Saturday, April 30, 2005

We had a nice evening yesterday. Dinner with friends - but Sam found it a little much. Often it's just a lot of people together. Maybe one too many glasses of wine. I don't know.

He had his sweet course outside alone.

But he returned and was polite.

We left early and he seemed strange in the car so I was a little worried. We talked a little more on our return. I forget t though as fast as he can say it.

Maybe it's my lack of memory and concentration. Maybe it's just that if it just doesn't make sense there's nothing there to help the memory.

But a recurring theme was:

"There's nothing there."

He kept repeating it as something central to his concerns that he needed me to understand.

He's said this before.

The he perked up a bit and started talking more rationally. He even asked for a game of chess and was able to play well. (Yes, as you ask, he did beat me - but I wasn't trying too hard so there!)

Later still he went out for a cigarette.

There was a loud shout from outside that sent me running.

"Look at the stars!

"There's a gap in the galaxy there."

He pointed.

We looked at the stars and of course they were spectacular.

Sam talked of travel in the stars. Of the times he's had visions of galaxies.

As we were talking I saw a shooting star so bright across the black sky.

"Look Sam! A shooting star!"

Sam laughed,

"Yes Dad!"

Who was seeing things now?

I did see it.

Really I did.


He's been quiet today, had that troubled, distant look.

We took the rubbish out this afternoon and popped into the village for a soft drink outside a cafe. Sam walked on ahead. He looked slightly more hunched.

He responded to any of my questions or comments briefly and non commitally.

He smoked one cigarette after another. He had four at the cafe. He'd had another on the way to the cafe and another as we walked back to the car.

Back in the garden of the house he lit another cigarette.

I tried to talk with him again about it.

"I can drown and take water into my lungs but bring the water out again and be fine. Like I can put my hand in the fire and it not burn. There's nothing wrong with my lungs. They're perfectly healthy."

And the cough ...

"That's just phlegm. There's nothing wrong with my lungs."

Friday, April 29, 2005

I'v ben tired and resting today. Still not too brilliant - but off out for dinner in a second.

Sam's been busy paiting and getting sunburned!

Saved posts:

20 April

The last two days Sam has been so well.

It's been a pleasure to be with him and to recognise the Sam I knew well.

Tonight he ws asking about local evening bars and has come back from bed after his meds to put on some loud drum and bass music just as I was going to bed.

I guess this being well is going to have its downsides too!

21 April

Just to make you jealous I'm sitting outside after seven in the evening typing this on the laptop.

But by the time I get to publish this maybe everyone in the UK is sitting outside in the evening. The internet saga drags on.

Sam and I have just finished dinner.

I'd been worried about the smell in the fridge.

We had some lovely beef the other night. Until recently Jane and Nell have been vegetarian so there's been little meat at home. I bought a pack of reduced price beefsteaks in the supermakrket the other day. Sam and I had half the other evening. Although cheap items they were are far better than anything we ever buy at home.

Tonight I got the remnants out hoping they hadn't been causing the smell. Luckily not - it'll be some of that French cheese no doubt. We've had Beoff Bourguignon (look - don't expect me to spell it as well as cook it!)

Though I say it myself, it was delicious.

Afterwards Sam said, "Shall I wash up?"

With no prompting.

I said, "No." Sam had been working all day. Physical labour. Helping our friends demolish their patio whilst they're on holiday. I think the idea is that it will be miraculously converted on their return, but ...

I picked him up in the middle of the afternoon so he'd done a few hours heavy work, interrupted by a long French lunch. After a lie in the hammock he slept for an hour but when I woke him he went for a shower and changed for dinner.

He has an excuse not to return tomorrow as I've made an appointment to see Le Docteur at eleven o'clock. But he's asked if I can wake him to go back to do some more work first. The people he is working with only speak French but he is accepted already because he worked hard today. Maybe he welcomes that respect of hard work that comes without judgement. Recently he has felt judged all the time as a "schizophrenic".

I can't imagine the last time he has asked to be woken early. To go out and do some manual work. When he is already tired.

But he's building some self respect again.


I've just been chatting with this really nice young man.

My son.

About today,

and tomorrow

and what time he wants waking up

(before eight!!!!)

and getting to the site on time

and picking him up in time for the doctors

and whether he might go back there then

or go with me for lunch

and chat

like fathers and sons do,

my son.

I've missed him for a while.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Sam has been really good this evening. A pleasure to be with him. We've chatted and sorted dinner out together and he's been quietly responsive to the fact I've not been too good myself.

Then, with a cheeky confidential grin:

I'm feeling totally well now - can we go home?

Oh Sam, don't say that. I want a few more weeks in France yet!

Don't worry. I won't let on.

It's just great to get these glimpses of the real Sam.

I'd been feeling progressively more poorly as the day went on. It started with a headache. I don't get headaches. So I blamed it on a combination of the red wine last night followed by some ropy rose. But I just started to ache and get stiff. I rank lots and strolled around the garden in the lovely sunlight with a cool breeze, tried sitting in the sun to warm us as I became colder and colder and started to put on more layers. Surely I wasn't coming down with something? Or maybe it was another of my ME type things again.

Sam was dropped back by L. We had a quick chat before she zoomed off to do busy things.

Sam was in good humour and had clearly enjoyed his day.

He decided he wanted to do some painting. We'd brought a watercolour set but it was the first time he'd shown interest.

He did a few, quickly, but after the first with some purpose - though enjoying more the freedom of quick rather than careful strokes. He talked to me of one he'd done of flowers. - a few brief strokes of the pen with some daubs of blue that looked very effective. There was one enclosure carefully filled with red paint.

"That's not art," he said pointing to the red.

"The rest is art, but this is not art."

I kind of knew what he meant. Although the red was an interesting contrast it was to precise and careful compared with the freedom of the rest.

I continued to feel unwell but managed a couple of ends of boules with Sam before making dinner.

Over dinner we had the most amazing chat. Sam was so articulate taking about climbing and various aspects of his past and possible futures. I just wished there had been others here to listen to him. His discussions of climbing in particular were so articulate.

Then we got into futures and pasts. He talked of hatred - in the past - for our responsibility in him having been sectioned four times. Of how that had been so bad for him.

How he had to choose to be mad when he was in hospital.

I tried to emphasise the positive aspects of him now choosing to be well as there was a purpose now to such a choice.

By the end of the conversation though these aspects had made him antagonistic and he withdrew into himself again.

I washed up rather than suggesting Sam should do so. Perhaps wrongly. I left him to himself. To be quiet.

Later he asked me for a game of chess.

He played well.

He thrashed me.

By now I was feeling much better. Very tired but no longer poorly. Maybe having to support Sam again brought me out of my decline.

After the chess I was reading and Sam relaxing then suddenly:

"I saw my face and it was crying,

"... but it's not crying now."

"How is your real face different from what I can see now?"

"It's my soul."

"Surely it's better though that it's no longer crying?"

"It's because I've made friends with it."


Then in the midst of this missed a text from Nell in India to say she was online now ...


Woke this morning and managed to get Sam off.

I'd had a bit of a disturbed night - the aches and pains and dizziness of my ME symptoms.

However having got going I'm not too bad. Just really exhausted so I may go back to bed now for a couple of hours - though it's such a pity to miss this lovely morning.

19 April

I'd set the alarm at eight this morning and it woke me from a deep sleep. I would have slept for another couple of hours - yet had gone to bed at ten last night and would have done so earlier but for a telephone conversation with Jane.

I had an appointment with Francetelecom again.


Although I had woken once in the night to the sound of heavy rain the sun was shining brightly and once I got going I enjoyed the ride into town mentally practicing the French phrases to try out on arrival.

But of course nothing was sorted yet. They had not received an answer to their enquiry on my behalf. There had been the weekend. Maybe another couple of days?

At home you can get hooked up to the internet in minutes.

So I parked in town and strolled through the streets to the internet cafe which was unexpectedly closed.

(I'm sorry Mr Barclaycard Visa. I promise to pay you one day.)

So instead I bought a paper and sat in the sunshine in a cafe in the main square drinking cafe au lait. (I'm sure only the English drink cafe au lait!)

I got conveniently lost again on the way home which is helping my geography and appreciation of the local countryside no end. I must look at the map one day.

On my return past lunchtime Sam was up. (I'd popped in to give him his meds before I'd left.) He'd washed up and cleared away, had his lunch and was sunbathing. Such small amounts of independence and contribution to the household tasks are huge steps forward.

Sadly he'd also found a serious leak under the sink.

Anyone know the French for plumber?


I stepped outside and strolled down the drive. Looking at the flowers I noticed how the yellow ones weren't just the big ones but also medium size ones and small ones. See how my botany skills are coming along already!!! Perhaps I need to buy a book! In amongst were the tiny purple, blue and white ones. I restrained myself from rushing to get my camera to photograph them once again in the bright sunlight. Everywhere is a mass of yellow, white and green in such a variety of shades. The olive leaves almost silver in some lights.

On the way back today I saw a few poppies. When they really begin to come out I'll be rushing off with my camera again.

Once (if?) I get the internet connection going I'll post you a few photographs.


Sam had moved from the sun lounger.

I went to look for him.

He was asleep in the hammock.

It's a hard life!

(I wonder if he knows I haven't quite finished mending the hammock yet ...)


Sitting outside after dinner tying on the laptop - just to make you jealous.

But I have got lots of layers and a bif fleece on top - and it's even colder inside!

Sam started talking again tonight about when he was first hospitalized and that was when it first went wrong for him.

He doesn't believe he was on medication before then whereas he was at home on medication for, I think, three years before his first sectioning.

There is some blame for us there which will need to be sorted out. Jane feels it strongly too. She also thinks that was where it started to go wrong. But that happened not because we could no longer cope but because Sam could no longer be protected within a family situation. It was when he went into some sheltered accomodation for a week to give us a break and him some oportunity for independence that others realise quite how seriously ill he was. We were persuaded that a brief stay in hospital would help stabalise him and move him forward.

So he was sectioned.

And, yes, Jane had to agree.

He began to get even more ill.

Street drugs such as cannabis, ecstasy and cocaine were freely available on the ward.

After a few weeks his consultant psychiatrist and his named nurse agreed with us that he was getting more poorly rather than better.

So in a way Sam is right.

That is where it all started to go wrong.

The current plan is to try to reverse all that.

I keep trying to say to Sam that we need to look forward now rather than back.

But at some time we are all going to have to sort out those earlier times.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Last night we joined friends for drinks. A lovely time but my head today tells me I probably had a little too much - though it hadn't seemed so at the time.

Sam had more than I usually try to restrict him to as well - he shouldn't really have alcohol at all with his medication.

However he woke up this morning with no problem and was soon up and about. He'd asked me to wake him at eight as there was some work to do round at our friends.

After dropping him off I went for a short walk around the vineyards opposite taking some photographs of the poppies that are just beginning to come out. I was feeling weary and was pleased to be nearly back when a jeep came up from behind me, drew level and stopped.

The driver opened his door to talk with me. He was wearing an open necked shirt with a smart blue jacket. He had on sunglasses and in his hand held a large half smoked cigar.

Was there something I wanted?

I explained that I was just taking a few photographs of the flowers.

For myself?

Of course - just for myself. Was that okay?

"Oui, ca va."

And with that he was off.

More from 18th April:
Since I've been ill I find stress and conflict hard to deal with. Even small things can upset me.

The other day we were in the Francetelecom shop trying to get an internet connection set up. A French friend had already tried by internet and phone and we had also had several unhelpful conversations with a different telephone/internet company.

At last we seemed to be getting somewhere.

But, no we couldn't have broadband because we weren't paying for a yearly contract.

But yes we could have a low speed dial up contract - but it would cost us the same money!

But no they couldn't accept our credit card for payment. They only accept French credit cards.

I use a Visa card. It's accepted all over the world. But not in the Francetelecom shop.

I was so frustrated I was close to tears. It's only a problem with setting up the internet connection for heaven's sake, not the end of the world. But I was so upset I wanted to go into the corner and burst into tears.

In the end the bloke was very helpful. He's trying to find a way for us to pay by Visa. I need to go back after the weekend. I'll be on my own as Jane is back in England now but he's arranged for me to meet a colleague who speaks good English.

I just hope the stresses of being away don't get to me too much.

Yes I know I'm supposed to be in the countryside without a care in the world - but sometimes I find holidays stressful, especially abroad with the language and cultural differences. And now Sam and I are keeping each other company all day every day - which can bring about stresses of its own, for both of us I'm sure.

Anyway must dash to give a new friend a birthday present before he gets too drunk to remember who we are!!!!!!


Often when we have been to France it has been in the summer.

So much then is yellow and dry.

But what struck us as soon as we started driving through France was how green everything was.

Even here in the south it is green - except for the bright colours interspersed by the flowers. Now the yellow isn't dry vegetation but the garish sunshine yellow of the flowers.

I'm no good at naming flowers so you'll just have to imagine from the colours!

At the moment it is a carpet of yellow with white patches from three or four main plants. Then when you look more closely there are tiny blue and purple flowers interspersed amongst the others. Then today I found some small bright red ones hiding in the rest.


"When we came out of the church I saw a model. You know a beautiful woman like out of Dior or something and she might have had her boyfriend with her or something you know and I knew everything.

"I could see everything.

"Just for a few minutes and then it went. I could see everything.

"I've had this voice for ages that's kept telling me it wants me to see everything."


"I don't know what's normal any more.

"So I have to pretend."

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Sam's slept a lot today - and also spent time on the lounger getting sunburned whilst I was shopping!

We has a walk late afternoon then off to friends for drinks. Can be difficult as Sam really shouldn't with his medication, but likes to, and if its a friendly atmosphere...

I don't think he had too much.

And he has been reasonably well today

Apart from on the way home from the drinks when he was saying some very strange things, he has coped well.

Tomorrow he plans some work.

Such routines that he is keen on are good for him.

Tonight I need to sort out his medication again. It is so complicated with the changes of tablets with the French prescription.

I hope you are coping with two sets of messages. I'm not sure I am:

17 April

Jane was leaving today and I drove her to the airport in what for me was the early morning.

The rain that we've had for a few days must have fallen as snow on the local mountains and furnished us with unexpected views as we drove along.

On he way back I was lucky to miss the turn on the main road and had to enjoy the winding back roads and a detour getting only slightly lost in an old village.

Back in time to wake Sam and give him his medication.


We'd just had dinner and Sam agreed to do the washing up.

I glanced out of the window and saw that there was some lovely evening light as the sun went down.

I mentioned it to Sam.

"Go out there," he told me.

So I did.

I rushed out and strolled in the garden enjoying the peace and the light and noticing a view of the mountains that I hadn't seen before between two pylons. I thought about not having my camera with me and decided it was good to just enjoy the light and views without trying to capture them in some way. And then I realised I was trying to capture them in words. Then I turned a corner and saw the light shining through the grass illuminating the red colours as well as the green. So I went and got my camera and Sam followed and we shared the last of the evening together.


In between the start and end of the day I've had disturbing conversations with Sam about his special powers and recent visions of Jesus and Moses but as everything else is going okay - so what? Maybe previously the medication and the containment were just masking the symptoms rather than alleviating them.

Monday, April 25, 2005

How can he change so suddenly?

We'd had a great day today. It had been a bit complicated by events but then he decided he'd like to visit a beautiful area of climbing about an hour from here. So after lunch we set off.

He's been so 'normal' the last few days. I know it's an awful word. But it's just been possible to communicate with him and do things with him as I would have done with my son if he hadn't become ill. In fact from day to day it has got even better.

We were looking at the beautiful countryside and Sam was looking in particular at possible areas for climbing. But he was so sensible and we were able to discuss it all so rationally.

Then I had a call from L to say she'd had serious problems and could I possibly pick her and her son u from the airport. We'd planned to help with that earlier but it had been cancelled - so of course I said yes.

I'm sure that wasn't the trigger but from then on Sam was withdrawn. He was no longer able to be drawn into conversation. The light had gone from his eyes. He seemed troubled again. He just looked different.

Earlier as he'd enticed me to extend the day and our journey further than I really wanted to he's promised to help with the meal. Of course when we got home he retreated into his shell, sat in a chair outside, threw a apple core at me for no reason, asked me if I believed in aliens.

"What's that?" rushing me outside from the cooking. I looked. At first a swallow but then saw the plane Sam was indicating. He was disappointed - thinking it must be an alien spacecraft.

Maybe he'll be well again tomorrow.

But when you've had your son back for a few days it is heartbreaking to loose him so suddenly.

Another excerpt from the earlier diary:

16 April - 2

It was difficult tonight.

We went for a meal as Jane has to leave for a couple of weeks.

Sam was fine and everything was going well until towards the end of the meal he started getting antagonistic and talking about Jesus.

As we walked back to the car he talked about two things in his life going really wrong. The first was a very personal and moving issue that had happened not long before he became ill. The second was when we allowed him to be sectioned and sent to hospital for the first time.

"Couldn't you have just said to me,

"Son, come and be alone here ..."

and the thought drifted away but the hurt remained - for him and us.


He continued to talk of Jesus and needing to be alone in the desert as we drove home.

But the more important thought that he had left his hat in the restaurant intervened and led to a welcome detour in the conversation if not in the drive.

Actually the drive back in the last of the light following a dismal day was delightful.


Later he was fine again and helped choose a card for a friend's birthday.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

After dinner tonight I asked Sam if he wanted a tea, coffee or chocolate. Unusually he asked to coffee. He rarely drinks coffee and I haven't for the last few years. I guess we've just both got back in to it over here in France.

So I searched for the decaff and couldn't find it anywhere.

Eventually I put some caf coffee in the filter and balanced it on a jug that it doesn't fit. Of course as I poured in the water the filter toppled and water and coffee grounds spilt all over the worktop.

I just found myself going to pieces. I couldn't find the coffee and then when I did it spilt all over and I just wanted to cry.

It's only a cup of coffee.

A little mess.

Soon sorted.

Why so upset?

Perhaps it's that I've been doing so well at coping with the important things.

Then one becomes upset at the little things instead.

Sam was great - he tidied up and finished off the coffee.

- Only to discover that I hadn't even boiled the water and it was lukewarm.

I took back over again and reheated it - so we did have coffee.

Then I poured another glass of wine as well!


Sam's playing some drum and base music loudly in the next room - so I'm here rather than engaging with him.

Somehow I associate it with times he's not been so well.

I prefer it when he's playing other things ...


Another earlier stored post:
16 April

We were sitting on the terrace, shivering, watching the rain.

I was sipping a glass of wine before lunch and had tried starting to read a novel.

Sam had joined me with a weak beer.

We chatted a bit. Then,

"Let me find you the right word," he said.

He took my book and closed it, loosing my place.

He reopened it near the centre and stared at the page.


"Why is that the right word?"

He thought for a bit.

"Because I was at a party and someone was eating a doughnut," he replied.

He seemed bemused at my idea that a good way to read a novel was to start at the beginning and work one's way through a word at a time - that maybe it was what the author had intended.

To him it seemed too ordered, too much control.

We came to talk of the control exercised by nurses on the wards in hospital. He poked me in the chest.

"This is what they were doing all the time.

"Not physically.

"But they liked doing it.

"They loved the power."

Saturday, April 23, 2005

You'll all be pleased to know it's been raining here today!

I've been busy doing so many things and haven't had time to write them up yet.

So here's a report from earlier on the France visit:

12/15 April

We're well ensconced in the house now.

Sam's still doing remarkably well.

We came over to France by ferry from Portsmouth to St Malo. We used to use this crossing when the children were little. We use to camp and rent gites in Brittany and on the Atlantic coast of France. It used to be so exciting at the ferry terminal waiting to board. Somehow you feel like you are really going somewhere on holiday when you cross on a boat.

It was turning into a lovely evening as we sat in the car watching the sun set over the water in the docks as we waited to board.

Jane asked Sam if he was feeling excited like when he was little.

"Not yet," he replied. "Maybe when I get on board."

We had a drink in the bar and treated ourselves to a meal in the bistro restaurant rather than the self service.

Later, back in the bar, over coffee, I asked Sam what his hopes and fears were for our stay in France.

"There's a black place in my mind," he said, "but I'm not in there now."

He looked worried though.

"Are you afraid you might go back into that place in your mind again?"


"We're here to help you Sam."

The next day we drove through France, stopping for a late second breakfast in a small town - once we had negotiated the road block cause by striking school students. We supped coffee in the small tabac and ate croissant and pain au raisin bought from the shop next door. Around us in the smoky atmosphere men sipped wine and cognac and solved the world's problems.

We were stopping overnight at a friend's holiday home. We arrived before his return from the airport where he had been dropping his wife and daughter on their journey home to England. He was staying a little longer to work on the house and garden to make it ready for summer holiday lets.

After collecting the keys from a neighbour we let ourselves in and ate our picnic lunch inside out of the cold.

Later Sam found a comfy spot to smoke all the cigarettes he had been denied whilst in the car. Then he and I explored the grounds of the house. It was a long time since we'd last visited. Sam was disappointed to see the small jetty into the river at the bottom of the garden had collapsed. As a boy he'd had lots of fun there with his best friend.

Later after our friend had returned Sam helped him in the garden whilst Jane and I made dinner.

It was great to see Sam looking so relaxed and getting involved in positive purposeful activity.

It's what this trip is all about.

We got up early the next day as we had a long way to go. Country roads at first then a lot of motorway driving then back to country roads again. We arrived late at the house of some more friends, very tired, but in time for a beer before dinner sitting out on the veranda in the last of the sunshine before the cold drove us back inside.

I went to bed early. I'd been forcing myself to keep going for the previous few days. All the pressures of the hearing and preparing to go had taken a toll on my system. I was just exhausted.

The following day was Saturday and we were taking a break from driving. I was keen to visit the local market which we knew well. My body just wanted to stay in bed though - but I forced it to move and found that although it protested it could be made to do as it was told if I was stern enough with it.

After the shopping we went into a bar for coffee and Sam enticed me into a couple of games of pool. His youth was much more misspent than mine so he always beats me easily.

Except when he is very unwell - so I was pleased when he did beat me easily!

Sam and I went for a walk in the afternoon. My body still wasn't up to going far - especially as a brief flurry of snow swirled around us. I gave Sam careful instructions to ensure he could find his way back on his own.

Waiting at the house for him was one of those times every parent knows when a child does something alone for the first time and one waits anxiously hoping that all will be well.

Of course, all was well - though I had been beginning to wish I'd sewn his address and phone number somewhere into his clothing!

One last half day's driving until we got to our destination. The strong gusty wind made driving tricky and a stone flew into the windscreen with a loud crack leaving a star shaped chip in the centre of the windscreen. I wonder if my French is good enough to get it fixed?

I'd left a space here to write about our arrival and first couple of days at the house but never got round to it. That seems so long ago now and hard to remember. I do remember a friendly welcoming meal with friends. The following day Sam met the doctor for the first time then spent a lot of the day with our friend L who took him around and introduced him to other friends and neigbours. We met up for a drink in the evening and Sam looked happy but confused. Maybe it had all been a bit too much for him. But then again it's all been a bit too much for me too!

We were just getting ready to go to the market when there was a knock at the door. It was a friend of L's. We knew she was going to pop in. What we didn't know was that she was going to show some prospective house purchasers round this morning. The place was a mess - we rushed around throwing the contents of the floor of Sam's bedroom into a cupboard then quickly trying to make the rest of the house look like just the wonderful place you would like to buy.

Secretly and selfishly I guess we hoped we hadn't succeeded too well. We don't want the house to sell too quickly!!!!!

Later we made it to the market just before it closed up. We spent yet more money on nice fabrics and other bits and pieces for the kitchen.

The sun had come out and we were really hot for the first time since we arrived.

Sam strode on ahead confidently looking around the market on his own.

We lost him a couple of times but soon found him again then went for a beer sitting outside the local cafe watching people taking home their precious purchases of the day.

Later we sat in .............

13 April

Sam's been quieter today.

We thought he might like to go over to help with some building work at our friends - he'd even been promised some wages - but he felt that wasn't the thing for him today.

Chain smoking five cigarettes before breakfast between coughs.

He's spent a lot of time in bed.

Each time we've gone out he's stayed behind and gone to his bed.

He wouldn't come with me to get a new gas canister even though I would have welcomed his help lifting it.

Later in the evening he looked very troubled. His conversations were irrational. It's the least well we've seen him since being here. I guess there are going to be lots of days worse than this and we're lucky to have got so far so well.

He was talking of Africa. He seemed to be thinking of people worse off than him.

He went to bed better than last night when Jane had problems getting him to take his medication.

"These flies could do with working a bit harder."

"In what way?"

"They're not working hard enough."

"Why's that?"

"They're lazy."

15th April

It had been raining.

The first real rain we've had since arriving. The plants needed it so we were not too sad.

It became fine. Sam and I crossed to road to explore some paths through the vineyards.

I took my camera and took some photographs.

- A wasp entangled in a web fighting with the spider.

- Some small blue orchids.

- The cypress tree in the garden with dark clouds behind.

- The rows of vines leading to the woods and mountains and sky.

- Our house from the vineyard trying avoid the cars crossing on the road in front.

We had a really sensible and articulate conversation as we strolled about spirituality and sects.

We sat out afterwards and had a cup of tea as we continued our conversation.

"But yesterday I met Moses. I was in the shower."


We went to see how the wasp was getting on in it's fight with the spider.

It had escaped.

Sam decided it would be full of joy.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Just to say that of course it's perfectly simple to get connected to the internet in France.

You just need lots and lots and lots and lots and lots ...

... and lots of patience.

(I waited for fortyfive minutes in the France telecom shop today - third visit - to be told that it was impossible but it seemed the impossibility was the fact that I wasn't in when they phoned me yesterday and of course I can be connected to the internet if I have ten goes at filling in the online forms in French from the cd they forgot to give me.)

But hey! We're here!

So I'll be posting lots of updates soon.


Thursday, April 21, 2005

Things still going well.

Sam's been doing great the last couple of days.

Still no internet access though. Any suggestions about how to get on the internet easily in France gratefully received. It all seemed so simple until ...

I've been keeping a diary and I'll download it here as soon as I can get properly organised.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Just a quick note.

Things going well.

No internet access yet and very hurried today.

Will get back to you all soon.

Thanks for all the kind messages of best wishes and apologies for not having got back to you all.

M xxxx

Saturday, April 09, 2005


Maintenant, nous sommes en France.

Tout va très bien
- mais il fait fort froid aujourd'hui.

Alors, ne t'inquiete pas, la prochaine fois j'ecrirai en Anglais.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

We set off tomorrow.

Are we packed?

Course we're not.

Have we finished all the jobs?

Course we haven't.

Will we set off on time?

Course we will.

- Well just a little bit late maybe!

I intend to keep in touch from France so keep looking out for me.

Bye for now.

M x

Monday, April 04, 2005

Sam's continuing to get better each day.

His care coordinator visited today and was amazed by the difference in him.

We've had visits from Assertive Outreach each day since Sam came out of hospital. I'm sure it's well meant but it also feels a little threatening. We've had contingency plans in place in case Sam deteriorated and they tried to section him.

Clearly though now that's not going to happen.

He really is just so well.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

The 'plan' is seriously underway now!

We set off for France on Wednesday.

But, of course - you don't know the details yet!

I haven't explained the plan.

Now that it looks as if it really is beginning to happen I'll tell you all abbout it.

Over the time I've been writing this weblog lots have people have got in touch and Jane and I have met several readers. Many of them, each in their own way, are very special people.

Well we met another very special person recently. She had been moved by the blog and wanted to meet us, to talk with us and better understand the issues. She was researching into schizophrenia and valued our input. She was here for a few days and was also meeting with others including mental health care professionals.

I met her in her hotel late one morning. We'd met socially a couple of times already during her visit but this morning I had intended to give her some more detail of my perspective.

We were supposed to be going out for lunch but I was a little late so she had already ordered in the bar.

I was upset. It was part of the reason I was late. Jane had met with Sam's consultant psychiatrist the day before.

He'd suggested that Sam might have to stay on that secure ward for up to five years.

The thought of him staying there for five months, five weeks, five hours even five minutes is distressing. But...

...five years!!!!!

It was inconceivable.

We were desolate discussing it, and other parts of her meeting, that morning. I set off late to see our new friend feeling so low.

I knew that Jane couldn't bear the thought of it. I couldn't see any way out. I couldn't bear Jane's distress. I was close to despair.

I arrived in the bistro bar and slumped onto the hard bentwood chair opposite my new friend mumbling my apologies. She smiled and was cheery and I tried to be politely friendly and cheerful.

I know I was unsuccessful.

All I could do was try to explain my sadness though there was no flow to the words and I wonder if I made any sense.

I wasn't able to articulate anything useful that could have helped in her work. All she will have seen was what damage mental illness and the system that contains it whilst pretending to treat it does to the families of those that are incarcerated.

She smiled kindly, with compassion.

And then came the bombshell.

The start of the plan.

"We have a house in rural France that is empty. If you could get Sam there you could have it rent free for up to four months. It's being sold but there's no way it could happen in less that three months."

I don't know how I responded.

I was already in such a daze and stunned by my own emotions that this probably hardly hit me at all.

Could she really mean it? It was so spontaneous. She couldn't even have had time to think through the implications.

I'm always so cautious.

If I'm asked to do anything I prevaricate, unsure until I've thought it through.

I hate change at home although I was always the constant instigator of change at work! Going abroad is always a trial. I've always found languages hard and the change of cultures difficult. Jane loves both and sometimes the rub between Jane's approach and mine brings its own difficulties. I still find Scarborough exciting.

So what was I going to say in reply? Well, it was obvious.


What else could I say? I'm welling up again now just thinking about it and her kindness and the vision that there might be a way out of the cul-de-sac we were in.


I started to give her all the get out clauses. I couldn't possibly hold her to this offer. It hadn't been thought though. We'd hardly met. She hadn't discussed it with her husband. How were we going to get Sam out of hospital anyway?


This could work.

It had to work.

There were no longer any alternatives.

If we didn't try something radical Sam was going to get more and more poorly in an environment that was driving us all mad.


Please, please, please, please ...

And it's going to happen.

There've been phone calls, emails, meetings, discussions between ourselves and with bemused mental health professionals.

We've caused a lot of people a lot of trouble over this but it has been worth it.

Sam's been out of hospital a few days and is already getting better.

In a safe part of rural France he will have time to rediscover his sanity with new friends in a delightful environment working and relaxing with sunshine, good food and good companionship.

It's not a magic answer.

We'll have to return in a few months that will race by.

But by then we will have a new starting point.

We will be able to continue to move forwards. Recently we have been just slipping backwards.

Thanks again to all of you.

To all our "special friends".

But especially to our special "special friend".

It's going to be hard at times but it is going to work. I know we are so fortunate to be in this situation.

Wish us luck to make it work.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Sam is doing brilliantly.

Just being out of hospital has done him so much good.

We were worried that the he would find the change of environment difficult. He often responds badly to change. It could have made him more poorly for a while.

But it hasn't.

He's confident, calm, self assured, thoughtful and in control.

There was just a little blip on Thursday evening.

He'd been doing fine all day. More than fine. Because of this we probably did too much with him. After all, it was only his first full day out of hospital. He'd been chatting with me in great detail about this and that but moved into talking about his illness and his adolescence. Maybe that was all a bit too much as soon after that calm lucidity he changed.

You could see it in his eyes immediately. They were wide, staring, pupils massively dilated. He didn't want his medication. It was dark but he wanted to go out climbing. He didn't want to go to bed.

Even after his medication he was agitated and disturbed. He couldn't settle.

Jane was calm and soothing but firm with him.

He began to respond more calmly.

Eventually he settled listening to some music. Drum and base. Not exactly soothing!

Later he took himself to bed.

In the morning he was fine and has been since.

If he stays as well as this it will be great - though we recognise there are going to be so many ups and downs.

It does illustrate though how many of his symptoms were actually caused by being locked up with lots of others with serious mental health problems.

As Sam himself once said in another hospital during a period of lucidity,
"If someone was mentally ill you wouldn't lock them up in somewhere like this!"

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