23 November 1998
A collection of shop staff charged down the street pursuing a youngish man who had tried to nick some groceries. They caught him, and it was quite obvious from the start that he was mentally ill and should have been getting some support - indeed, perhaps he was - by his behaviour on being caught.
The shop staff confiscated the groceries but would not let go of him, telling him the police were on the way so they would not let him go till the police arrived. He pleaded for them to let him walk unmolested back to the shop, and they agreed to this. Having no honour he ran away at the first opportunity, and the shop staff didn`t bother to pursue him.
The thief had probably had enough attention for this week, and would now leave the shoplifting scene for a week or two, until, beginning to feel the isolation of his illness, he would find another crime to commit and experience once again being the centre of attention - something we all need from time to time.
The keepr of the cafe had come out to watch the scene and we conversed on the subject.
"They ought to do something to help people like him," he said, "it`s obvious he`s not right in the head. He can come in my place anytime and have a free coffee."
I talked about "all that old Care in the Community bollocks", and we all went back to our respective activities.
That old Care in the Community bollocks came about during the early Thatcher years, and typifies the kind of thinking politicians had at the time (not much altered to this day). Essentially, the thinking was along the lines of `how can we save the higher taxpayers money (interestingly, according to John Major the queen is not a higher taxpayer - she pays tax `at the standard rate`, which is at the lower end of the scale) whilst still being able to claim that we do the job properly?` An argument was found that said that these people were institutionalised (true in some cases) and that they should be released so that they can have proper lives..........and as it turned out they cost less to keep `in the community`.
A few went out and committed murder, rape, bank robbery, suicide, etc, and thus fulfilled some of their ambitions, whilst the rest sat and rotted at home instead of in groups, or drank and drugged themselves to death.
The dismantling of the big mental hospitals released a lot of cheap land to developers who made some overnight fortunes, and in many cases the contents of the institutions were released at surprisingly economical prices - no doubt in some some cases at no price at all.
So there was a bit of something for everyone right down to the caretakers - but nothing much for the patients, and probably nothing for most low rate taxpayers.
Perhaps that is how people think it should be. After all, when I worked in mental health I heard from patients many tales of doctors telling them to pull themselves together and stop being depressed, mad, obsessive, anally fixated, etc., and of course doctors always know what they are talking about.
So do OTs (Occupational Therapists, who now that they have a degree have almost no patient contact - instead, whatever voluntary help can be enrolled is directed at the patients - sometimes with hilarious and sometimes with dire results, and occasionally with great success).
At the beginning of the Thatcher era, most mental hospitals had an OT Dept in which patients could learn any number of skills, including skills for managaing to live in their own place. They had pottery, cooking and home economics, dressmaking, maths, woodwork, drawing, screen printing, discussion groups, theatre, music etc - and most of it taught by paid, dedicated, competent staff (every organisation carries a few incompetents). At the end of that time, they had and still have (I have been told by patients who kept in touch) nothing.
It still cost the taxpayer in one way or another - probably as much as before - but it was a different lot of taxpayers paying in a different way. They were also paying through increased crimes and vandalism as far as I remember.
Still - the hospital trusts have their service level agreements to keep to, and although none of us know what the hell it is, they are desperately trying to get a Chartermark. Some of them even manage to have a Chartermark already.
Next thing to do is to set some standards - even if it means the loss of the Chartermark.
We are still redesigning The Other News From England. At last there are a few drawings (see below), and work has begun on putting together old articles form the early nineties. It will be somewhat sparse for some time yet
There is at least one new article this week, and articles on many subjects in earlier issues (which can be seen by clicking below).
Index of earlier issues.
There are some drawings on the now, and they work with my browser. The intention is that you will be able to download them, but I am still not quite sure how this is done. Presumably you just copy and paste into a graphics application.
I will be working to make the sheet music accessible (some people have complained!) next, and if I get one email saying it has worked I`ll put some more there.
The problem has been largely to do with file types.
It`s been a strange week, in which a great deal of energy has gone into preparing to publish music (recorded and printed) and a very small distance has been travelled. The trouble is that probably I don`t know what I`m doing. It took me half the week to find out where you go to get multiple cassette duplicators - and I still haven`t found out the price - and the rest of the week to print a few leaflets and post them off to agents, and discover that I had bought a replacement black inkjet cartridge that was empty (Lexmark), and then grind to a standstill because the shop is closed till Monday.
And on Monday I have a rehearsal and an audition, Tuesday a prior appointment, and so it will be Wednesday before I can recommence activities.
On Saturday, though, I spent the day helping the neighbours to buy a piano. That was fun.