Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Number 6

I moved in to student accommodation at St Mary's Psychiatric Hospital on January 20th 1991. You could say it was a shock to the system.

The place was full of people dependent on the hospital to meet their every need. It fed them, clothed them and provided for their meagre social requirements. They terrified me.

You see, the hospital was isolated from the wider community in every way possible; Geographically, as it was in the middle of nowhere. Socially, because who in their right mind, would choose to enter an asylum? Economically, as the hospital was pretty much self sufficient in those days. Perhaps most crucially, it was psychologically separate from the community it served. For if you were admitted to the long stay wards, you were there for life. Society would rather forget you.

I was shocked by how little people hoped for their lives. All that was and all that would ever be, was the hospital. They denied the possibility that the new Community Care Act might mean the end of the asylum.

Many had delusions of grandeur, believing that they were better than others, and could therefore dictate in every sense, what others did. They also believed that they would never recover. Not ever.

Whole families lived within this system. Mothers, fathers, sons, cousins and daughters. All they knew was their perverse, closed system of psychiatry.

The patients on the other hand, were often quite nice.

Suffice to say, I hated it with every fibre of my body. Through each week, I would dream of my two days off, when I would drive the 47 miles back to the relative sanity of my home town.

I'd recently discovered the joys of Jethro Tull. They remain one of my playlist stalwarts. Skating away on the thin ice of the new day seemed to sum up beautifully, all my feelings of absurdity and the need to run the hell away from it all.

The words of the song remain meaningful to this day. I can't help but sing along, in the same way I did, driving down the A1 to Darlington. All those years ago.

Try it yourself. They're below the video, you may enjoy it.

Meanwhile back in the year one --- when you belonged to no-one ---
You didnt stand a chance son, if your pants were undone.
`cause you were bred for humanity and sold to society ---
One day youll wake up in the present day ---
A million generations removed from expectations
Of being who you really want to be.
Skating away ---
Skating away ---
Skating away on the thin ice of the new day.

So as you push off from the shore,
Wont you turn your head once more --- and make your peace with everyone?
For those who choose to stay,
Will live just one more day ---
To do the things they should have done.
And as you cross the wilderness, spinning in your emptiness:
You feel you have to pray.
Looking for a sign
That the universal mind (!) [sic] has written you into the passion play.

Skating away on the thin ice of the new day.

And as you cross the circle line, the ice-wall creaks behind ---
Youre a rabbit on the run.
And the silver splinters fly in the corner of your eye ---
Shining in the setting sun.
Well, do you ever get the feeling that the storys
Too damn real and in the present tense?
Or that everybodys on the stage, and it seems like
Youre the only person sitting in the audience?

Skating away on the thin ice of the new day.


Stew said...

Anderson is sublime. I have Aqualung of course, and Thick as a Brick. My brother had the original newspaper album. Little Gerald Bostock. I think it's still at my parents house.
When I'm grinding out a nightshift I often sing "wondring aloud" to myself.

jamon said...

Apparently Ian is farming trout somewhere in the west highlands these days.

What a guy!

I had the thick as a brick album too, sans the newspaper unfortunately ;(