brother drowned at Lizard Point in Cornwall during a raging gale. He
was thirty. One wild February day, a passing stranger found him face
down on a small beach. Paramedics carried his body up the steep path.
He was laid out on a slab in a police mortuary, three hundred miles
from home. His red Vauxhall Cavalier, a tank of a car, was spread in
pieces on the rocks; in the water.
and rage pound the barricades, threatening to overwhelm me; overwhelm
the world. Some internal mechanism fights to hold the centre, but my
mind and heart shatter into acute psychosis. The first domino fells
the next with the lightest of touches. Perception is accelerated;
connections made unstoppable. Clarity and light fill my mind; I am
swept away in a world of private meanings. People will look at me,
and see madness.
is dark, and raining. I am driving on a motorway like a demon.
Cocooned in this white car, I am fearless. It weaves me in and out of
these lanes like a matchbox toy. I cannot understand the numbers on
the speedometer. My car pulls over momentarily to the hard shoulder,
so I can rest.
white car takes me back into the rushing traffic. Driving like a
demon. I need to stop. After some time, I pull in at Hilton Park
Services and go to the cafeteria. I order something. I sit
motionless, for a long time, observing the people. Some of them are
like those whom I know, and they are in urgent conversation. They do
not see me. I get up and push through swing doors off limits to
customers. A small group of workers huddles in discussion. I am
brash, interrupting them. They are alarmed.
am looking for someone. There is an exit, and I push hard on the
bars. An unnerving bell sounds out, but I am already out on the
tarmac, moving forward in the foggy air of this god-forsaken place.
There’s a lone car with a beckoning light within. I feel
afraid. I think it might explode, but I move intentionally towards
it. I open the passenger door. A man in the driver’s seat looks
at me, surprised. He has a magazine on his lap. Does he know me? No,
but I could step in. Shut the door. Walk away.
is a white sierra leading me. I follow it off the motorway – we
are in the Midlands. Through the unknown streets of a built-up area,
I lose my guide, and this distresses me. I park in a place, high up,
looking over a lit-up city. Perhaps this is Birmingham. Relentless,
pounding thoughts torment me. I have the radio on. The man talks of
Valentine’s and reads Shakespeare: his voice grows familiar.
Special songs play for me: Almaz.
You Were Waiting. Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes.
am on a dual carriageway. Raining hard now. The car is accelerating.
Thoughts raging faster, faster. Out of control. A screaming voice
from within: Overtake!
pull out. Headlights dazzle
me, and something changes. I turn the wheel and veer across the path
of an oncoming car. I close my eyes and lay my arms down at my sides.
My muscles relax, but inside I am frozen. Silence, but for a shatter
of glass. I think I am dead. When I lift my head from my hands I see
the door hangs lamely. I step outside. The roof of my white car is
buckled with the force of impact. A couple stop to help. The woman
leads me gently to the back seat of their vehicle, where she sits
with me. I cry suddenly, feeling afraid.
small cottage hospital. I am sitting on a bed and the nurse is
talking softly to me. I ask for tea and toast which she fetches. A
man comes. I think he is the hospital doctor. He tries to understand,
but I am too far away, and he leaves. Another man arrives. He talks
to me for a long time. I ask him his name. "Dermot," he
says. He is still, and quiet, whilst I am agitated and
over-confident. But he persists with his questioning. He wants me to
acknowledge my risk-taking behaviour.
could have killed yourself tonight,” he says.
I say, “I was protected.”
cannot reach me but he waits. He wants me to go with him to another
resist. I challenge. I debate.
waits. Then, quietly: "Angela, I think you are being very
see steel and compassion in his eyes. Something changes, and I become
am walking down a wide, chilly corridor, a few paces at Dermot's
back. I notice he has a slight limp. He is carrying my guitar case,
from my white car, and this touches me. He's like an angel. We enter
a very large room, and I follow him up to a desk. Now Dermot has
gone, I feel massively lost. A woman – she is probably a nurse
– opens my red satin clutch bag. She makes an inventory of my
belongings: a credit card, a comb, a set of keys. She takes them from
me. I am taken to a darkened room where I see people are sleeping.
There is a bed for me in a curtained corner. I lie down, but there is
no sanctuary for me here.
things happen," a consultant psychiatrist told me some months
later. "You may never know why.” Another said: “You
had an abnormal grief reaction.” I had expected a tad more
reflexivity from these scholars of the psyche. Their offhand
responses would have me accept that psychosis lurks in the mind,
moving with stealth, rupturing in a breath, ripping through a
person's wholeness with ferocious brutality. Just one of those
am I to do? Tolerate this toxic presence in me? Allow it to bombard
my being at will until I am irreparably broken? No. I will peer into
the mirror. I will seek out and light up these disturbing and
distressing parts of myself. I am reserved and loud; able and
crippled; full of confidence and self-doubt. This mercurial mind. A
crazed pendulum. But the centre will hold. I will build a coherent
narrative, connecting my sanity and madness.
drove to Cornwall from Manchester two and a half years later, needing
answers. I stood on the beach where my brother had lain; threw
flowers on the sparkling water. Walking along the cliff tops, I
scanned the sea for him. Glorious sunlight tore through a big blue
sky. On the rocky slopes extending far into the sea, I pictured
scattered pieces of red, ripped metal. There was no meaning; no
comfort. A numbing cold seeped into my bones.
Helston I sought out the police station. The woman at the desk was
disinterested, but she spoke to a male colleague on my behalf. In a
quiet room, the detective sat with me - courteous, patient - as I
tried to frame my unanswerable questions. Could a Force Eight storm
lift a heavy car? Yes, it’s a possibility. Were
Yes, he did remember the case. The shutters came down, and I knew I
was done. Go home, I told myself. Find another way. Accept that this
letting go will be arduous.
I drove north, unsettling thoughts flooded in. The shattered
brother's unravelling; his
unbroken body. This vibrant man. I imagined the polished hearse ahead
of me, taking Ged on his final journey back to Manchester. Three
hundred heart-breaking miles. I thought I knew him, but he was a dark
is my safety zone; it helps me to make sense of the world. I write
across genres - short fiction, memoir, poetry, spoof, songs,
love yoga, swimming and wild places. I hope to spend lots more time
hanging around Lago di Garda, where I love to speak Italian and drink
ridiculously strong coffee.
2016, I won First Prize in the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival
Writing Awards and in my local Village Crier writing competitions -
2014 and 2016. In recent years I have been short-listed for the
Fresher Prize (creative non-fiction) and Tacchi-Morris Arts ‘The
Page Is Printed’. Earlier this year, 2020, I was long-listed
for the international Mogford Writing Prize.
of the message
won't know where to send it.)
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