The Bastard Noose: Food, Family, Friends

The Bastard Noose
Mental Health Ward: Food, Family, Friends

My Grandad O'Reilly, apart from being the reason I can never spell my mother’s maiden name, had an important saying: Faith, Family, Friends. It is a good mantra and one I hope to adhere to as closely as I am able. My problem is that I’m an atheist, but I’m just about grown up enough to appreciate how important faith is to a lot of my family. I wanted to replace the F of Faith, and I decided on food. No, I wasn’t going there, get your mind out the gutter. It’s probably pretty obvious if you’ve read the other The Bastard Noose entries that I love food.

Eating and cooking (particularly cooking- I’ll happily make food and not eat it) are things I enjoy extremely. Obviously making meals, past lukewarm posh Pot-Noodles, was not an option on the ward. I’ve talked about the ubiquitous cabbage and even toast had to be prepared by someone who wouldn’t try to eat the toaster, or however you kill yourself with a toaster.

Recently, a friend mentioned to me that the mental health ward didn’t sound very therapeutic. That it comes across as volatile and not relaxing. There’s a reason for that; if I wrote up the tedium of 95% of my life in there it wouldn’t be interesting. No WiFi, a constant battle with batteries running out and having to wait to get your charger because they take it off you and frankly, apart from a shared TV, not much to do except bond over cigarettes. I don’t really smoke but in hospital cancer sticks were delicious beacons of joy.


Where I was stupendously, gratefully wealthy compared to many of the other patients was that my family and friends really made my recovery (I hate calling that) so much easier. Sure, a lot of people didn’t know what to say but I was quite happy not to talk about how I was. I’m in a mental health ward, it’s pretty obvious things aren’t going great. Most of my ward friends had little to no family or friends for support. Some only had their one-to-one who mopped up after them and I don’t think they knew he was there.

Going out for tea, a walk or lunch, was precious. I can’t give you a woe is me because I was blessed not to have a woe is me. There was plenty hard about the ward and my ED experience but I had, since day one (when Mum physically escorted me to the GP who made the hospital take me in) the most brilliant people around me. It makes me feel sad and more, selfish that I tried to leave them permanently.

Writing that made me cry, so I feel I need a dick joke or something.

As well as a pillow, I was very lucky to be able to have some Marmite delivered and, this might be the most middle class thing ever, a cheese selection with Quince paste and crackers. I didn’t ask for the cheese- it was a weird surprise. Fromage made a milky change from the kilo of Maltesers bar I was stuffing down my pie hole every day, and given that the window in my room opened like a drawer with holes to let air in, I’d fashioned a fridge so the cheese kept. Ok maybe I needed a cheese anecdote, not a dick joke.

Meals out were the best, not only respite and nice food but the restaurants often had WiFi so I could download films without having to pay O2 £700 for data (data top up charges are essentially crime in my opinion). The downside was that my lean, muscular, Adonis-like ten stone physique* became twelve very fast. It’s weird that that annoyed me- I wasn’t going out on the pull anytime soon.

Occasionally my family would bring chocolates or similar things for the staff and other patients. With the patients it was a very quick way of determining who was stoned.

Only looking back do I really appreciate how much this meant and was important and mostly how lucky I am/ was. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all of you both at the time and since I’ve been writing The Bastard Noose. Food, Family, Friends.

*I shouldn't have to say that I'm joking here, but obviously I'm joking. I just got fat-er.


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