver the goods, we don't want that. Another dilemma. According to Zach, Ragesh wants to go. Hardly surprising there but do we believe Zach? Maybe it's a ruse to do away with Ragesh so that Zach 'manages' himself...

So it's back to the consultant tomorrow. The last words that Sam had with him, the kind doctor told him that Zach's MRI was good; that he was 'progressing' and that they do rehab there. Zach feels that there's no need that he remain there in India. He can 'take a sedative and take the plane home.' Oh, yeah... 'And,' he added, 'continue detox in London.' Raised eyebrows and downturned mouth. The thought of that...

Why is it all so difficult? The continual juggling with thoughts and opinions and ideas and never any real advice from anyone. We have to make these decisions and hope that they are the right decisions. We want Zach to stay in hospital until he comes down enough to be able to steer himself through some kind of rehab. 'You didn't have to bring me to hospital.' Someone will speak with the consultant about money. 'I need money. I don't have any money. You can't survive in Delhi without money.' Send me, send me, send me... As if somehow that will be the answer to everything.

As usual there's no insight from Zach as to why Zach's in hospital in Delhi. Always someone else's fault. His arguments are currently falling on deaf ears but for how much longer? When the entire conversation focuses on football? And then...

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

The cords that bind and the chords that strike

He shouts at Sam, 'What IS this place?' Then, realising that he knows all along, he simply raises his voice and belittles Sam about the first hospital. 'It was the worst! They tied me to a bed and wouldn't let me go..!' It's amazing how mania makes you forget everything. The fact that this latest hospital was a small, private facility in a large Indian city is irrelevant to the now.

The first time I came across Zach in this predicament was in Athens. This, too, was a private hospital. Here he had been shackled to a rusting metal bed by a leather strap and a lock with a key. Sounds medieval? It was. He was practically comotose, though. There was no need to disihibit his movements. One step and he would have folded, like a pair of trousers, onto the grubby floor. This was the reason, the consultant later told me, why they had shackled him to the bed. To stop him from falling out. But the amount of meds they had given him would have obviated that argument.

This time in Delhi, in the full glare of the hospital lights, surrounded by nurses and doctors and attendants, Zach had to be packed down onto the bed. He was out of control. Maybe a padded cell would have been the answer? He hasn't done padded cells yet. But the hospital, sweet as it was, didn't have that option. He had to be tied down before he did himself or anyone else real damage. He remembers the cords but not the reason for them.

There's no real news at the moment. Just the few words from the consultant to say that the real work will begin when the meds have made their way across the deluded mind. We can only wait until we hear that that has happened. Until then, our imagination will have to be utilised and the occasional phone call from Zach, angry and despondent and humiliated, will assault our senses.

I see that Julie Myerson has had her book published in the USA, not to great acclaim. But that won't stop it from being sold in the thousands. Any publicity, it would appear, is good publicity. She's been largely criticised for glibly 'outing' her son in this book. The general concensus is that he appears to have behaved like a teenager - and yet she threw him out. It's the connivance between the two of them that has struck that chord. All too convenient.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Autumn leaves again so soon

We're now at the angry stage. We're also at the stage where realism begins to show its head among the delusions. Zach's aware that he's not in some crabby hotel room or a prison cell. He's in hospital and he's not happy. He wants out but he's not sure how to make that possible. The consultant emailed me. They're going to start psychotherapy when there's something to work with. Until then, it's taking the meds and sleeping and, hopefully, eating.

Three messages were left on my mobile yesterday by Ragesh. Zach wants to talk to his mother. Another voicemail from Zach on the house phone. Difficult to understand what he said. Sounds pretty doped up. And angry. How sad.

I spend time considering what can be done so that this doesn't happen again but that likelihood is remote. What I do think is that something should be done to divert Zach's attention; change his behaviour patterns. Coming back to London and facing the autumn and then winter and the dark days and the cold will not help his equilibrium. The boredom will return. The unaltering days. Re-visits to where he was before he left. I have an idea but more of that later.

I can't believe that summer is almost over again. It goes so fast - here, especially, where we have such a short period of heat and sunlight. Walking, I see that brown leaves are making carpets on the Heath and that autumn fashions are displayed in shop windows. When Zach left in June, summer was just on its way. We'd had a few good days. When and if he comes back here, it will be leading to short nights and Christmas decorations and adverts for the 'festive season.' Will he notice that? Notice that it all went away so quickly, while he was puffing and snorting and being fed all and every narcotic?

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Oh, for the days of 'Soap'

It's come back again. The delightful incubus of Zach's soul. The one that only wants, wants, wants and takes everything and does nothing to show its appreciation or happiness. Poor Ragesh. Stuck in a room with Zach and his demons. An email from Ragesh was only so enlightening.

"...he still asking me for drugs. He asking me so much thing I could not effort [sic] him. Whatever you pay me, most off money I envest [sic] for Zach. I could not seved [sic] any money."

So he's basically saying that Zach's manipulating him to buy him the usual: coke, cigarettes, pizzas and, if he could, drugs. I only hope that Ragesh has the good intelligence not to go down that path.

I wrote back to Ragesh, telling him not to give in to Zach. That this is typical behaviour and to tell Zach that he doesn't have any money on him. That he's put it all into his bank account and that there's no way on earth that he's going to bring in drugs. You have to be very strong, cold and stern while dealing with Zach when he's like this. If he doesn't get his way, he's likely to be aggressive and frightening. You have to leave him when he eyes the wall and lands a hefty thump through the plasterwork. Hopefully he's wearing sandals or, better still, nothing on his feet. The local hospital here in London still has the site of his last temper tantrum.

It's very early days then. This is the beginning of the downward slope but it's still likely that he could, if he managed to get hold of any skunk or ketamine, spiral yet again. You just have to hope that the hospital is aware of this. I wrote to the consultant, reiterating Zach's propensity for all manner of narcotics. I've not yet heard back from him. Still, Zach's not alone there. The guy in the next room is also in for a psychotic breakdown linked entirely, he shamefacefully told Sam, to his 'predisposition for cannabis.'

And today I read that Kerry Katona biffed her accountant. She's in meltdown too, yet again. Addicted to cocaine, the story goes. That will make her aggressive for sure. Now she's been arrested and what gives for her kids? Will they be given to her ex? Taken into care? What's happened to this generation? Is there really so much more mental disengagement? In decades past was there such an enormous amount of suffering? Is it simply due to the proliferation of drugs?

Will Ragesh last the distance? Who could? Will he take my advice and tell Zach that he's not going to bring in to the hospital anything other than bottled water? It's like Soap. Where's Jessica Tate when you need her?

Monday, 24 August 2009

Monsoons, slums and the waiting game

The first thing on waking up. The last thing on going to sleep. When you wake up in the middle of the night, it's there, like a shadow, spreading itself over your supine body. It doesn't go away. There's always a tinge of it, whether you are watching a film: yes, I remember him like that too. Reading a book, concentration is lacking. How can you work, you ask yourself. You have to get on and try to push the thoughts to the back, so that they don't take precedence over everything. Then it's a Pyrrhic victory because then the overriding emotion is guilt. Guilt that it ever happened. Guilt that you were a party to it and guilt that it takes so much of you and that those who deserve equal sentiments are denied.

A young Australian intern at the neurological hospital in Delhi emailed us. 'The past few days,' she wrote, 'he's been very manic, aggressive and agitated, as you no doubt know and today he's quite a bit calmer. This is definitely due to his medications. Today was the first day that he's not been delusional.' This morning Ragesh called and Zach tried to speak with Sam. Pointless, as he was so full of these delightful meds that he was unable to articulate a word, save for asking for Sam and Rickey to 'take him out for a meal.' He doesn't, therefore, seem to be in a place yet where he knows what's happening. I doubt that it's the meds doing this, it's where his head is.

There's really nothing that we can do from this end. Phone calls to the hospital are difficult to arrange because the consultant has his own methods of doing things. He has his various hospital consultation hours and then the time that he spends at Zach's hospital is spread out between the number of patients there. We'd like to know what's happening, though. Be brought up to date. Find out whether there's some light at the end of the tunnel, although I know from past experience, that this is just the beginning and it's going to take weeks.

From mixed messages by way of Ragesh last week, Sam got the impression that maybe Ragesh wouldn't last the distance, notwithstanding his sudden increase in wealth; that the time spent with Zach was so fraught, that it wouldn't even be worth his new status. However Rickey spoke with Ragesh and somehow Ragesh's fears have been allayed - for now.

So the monsoon continues its downpours onto the sodden Delhi streets and the malodorous and monstrous slums that abut the hospital and we wait, all the while our waking moments are wondering and imagining how things are there and whether it was all worth it.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

A different set of altitudes

I look out and I can see blue skies, sunshine and the mediterranean glinting not so far away. I should really get a thrill from it and I do but everything is tinged with a melancholy. There's also the other emotions: anger, guilt, sadness. I've been away for three weeks and I knew that I shouldn't have looked forward to it. That whenever you look forward to something, then there's going to be something that spoils it. You can say this is it, this time. I sound spoiled and petulant. Maybe I am. I feel anger that Beth hasn't been able to see her father and that the week that she was going to spend with him now has been eradicated; you can't re-spend time. They'll have it again but it won't be the same.

And I think of Zach in the hospital room. The way that he will be spending his days there for the present. In a haze of intense medication. Probably not eating much. Drinking water. Pacing around the room. Bored. Listless. Angry. Conflicted. I wonder whether they will try additional and alternative medicine there. I know that they have yoga and ayurveda. This is India, after all. Whether he participates is something else.

So Sam is back in London. Emotionally and physically exhausted with Indian beaurocracy, intense travel, Zach's needs, traffic, fumes, heat and the having to contend with a zillion bits and pieces that continually stymied their movements. Back to London's shifting weather. But the football season calls and the further frustration that his team creates. Will they stay up this season, have an owner, win a game? All good stuff for a diversion. Eventually, it is hoped, Zach will once again join in with the trek south.

So I leave tomorrow for London once more. Leave these wonderfully sunny climes and then to be confronted with the full and unexpurgated version of what went on these last nine days among the mountains, the lakes and traffic fumes.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

British Airways from Delhi to London and thoughts on the altititude of Leh

Sam's taking a plane back to London today. I hope he leaves enough time to get to the airport. Rickey took a cab to meet Ragesh yesterday but the traffic drove him to distraction. I expect that Sam has taken that on board. Leave four hours early maybe!

Ragesh is now esconced in the hospital room with Zach. I think that he needs just to spend the nights there. Make sure that Zach doesn't do anything that will make his 'recovery' more fraught than it has been already. The meds should make him reasonably compliant, doing what they do to a person. It's a pity that the side-effects are always so profound. The shakes, the facial tics, the desperate desire to keep drinking water, coke - whatever is available. I can't see him but can imagine.

It's all quite depressing, really, leaving Zach in India like this. Even when his dybbuk is in place and he's immensely difficult to be around, you want to visit, to show that you care. It's too far to go. The hospital will keep Zach for as long as we pay and until we tell them to release him. How long is a piece of string? Who do we trust? I have to wait until I speak to Zach. Wind him up in the usual way and then see how he responds. Then I'll know how he is.

Oh, and my maths being so pathetic, I left off zeros. Sam reliably informs me that Leh in Ladakh is 12,500 feet high. Oops. Can't imagine being in altititude that thin and having to live a day to day existence. I know, it's the Himalayas and vast amounts of travellers go there in order to trek and climb and the sunrises are spectacular. Rather them than me. No wonder madness is an attendant theme. Far too little oxygen hits the brain.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Crop circles of cigarette burns adorning bodies and a hope for 'Ushpizin'

What chemical imbalance would make you stub a cigarette out on your arm in anger? Someone said it was 'self hate.' It's not the first time. Look, if you decide in one corner of your brain that you want to take so many drugs that you become totally dependent on them, then surely there's something there. But I simply can't understand it. It's such a nightmare.

It's just an undate now. Sam's had enough of India. I think that the traffic is finally getting to him and Rickey. They want out. They had the most wonderful Indian meal of all time last night. A set meal. The equivalent in rupees of £4. That's something. Rickey's on his way to meet Ragesh at the airport but they didn't realise just how bad Delhi traffic could be. There's over a billion people in India. No doubt plenty of those are spending their time in cars, taxis, lorries, rickshaws and whatever form of transport carries people in India. I remember the cows dodging the traffic in the south. They've taken them off the streets of Bombay. Have they in Delhi?

So I sorted out the pyschiatrist for medication this morning. My phone was cut off over the weekend because I had gone so far over my limit. Yet another expense. Frustration for me. Nothing like the frustration that Sam and Rickey have been experiencing in the heat and clamminess of Delhi. Another meeting with Chabad who will visit and take in food and, maybe, hopefully, lead Zach onto a better path. Maybe he will become a 'return to the fold' and they'll find him a wife and a long black coat and a hat and he will grow side curls and he won't have to worry about anything else again. It's been done before. You only have to see that wonderful Israeli film, 'Ushpizin.' I can dream, can't I?

Sam's on his way to see the High Commissioner. Do we leave Zach's what-passes-for-a-passport with him? The psychiatrist sounded very on the ball, although he spoke so fast that it was difficult to catch everything he said. He sounded as though he knew what the medication was. Zach's receiving a very hefty dose of Olanzapine. He's obviously very disturbed. Ah, well.

How many more cigarettes will end up smoking skin on Zach's extremeties? Why does the brain make people do things like this to themselves? I know that the suicidal option is just below that skin, once the brain has been 'balanced' to realise the scope of the position it's owner has put it. Not a pretty sight. Got that t-shirt too.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Dehli's finest clothing stalls and swift negotiations

So that's it again. They managed to get to hospital number one. However, hospital number one was unable to contain Zach. During the first night he became very violent. Didn't like being there. Dosed up on disgusting Haloperidol, the gum that makes you drool and shake. Doesn't agree with Zach. Makes him even worse. If that's possible. He decided to destroy the room, rip his clothes, shout and scream. So they restrained him and he spent the rest of the night tied to the bed. Not very creative but effective.

Yesterday Zach was moved to another hospital, near to where Sam and Rickey have set up base. It's monsoon season and it rained but was still 40 degrees. Zach's in a suitable place. In a secure room, on the right medication but he has to be watched 24x7. At night, stipulates the hospital, a family member has to stay in the room with him. We have, unfortunately, no family members in India. Ragesh from Leh has been asked whether he would like to earn some extra dosh and fill in as a family member. He's agreed and is flying down from Leh on Monday. Sam had hoped that it would be on Sunday but the flights are all full. More nights in Delhi.

500 rupees a day for a private nurse. Not too bad in the scheme of things. Hope that Ragesh won't be driven too mad by close proximity to Zach. He only needs to be there at night and, hopefully, Zach will be sedated so that he sleeps and doesn't impose his needs on Ragesh. You know those needs. Cigarettes, coke, pizza, cell phones. Ragesh will have to be strong. Then the money he earns will be for him and not for Zach. Zach will once again be penniless. Hopefully without money he won't be able to smuggle in drugs. Is the Pope a Catholic?

Sam and Rickey invested time in Dehli's finest market. There Rickey negotiated for tracksuit bottoms and t-shirts. Things that Zach can't destroy too easily. They may not be sartorially and aesthetically beautiful but, again, practical. How many times have we had to go out and buy shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes and underwear that Zach discards? Repetitive, repetitive, repetitive. We should have shares in Glaxo.

A round robin text from Sam made its way to friends and family. We've had some wonderful replies. Thanks to you all.

Sunshine, clouds, monsoonal rains and heat. The saga continues...

Thursday, 13 August 2009

New Delhi's Finest and a Psychiatric Hospital among the high rises

Phone calls, texts, hidden messages. It all costs one hell of a lot. Hate to think what my mobile bill is going to be like at the end of the month. Calls from London. Now calls from Delhi. Hot. 40 centigrade and counting and it's muggy and dirty and full of traffic and road works and building. Any they're fed up and tired and exhausted and on edge and Rickey almost biffed Zach yesterday. Don't know who stopped him. Quite understand him. Have been there. Have every item of clothing that matches.

The story so far: hour upon hour upon hour in a car with a driver from Leh to Srinagar. Zach completely deluded. They managed (more later) to get to the lake and from there to rent an absolutely splendid houseboat in a bucolic setting among other houseboats from a delightful man who told Sam he could use his cell phone at 'any time.' Zach drove them all crazy. He wanted to go and party in town. Rickey took time out to be on his own and Sam had duty. Worse than at any time, he told me. Worse than Greece (although he wasn't there - but, of course, Zach had already been in jail and hospital there by the time I had arrived); worse than Chaing Mai. There, too, he had been in hospital for a month, at least. And I remember the time that I met him at Heathrow with the scowling nurse the first time that he was repatriated from Thailand. Mad as a hatter then, too.

Srinagar, Sam tells me, is the most wonderful place. We have to go back. I'd love to. Sans Zach, bien sur. Zach shouted and screamed obscentities and broke china and glass and, somehow, managed to get more drugs. How, surrounded as he was by others and by Sam and Rickey, is beyond my imagination. But they get drugs in jail, on psychiatric wards... No doubt there was always someone ready to supply but he didn't have any money. How did he pay them?

Just two days and then another journey to Srinagar airport where, Sam told me quite astoundingly, the security made Israel appear totally lacking (although you never actually feel the security there...) As had been the case in Athens, Zach behaved like a totally revolting toddler. No concept of other people. No concept of his behaviour. No concept of the consequences of his behaviour. He lit a cigarette. They confiscated his boarding card. Sam flung the letter from the High Commissioner under their noses. Somehow they allowed him to board the plane.

On board the saga continued. Notwithstanding having fed Zach barbiturates to make him sleep, he drove them all mad. I'm surprised that they simply didn't open a hatch and push him out. God knows I've felt like it...

Sam made the decision that there was no way that they could get Zach to hospital in Delhi themselves. He called his guy there and an ambulance was waiting, practically on the tarmac. A doctor, two nurses and a strong guy who drove. This was plus Sam and Rickey. In his state, Zach thought it was the airport bus. Even though there was a huge red cross on the outside, he somehow couldn't put two and two together. His behaviour, however, within the confines of the ambulance (probably aided and abetted by two very pissed off compadres) was disgusting. There was no doubt that he was, to put it mildly, 'insane.'

So, at the time of writing, Sam and Rickey are sitting down to dinner (and strong drinks, too, I hope). Zach has been 'sedated.' A meeting is scheduled for tomorrow morning and a plan is being conceived of. Is there such a thing as a room where no drugs can be smuggled through? A doctor who can reach him? A light to shine into his befuddled brain? I mean, Ketamin two days into his holiday. I ask you...

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Modern technology, heat, altitude and internet gremlins

Internet pressure. From here, it seems that every time that I sign on, I get signed off or go offline or simply the connection doesn't like me, so there's been a bit of a delay in getting on to here and I've been caught short, so to speak. It's hot and sweaty though and I like that, although it means that ten minutes after I've taken a shower and head out into the sun and the blue skies and the lack of cloud or rainbursts or thunder, lightening and golf sized hailstones, that I should really return and re-run the shower and the talc and the deodorant and get dressed again. But it means that soon I'll have nothing left to wear and will have to go to the laundromat but I expect that that will be an experience.

So far as I know, both Sam and Rickey are in Leh. I received a short email from Sam yesterday, telling me that neither of his phones work there but that there was ample internet. They hadn't seen Zach but that from asking around, he was 'living' in a 'house' with 'foreign degenerates.' I'm not too sure how the 'foreign degenerates' came to be given that appendage. Who by? Probably the local police. One can imagine how these people view foreigners who go to these stunning locations in order to blow their minds on all kinds of mind-blowing material. They must despise them.

Two Australian girls knew of Zach. Maybe they pointed Sam and Rickey in the right direction. I don't know because I've heard nothing more. It's frustrating. You get used to instant information. But then years ago this was the norm. So normal, in fact, that no one would have gone off looking for Zach or anyone else like him. He would no doubt have been concerned about. Maybe even worried about. But who would have gone off to try to find him and bring him back?

I guess that I can reiterate how modern technology has actually been more of a hindrance than a help in some situations. Well, only time will tell. Meanwhile I check my emails more than I should, if only to gather an insight into what could possibly be happening to all three in Leh.

The mind boggles.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

'Have Son, will Travel'

Ok, so this is it. The wild goose chase begins again. All those miles under the belt. More jabs, pills and potions. More phone calls to high commissioners, attendance at an embassy. Airline tickets and doctors' prescriptions. Only this time I'm not going. Sam and Rickey are.

Good old Rickey. A friend in need is a friend indeed. Or so I tend to tell myself. 'Another road trip,' that will appeal to Zach. I couldn't do it. For the main because it's up there in the Himalayas and I get altitude sickness at eight hundred feet. Leh is, what? About twelve hundred feet? The thought of it makes me dizzy.

Sam's fears are that because of Zach's psychosis, someone will take him out. 'I couldn't live with that on my conscience,' he told me. 'Those shopkeepers are just waiting for him to do something more...' 90% of me still thinks that he should be left to endure his life the way that he's decided. I still wonder whether he shouldn't be left there to come down eventually but he's still my son. It's a dilemma. One which we shall never know the right answer to.

So Sam and Rickey are on their way to Heathrow this afternoon to take the night flight to New Delhi, an overnight there in a business hotel next to the airport (and no doubt some wonderful food) and then the 6.00am flight to Leh on Monday morning. What will they do when they get there? 'We'll be making a plan at the back of the plane,' Sam told me. A good cop/bad cop regime? Who knows. Will they find him? How will they find him? What will they do if and when they find him?

Chapter 24.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Losing oneself in Leh

When do you know when to draw the line? Is there a line to draw? When do you make the decision to discard, to abandon? Do you have to continually tell yourself that you are responsible for your children, even when they are no longer children but of an age that they can have children of their own?

Sam got another call. Three weeks from the time we received the first, telling us that 'all was not well.' Ragesh had sent a text to James, a friend common to both Zach and Sam. A producer who had worked extensively with Zach; who had visited him on psychiatric wards and who had once taken him in a child's plastic ukele. 'Anything,' he said, 'that will give Zach some kind of focus...' It was a charming gesture. I wonder what happened to that ukele.

How on earth did James get this text? Obviously in some kind of 'sane' moment Zach imparted this bit of knowledge. 'Zach's literally living on the streets,' Ragesh told Sam in heavily accented English. 'I've been giving him food. He's got nothing. No belongings. No food. No water. No phone, nothing... He's very bad.'

Zach's been arrested three times and released. The police still have his passport but Zach's inaccessible, in a kingdom somewhere in the Himalayas. It takes five days by bus or jeep to get to Delhi. Sam arranged to send some money to Ragesh, to pay for the food that he's been supplying but the money hasn't been collected yet. Ragesh sent an email. No one is interested in allowing Zach comfort he said. They won't open their doors to him. He's far too grandiosely manic for them.

Now the Embassy are on to it. For a change. 'Your son has had an interesting life,' mentioned the High Commissioner in New Delhi. I told him in a further email that yes, that's quite true, but that I had already written the book. They're trying to work out how to get him to Dehli to a psychiatric hospital. Five days by road but an hour by plane. However, no plane will want to take him. Rickey has offered his services again.

Ragesh was pretty plain in what he feels should happen. ' You must come and take your son, otherwise you will 'lose' him...' So where do we go from here? Is he not lost already?

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

'The Times' Dear Tanya and monumental hubris

'The Times' has a piece in today, 'Dear Tanya, My son is dealing drugs...' The usual stuff. Sixteen year old, started smoking skunk, personality changed, parents are divorced, don't know how to deal with him. You know, all the stuff you've heard of from me. Father tries to be tough. Mother unravels and enables the son because she's unable to be tough with him. It's nothing new. The kid's also started to deal at school. It's a pattern.

So I wrote a comment at the end of the piece, as others have done too. Only theirs have been published, mine hasn't. In mine I wrote that the kid resembles mine. He also started smoking but that his personality changed and then he developed Bipolar disorder. Because of that I wrote my book and, as a result, I've been going into schools and other venues and talking about it.

I wrote that most sixteen year olds don't have the insight into the consequences of their behaviour; that although they use, they couldn't possibly develop mental health problems as a result. I wrote that when I speak in schools and, especially, read out the chapters from the book about Glastonbury and bringing Zach back from filthy pscyhiatric wards half way around the globe that they do sit up and, to some extent, take it in. I wrote that shock value, talking about someone like them, does have an impact.

The Times, in its judgement decided not to publish my post. Why, I ask, is that, or am I simply being naive, that the piece was simply to fill in space because, as we know, drugs are the topic of conversation this week. That the 'comments' left at the space below the article aren't really 'comments' at all, but all part and parcel of the article, written by the same person in order to give the impression that there is some input from us poor morons because isn't it true that the media believe us all to be morons?

This is not the first time that this has happened. Countless 'articles' in countless columns have been written about drug abuse and mental health problems and I have contributed to many in the comments' sections and only once has one been published. I think that this is a serious question and has to be asked on many levels. This presumably happens on every subject. The perception that it's a free press. Oh, no it isn't!

Back to Leh: Zach's latest three lines of email tell us that he's 'been in the trenches... but that I'm fine and there's no money problems...' Right. Okay. Fine. How, exactly? As of today, he's making his way towards Israel. 'I'll surprise you, he writes. Um. Again, how exactly? From skunk to gear to mania and dirty, nasty wards and even worse medication but no one's allowed to read about that. Hubris.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Is Elvis the new flavour in Leh?

Maybe the boats don't go often enough or maybe you actually need some kind of identification. The latest slurring message on voicemail gave the impression that Zach is still in Leh, not having moved too far towards the icy lake further north. Just another one of those unrealistic ideas he has of moving on to other things. I suppose that it's a case of not having a passport.

The garbled message included news that he was 'heading in the direction of Japan.' He has 'meetings with record producers and publishers...' You have to wonder how he's managing at all. That money is still sitting with Western Union. Pity, because it's not even making any interest while it's there. At least that could have been a good outcome. As it is, what's he doing for money?

What can Leh be like? It's a huge area of land, although the town itself is quite small, I've been told. My impression is that Zach is going from guest house to guest house. Is he paying? Does someone else? Is he playing in the town square like a country roustabout, guitar in hand, chippy scarf around his, probably now, scrawny neck. From the voice, it didn't sound as though he was in the right frame of mind to be giving concerts but what do they know in Leh? Maybe they think he's the best thing since Elvis?

So we're waiting again for another phone call to tell us something else that will, inevitably, have happened to him. As of lunchtime today he was still breathing. That's something...

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

German heiresses, Western Union and Indian authorities

A story appeared on my Google alerts about a German woman who had recently inherited wealth. What was interesting was, that apart from her being Bipolar and an addict, she had been thrown out by her mother some years ago because her mother couldn't deal with all the problems associated with her daughter's illness. Now, because the girl has inherited some money, the mother is desperately searching for her. The last time that the girl was seen was on the streets, covered in newspapers and blankets, begging for food. Why do you think the mother is searching for her daughter now? To tell her that she's got money and will therefore live her future life in mad luxury, or could it be more sinister, that she wants to find the girl in order for her to sign over the money to her mother as she's obviously non compos mentis? We don't know. We only know that she's still looking.

I'm writing about this because, notwithstanding Zach asking us to wire him some money as he was 'stony broke', he hasn't collected it. It was £50.00 that can be deducted from the money he owes us when he comes back. I had a short call from him two days ago, when he told me that 'the banks were playing around with him' and that he couldn't collect the dosh. Seems that his passport was still with the authorities. They were 'looking after it for me' he explained. Without proof of identification he couldn't collect the money.

It's worrying that Zach hasn't collected the funds, for all sorts of reasons. He's usually adept, even in the height of insanity, to collect money from Western Union. He's even able to conrol himself to make reverse charge calls. He's not reading my emails and I don't know from where he made the call earlier this week. In any event, from my understanding and reading between all sorts of lines, he's broke. So where is he, without money and what is he doing to survive? Did he lose it with the Indian police and, if so, are there repercussions? I can't believe that he's on a slow boat to China without money, passport or mind.

I think that it would be rather nice if Zach were to inherit some wealth from somewhere but what would I do if he did while he is in the outposts of India or on a rowing boat along the Indus? Would I go out there and search for him and if I did, would I bring him back here and esconce him into rehab or would I leave him to it and see if he would surface and repeat all the patterns ad infinitum? It's a conundrum.

To be continued...

Sunday, 19 July 2009

A Slow Boat to China

Pangong Lake is 13,900 feet up in the Himalayas. It's 83 kilometers long and a raggedy five hour drive from Leh. They say that it's the place to 'see before you die.' You drive through spectacular valleys towards the disputed border between India and Tibet, now China. The Chinese, always in for a bit more territory, incorporated Tibet and now Tibet is China. Pangong Lake is patrolled by the Chinese navy and the Indian navy and you need a special permit to visit it. Not the sort of place to go to if you have any kind of health problem.

Of course, being Zach, is exactly the place that he has had to go to. 'I've organised a visa for a week for China,' he told us in a later email, when he wasn't sounding too bad. I mean, I guess that you have to have some kind of reasonable mental health to organise a visa to anywhere. But in these nether regions, maybe it's easy to deal with officials.

Pangong Lake and the whole of this area of northern Ladakh is remote. So remote that there's just the one road that curls around the mountains and sometimes into the mountains in order that another car can snake around. Apparently it's an area for those of us who are the real adventurers. Consider the thinness of the air and the sparkling quality of the sunlight and the lack of comfort. There's the hippy trail of travellers and the locals who visit the lake but not much else apart from soldiers.

Zach said that he had 'visited a psychiatrist' and 'has medication.' I doubt that there are too many English speaking psychiatrists in the locale, although I do know that he has some medication. The last email isn't much of a testament to that. He doesn't respond to questions. He jumbles off a stream of consciousness of what he says is happening but who knows?

Whatever... So now we have to extend our imagination to a slow boat trip to China and whether or not he makes it back and how and when or what they do with Englishmen who display erratic behaviours in Tibet.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Twenty Quid and a laptop to Ladakh

So yesterday morning the phone went and it was Zach. That's after a manic message left on Sam's mobile. 'I'm great. Everything's great. Yesterday was great. I did a thirty fucking mile walk to China...' etc. You get my drift. When Sam spoke with Zach he could hear from his voice that although he didn't appear to be grandiosely manic, he was levelling up to a good seven or eight on the scale.

There were things he wanted, he said. Stuff to be sent out. His laptop for one and twenty quid too. 'Yeah, we're going to send you a laptop to Ladakh...' Sam, 'How are you doing for money?' Eyebrows raised, for a change. 'Don't worry about me,' Zach's retort. 'I know the meaning of finances. But twenty quid will be fine...' We know it's still cheaper in India than here but twenty pounds will not go very far.

Zach intends to stay there until the 'end of August and then go on travelling.' On twenty quid? Show's where his head is at. There was other nutty stuff too but it was typical. It still comes down to the fact that he was meant to come back home this Tuesday and he didn't. He made the choice to use all over again and lose his mind again. This is where we are at once more. I've really no ideas this time. I'm not going over to bring him back, nor do we intend getting involved with other options over there but I don't know how he's going to get back here or when and if. It's all rather peculiar.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

'Mainly ok' means what in Ladakh?

So what does 'mainly ok' mean when you don't really know the person you are talking about? This was Jonathan's answer when Sam asked him if he had seen Zach and, if so, how was he? It was a rough line. There were shouts and laughter and the sound of traffic in the distance and Jonathan sounded as though he was doing four things at once. Difficult for anyone. Especially difficult for a man (sorry, men...) We couldn't really hear him and, I think, he's probably already at patience's end for dealing with Zach. Just like we all are. Now more than ever. 'He's mainly ok...' he responded.

For someone who's 'mainly ok', he hasn't checked his email and he hasn't written any more asking for money and he hasn't made the usual reverse phone call requesting same. So for once the pattern has changed. At least he's still in Leh, wandering the streets, so far as we've been told.

He has no money. We don't know whether he still has his belongings or his passport. The passport was supposed to have been retained by the police until he left. It's unlikely that he will leave now. I can't see him getting on a bus and spending 17 hours travelling to Kashmir. Previous episodes have painted a picture of him becoming more and more disorganised and irritable and impossible to be around with for any period of time. I can't see the so-called 'friends', a bunch of low-lives from Sweden and Italy, continuing to pay for his food and accommodation and drugs - even though they've used him as entertainment to see just how much stuff they can enable him to smoke and choke.

He's probably skinny and dirty and wild-eyed and hungry and desperately tired and if anyone gets on the wrong side, quite likely to hit out and eventually be arrested. That would be the best outcome - yet again.

He was supposed to have flown back from New Dehli yesterday. The plane flew, one seat empty. How on earth does he intend to get back here? Is there the usual subconscious knowledge that whatever happens we will make sure that he does? The way it always happens?

Monday, 13 July 2009

Amy Winehouse: Eat your Heart Out. Ladakh, China, Pills and Smokes

Well, it had to happen, didn't it? Firstly the SIM card. That's gone. The phone? Who knows. The phone call on Thursday night, 'call me back'. Then nothing. Friday no news at all. The phone appeared to be switched off. Then an email, 'the SIM card's disappeared. No worries...' Yup.

Just a manic spread of words. The air is thin, the altitude high, the weed strong. There's no insight and his judgment is severely impaired. His judgment of the humans he's involved himself with. Nothing for two days, then yesterday afternoon at a party the phone call came. We'd been laughing, 'How long do you give it?' I asked Sam. 'Shall we make a bet at a betting office?' Here the sun shone and white wine and salmon and good conversation. I saw Sam at the doorway, gesturing to me, his eyebrows raised. 'It's India,' he said, my heart leaped. Ohhh, not again!

Jonathan in Leh. The police have Zach's passport. Three days of ketamin and no sleep and no food and he's with a bunch of people who think it's fun being with a loony. They're feeding him drugs and watching what happens to him. No responsibility on their part. Zach had gotten into a fight in a restaurant and the police took him to hospital. Wise police. There's no psychiatric ward there, so they gave him some medication and Jonathan, who works for an Israeli outreach programme that repatriate young Israelis who get into trouble, gave him soup and a hammock and Zach slept in his garden overnight. They were going to somehow get him onto a flight back to Dehli and into a psychiatric hospital but, as usual where Zach's involved, it's not going to end like that.

Zach was supposed to be flying back to London tomorrow. How likely is that! He's completely manic. While Jonathan was asleep this morning, Zach's 'friends' came to the garden and gave him two joints that he smoked with abandon. He's still got some medication but, as of 8.00am our time, was intending to go with his pals onto Srinigar in Kashmir. A really poor choice of location, for all sorts of reasons, one of which is Zach's propensity to discuss the Israel/Palestine issue to all and sundry and get into fights about it. The fact that Kashmir is mostly Muslim doesn't bode well. Zach's out of control.

Sam received an email that shows just where Zach's head now is: "before the 7 helicopters that i saw on their runs, ladak was just like another indian town with indian police... now... all the top ranking ones have chinese stars... i would say that the chinese took ladak 2 or 3 days ago... there has been a lot of chaos... either way ... this is as far away from a manic episode as..." Yes, as? And this was after he'd said that he was going to be staying in asia for the next few months and then going to China and now learning Han from his 'friends' the Chinese. Who knows? Has there been a coup in Ladakh? Have the Chinese extended their control to India? What is he putting into his mouth? What is he smoking, popping, snorting...?

The tale continues.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

In Residence. Diabolus. For how long?

'I'm on the back of a motor bike. I can't talk now...' No stigmata as yet.

Nothing changes except the scenery. You could almost write the script. I'm waiting for the phone call at 2.00am detailing the injuries. Generally nothing more than bloodied skin. Sometimes a twisted limb. More often than not generalised bruising and deep gashes. Into ditches, on-coming traffic. He's on the side of a mountain. Maybe into a gorge? Over the edge? How deep are those valleys?

Still, he continues to maintain a vigil over his phone. That's a first abroad. But it's the response to intelligent questioning that demonstrates the mania. 'When will you make your way back to New Dehli?' from Sam. 'I think I'll stay here for some time....' As if India needs another passenger. 'What about money?' Again from Sam. 'Don't worry.' How can we not worry?

So he intends staying there or travelling on or making his way - to where...?

You can hear the mania in the voice, even in two or three sentences. The pressurised speech. The grandiose ideas. 'I'm organising the music festival here...' The instant vilification of me, as if it was my fault that he's now manic. But, then, it always is. Has to be someone's and I'm easy prey.

I don't care about the mouthfuls of invective. The blaming. The apportioning of responsibility to someone else so that he doesn't have to take any himself. It's boring. I know that the incubus - let's call him Diabolus - is now in residence. He'll stay there until he's burned out again. But how does that leave Zach? And, more pertinently, where?

Monday, 6 July 2009

Is No News Good News and Richard Bentall's Doctoring the Mind

Monday morning, London. After the sickly heat of the last two weeks, it's now a breezy, showery city. There's no news though. The manic phone calls of Saturday have left a void of nothingness over the weekend. I sent a text. 'How are things today?' No response. I'm perturbed and anxious. Don't know whether to call for the fear that a)I'll just get a mouthful of invective; b)someone I don't know will answer the phone because it will have gone the way of all the others - lost, stolen, bartered; or c)someone from a jail or a hospital will answer...

Whatever I do will be wrong. If I try to ignore what's going on in the mountains of Tibet, because, after all, he is an adult and should be left to do what he wants - irrespective of his mental health issues - then is it irresponsible of me as a parent. Conversely, should I try and find out where he is and how he is AND if he really IS as bad as I think he is, should I contact some kind of authority that will apprehend him and help him? Is there such a body or person there in the foothills of the Himalayas, among the monks and the travellers and the mountain goats?

In the past Chabad have helped. In Ecuador and Thailand - twice. If I were to contact them in Manali, will they have an archive of those foolish tourists who come to these areas highlighted with the dangers that they present and then, through invariably their own fault, get into the most grotesque scrapes? If they did, then their dossiers on 'Zach' will be immense.

However, who's to know whether should Zach be assisted medically in Tibet or India that it wouldn't be better than here in the UK? In 'Doctoring the Mind: Why Psychiatric Treatments Fail'. Richard Bentall, a professor of clinical psychiatry, argues that one's chances of recovering from an episode of psychosis are worse in a western hospital than in the Third World. From my own experience, I can concur. I believe that in the UK we just don't have a handle on the mentally ill.

When we were so desperate to get Zach into hospital during his last acute episode two years ago now, the local mental health services were irresponsibly unhelpful. The consequence of this was that Zach was eventually arrested and taken to jail. The fact that the police were involved instead of mental health 'professionals' is testament to the unwillingness of these 'professionals' to carry out their remit and actually help.

Two years ago, Sam and I should have left Zach in Thailand in the hospital where he was being cared for on a 24/7 basis. There he was given no choice but to take the medication. He was safe and secure and he had no availability to drugs. He would have come out of the episode well and, no doubt, drug free. What happened was that we were leaned on and we had to bring him back to London where he almost died. So, yes, who says that there's decent medical provision in the west?

Meantime who knows what the sprite is up to in the valley of the white tipped peaks?

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Five on the insanity scale - deliver me from heroin

We had two years. Two years while things have been quiet. No madness. No sections. No irate phone calls. Just a semblance of calm. How deluded we become. We believe that the heroin keeps him sane. It does, in that the opiate effect is the same as a mood balancer. The problem is that it's addictive and the problem is that it is hugely expensive. It is because of this that he decided to take himself off to 'somewhere hot' and go 'cold turkey' and come off it because, frankly he said, 'it's just a waste of money. God knows how much I've spent on 'gear' over the last twelve years.' Well, actually, he told me but it's so astounding that I can't physically write it.

So off he went to 'hot India' while we've had the hottest weather here for decades. He could've done it here of course. For the first week it appeared as though he could manage it. The flight. The different time zone. The lack of sleep while travelling. And unravelling because he no longer took his 'meds' - the hyper-expensive, addict craving heroin.

The first emails were ok. Then they became more noticably strange. Sam picked up on it initially. I noticed but pretended they were alright. Beth did too. Then another one and it was the collective sigh. The deep groan of groundhog day. He kept it together for the first phone calls but we knew it was only time. On Thursday he was a five on the insanity scale. Friday was almost a six. Today, after the phone calls, we realise that he's closing in on an eight. Where do we go from here?

Dateline July 2009. He's catching a flight from India on the 14th. Will he? What will happen between today - after he's ridden his mountain bike in the hills above Ladakh and said a blessing for the Sabbath and eaten the chicken soup? 'I've met so many great people - we're organising festivals...' - and tomorrow. Interested? Then keep reading.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Poor Daniel Gonzalez, let down by our 'caring society'

Another day, another tragedy. Another young man, seriously, terminally ill with schizophrenia is callously let down by our 'caring community.'

How many more times am I going to write these lines? How many more investigations will there be into our mental health services? How many more times will the various heads of various trusts piously write: "We offer our profound condolences to..."

I'm actually pretty sick of it. Daniel Gonzalez, whose mother wrote to the Surrey mental health trust 'responsible' for him over 100 times. Yes, ONE HUNDRED times. She knew he was ill. HE tried to get himself sectioned. His case worker described him as being "like a wild animal in a cage" and no one, NO ONE was willing to take responsibility for helping him.

So, of course, the corollory was that Daniel, in a fevered state of mind, murdered four people. Then, while he was at Broadmoor, he slashed his wrists with a CD and killed himself.

It made me want to cry. Cry with the most profound pity for this poor boy. For the frustration his mother must have felt and, of course, for the innocent victims caught up in the horror because of the sheer inadequacy of the NHS.

It's a disgrace and it's one that will be repeated ad infinitum until someone takes the initiative and decides that the money that is discarded by this government on so many irrelvant projects is spent on the most needy of society. They can't do it themselves.

How many more deaths? How many more investigations? How many more tears will be shed by parents, patients and victims until something is done here to rectify these preventable killings?

I only wish I knew.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Of Slumdogs, squalor and Julie Myerson's 'unoriginal' memoir

Gosh, it's March already. Where does the time fly to? You'll look around and it will be summer (we hope) again and then the Christmas decorations will be in the shops.

Just a couple of things that took my attention recently.

The first thing was Slumdog Millionaire. When they were embarking on this film and seeking out the actors, did it never occur to the producers that life would be just a little easier if they acquired them from an acting school? How could they possibly have been so callous as to take children literally from the slums, use them in the film and then return them to the filth and squalor from whence they came?

I ask this because of the reports that have come to life after the two small stars, Azharuddin Ismail and Rubina Ali, who were feted, flown, wined (well, maybe not) and dined (I'm sure that they were, quite lavishly) in Hollywood, and then returned to their families. Obviously, having seen that life outside of their slum bears no resemblence to their daily grind, they no longer wish to remain under a corrugated metal roofs among the rats and dog droppings. Who, in their right mind (and having been paid) would?

It's a simply appalling lack of judgement and one which will, I am sure, come back to haunt Danny Boyle and his band of blind idiots over the years to come. At least, I HOPE it will...

And another thing: Julie Myerson as just written a book about her son, Jake. It's called, not very originally, 'The Lost Son' and it's about his problems with drugs and behaviour, so she threw him out of the house. She describes her time with him as being 'absolutely awful'. She says that "I still suspect that a lot of parents who haven't had the experience of drugs will find it hard to read that part and sympathise with us. People need to know this happens to families like ours."

Hardly groundbreaking stuff, when you consider that I've already done that! Of course she'll get pages and pages of newspaper coverage and will sell thousands of copies. That's life...

However, what really startled me was the fact that Jake was not consulted. He's livid, apparently. He's labelled his mother 'insane for saying he's a drug addict.' Is it really possible that she could have written a book about him and that her publishers would not have asked for his permission? When you consider the hoops that I had to jump through when editing my book so that no one would have any capacity for suing me, especially 'Zach', then this is preposperous and I quite understand how livid he is. But his mother is famous, so presumably she feels that she can ride roughshod over everyone in order to bring her 'story' to the fore. More fool her.