Cosy Corners in Depression and War
Autobiography of Joan Hughes
The story of one person's nests

1974: "Tell us about the MPU" the staff said

During the first half of 1974, I remained unemployed. This was a period of rapid expansion for MPU. I spent much of my time in the upstairs office, answering the telephone and correspondence. I began to use the typewriters, though I was not a trained typist.

I answered some personal letters from patients in hospital in my own handwriting. Arthur from Wiltshire was a frequent correspondent. He always stated he was a "Conservative" and I wondered what the conservatives had done for him, as a long-term patient in a Wiltshire hospital. I never met him, but tried to write cheerful letters during a space of two years.

Some of our correspondents were far more active, including Ralph , who was living in the same ward in the Wiltshire hospital as Arthur. Ralph accepted the ideology of Szacz and was trying to leave hospital, but was detained under the Mental Health Act of 1959, on a year-long section. Often when these sections expired, they were automatically renewed for a further year.

Szasz thought that psychiatrists did more harm than good, and by interfering in a patient's life, prevented the person from earning his or her living in future years, or condemned them to a half-life. There is far more to Szacz than this, but this is not the place to explain it. Szasz wrote a book entitled "Ideology and Insanity" published by Penguin in 1970.

I did not favour Szacz, being more impressed by Laing, Berke and others who were trained psychiatrists, but used non-drug therapy. Lots of people suffered mental distress, and needed help, and these therapies, which had never been offered to me, seemed a better way forward than the usual treatment in hospital with drugs, and possibly a five-minute weekly interview with a psychiatrist for the luckier patients. The unlucky ones were never seen at all!

Ralph and Arthur were not very successful in establishing a local MPU group in the Wiltshire hospital. Some of our contacts were far more successful, and 1974 was devoted to establishing a large number of local groups. I suspect that some groups consisted of only one person, but the printed list looked impressive.

While I answered personal correspondence, Andrew was busy in his room composing a variety of MPU leaflets, which were typed duplicated and posted to the many people on our regular mailing list.

Manchester was probably our most successful local group. There were three very active people, who gave us their private addresses. They organised a community group, which I believe was attended by a large number of Manchester residents. Community groups were much easier to run than hospital groups, though one of MPU's aims was to organise within hospitals. But people not currently receiving in-patient treatment were usually in a much better position to run or even attend meetings. Estelle Beninson, Norman Clinton and Greg Dropkin were our Manchester contacts. They sometimes visited the MPU house in London and once gave us a copy of their Manchester newsletter, which was well printed.

A very successful group was also established by Bill Warwick in Stoke-on- Trent. He was an intelligent man who had worked as a civil servant and was approaching retirement.

The third most successful group was run by Christopher Riddings and George Crutchley in Birmingham.

The above mentioned people occasionally visited Mayola Road, sleeping overnight in the common room, and giving us news about their local MPU groups. George had a delightful Birmingham accent, which reminded me of my time in Birmingham, especially my year at the university.

Most of our local MPU contacts were not able to visit London and were not known to us personally.

We had contacts in the South of England in Southampton, Portsmouth, Bournemouth, Swanage, Brighton and Sussex villages, Kent, and Wiltshire. Diana Lawrence from Swanage in Dorset was a frequent correspondent. She was a Vicar's wife and a member of the International Socialists. Though the International Socialists did not give any particular support to MPU, many of their members did have intellectual abilities which led them to enquire into diverse subjects such as the uses and abuses of psychiatry. (I believe the above is correct about Diana Lawrence but it may have been someone else).

In Norfolk, the contact was Ian Goddard.

In South London and Surrey there were group members who were able to visit us. One of these was Brigid O'Sullivan who formed an MPU group within Horton Hospital. This was one of the few hospital groups. Brigid visited us and told us that she made Christmas crackers, five days per week for an abysmal wage. She was unhappy in hospital, but she was too nervous to leave and try to live in the community. I admired her courage in starting a hospital group, even though she often appeared to be trembling with nervous tension.

There were also local groups in Croydon and Wandsworth.

George and Gladys, who were well known to us, continued to hold weekly meetings at their home in Camden, where they encouraged the use of alternative therapies.

Groups in West London were formed in Turnham Green, in London W.11, London W.8, London W.10, in Ealing, W.5, in Swiss Cottage, and in N.W.6. We did not see many of the West London members living in private flats, and I suspect that most of these were individuals who liked our literature, but were never able to get local meetings started.

Apart from MPU groups, other groups concerned about mental distress often contacted us, including the very active organisation called COPE. Their address was 15A Acklam Road, North Kensington, W.10. They were running an accommodation centre for ex-patients, and offered alternative therapy. Many patients lived there and took meals together. It was a co-operative which produced a monthly newsletter, and flourished for two or three years. Jim Conway had left Mayola Road to live there early in 1974. Eric Irwin who was a Marxist and a visitor to MPU meetings also lived there. He had originally applied to MPU for accommodation, but required cooked meals, which we were unable to supply, so he was not offered a room. Another COPE resident was Michael Wade. He was unhappy living at COPE and applied to us for a room.

When he first applied to us, there were no vacancies at Mayola Road, but we found him a room in another short-life house in Woodford.

The managers of the Cyrenians, a group who helped homeless people were Tom and Brigid Gifford. These became good friends of ours and visited Mayola Road occasionally for tea and to give advice and encouragement. Many of the residents in Cyrenian hostels were ex-patients.

A similar group was the Simon Community who sent us newsletters. They operated farms in the country, employing people who had previously been homeless, because they had left institutions with nowhere to go.

A frequent visitor and one of the main supports of our Saturday afternoon meetings was a young man called Charles Hill. He had been a college friend of Andrew's and was now employed as editor of Peace News. He arrived on a motor-cycle wearing a crash helmet. He told me he was an anarchist. For a joke, I asked him where his bomb was. He told me that he had left it on his bike! Charles was married with two children and was one of the most stable among our members. He had never had hospital treatment, but was eligible for membership of MPU because he had consulted a psychiatrist at some time. Only those who had received some kind of psychiatric treatment were eligible for full membership of MPU. Other people were accepted as associate members, if they were sympathetic with the aims of MPU and willing to pay a small subscription. We were often glad of the financial help received from our associate members.

One of the letters we considered at our Saturday meeting was one from the Medical Practitioners Union which was also known as MPU. They requested us to change our initials, even offering us support in exchange for this. We were suspicious of this letter, and Brian Douieb, who was attending the MPU meeting for the last time, persuaded us that we should not agree to this request, but should stick to our guns.

Shortly afterwards Brian and Liz with their daughter settled in Luton where they opened a bookshop.

Up to this date we had not received much support from doctors, though quite a number of social workers had become associate members of MPU. On the contrary, we had sometimes received menacing letters from psychiatrists who had threatened to run us out of business. We knew that these people possessed considerable money and influence, whereas we were struggling with daily living, so these letters were a threat, particularly from people who threatened to use the law. However, we were breaking no law. The Marxists among us were a considerable support, as they were used to defending themselves against opposition and were not timid. These Marxists were quite unorthodox as Marxists; in having to deal with the mental health establishment they were pragmatic in their approach and did not waste time in endless discussions on theory. We developed some very radical demands. To our surprise these demands became equally acceptable to people with right-wing views on the freedom of the individual, which is why we had considerable support from conservatives, and all shades of opinion between. An ex-nun thought we were the most suitable organisation to approach, when she had to leave her order. She had spent two years as a novice in a contemplative order and was preparing to make solemn vows. When she first went to try her vocation, she had not mentioned that she had received psychiatric treatment, and had lived quietly as a novice and apparently fulfilled her obligations successfully, with no sign of mental disturbance.

But just before taking her solemn vows she felt she wanted to be totally honest with the sisters whom she regarded as her own family. She told her superiors that she had received psychiatric treatment in the past before entering the order. This approach did not work and she was requested to leave the house immediately, being deemed unsuitable for life as a nun. She was very upset as she had trusted the sisters and grown fond of them. Now she was being treated like a stranger, or perhaps worse than a stranger. She had to leave the convent the very same night, and was given £50 to pay her immediate expenses, as she had no money of her own.

She was forced to spend the next two nights in a temporary night shelter for homeless people. Christine thought that this was very un-Christian treatment from people she had regarded as her friends. The nuns advised her to return home to her parents. She did not feel very happy about doing this. MPU could not do much to help her as our house was full, and the conditions were possibly just as chaotic as the shelter for homeless people. She was given addresses of hostels for women which would probably accept her.

As I was the only Catholic present I interviewed Christine on my own, after she had attended the Saturday meeting, and tried to offer sympathy. She was only about 25 years of age, and I said that she would probably be able to get employment quite easily.

"I don't know if anyone would accept an ex-religious," she said, looking towards the floor. I thought she looked towards the floor because my impression of contemplative orders was coloured by reading the book, "I leapt over the wall" by Monica Baldwin, an ex-nun. In this book, Monica explained that nuns in an enclosed order like hers were trained to look downwards, and not to look directly at other people. This was called "keeping custody of the eyes." Christine said that her training was very bad for life in the outside world, and though she had not spent a fraction of the time that Monica had spent as a nun, I agreed with this. Christine had not lost her faith in God or in the Catholic Church as a result of this experience, and though she was unhappy, and wrote to us later that she decided to return to her parents' home, I believe that she probably made a success of her future life. I thought she had a strong character.

I think that Christine's contemplative order had probably retained attitudes to life more common before the Vatican 2 council. In 1996, few Catholic Sisters in England wear voluminous black habits. The culture has completely changed. Even contemplative orders run retreat centres for the laity and offer hospitality, so even those nuns who do not leave their convents do not act like pre-Vatican 2 enclosed orders. This worked for nuns in the 19th century, because most women "in the world" did not do much work outside the home. Unfortunately religious sisters had often maintained a culture that had long vanished from other areas of modern life.

At Mayola Road in the first half of 1974 Frank was causing problems. Then one day he went out and committed an offence. I am not sure what this was, but for this he received a six month prison sentence. I think that we were all thankful that he had left the house, as his abusive manner terrified people. Nevertheless it was unfortunate that he ended up in prison. After he left Austin cleared his room. I was too frightened to look into this room, and Austin declared himself very disturbed by Frank's dark decorations and drawings. Austin moved into this room as it was slightly larger than his own.

If Frank had not left us in this unfortunate way, I think that we would have had to find somewhere else for him to stay, for his presence disturbed the work of the house and prevented us from attending to other people. Often I was too frightened to go into the kitchen. However, one day I determined to cook myself lunch, and the previous day had bought a lamb chop which I left in the refrigerator. I cooked this lamb chop and ate it, but while I was doing so Frank came into the kitchen and declared that it was his lamb chop. He shouted and swore at me, and for once I answered back.

Austin came into the room and tried to take part in the discussion, saying "Joan, perhaps it was his lamb chop."

It turned out that Frank had bought a very similar lamb chop. I think we found this at the back of the refrigerator.

I went upstairs with Austin and he came into my room for tea. Jenny was also there.

Austin said, "Well, if you can deal with Frank like that, I think we ought to be able to do so. Jenny and I feel too frightened to go into the kitchen while he is there."

But after this episode, I did not go into the kitchen for a while, but bought take-away curries or fried rice with prawns or chicken and bean- sprouts from the Chinese restaurant and ate them in my room.

At one of the Saturday meetings, Dominic, a radical psychiatrist from Hackney Hospital joined MPU as an associate member. He was probably our only psychiatrist member, apart from David Cooper, a radical psychiatrist who had written books. David Cooper books, including "Psychiatry and Anti-Psychiatry" were published by Penguin as paperbacks.

David Cooper contacted us on one occasion, because he had become hospitalised as a patient himself. I met him once at a meeting in the ware-house of a business situated in Duke Street, near Euston Station. The one service Frank did for us was to provide this room for MPU meetings. He was employed as a labourer by the firm who owned the building, and his employer allowed him to use it. David did not say much at this meeting. Jim Conway and Frank were both there, and both were in an agitated state. After this episode, there were no more meetings in Duke Street, as shortly afterwards Frank committed the offence which led to his losing this employment and spending six months in prison.

Whatever happened in the house in Mayola Road during the week, we always gathered for the Saturday afternoon meeting without fail, ready to receive visitors. We never knew who would come. Disruptive people like Frank rarely came to the Saturday meeting, as they usually regarded it as a waste of time.

Though most of the visitors were not abusive, some of them could be infuriating.

A man who lived in a hostel occasionally attended, and declared everything that anyone said to be "Out of Order."

He talked at length, in the same boring way as some members of the Socialist Party of Great Britain, (SPGB) and I believe he was a member. He also wrote poetry and wanted to know if we could help him to get his poetry published. We had no funds for this; our meagre efforts were devoted to useful literature such as Andrew's pamphlet on the 1959 Mental Health Act. When this man went on talking at length, Charles Hill said, "Well you can appeal to the Chair if you think the meeting is out of order."

He appealed to the Chair, and after another long argument, we declared the meeting closed.

Then he looked at me and said, "I would like to have a cup of tea and want to talk to the house-keeper."

I said, "I'm not the house-keeper but I'll give you a cup of tea." He had a cup of tea and sandwiches in our kitchen and left. I took him away to provide this. I think the other people at the meeting were tired by this time, and dispersed. No sensible business was done that day.

There were not many black visitors. An exception was Desmond with long dreadlocks, which were very fashionable in the 1970s. Desmond would not sit for long on a chair but became agitated and wandered round the room. Andrew asked me if I would take Desmond to the kitchen for tea and sandwiches, and I did so. Desmond sat down quietly in the kitchen and said "I want to get off the social security."

"What sort of work do you do?" I asked.

He showed me a picture he had painted. He was a talented artist.

I said, "I cannot help you there. Perhaps someone at Centerprise can help you."

Centerprise was a coffee shop with book-shop at Dalston, which was often used for meetings of informal classes, and discussion groups and had been hired for a conference of the MPU.

There was a duplicating machine at Centerprise, available for use by community groups. MPU often used it to duplicate leaflets. Paper only was purchased. At that time, duplicating was free on the community machine, but often there was a long queue for this. Several times I had visited and helped Andrew with duplicating work.

Soon after I saw Desmond in the MPU house, he hired Centerprise for an exhibition of his art. When I visited I found the highly coloured pictures very interesting. Some were portraits.

However it did not seem that Desmond could make a living by selling his art. While I was there he came into the shop, and started talking to me. He had a chemistry book in his hand. It was a modern course for "O" level chemistry.

I said, "Well, perhaps I could help you with the chemistry if you are studying it, as I have a degree in chemistry."

He became quite angry and said, "No you can't help me. Do not say that you can help me. I can read books for myself."

He started to chase me out of the shop and I was glad to leave.

Desmond very seldom came to any MPU meetings, and I do not know if he sold any of his art-works from the Centerprise exhibition.

After Frank left Mayola Road, there was a room vacant, which was given to the next applicant at the Saturday meeting. This was a very disturbed lady called June. She had a friend who pressed her case strongly and showed us some of her very good poetry which had been published.

June could not rest or settle down to do any work, but wandered constantly through the house, talking. She was extremely restless and sometimes shouted during the night.

June often declared that she was Jesus Christ. I became very disturbed by this and started to believe that there was an evil spirit in the house.

It was April in 1974 when June came to the house. One day in April while I was waiting at a bus stop, an angry crowd of people came and stood behind me. I was knocked to the ground and momentarily became unconscious. The day after this happened, I broke down. I ran out of the house in the middle of the night and unfortunately, was attacked by somebody and taken to Hackney Hospital by a policeman, as I was lying on the ground near the police station.

Andrew told me that I had done a lot of swearing and shouting for three days previous to this incident, but I had no recollection of this, but remembered some terrifying hallucinations.

Not all the hallucinations were terrifying but one in particular led to unfortunate results. I had never had hallucinations before. I had been a depressive, but had never hallucinated, so this must have been caused by attacks in the vicinity of the house and disturbances within it causing lack of sleep. However I had no knowledge of much of what I did during the three days of this acute incident.

One thing I do remember. I saw a hallucination of Andrew at the window of the upstairs room of the house next door and heard a voice telling me that I must go upstairs to a meeting. I knocked at the door and asked to go upstairs. When Phyllis refused, I used some threatening words. However I had no intention of harming anyone. Then I was called away and the police were summoned by Phyllis.

However the police did not arrest me, believing that I was harmless, after Andrew and Valerie had spoken to them.

During the interview I asked the policeman funny questions, such as "Do you like your job?"

I had no idea why the police were interviewing me, as I thought I had acted perfectly reasonably in seeking to gain admittance to Phyllis' house. This incident led to a long-term friendship with Phyllis whom Andrew helped on many occasions. One day I saw him mending her lamp-shade. It was about two days after I had this hallucination which led to the encounter with Phyllis that I ran out of the house in the middle of the night, clothed only in a summer dress, and the incidents concerning Hackney Hospital occurred. (See also APPENDIX DIARY 1974)

I left Hackney Hospital after about a week. A branch of the MPU had been established in the hospital. I went to a meeting there. Many of the patients were demanding their rights. This enabled me to refuse all the drugs that the Hackney hospital were pressing on me. Additionally I was encouraged by Dominic, a radical psychiatrist who worked at Hackney Hospital. Unfortunately he was not the doctor for the patients on my ward.

But he saw me walking in the grounds of Hackney Hospital, drinking a can of Coca-Cola, and asked me if I was all right. He advised me to leave the hospital soon.

Dominic supported MPU and declared "Though I work as a psychiatrist, I am not a psychiatrist," meaning that he did not believe in the regime supported by most orthodox psychiatrists. On one occasion he attended an MPU meeting at Mayola Road, and we made him an associate member.

There was a young Irish patient who was detained on a 28 day section in the psychiatric ward who was very enthusiastic about having the correct organisation. She was talking about a single transferable vote! Most people at the meeting were mystified; this was probably a common voting system in the Irish Republic, but I had only a vague idea what she meant. At our lively meetings, we decided whether to adopt suggestions by a show of hands. It was surprising how orderly this meeting was, consisting entirely of mental patients. Some were ladies in their seventies, but at this meeting they had found their voice and were not afraid. There were no staff present. I compared this mentally with the chaotic situation which reigned on most wards where staff were present.

Psychologically the patients were helped because at this meeting, their decisions were considered important. They were enthused to co-operate and the usual bickering amongst such a disparate group subsided. The decisions were simple. MPU representatives were elected, and when important decisions about the patients' future lives were made, it was decided to request that the MPU representative should be present. We had elected a young man, who proved able to deal with correspondence, and to keep cool in difficult situations, so we were well pleased with our day's work.

In the meantime, while on the ward for a space of one week, I had many visitors, including Andrews' parents, who were visiting Mayola Road, but I was asleep when they visited.

Andrew came and made several demands from the staff. Firstly that I was able to go out. Jenny and Austin visited and brought me some extra clothes from my room at Mayola Road.

I continued to refuse to take any drugs during my time on the ward. Once when I was handed some Haloperidol, I dashed out of the ward and phoned Mayola Road. Andrew came down to the ward that afternoon and spoke to an administrative officer. I went out with him for a coffee meeting at Mayola Road. During the remainder of my time on the ward, I was not pressed to take any drugs again.

One day I organised a patient strike, when everyone sat down and refused to do any work or take drugs. This lasted about one hour. Only one very conservative middle-aged lady refused to take part, but after a time, even she sat down. The staff were not very pleased and refused to give me a cup of tea when the strike ended.

After this incident the staff held a conference. One of the psychiatrists walked by carrying a book called, "Philosophers of the Western World."

I overheard someone saying, "I wonder if her methods would work."

I do not know who said this, but we soon learned some of the doctors at Hackney Hospital were more liberal-minded than others and willing to try new methods. However, I think that conservative views were held by the majority.

During this period I was rather excitable, and it can be said that I was hearing voices occasionally. I can put this down to extreme stress and lack of sleep, because usually, I had never heard voices. These voices were not worrying, and I found that if I did not answer back, they went away. They were not requesting me to do anything. In fact the last unusual experience I had was a hallucination consisting of a huge dustpan and brush. I told Austin about it. He laughed and told me that it meant that I must clean my room.

The seven days before I heard these voices and saw hallucinations had been a very disturbed time at Mayola Road. I had not had much sleep. The busy psychiatric ward at Hackney Hospital was not a very good place to find relief from stress. I spent seven days there. When I was told that all patients in my ward were being moved to the German Hospital at Dalston, I discharged myself and returned to Mayola Road. The move to the German Hospital would have been an added stress for me. One of the male nurses, who came from Cyprus was quite sympathetic, when I told him this. The other male nurse was extremely sarcastic, so I was glad that the Cypriot nurse was on duty when I packed my bags and returned home.

The room at Mayola Road needed cleaning as it was infested with mice. I decided that when I had banished the mice, I would also re-decorate and put some new floor-covering down. My hallucinations and voices disappeared after the first night back at Mayola Road. I had taken no tranquillisers or drugs of any kind. I am writing this to re-assure people with similar experiences to mine, that voices and hallucinations are not always signs of mental illness. I am not sure what constitutes a definite mental illness, but even for people like myself, who have suffered with serious depression, it does not mean that the voices and hallucinations are a sign of further mental illness. They are not. Normal people under stress are likely to have them. If they have no long-term effect, I do not think they can possibly be classified as mental illness. This experience was frightening for me when it began, and disturbing for my friends, but I was not afraid of the voices returning, and they did not do so, except on one occasion when I was on pilgrimage to Medjugorie.

Normal people hear voices in this place of pilgrimage. It is the "done " thing to talk about them. I think that most of the pilgrims in my small group of about twenty were looking for a religious experience. It was suggested that we look at the sun. Often in places where heaven is said to touch earth, crowds of people have seen the sun go through some strange distortions, apparently spinning through the sky. In Medjugorie, many people said that they had ascended the Holy Mountain after dark, and had often seen lights by the cross, erected half-way up or on the summit of this hill. A group of young visionaries were living in Medjugorie who were reported to receive messages from the Blessed Virgin Mary every day. The hierarchy of the Church has not confirmed or encouraged Medjugorie as an authentic place of pilgrimage. Even those places like Lourdes in France, which have been confirmed as places of pilgrimage, Catholics are free to reject. The reason why I went to Medjugorie in 1986, was because my father had died the previous year, and I wanted a holiday in a quiet place. I wanted to find peace. I had no intention of looking at the sun in expectation of a vision and I did not do this while in Medjugorie. Medjugorie is in Bosnia. It was peaceful there in 1986, and the reason why I am describing it in my account of my experiences in 1974 is to contrast the voices I heard in 1986 with those I heard in 1974. Some of the voices I heard in 1974 were of a frightening kind. During the intervening years I heard no voices of any kind, and I have heard none except for the one experience in 1986.

I was sharing a completely empty house with an Irish women aged 53. I was 58. The Irish woman was in better health than me, and was able to climb the holy mountain. She told me she often walked one and a half miles to the church, along a very hot road, because "One should do penance in Medjugorie". I had chest trouble and felt unable to climb the Holy Mountain, though I would have liked to have done this. I was not looking for any visions or voices, but felt that by walking on a difficult road or climbing a hill, I could take part in some traditional penance on pilgrimage. sun, as I thought that maybe this was superstitious nonsense. I accepted a lift to church every morning for the 10 o'clock mass in the village. I stayed in the village for the rest of the day, sometimes in the company of others and sometimes alone. The sermon in church told us to go and meditate alone in the tobacco fields. This did not inspire me, as my chest trouble meant that I was allergic to tobacco smoke, and I wished that the local people would not smoke so heavily. But I decided one afternoon to walk back to the guest house along the hot dusty road alone, taking the precaution of having a bottle of water with me at all times. Half way back I started feeling tired. I stopped to pray. I was some distance from the nearest house and a long way from the church. I started to hear the most beautiful hymn-singing. This was a religious experience. But I doubted. Could this be a tape-recorder turned up very high in the nearest house?

But the music was all around me and I could not say that it came from any one direction. I thought it hardly possible that it could come from the house.

That evening the Irish woman came in from the day's travels, and we all went to another nearby house where we had our evening meal. I went back with the Irish lady leaving the others, who were all staying in the main guest-house. In the evening I asked the Irish lady if I could come to her room for a chat. I sat on the spare bed. There were empty beds in each room. It was October and there were not as many pilgrims as usual in Medjugorie. We talked about mundane things and the Irish single lady told me about her clerical work in a bank, and how she spent her evenings. Then in an interval in the conversation, I heard the music again.

I asked the Irish lady, "Has anyone round here got a tape-recorder?" She had not got one. I went downstairs to see the only other person in the house. He was doing some repair work on the ground floor. There was no sign of any tape-recorder. The music had only lasted 30 seconds. I asked the Irish lady if she had heard any music. She said she had and that it was the angels singing. We sat awhile. Then I heard the music again. It was the best singing I had ever heard. It was a hymn to Our Lady. "Listen," I said, "Can you hear it?" Yes she said, "I can hear some singing. It is the angels. They are present all round here."

I had to accept the lady's explanation, and have regarded this as a religious experience. As I have already told the Irish lady about it, I do not feel that I should not tell others, and can say that hearing voices can be a delightful, uplifting experience. It is not always full of horror. This was my uplifting moment.

Unfortunately it is not the "done" thing to talk about voices, unless one can project them as a religious experience, and a vision of a dustpan and brush, which I had in Mayola Road in 1974 was harmless, but not a religious experience.

Even where religious visions are concerned church authorities do not encourage people to talk about them. The hierarchy of the Catholic Church rarely accept religious visions as having any significance to any wider audience than the individual concerned.

APPENDIX DIARY written in 1974.

On the 8th April, 1974, late in the night, probably after midnight, I arrived in Hackney Hospital. First of all, I remember finding myself lying on the steps of the Mother and Baby Hospital, Lower Clapton Road, but previously I must have been unconscious.

When I picked myself up, I believed myself to be in need of medical attention. I was clothed in a summer dress, and was entirely without underclothes, even knickers, but had a coat over my dress, and was wearing shoes.

When I left the house, admittedly, I was clothed like this, except that I think I had some knickers on, but while out, believe that I was attacked by some unknown man. The evidence for this was that afterwards, I found bruises on my body, was rather dirty, my nose bled profusely on and off for some days, I had intermittent pains in various parts of my body, and my dress was torn at the neck.

When I picked myself up, I believe that I asked my way to the police station, and eventually found myself in a building with three coloured nurses, and a couple of policemen.

Probably what I said to them was incoherent and sounded nonsensical, but if indeed I had been attacked, this was understandable. I kept insisting that I needed treatment for physical exhaustion if for nothing else; at least that was what I was trying to convey to them.

The nurses kept laughing, or so it appeared to me, and I told a man, not in uniform, who was also present, that they were not doing their job properly. I repeatedly left the building and re-entered, repeating the words I was told to say in order to gain admittance.

These were silly statements. I think that first of all, I was told that Harold Wilson, P.M. was being telephoned, but I did not believe this. The second time I entered the building, I was told to ask for Herman Goering. Although I knew this to be nonsense, I obeyed, because I thought I would not get attention unless I did so.

When I got back, I was still unsatisfied and went outside again, and this time was told to ask for Dr. Goebbels if I wished to re-enter. I was at the end of my tether, therefore I asked for Dr. Goebbels, was re-admitted to the building, and this time decided to stay, whatever happened, as I was tired of all the ridiculous talk which was taking place.

Then I asked for Dominic, because I believed I might get some decent treatment from him. His name is actually Dr. Dominic Costa. I had been acquainted with him outside the hospital; had met him twice at Mayola Road. There was a lady doctor present, with long fair hair, and she became suspicious when I asked for Dominic.

"Ah, I see, it is Dominic you are after, is it?" she said. "We will see about that." Probably these were not the exact words, but she said something like that.

I think that shortly afterwards, Dr. Dominic Costa indeed arrived, and told me he was a male nurse. I was lying on a couch at that time.

This threw me into a panic, because I thought that Dominic had got into trouble with the hospital authorities, and they had probably demoted him from doctor to male nurse. At the same time, I was rather nervous of all men at this particular instant, and as soon as I saw Dominic I shouted, "Please, no sex." This was not because I thought that I had any attraction for him, and he had none for me, but simply because at the time I did not wish to see any man, unless it was someone I knew well. Unfortunately, Dr. Dominic Costa retreated. It would have been better if I had allowed him to take me to the ward, which I think, was what he intended to do.

I was left with the lady doctor. I did not like her, but in some strange way, thought it was better if I could get attention from her. She examined the backs of my eyes by shining a light into them, to which I did not object, as I thought it was part of a physical examination, but she did nothing else.

Unfortunately, I said something else to the staff, which probably caused them to question my identity. I said that first of all, at the house, there was Joan Martin, then there was June Graham, and then, once again, there was Joan Martin. I should never have mentioned that name June Graham, but it slipped out. Afterwards, whenever they asked who I was, I always maintained that I was Joan Martin, and that previously I had been in Rubery Hill Hospital, Birmingham and Goodmayes Hospital, Ilford, and not in any other hospital whose names were sometimes mentioned. (1996 comment- The last sentence is perfectly true). For instance, they asked me about the Maudsley, and I mentioned that I had never been there, which is absolutely true.

Eventually, the lady passed me over to a man, who took me by the arm and walked with me through very grim surroundings, which reminded me of a prison. I still thought and hoped that I was being taken to the general part of Hackney Hospital, and not the psychiatric part; was marched up to the floor just below the top one, and was put into a bed.

I think that morning came quickly, and someone on the staff remarked to me, "Well, here you are with all your mad friends!" and I realised that I was in the psychiatric wing of the hospital.

So I said then, "Well, I will sing you a hymn of glory", and I did so. Normally I cannot sing, unless others are also doing so, and I can get some sort of guidance from them, and if the tune is extremely familiar. But on this occasion, I sang alone, and my own voice sounded beautiful to me, though I do not know what impression it made on the others.

I think I had visitors on Monday evening, April 9th. It was Andrew, and also his parents. It was nice to see Andrew, and it seemed to comfort me, but I could not say much, though during the day, I had done much talking. Then I spoke to Andrew's mother, and asked, "What do you think?" and she answered, "I don't know."

Then I felt so tired, so that I could not utter a word to Andrew's father, who was also there.

It was the evening then, and rather late, and I was suddenly informed that I was being transferred to another ward, the top floor, which was the correct ward for the Hackney, E.5. district.

During the previous day, I remember taking a book called the "Daily Mirror Crossword Puzzle Book" from a bookshelf. It was obviously intended for general use by the patients, and on this first day in hospital, I was actually able to do a couple of the puzzles, making about half a dozen mistakes in each. This was in the fourth floor ward. On that first day, I insisted that I should be given no drugs, as when previously ill, I had found that after being given major system tranquillisers, I had remained ill for two years. By being "ill", I mean that I was unable to take any decisions for myself, a most unhappy state; therefore, I did all that I could to ensure that it did not happen again. Luckily, I heard afterwards that Dr. Costa had advised the other doctors that no drugs should be given, and also that friends from the MPU had phoned the hospital and insisted on this.

Minor tranquillisers were also refused by me, because although when previously taking them, I could not say that I had suffered any positive ill effects, I had found them entirely ineffective in what they are supposed to do--- that is, to make one feel more relaxed.

On the second day in hospital, in the "correct ward", conditions seemed worse. Dr. Costa was not attached to this ward; and I would have been happier if I had been left in the other ward to which he was attached, as I knew he did not believe in drugs.

On Tuesday morning, April 9th, I was summoned to see Dr. Renton (although at this time he did not tell me his name) in a private room. He asked me lots of questions, and seemed to be trying to psychoanalyse me; to discover the inner workings of my mind.

He seemed to keep on saying, "What is worrying you? You can tell me if you try," to which I replied, "I cannot." He seemed to be trying to question me about religion, and this made me very angry. At length, I turned round and said, "Well, then, I am going to ask you a few questions. The first one is, 'Are you atheist, agnostic, or do you believe in God?'"

To this he replied, "I am not going to tell you."

Therefore I said, "Then, why should I tell you anything about myself?"

And he said, "Oh, that is called transference."

By transference, I believe I have read somewhere, that the feelings the analyst has towards his subject are transferred, so that the subject has identical feelings towards the analyst. In this case, it was anger. I cannot say that all these questions did me any good.

As soon as he had mentioned transference, I said, "Well, I do feel physically ill, so perhaps you can give me a physical examination."

He did this, and while certain tests were carried out, I felt perfectly relaxed, and had no objections. He sounded my chest, patted my stomach, scratched my feet, and knocked my knees to test my reflexes. Though he said nothing, I felt that all the tests pointed to satisfactory health, except when my knees were knocked. One leg gave a minute response; in the other, there was nothing.

During this examination, the doctor put his hand out and grabbed my throat.

I said, "Please don't do that, doctor."

He said, "Oh, I was feeling your throat for bruises. Anyway, if I had done anything, you could have screamed out, as there are people outside."

So I said, "Actually, when you were doing that, I was thinking about the man."

He said, "What man?"

I said, "The man who attacked me."

Then he said, "Wasn't it someone inside your house?"

"No," I said. "Definitely, it was not there. It was someone outside in the street."

He left me alone then, except for one further test. He asked me, firstly, to try to push him away from me, and I pushed hard and was able to do it. Then he asked me to pull him towards me, and I could do this. Somehow this part of the examination reassured me; because for most of the time, I thought I was entirely without physical strength, but this test seemed to prove that I still had it.

Finally, he asked me to close my eyes. Then, he pressed one of my eyes open with his fingers.

"Can't you prevent me from opening your eyes?" he said.

"Of course, I cannot," I answered.

"Doesn't it frighten you that you cannot?" he asked, to which I replied,

"Of course, it does not, for that is impossible for anyone to do."

At last the examination was over, but the psychological part had frightened me far more than the physical part. That I do know for sure, though I cannot remember half as many details about the psychological part as about the physical part. As I was completely without underclothes, during the physical examination I had to wear an unbelted hospital dressing-gown which did not adequately cover me, and therefore made me feel embarrassed. On the other hand, perhaps it is fortunate that I cannot remember too much, for it is not pleasant to remember frightening events.

The rest of the day, Tuesday, was spent in trying to relax, but this seemed impossible. I was relieved that I was given no tablets that day, but at some time requested Mogadon sleeping tablets at night, and was given these.

Washing myself was a problem, as it was for most of the other patients. In the "ladies", none of the wash-basins had plugs. In the bathroom, there was only one plug which fitted the bath, but not the wash-basin in the bathroom. However, with this particular plug, it was possible to retain water in any of the other wash-basins, if one was sufficiently careful.

Though I possessed no soap, there was always one bar of this lying about in one of the sinks, and on most days I was able to have a sketchy wash, and on two occasions during my ten days in hospital was able to have a bath. It was difficult to take baths, owing to the fact that the bath was in constant demand. In the mornings it was the custom for the nurses to take elderly women for baths. Therefore afternoons were the most satisfactory times.

Most of my money was taken from me on the second night, by nurses who inspected my handbag, but I was left with about a pound, and one Giro cheque for £7.35 which was overlooked. It was an urgent matter for me to buy certain necessities. Most of the day I sat around in my summer dress, with a dressing-gown over it, and to most of the other patients, this appeared odd. Indeed it was odd, but the dressing-gown was necessary in order to keep warm, as I possessed neither underclothes nor a cardigan, and I thought that wearing a dressing-gown would attract less attention from staff than if I wore my coat.

Soon I thought, "Well, I must be able to get out and buy something," so I am afraid I purloined some tights, put them on, crept out to the hospital shop and bought two pairs for myself, of the type which were on sale there.

When I got back to the ward, I replaced the purloined tights in the bathroom and tried to put on my own. Imagine my dismay, when on examining them, I found they were non-elasticated and would not stay up. Luckily, I had purchased some soap, flannel and writing-paper and envelopes while in the shop, and this improved my situation slightly, but effectively, I was still confined to the ward.

Most of the day, it appeared that pop music from Radio One was blaring forth, and though I do not like many television programmes, Radio One seemed to me to be much worse. Of course, I do not think that this opinion was shared by younger people. I tried to turn it off once, and actually did so, but a nurse walked across and said, "Are you interfering with the radio?" and put it on again.

So I retreated to my bed, but often when I lay on top of my bed, a member of the staff would walk across and say, "You are here to learn how to mix with people."

So then I would sit at one of the tables. Often it was time to lay them, and if I tried to do it, was usually told, "Oh, you can't do it. You don't know how."

There were only two of the patients who were "allowed" or who appointed themselves to do this job. One was called Hilda, and I dubbed her the "Conservative", because she remarked one day to an elderly woman, "Do you remember the time of the great depression before the war? It seems rather like that now."

Hilda was about fifty, and would have remembered these times, as I myself, though a little younger, remembered the late nineteen-thirties.

When she said that, I remarked to her, "Yes, I remember those times. I think it was something to do with the Conservatives and the businessmen." She was extremely shocked, and I realised that I had said the wrong thing to her, for she said, "But I am Conservative. The Tories are better by far than anyone else. It is the other lot who give all the trouble."

She was the most co-operative patient on the ward, co-operative with the staff, that is, and was constantly remarking how fortunate she was, as she was shortly going to stay with her sister in Brighton. She did as much work in the ward as possible, laying the tables and washing up, and she served the tea; tried hard to prevent me or anyone else from doing anything; would never let me pour out tea for myself, but neither would she give me a cup of tea, even if I waited for everyone else to be served. I approached, she said, "Oh, there's none for you. You are greedy." However, invariably I had my tea, by taking it when her attention was diverted, or by going to the kitchen afterwards, and taking one which was left over. The ward-maid who served the meals was rather a rough type, but she gave me tea when she was there, often using a yellow staff cup for me, instead of the blue ones which were reserved for patients.

One day this ward-maid, who always wore a pink overall, said, "Do you know where the staff cups are kept?"

"I had no idea, but I said, "I know where they keep them. "They're in the grave-yard! Let's go and get them."

Accordingly, we both ran out of the ward together, to everyone's surprise, and she showed me the cupboard in which the staff cups were stored.

Hilda made friends with one of the patients. He was a well-dressed, middle-aged man called Frank, and I think he said he was a Conservative, though I am not sure. Apparently, he was allowed and encouraged by the staff, but most of all by Hilda, to do a lot of domestic work on the ward. Actually Frank was quite a decent chap, and he shared my interest in doing crosswords, but privately confessed that he was quite unable to do them on the ward. One day, while dusting the higher parts of the ward, he pretended to dust me down with the brush.

I had not been in the ward very long when Andrew visited me again, and he brought Pete Sneddon, who I also knew, with him. Andrew brought my glasses, which though cracked, were a help, and asked what I needed. I think I was able to talk a little on this occasion to Andrew and Pete, but was too tired to say much.

As soon as they were gone, Hilda remarked, "Your visitors are so badly dressed. I am lucky. I have got my brother-in-=law, and he is respectable."

So I said, "Oh, I am not interested in your brother-in-law." However, the other patients, both young and old, did not seem bothered about who visited me, or how they were dressed. Except for Frank. He said, "Oh, isn't that man a relation of yours. He has been in twice." To which I replied, "No, he's not a relation."

I don't think that anyone except Hilda and Frank were such nosy parkers about my affairs.

At length Austin visited me. He brought me some much needed items, underclothes, another dress, and a cardigan. I had been in Hackney Hospital for about four days, suffering, in my estimation, only from exhaustion. As soon as these clothes were available, I decided to visit the Post Office to draw out some money by using my Giro cheque; to purchase some wool, and some stamps so that letters could be posted. The wool was necessary to me, because I thought that if I could do some knitting, as reading and doing crosswords had become impossible, it could distract my attention from the blare of Radio One.

I walked out of the hospital without asking permission and tried to find a Post Office. I found one, but it was closed, and there was an advertisement for a new sub-postmaster in the window, which made me think that it was permanently closed. So I walked to the bus-stop, with the intention in my mind of catching the S2 bus to Lower Clapton Road and visiting the Post Office there, and possibly visiting Mayola Road to pick up some more items which I thought it was necessary to have.

But, I had not been waiting at the bus-stop long before the charge nurse appeared and asked what I was doing. I told him that I wished to get to the Post Office for stamps.

He said, "Oh, come back to the ward with me, and I will let you go out to the Post Office later. There is one situated a little way down the road." "Oh, well," I said, "I'll go there now, on my own, and I promise you that I'll come back to the ward when I've got what I need."

I did not know the name of this nurse, but he was Cypriot, so I will call him the Cypriot nurse.

The Cypriot nurse then said, "But your promises are easily broken. You have got to come back."

So I said, "Well, if you think that, then I think the same about you. Your promise that I can go out later if I come back now may also be broken. I am going to the Post Office now, but if you have the time, you may come with me."

He said, "All right, I'll do that." We reached the Post Office, and I asked a passer-by if it was still doing business. The passer-by said, "Yes, it opens at 2 p.m."

It was 1.15 p.m., so there was three-quarters of an hour to wait. The charge nurse wanted me to return with him, but I said, "No, I am waiting right here until it does open."

He realised that he had either to wait with me for 45 minutes or trust me to come back on my own. He decided to trust me and left me on my own. Eventually, I was able to get into the Post Office, draw seven pounds, and buy some stamps, but decided, for the time being to buy nothing else. The Cypriot nurse was quite relieved when I came back, and I think that I had gained his confidence, for he treated me much more agreeably in future. But soon, Dr. Renton gave me another grilling, and this upset me again, though I cannot remember what was said. But shortly afterwards, when tablets were being issued, I was called across and I saw one of the nurses reach for a bottle marked "Haloperidol". I was alarmed and dashed out of the ward, and the Cypriot nurse followed me. I told him that I had to telephone my friends urgently, and it had to be done outside the hospital. I picked up the phone and Austin answered, and I told him that the hospital authorities were trying to give me haloperidol. The Cypriot nurse was listening, but I am inclined to think that he was on my side.

Austin said something about telling Andy about it, so I said, "O.K., that's all right," and replaced the receiver, and returned to the hospital with the nurse. I knew that I was safe, in any event, for the rest of the afternoon, for the issue of tablets would have been completed.

When I returned to the hospital, I told the staff that I would not take haloperidol, and was told, "Oh, we were not actually going to give it to you."

If that were true, then the nurse would have picked up the bottle with the intention only of frightening me. Should nurses do that? However, after this, no further attempts were made to give me medication, and I was thankful, though often I was taunted by one of the staff members, perhaps unknowingly, with the remark, "Will you come for your medication?"

My invariable reply was, "I am not on medication. If you look at your records, you will see that I am not."

The Thursday before Good Friday came, and firstly there was beauty treatment. I had my hair set and it looked quite attractive, and I thanked the occupational therapist and told her that it had been done very well. Later in the afternoon, there was an Easter Party which lasted approximately one hour.

On that particular day, I also had to attend a session at which two doctors, social workers, nurses and occupational therapists were present.

When I arrived at the session, I remarked, "Where is Dr. Costa?"

The doctor who had previously seen me was there, and this frightened me.

An older man called Dr. Silverman said, "Dr, Costa is not here."

"Well," I said, "As the sole representative of the MPU, I suppose I have got to speak on my own."

"The MPU," they said, "Tell us about the MPU."

"The MPU is intended to keep people out of hospital," I said. "But who is this doctor," I continued, indicating Dr. Renton.

"My name is Dr. Renton. I told you that," he said. In fact, that is the first time I remember hearing his name.

"So," I said, "Now I know just where I stand with Dr. Renton. He is trying to psychoanalyse. But he can no more psychoanalyse me than I can psychoanalyse him. He is hopeless. Where is Dr. Costa?"

Dr. Silverman said, "Well, tell us about the MPU. And what do you know about drugs?"

"I know that drugs do me no good. And the MPU is not against doctors. In Goodmayes Hospital there was someone called Dr. Abrahamson. He must have been a good doctor for he stopped giving me drugs, and after two years chronic illness, I suddenly got better." ( I entered Goodmayes Hospital on November 1st 1971, having taken an overdose; my drugs were stopped and the first day on which I began to feel better was November 29th, 1971). I did not actually tell the Hackney doctors these details.

I have never been on section, but something struck me as rather odd. 28 days were needed for me to feel better, and to actually feel that I was able to leave hospital, though of course it was not possible for me to actually do so for a further five months, owing to the difficulties involved in obtaining accommodation. But it was 28 days that was required before I recovered, and 28 days is the normal time for patients who are actually put on a certain section. Certainly it was quite unnecessary to put me on section at that time, for it was quite impossible for me to do anything constructive, whether off section or on one. It seems to me that only patients who, though they sometimes behave oddly, are actually capable most of the time of behaving normally, who are put on section at all. (1996 comment- The above paragraph sounds rather far-fetched).

I said to the people at the conference, "Of course, I think it must have been those drugs which had been making me feel ill. For what else was I to think, when suddenly I became so much better when they were stopped." The conference seemed to accept the truth of this point. "But drugs do some people some good, don't they?" I was asked. I conceded this point, and told them that of course, I did not claim to be an expert where drugs were concerned. But inwardly I was thinking, "I am against them."

However, it must be admitted that I have met people happily taking drugs, seeming quite normal and must concede that I do not actually know if some psychotropic drugs do improve some people's ability to cope with life. In my own experience, I have found that minor tranquillisers such as librium have not apparently harmed me while I have been taking them, but on the other hand, I did not feel that they had done me any positive good. The only drugs which I have ever felt to be beneficial are certain anti- depressants, and even these only appear to have a short-term effect. I suppose, just like alcohol, they can give one a bit of a "lift", but usually the "lift" is only temporary. Personally , I prefer alcohol. Alcohol, however, is not considered as respectable as an anti-depressant, but for certain people it has the same effect. I admit it. Alcohol gives me a "lift", but does not do much harm in moderate amounts. Unlike some drugs, even drugs given by doctors, it does not send one on a "trip". I went on a "trip" once. This was caused by a few tablets of "Sparine". The grass seemed exceptionally green, the flowers so terribly bright, there was no need for me to do anything, because the world was wonderful, so I did not have to work. Luckily the Sparine was stopped. It was many years ago, long before I had any serious illness, and I can only recall it as an isolated incident. Personally, I think it is nice to have a "lift", but inadvisable to go on "trips".

But to return to my talk about the MPU to the doctors. I told them that one of my interests in the MPU was that it should act as an organisation to fight for better treatment for ex-patients, especially where employment was concerned. Then they asked me about Mayola Road.

"Oh, they are all stable people living there, but we have a crisis room where people stay temporarily while they are looking for permanent accommodation," I told them.

They were, of course, suspicious about the crisis room, and suggested to me that this type of activity on the part of the MPU should be suspended, and I said, "Yes, I suppose, it should be suspended."

Denis Roberts, the social worker asked me afterwards about the crisis room, and I admitted that the people who occupied it were usually rather disturbed.

"But we do not send people to hospital," I said, "because the MPU is a society intended to keep people out of hospital, so how can we send them there?"

Denis Roberts seemed quite nice, and he seemed to agree with me, but said that perhaps the MPU was taking rather too much on itself.

Afterwards, Denis produced a National Health Sickness Certificate, and got me to sign it; so this made me hopeful that I would get sickness benefit for the time during which I had ceased to sign on for work at the Ministry of Employment.

Denis Roberts said that he would like to visit Mayola Road, and I agreed that I would like him to come round and see me. I told him that we needed to get rid of the mice. I was afraid that he might call in and see the mice while I was in hospital, so I asked Austin on one occasion when he was visiting the hospital not to allow any social workers in, while I was away.

Austin was chatting away, and during the conversation, he said something to the effect that he had a criminal record, and I thought to myself, "What a silly thing to say, while you are standing in the hospital, for these doctors, who have just passed by, might have heard you say it."

Anyway, I said to Austin, "Oh, the magistrates (the doctors) and the prison warders (the nurses) have just passed by."

And Austin said, "Well, they are not called warders, these days. They are now prison officers."

"Perhaps you could get a job as one of them," I said to Austin.

"I don't think so, not with my record," he said, but I remembered that, a few weeks ago, he mentioned that he had applied for a job as a policeman, and had shown me some leaflets, giving details about the work. Of course, Austin cannot be taken seriously, at least, not all the time.


The conference which I had attended for a brief period on Thursday, which contained all the doctors was over, and it was Good Friday. Though on Thursday I had been moderately well, my hair had received attention and looked nice, on the very next day I felt really ill, my hair-set had completely fallen out, and other people thought that I looked ill. However, I went out of the ward at 2 pm, without asking permission and attended Good Friday service at the nearby Catholic Church and received the sacraments. During the service a nun remarked that perhaps I should go out to get some fresh air, as she thought that I looked ill. I did feel ill, but I wanted to stay, and indeed I did stay.

On my way home, I got near to the hospital and met a nurse standing at the bus-stop.

"What are you doing outside the grounds?" she said. "Go back for your medicine."

"Oh, I'm not going back for that," I said.

"Well, then, go back for tea."

It was 4.30 pm, and tea was not until 6 pm, but I said, "Well, yes, I will go back for tea. That sounds a good idea."

I entered the grounds, sat down on a seat for a little while, even though it was raining, but soon I had to go back to the ward, though I was feeling that sitting in the rain was preferable to sitting in the ward, if there had not been people around who noticed me.

There was tea, and I got through the rest of Good Friday.

(1996 comment - that is what I say when feeling depressed- I got through the day. It means that I sat waiting for time to pass, feeling miserable and able to do nothing about it).

Saturday morning came, and this time I asked permission to go out to visit the Post Office and to buy some knitting wool. A young, coloured nurse was there, and she told me that it was O.K., provided I was not absent for long. However, on this occasion, I was feeling nervous about leaving the ward, for I had begun to feel physically weak again.

I walked out, and a male, coloured nurse tried to grab me by force to restrain me and force me to go back. He came from Bangladesh, so afterwards I called him the Bangladeshi nurse. I told him that I had got permission to go out, so he had better leave me alone. I went out and paid two postal orders which Andrew had brought me, and which belonged to the MPU into my account, and bought enough knitting wool for a jumper.

When I got back the Bangladeshi nurse was very angry and shouted some abuse at me. I shouted back at him, and he told me off again.

So I said, "Well, if you talk to anyone like that, you in return deserve to be so spoken to by me."

Then he sat down by the TV set. I went and sat down next to him. He whispered to me, "Piss off."

But I answered back, "I am not doing that. I am sitting next to you, so that you can keep quiet."

Then suddenly he leapt up and said, "I can't stand this any longer. I am going home," and he left the ward.

The remark, "I am going home," was often made by one of the patients, a young man who was interested in football. He was apparently being given E.C.T., often used to get depressed and lie on his bed, drawing the curtains around him, and remarking, "I am going home."

Andrew came in to visit me, and I think this was the third time he came. He tried to interest other patients in the MPU, but no-one seemed interested. He stayed past visiting hours, and I noticed that some of the other patients also kept their visitors past visiting hours.

On the very next night, two of the patients had unexpected visitors, who stayed with them long past visiting hours, and there were no objections from the staff. I sat next to one of these visitors and chatted to him quite a bit, when he was not speaking to his elderly relative, and he remarked that I seemed perfectly well to him.

"Who are you, people?" I asked the visitors, and they answered, "Oh, we are the bricklayers."

"Oh, has the General Strike started yet?" I asked him. "We don't really get to know much about the news in here."

"Oh, not yet," he answered. "you would be sure to hear about that," and he gave me some nuts, and I gave him a sweet.

The staff were becoming frantic. Suddenly all the patients who had previously been depressed seemed to be looking well, and demanding lots of attention.

Medicine was being refused, and the staff had stopped giving it by force, but only gave it to those who approached the medicine trolley.

Twice I met Dominic in the grounds; the first time, I was happy for I had a bottle of orangeade in my hand, and he smiled.

The second time, I said, "I am so depressed. I can't stand it any more."

"What is it?" he said.

I said, "It is the noise. I can't stand it."

Then he said, "Well, you could go home."

But I had the feeling that I could not.

"No," I said. "The noise is also there."

He looked frightened and ran away, and I felt frightened also.

The Tuesday after Easter, there was a group therapy session. "No-one spoke," so I suggested, "Why does not everyone give a one-minute talk on the reason why they came into hospital." Dr. Silverman said, "What about you? Why did you come in?" "Oh, " I said, "But I came in for a rest, as I was suffering from overwork. That was all that was the matter with me. It was overwork. Now let someone else speak." One coloured man did speak and said, "I think she has a good idea. We should all say something," and then he went on to complain about something that was wrong in the hospital. Someone else said, "In the mornings the water is cold, and one cannot wash properly." However, of the twenty other patients, all were silent. Then Dr. Silverman asked me, "Do you think these meetings are a good idea?" I said, "Yes, they are. It is much better to discuss things in the open, than privately with a doctor." He did not make any comment, but as no-one else felt inclined to speak, he declared that the meeting was concluded.

On Wednesday and Thursday I attended occupational therapy spasmodically, for I could not endure sitting on the ward. On the ward I had made a start on doing my own knitting, but although on one day did quite a lot, shortly afterwards I had to cease, as I was constantly interrupted. Members of the staff were constantly asking to look at my pattern and advising me to wear trousers with the jumper, and very soon, I became quite unable to look at the pattern, and understand what it said, for if staff did not interrupt, the patients did.

Meal-times were also becoming difficult, for patients were all told to come up for their meals, but when I approached the trolley, I was told to go back to the table and sit and wait. But everyone else was made to come up for their meal, even though some of them did not feel inclined to do so. Luckily, Frank, a patient was still allowed to help with serving the meals, and he usually got mine for me. But as for me, I was not allowed to get a meal either for myself, or for any other patient, who might ask me to do so.

One day we went to occupational therapy to take part in a quiz, which was quite interesting. I took both my handbag and the bag containing knitting with me, because the knitting bag, although not stolen, was constantly being moved around if I left it on the ward, even near my bed, and I did not like having to go and constantly look round for it. Unfortunately, my knitting bag was missing at the end of the occupational therapy session, but I was told that Anna had taken it back to the ward for me. I went back to the ward and found Anna, a patient, who was an attractive young woman. She was in the staff-room and had my knitting bag. So I said, "Ah, I see you've got my knitting bag." "Yes," she said, "That is yours," and she gave it to me, but then said, "But that blue handbag is not yours. It is mine." "But it is not. Everyone knows it is mine," I said. She tried to grab it by force and we had a tussle. Fortunately, the Cypriot nurse was there and he said, "Run away, Anna. It is hers", and she did so.

Shortly afterwards, two policemen arrived and they brought a young man in with them. I guessed that he was "On Section." He sat down in a chair and looked so dejected, that I offered him a sweet. Though he took it, he did not appear to thank me. Soon afterwards, I saw him in the corridor. Some staff were there, but he was trying to go down the stairs. So I said to him, "Oh, I don't think it's any good. I don't know what it is out there. I think it is the police or something." I think it was an occupational therapist who said to me, "Oh, you buzz off. Get back inside the ward." The new man sat around for a bit and said, "Well, I am not taking notice of anyone. No-one is telling me what to do." Then he sat down at a table where Hilda the "Conservative" was also sitting, and I went and sat there too. Hilda immediately moved away; this behaviour was quite consistent, for she never allowed me to sit at the same table as her. The young man got up and started saying something. And I got up also and gave the clenched fist salute and the young man said, "I'm not taking notice of anyone," and went into his room, for he had a side-room and slept alone. Then Anna started to wave her hand to me.

I think it was on this night that I had another visitor. She cheered me up immensely. It was Marjorie, who I have known for fourteen years, but she noticed my hair, which looked terrible, and decided to wash it for me, and this seemed to give me pleasure. But she noticed all the things I did not have, like a dressing-gown, and that there was no plug in the sink, and that I had got only toilet soap, but no shampoo. These inconveniences seemed like minor details to me, when I started to think about the psychological interrogations, the noise and the attempts to frighten me, and the abuse which had often been shouted at me. But they seemed like real hardships to her. And I said, "I'll be out soon. But I am so glad you have come. It is wonderful to see you." She said, "Well they say that this is a good hospital," but I think she said this to cheer me up. I did not tell her about the sort of things which went on there. She would not have believed it, or I think not. But at least she shares my opinion about the dangers involved in taking tablets. She, like me, is an analytical chemist, and she told me that she, herself looks up anything given her by her doctor in Martindale, the standard pharmaceutical text-book before taking it; even drugs for physical illness, for she thinks that doctors make many mistakes.

I have not mentioned the second session of beauty treatment. It was on the Thursday before I left hospital. Quite a crowd of us, including Anna went with the occupational therapist to the second floor ward. We were all glad to have a change of scene. When we reached it, we all sat down at a large table, and the therapist announced that the cupboards containing materials for beauty treatment were locked and she could not find the keys. After an interval she said, "Well, what can any of you do for yourselves?" Hardly anyone had any materials for making up, such as powder or lipstick, though many of the women normally used make-up. By chance I had some lipstick in my bag, but my mirror had been smashed, and was just a piece of glass with dangerous, jagged edges. Yet it was still possible to use it. So I got it out and used some lipstick. Then I said to Anna, who was sitting next to me, "Do you use lipstick, Anna?" She said "Yes", so I asked her if she would like to borrow mine. I said, "This is all I have, Anna." She took the lipstick and the jagged piece of glass and used it to make up her lips. She seemed a very subdued person now. A man who was probably her husband had previously brought her a very expensive bouquet. Yet she did not appreciate the flowers, but just wanted to go home, finding her confinement cruel and heartless. Yet, even if for the time, she did not fit in at home, surely there could have been some other place for her to stay temporarily, other than a treatment centre. A boarding-house at Bournemouth might have been better, for she was quiet and gave no trouble to anyone.

After a period during which the occupational therapist was scuttling around trying to find some materials from the hospital stores, she came back and announced that only shampoo for washing hair was available, although on this occasion, other types of beauty treatment had been promised. It was the afternoon, and I was feeling so tired. Several ladies had their hair washed and set, and then the therapist said, "What about you, Joan? I can fit you in now." Although on the previous occasion I had been glad of the opportunity of a hair-do, this time I refused. Although my hair was in a very bad state, I felt so weak and tired that I did not feel like having it done, and moreover knew that the set would fall out of my greasy hair in two days. So I said, "No, thank-you," though the therapist tried to press me.

19.4.1974: Friday, April 19th, 1974 dawned. Earlier in the week, Dr. Renton had casually mentioned that I would probably be discharged on this day, and I was determined to leave the hospital. All the remaining patients in our ward were to be transferred to the German Hospital in Dalston Lane on the following Tuesday, and apart from anything else, whether this new hospital would have been better or worse, I could not stand the idea of being shunted about again. A group of the doctors and their subordinate staff, nurses, social workers and occupational therapists marched into the ward for the morning session when patients were interviewed individually before the whole staff group. Before breakfast, I had removed all my possessions from my locker and packed them into my bag; there remained nothing in my locker but my coat. I sat near the television set and told the ward orderly when she entered that I did not want breakfast, but would have a cup of tea. This was refused. "Sit at the table or else!", but I felt very aggressive and grabbed myself a cup of tea, and sat alone, drinking it. When I saw Dr. Renton come in, I spoke to him about my discharge, but he said, "You'll have to wait your turn to see what is decided." So I went and put my coat on and sat at one of the empty tables and soon started crying. Dinner time was approaching. I sat down but made no motion to help set the tables. The other patients were all sitting there with me. They seemed to be on my side for no-one was laying the tables, except Hilda. They were all on strike. Then Hilda said, "Who will help me?" Why should I have to wait on you lot?" But no-one would do so, not even Frank, who was usually helpful about the ward. I went up and slapped Hilda gently and said, "Sit down. Let the staff do it. It's their job."

So she had to sit down, and we were all on strike. The staff were angry, for patients did not usually act like this.

Denis Roberts, the social worker came up and spoke to me; he was always a bit nicer than the other members of the staff, so I calmed down. Then I went back to the staff office and queued up behind the other patients and eventually I succeeded in being invited to sit in the staff meeting. Then I said, "I wish to be discharged."

Dr. Silverstone said, "Well we have no wish to detain you here. You are free to go."

So I said, "Will you discharge me," and he said, "Yes, on condition that you attend the German Hospital commencing next Wednesday as a day patient." I agreed to this and said that by that time I would be able to have my hair set, as staff considered that people with untidy hair were ill.

(1996 comment - I never attended the German Hospital. There was too much to do at Mayola Road when I returned there.)

There was a bit of an argument among the staff at the meeting. Eventually I was permitted to go, being told by Denis Roberts to ask Miss O'Driscoll to accompany me to the administrative office to collect my property. (About two hours afterwards I left the hospital. It took two hours to persuade the hospital authorities to let me have my pass. The pass was necessary for me to reclaim my money kept in the office).

I went up to Miss O'Driscoll and told her what Denis Roberts had said. But she said, "Oh, you'll have to wait. We are on strike as well." There was a scowl on her attractive face. But I needed her not. I went back to Denis and told him that Miss O'Driscoll was busy and that I was capable of finding the administrative office myself. "Would he give me the authority to do so?"

He said, "Yes," for he had always had some respect for me. I picked up my bag with relief. I was far too tense to stay in the ward for another minute and wished to go home to rest. Soon I reached the administrative office, and then because I was weak, thought I was not nearly so well as those considered to be ill. However, I asked the person on the desk for my personal documents. Before he gave them to me, he phoned the ward, for he said that someone should have accompanied me to the office.

I said, "Ask Mr Denis Roberts about that, for he said that I was fit enough to go on my own." He phoned Denis and my statement was confirmed, and at last I walked out of the hospital, very weak but capable of living in freedom. When I reached the bus and got on, I was trembling and the driver had to tell me how to insert the necessary coins in the box, in the new flat-rate fare single decker bus. This seemed a difficult job for me to do ---to insert two coins into a box, for my short stay in hospital had completely exhausted me, and when I reached home, it was necessary for me to spend the next two weeks resting, just looking after my own needs. I was feeling too tired even to visit a doctor in order to get a sickness certificate. (I had already got one sickness certificate from Denis Roberts, the hospital social worker covering the period in hospital). Therefore I lost sickness benefit for the next two weeks, for I was too tired to claim it. But very soon, I felt well again, and felt that hospital was the last place to go, if one needed a rest. Far better, if circumstances permit, to take a holiday in Bournemouth.

(1996 comment - For a short time, I believe, the regime at Hackney Hospital in F Block for psychiatric patients was alleviated by MPU activities; however, the overcrowding and lack of materials and space for occupational therapy persisted, and in a short time, life on the wards reverted to what it was before the intervention of MPU. Fortunately, the sort of patients who were in these wards in 1974 now have accommodation in the newly built Homerton Hospital, and it is hoped that their conditions are better, as there is much more interest in good practice in mental health to-day, despite the underfunding).

the Mayola Road cats

When I got home from Hackney Hospital things were very difficult. Mice had infested my room and were running about everywhere and it was impossible to keep clean. We agreed to get a cat. The first cat who arrived was called Spatz. I loved this cat, who often slept for periods on my bed. Soon after Spatz arrived, Lily found another stray cat in the garden. Andrew and Valerie decided to take her in, and Lily called her Dusty. She was a tabby cat speckled with ginger spots. This cat was Lily's favourite cat. Dusty spent most of her time in Lily's room. The cats were both fed with solid food in a common feeding bowl downstairs, so the bond Spatz formed with me was one of pure affection, as I did not feed him. One day Spatz brought me a present, which I did not appreciate, but it was well meant. My door was open and I was standing up doing some work at the sink. Spatz quietly entered and dropped the dead mouse he was carrying in his mouth at my feet.

He seemed to say, "Look what a good boy am I."

Spatz thought I was stupid when I got a dustpan and brush, swept the dead mouse into it, wrapped it in paper and deposited it immediately in the dustbin. He did not bring me another present, but continued to sleep on my bed, whenever I was taking a rest there.

In June, Dusty had kittens. There were six in the litter. When they were born, several were tangled and glued tightly together, and Andrew spent a whole day separating them and cleaning them, before returning them to their mother. One of these kittens, which Lily named Shadow had a crippled back leg. It was only half the normal length. Shadow could not run as fast as the other kittens, but she had the longest life.

Lily named all the kittens. Three were tabby, one was ginger, one was black. Shadow was rather a plain shade of grey. Two tabbies were named Cheeky and Tiptoes; the ginger cat was a tom-cat which was called Ginger. Homes were found for two of these kittens, leaving four kittens and two full-grown cats in the house. By the end of 1974, we had six large cats; all the females were neutered. These cats made the communal house more like home as not only did they keep the mice away, but often calmed people who were unhappy and agitated.

Our cats all had better lives than Schrodinger's mythical cat, who was kept in a box and whose life depended on Heisenberg's uncertainly principle - which applies to quanta of matter and energy. For the cat this means now you are alive and now you are dead!

The two houses to the right of Robin Farquharson House (37 Mayola Road) where we lived had been vacated. The gardens were adjoining ours and accessible, so the cats had a large territory. The garden in the furthest of these houses was overgrown. One day Valerie told me she had been picking blackberries there, and asked me if I would like to pick some, as there were plenty left. When I went into this garden, I found it full of lovely blackberries which I enjoyed picking. I liked to linger there, as it was very peaceful, away from the turmoil of 37 Mayola Road.

37 Mayola Road was named after Robin Farquharson, an ex-mental patient who had died in a fire in a squatted house. Liz and Brian had met him and Liz told me that she was at his bedside when he died from burns. He had written a Penguin book about his experiences on the street, when homeless. He was a well-educated man of fifty, who had fallen into unfortunate circumstances and the way he died was tragic.

I bought some pink and white striped wall-paper. I shifted a few items of furniture and put up two strips of wall-paper each day until I had finished papering the room. Jenny thought I was doing well, and when I said I was too tired to put up more than two strips per day, she said that was a good way to do the work. Jenny had stomach trouble and was often ill. She was 25 years of age. She had spent a difficult childhood, partly spent in a children's home, and partly with a foster-mother. She was starting a college course at East London Polytechnic, and hoped that it would lead to a more stable, successful life. She showed me one of her first assignments from college. It seemed rather odd to me. She had to write an essay, imagining that she was in a boat with seven other people. There was only room for five, and there had to be a decision as to who should be thrown out. The occupants included the most diverse people, such as an elderly professor and a pregnant woman, and a used-car salesman. I thought it was such an odd project and could not advise Jenny how to answer it. Austin also took part in this discussion.

Jenny kept in touch with her foster-mother and often wrote letters to her. She said it was an uneasy relationship, but she did not want to break it off. Jenny said she was trying hard.

Woodford houses

The second half of 1974 started by the acquisition of two more houses in Woodford. These were leased to MPU by the Solon Housing Association. More people than we could accommodate at Mayola Road were coming to the Saturday meetings and asking for accommodation, which was the reason for acquiring these houses.

People at Mayola Road were asked if they wished to move to Woodford. Jenny decided to move. The house was in a much more pleasant district. There was some concern that the neighbours might object to such a house in their road, but I never heard of any serious difficulties with them. I do not know if the neighbours were particularly difficult but at least they left the tenants of the double house alone.

June, the middle-aged lady who imagined she was Jesus had proved a disruptive influence at Mayola Road. Not violent, but she was incessantly talking and following people about, so we decided that she must leave and found her a place in a woman's hostel in Central London, known as the "Theatre Girls Hostel." This hostel mainly accommodated homeless women, though it had originally been intended for theatre girls.

When June left the next person applying to the Saturday meeting was given her room. This was Terry. He had been a businessman, but told us he was now out of work and penniless, following a spell in a mental hospital. Terry wore a smart shirt with collar and tie. His girl-friend Janet was a frequent visitor to the house and often stayed in the room with him. But he was soon disliked by the occupants of Mayola Road, because he had expensive equipment in his room, such as an electric tooth-brush. This made people think that he had enough money to stay elsewhere. He was not interested in the Saturday meetings or the interests of the other MPU members and tended to be pompous.

When Janet saw that Terry was not liked, after he had been at Mayola Road for about four weeks, she said that she had found him a room elsewhere. I went up to Terry's room, as he was leaving and she showed me his bank statements. There was nothing in his account. Though he looked prosperous, he had no money.

"Terry is depressed and needs a rest," she said, "but I think I can look after him."

I felt sorry for Terry and saw that he was not managing very well, and felt that we had misjudged him. When Terry finally left I gave him my best wishes.

At the next Saturday meeting it was agreed that we should be more careful about the next person we took in and ask them whether they agreed with the aims of MPU.

Unfortunately the next person to arrive was someone we nicknamed "The Colonel". He had right-wing views and expressed them at the Saturday meeting.

But he said that he had just left a mental hospital, so we agreed to accommodate him for three nights only, while he looked for a more suitable home. Terry's room was vacant, so we gave him the bed in there, instead of expecting him to sleep on the floor in the common-room, which was the usual offer to temporary residents.

Next day the "Colonel" was up early, got the mop and bucket out, and cleaned all the corridors and the kitchen at Mayola Road.

I said, "At least we should be pleased with him for cleaning up." But most people were ideologically opposed to his attitudes, and someone said, "He's only doing that for his own benefit."

On the third day we forced him to leave, in spite of many protests from the "Colonel".

When he had left I said, "Perhaps we have misjudged him and were too harsh". But most people disagreed and were glad that "The Colonel" had departed. We never saw him again.

The houses at Woodford caused much work. Tom Ritchie arrived from Scotland and was one of the first residents. He had started an organisation in Scotland known as SUMP. This stood for the Scottish Union of Mental patients. He had a book of its minutes, which he gave to Andrew. "SUMP", he said at the Saturday meeting. "You can't get lower than that". The difference between the "Colonel" with his right-wing views and Tom Ritchie who also believed in free-market economics was that Tom was chiefly concerned about the rights of mental patients whereas the Colonel seemed uninterested in this aspect and was only concerned about his own welfare. This is why we regarded Tom as a more suitable occupant for a room in an MPU house.

Tom was an argumentative Scot. He maintained that he believed in capitalism and free market economics. He kept talking about this just to be awkward at Saturday meetings. We soon found that Tom quickly got into arrears with his rent. He found a low-paid routine clerical job, which bored him. A feature of his life was the need to buy hundreds of Vick inhalers. He also wanted to do photography as a hobby, and when he entered the house at Woodford wanted the room with the most light. He persuaded us to let him have it. All the tenants paid the same rent, irrespective of the size of their rooms, and this included lighting and heating.

Lilian Jordan was a woman of 52, who declared that she was afraid to live in her council flat. She was also given a room at Woodford, and proved to be a useful tenant. She did much cleaning there, paid the rent and settled down well.

Richard and his girl friend arrived. They were in their early twenties, and Richard was unemployed. He soon found he had difficulty in paying the rent. Sandra was an artist, and said she sold her pictures for £50 each. I do not think she had a room at Woodford, but was an occasional visitor.

Though Sandra had more money than Richard, he felt the need to buy her presents, which soon absorbed his unemployment benefit. Richard was very clean and tidy in his room. One day I slept there because Richard had told me that one of the other tenants argued with him in the night. For a rest, Richard slept in my bed at Mayola Road. I spent a quiet night at Woodford. No-one disturbed me. When I came home I told Richard I could not stay a second night at Woodford, so he agreed to go back. Shortly afterwards, Richard left.

One day in the upstairs office, I received a complex letter from an Irishman. He was constantly writing to embassies demanding rights for prisoners in special hospitals, particularly those in Ireland.

Then he arrived at a Saturday meeting in answer to one of my letters and was given a room at Woodford. He proved to be a stable tenant and paid his rent regularly, unlike some of the others. His name was Matthew Paschal O'Hara. The Irish form of his name was printed on the side of his leather brief-case.

Matthew became a close friend of Andrew. He was a very inventive person, which was an advantage when living in a communal house, as many unusual jobs repair jobs needed doing. His inventions were usual successful, unlike those of Tony O'Donnell.

Nevertheless I became far more friendly with Tony than with Matthew. One of the reasons for this was the fact that I introduced Tony to Mayola Road. He was living at the Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association. He was taking tranquillisers and wished to stop, after he had read our leaflet on the side-effects. He refused to take the drugs any longer. One of the conditions of staying at the PRA was that one should take prescribed drugs, whether one wished to or not, so Tony was served with an eviction notice. As a representative of MPU, I visited him in his room at the PRA. As there was one room vacant at Mayola Road, I persuaded him to come to the Saturday meeting and apply for it.

Valerie was reluctant to accept him, as she thought another older man would be difficult, but the feeling of the meeting persuaded her that we should accept him. Tony was always calm and reasonable in conversation. He appeared to want to get on with his own business, paid the rent regularly and managed to find employment as a nightwatchman on a building site. I thought he would be an acceptable tenant, but gradually we found him difficult to live with. The reason being that Tony was a collector. Not stamp collecting! No, Tony collected everything! Old tin cans, pieces of wood, cigarette packets, besides more reasonable items such as books and electronic gear. This collecting habit would not have been a problem for anyone but Tony himself if he had lived alone in a large house. But the small room in Mayola Road became packed full, and Tony wanted to expand!

But soon a far more disastrous tenant arrived. The psychiatrist from Devizes wrote to us and said he wanted to discharge Ralph. Would be willing to accept him? There were conditions on his discharge, one of these being that he receive a monthly injection from a community psychiatric nurse.

There was now Jenny's room vacant, because she had moved to Woodford. This was a nice large room, adjacent to mine and we thought it suitable for Ralph Bird. We accepted him by post, as though the psychiatrist wanted us to have him, Ralph had approached us personally, in advance of this request. He was an active MPU member in his hospital ward in Wiltshire. He was also a member of "The Socialist Party of Great Britain." These people are often notable bores, as they will not stop talking on the subject of "converting everyone to socialism by talking to them." This Socialist Party does not believe in violent revolution. They say that they accept Marx but not Lenin. They also require people to be atheists. This was a stumbling block for Ralph who maintained that he was not an atheist. Membership of the SPGB was not what made Ralph a difficult tenant. Too late we found out that he was a heavy drinker and tended to become violent after a bout of drinking.

He was allowed to withdraw £23 weekly from his account. When he had exhausted this, he used to demand more money from other tenants in Mayola Road, including myself. On several occasion, I had lent him up to £10. This was never returned. I felt that I had to stop doing this, as I could not afford this and it resulted in his buying more drink. Many times I had to lock myself in my room and ignore his knocks on the door. He did not clean his room or even make the bed. He stayed about six months. During this time he was visited by a nurse from Hackney Hospital who gave him a monthly injection. He was still under a hospital supervision order and was only allowed to reside in the community on condition that he had this treatment. People at Mayola Road did not usually accept people placed by a psychiatrist, but we had felt Ralph to be a special case, as he had approached MPU before the psychiatrist had done so.

Then one day when we could handle him no longer, and he was taken to Hackney Hospital psychiatric ward by the nurse when she visited to give him the monthly injection and found that he was in a very bad state. He threatened one of the nurses there, and was sent to Broadmoor. When we heard this we felt we had been a failure, and that Ralph would have been better off if he head stayed at the psychiatric hospital in Wiltshire. Not everyone who had once been in a secure hospital was a failure in the outside world. Pascal Matthew O'Hara obtained a routine job, and worked well at this. He was a diabetic, and had to inject himself daily with insulin. He managed to deal with all these problems while living in very difficult circumstances.

Michael who had been living at COPE arrived at the Saturday meeting and asked for a room. He was allocated a room at Woodford. Initially he retained a car and had formerly been a school-teacher at a private school. We did not realise that he was a transvestite. This would not have been a problem, until I found out that he was Mary Wade when it suited him and Michael when it suited him.

Additionally he was diabetic and a heavy smoker, who was continually coughing. This did not worry us too much and though we did not get on too well with him, we were sorry that he had to endure so much illness. Michael came regularly to the Saturday meetings at Mayola Road, travelling from Woodford. He used the phone in the common room occasionally but the remarks he made filled me with alarm as he said things like, "We will do well here when we have got rid of the Marxists."

The people he meant were my friends. Tony told me not to take his remarks seriously. He did not want to cook or contribute much to the life of the house, but managed to pay the rent. Occasionally he was useful because he knew several languages and was able to translate letters from abroad. During his time at Woodford, he remained Michael, occasionally wearing woman's clothes, but he was preparing to become Mary full-time.

The oldest person to be given a room there [at Woodford] was Connie, aged about 62. To begin we thought she would settle down, as she got an early morning cleaning job at Hackney Central Library. She had been writing to MPU for two years and declared that she wanted to make a will in their favour. She seemed an enthusiastic MPU member and wanted to come off drugs.

Unfortunately after staying three weeks at Woodford she became unable to look after herself. Erratically one day she went out into the road and punched a disabled woman in the midriff. At this point the police picked her up, and she was taken to St. Clement's Psychiatric Hospital in East london.

Jenny and I visited one day and saw Connie briefly, but she was drugged and hardly able to speak to us. We took her what clothes we could find in her room. I thought the conditions were harsh at St. Clement's Hospital, as she was locked in a small room, and not even allowed to possess knitting needles. Formerly Connie had been fond of knitting.

Jenny pointed out that maybe the patients in Connie's ward might poke each other eyes if they had knitting needles.

Paschal said that he would not have been unable to look after her at Woodford, because she became unable to cook or look after herself, and he thought that the hospital was the best place for her. But Jenny and I did not like the conditions at St.Clement's. I had no time to visit and did not see Connie again. But Jenny went back to the hospital and asked the staff permission to photograph the patients there in a project for her college, where she was studying a social science degree of some kind. She was learning to use a camera for the first time and became very interested in it. She showed me some of her photographs and they showed the gloomy, pathetic and hopeless side of hospital life, with patients slowly walking down the corridors in an aimless fashion.

There were still one room vacant at Woodford and we wanted to fill it quickly with someone likely to pay the rent. I do not think that people like Connie had paid anything. A homeless couple applied. They had not been in a hospital but Andrew thought they would make good tenants and give some stability to the houses at Woodford, as they seemed quiet people. They were quiet people, but after a few weeks at Woodford, they ceased paying the rent and left hurriedly with many weeks rent unpaid. They had been no better in this respect than most of the ex-patients.

Lack of receipts from rent was what brought about the eventual downfall of the houses in Woodford, but they were running throughout the second half of 1974 and most of 1975.

Sometimes there were arguments between the residents, and someone from Mayola Road was called to sort the problems out. This caused us much work. I went over there several times with Andrew to give support to Woodford. But soon I found this too tiring, for I now had a five-day job and needed some rest at the week-end, and after the Saturday meeting at Mayola Road, which I attended faithfully, I usually felt very tired.

I attended the small Catholic Church in Rushmore Road most Sunday mornings. This was the nearest church to Mayola Road. It had been converted from a meeting-hall to a church and looked like a small factory building from the outside. The priest here was Father Peter Latham, a somewhat pompous man.

When I returned from Hackney Hospital in April, Austin had just taken clerical employment. Officially he was still a student at Enfield Technical College, but it was May, and apparently there was no further need for him to attend classes until the following Autumn. The firm he worked for was called "TransEurographia", and Austin did the accounts. It was routine bookkeeping. He told me how much he admired the manager called MrThompson. However after four weeks, he declared himself incapable of carrying on. Michael was visiting from Woodford for the Saturday meeting and Austin told him that he could not work unless he frequently took a drink of whisky throughout the day.

Michael was quite sympathetic and said, "What you need is small hip flask, which you can keep in an inside pocket, and sip whenever the need arises." Michael found one of these bottles for Austin and brought it over to the house on Sunday. Austin told me he thought he would try another week's work at the office.

Austin went to work on Monday. However by Wednesday, he declared himself unable to continue, and came into my room in the evening and said, "Joan, are you looking for a job?"

I said that I wanted to do something. I had been out of hospital for four weeks now and had decorated and cleaned my room, but became depressed by spending too much time at Mayola Road, simply answering letters and helping to send out newsletters. I told Austin that I did not think the job sounded very interesting but it was better than nothing.

Austin said that he would go in the next day and tell Mr Thompson he was leaving because he felt ill, but had found a replacement. I wondered if Mr Thompson would accept me. Austin gave me the telephone number and I phoned to ask for details. To my surprise I was told to attend for an interview the following day. Next morning I felt very unwell with stomach trouble, and in no fit state for an interview, but I attended and all the time I was being interviewed squirmed on the chair. I told Mr Thompson that Austin Johnson who had just left had recommended me, and was very surprised when he told me that I could start work on Monday.

My stomach trouble was not too serious, but I was surprised that I had obtained this job so easily. When I went to work on the Monday, I felt quite relaxed and soon learned the routine.

I did a good job and believe that this work helped me to cope with the remainder of each day at Mayola Road. However I was somewhat worried about taking the job away from Austin. Austin said he could not stand the job. It had made him too tired to do anything in the evenings. But he was short of money. For Austin the job would have lasted only a few months, because he had to take the final year of his degree, starting in September 1974. In the meantime he began drinking heavily, and sometimes asked me for a loan, which I knew he could not return. I gave Austin the odd £10, but stopped doing this when he spent all the money on drink.

One day when he had no money, in the middle of the night, he went out and smashed the windows of the "Bottle and Basket", a small off-licence at the end of Mayola Road, and stole two bottles of Strongbow Cider.

The owner was very upset next morning. I do not know whether she found out that Austin had done it, but he was never accused, as he had not taken anything of much value and was not a serious thief, but a drunk man. So I think the lady decided not to investigate, but simply to get the window repaired. As the off-license was not doing much business, it closed down shortly after this incident, as I think the occupant decided to retire.

Austin managed to survive until the time came for him to resume his college course. Presumably his grant came through and he knew he must keep sober enough to study, as he was intelligent enough to obtain a good degree if he settled down to work.

Austin had a spare-time hobby -"writing detective novels" and I think he was quite good at this, but never sold any of his work. He told me that he could write a novel in a week, and I was pleased when he settled down to this type of occupation as then he did not bother us.

Tony O'Donnell had settled down in the small top room of the house and appeared to be a good tenant, in that he paid the rent regularly, and was quiet, did not get angry with people but concentrated on his own life. Occasionally he helped in the MPU office by answering the telephone. Sometimes he did odd jobs in the house with unfortunate results. The new houses at Woodford sometimes needed essential repairs, and one day Andrew took Tony O'Donnell over there to help him repair the roof. This repair was fairly successful. His minor improvements at Mayola Road did not cause us much alarm, For example, he placed a disinfectant tablet in the cistern of the upstairs toilet. This drips through gradually and lasts about two months. Many people do not like these disinfectants, as they tend to mask the build-up of scale so that people do not clean the toilet bowl adequately. But this type of improvement did not do much harm.

Tony's next project was a disaster. He took part of the piping from the outside of the house and used it to improve the bathroom, by fixing up a shower. I do not know if the shower worked and I was not interested, because water was now constantly falling on the flat roof just below my window. This made a terrible noise, caused a mess, was unhealthy. It was dirty water collected from the roof which is normally piped through a drain-pipe to a drain in the garden. When a section of the drain-pipe was missing, it was hardly pleasant.

We had to get Tony to reverse this "improvement" without delay and replace the section of drain-pipe where it belonged. Tony's activities were usually well-meant, but wearing.

Tony obtained a job as a nightwatchman and had a reasonable amount of money coming in, enough to buy cigarettes and presents for a woman friend, who called herself Jane Robertson Justice, but whose real name was Nina Ramage. Soon Tony decided to marry Nina. I went to the wedding and reception in a Turkish restaurant.

For a time Nina and Tony lived happily upstairs, though it made the house overcrowded, as there really was not room for a couple in Tony's small room. Nina attempted to clean things in Tony's room and Tony brought more items of junk inside. But they were reasonably happy for the time being.

After I had been working for TransEurographia for three months, I was allowed two weeks holiday, though this may have been unpaid. But I could afford to take it and decided on an adventurous holiday to Leningrad. I had seen a small advertisement from Yorkshire Tours, costing only £60. Food was not included and I took £60 extra to buy food, besides packing enough for the first three days. I was told that cooking facilities would be supplied on the site of the chalets in just outside Leningrad.

On this holiday I met some Communists and some Labour party people. The accommodation in Leningrad was atrocious. I shared with Helen, an elderly woman from Acton. The third person in our chalet was the Intourist Guide. I was encouraged by the fact that she slept with the tourists, as the hut did not look very safe. I was glad of her company. This hut was made of slatted wood and had no windows. We were given two thin blankets to cover ourselves on the bunks provided. I slept above my friend Helen as I was younger than her, and Helen from Intourist slept on the bunk attached to the opposite wall. Helen from Intourist put some old-fashioned, elaborate curlers in her hair before going to sleep. The hut was freezing cold, though Leningrad had a temperature of 80 degrees Fahrenheit in the August day-time. I was disturbed in the night and called out "Helen" speaking to my English friend, but the Intourist lady woke up and thought I was speaking to her. The older English lady slept though all this.

On this holiday I met David Hughes. He was 76 years old, and had not taken enough money to buy food for the whole trip. Helen bought him one meal in a restaurant. We did not attempt to eat in restaurants again, because the food took two hours to arrive. Before embarking we were warned about this. There were two Jewish waiters employed there, and when one of them saw that Helen and I were English, he started asking us how he could leave the Soviet Union, because Jewish people were not given very good jobs. Both Helen and I said that we could not help him and sympathised that he was not able to make progress in employment. Nevertheless we were relieved that he felt quite free to chat with us, and concluded that the situation for Jews in Leningrad may not be ideal, but was not as bad as suggested in English newspapers.

We visited several buildings of the Russian Orthodox Church. Daily services were in progress in the mid-mornings, mostly attended by elderly women. Like most tourists, my companions were more interested in the church architecture than in the church services, but I was relieved to see church services being permitted.

One of the highlights of our trip was a visit to the Hermitage Museum. This was so extensive that in three hours we saw only a fraction of what was to be seen. There were museum entrance fees but these were fairly low. We saw also the famous Winter Palace and the square in front of this. Many tourists were taking photographs here. There were not many Westerners, though more Americans than English people, and we met a loud-mouthed, drunk American on the chalet site. There was a half-day expedition see the famous palace of Queen Catherine the Great which was some miles from Leningrad. In front of the Palace were many relaxed holiday-makers walking on the pleasant lawns amid fountains and gilt statues of past Tzars.

Some people went to the Kirov ballet in the evening in Leningrad, but I had not taken sufficient money for this.

I was intrigued by the "supermarkets" in Leningrad, which were much like those in England but though there were far fewer of them. We bought our food in these supermarkets, took it back to the chalet site and cooked it ourselves in a separate hut in the evenings. Bread was very cheap. There were several varieties including traditional peasant black bread which none of us could eat, but the wholemeal bread was very good. Tinned food was plentiful but very little fresh fruit was available. The small apples sold from market stalls were not worth buying.

Apart from this we bought sausages from street-corner sellers and ate them on the coach, to save time during the day, as we wanted to do as much sight-seeing as possible during our week in Russia.

David Hughes often attached himself to me and I found that he was very tiring company. Nevertheless after Helen lost interest in him, I gave him enough money for basic food, as I did want to see him stranded without provisions in a foreign country. On one occasion I took a bus trip out into the country with him. I became quite alarmed. There was no-one collecting fares and I did not know how much to pay. One Russian spoke English and said we could put whatever we liked into the box and take a ticket.

I did this but was most uneasy, but was glad to find myself in the company of some kindly Russians. We went out further into the country and I wanted to return to Leningrad as we were lost and did not know where we were going.

I said to David that perhaps we should get off and wait for a bus at the other side of the road. The Russian who spoke English thought we could do this, but David maintained that these buses always returned to their starting-points and if we stayed on we should eventually get back to Leningrad. I became quite alarmed, because we had been on the bus for half an hour and were on an unknown country road, but David remained quite relaxed and said he did not worry about things. He would not get off the bus, and I did not want to get off the bus to, wait alone, but talked to the Russian who spoke English, asking him if this bus would return to its starting-point. This man did not know enough English to understand me, but laughed and said that I would be all right.

I felt that these ordinary Russians were very pleased to see foreigners especially English people. I never felt that I was being followed by any KGB men.

I was nervous because I did not understand how ordinary things like bus time-tables worked in Leningrad. But David was right. Soon I found we were on the outskirts of the city again and the bus returned to where it had started, on our holiday chalet site. There were many ordinary Russians and other people from various parts of the Soviet Union spending holidays there. We were the only party from England, but there were a few Americans there.

After a week in Leningrad, we moved on to Talinn, which was the capital of Estonia. which at that time was part of the Soviet Union. The following day was Sunday, and I asked where the Catholic Church was situated in Talinn. I was directed to a church and attended the service there, but soon realised it was a Lutheran Church. The service was conducted in the Estonian language. The church was packed and the people sang hymns enthusiastically. The preacher exhorted the people, throwing his hands up into the air. Though I could not understand one word, I realised these people were very sincere about their religion, and preserved the tattered prayer-books found at the back of the church carefully.

The others in our party had not gone to church but had attended a demonstration of Estonian Folk dancing. Helen told me that I had missed a great show, but I was pleased that I had been able to attend church, even if it was not a Catholic Church.

Meanwhile I started to feel ill. The trip concluded with a round trip through Sweden. This took two days, and we spent the night sleeping on the coach. This exhausted me and I started to have stomach trouble. When the other people visited a Cathedral in Stockholm I had to stay in the coach because it was near the ladies toilets which I had to visit each half-hour. When I got back home to Mayola Road I was exhausted and was beginning to suspect that there was something wrong with my stomach, as I felt very weak. I was able to go back to work at TransEurographia, but had to come home and rest in the evenings. I was reluctant to visit the doctor. He did not take much trouble with the folk from Mayola Road.

Eventually I had to visit Hackney Hospital, but this was one year after the stomach trouble first started. A sample from my uterus was taken and I was told I had thrush. I was given some pessaries and a diagram telling me how to insert them. The trouble cleared up two weeks after using these pessaries, so I was sorry that I had not visited the hospital before.

Meanwhile when I got back to TransEurographia, I found that from the beginning of September, Mr Thompson had engaged a qualified accountant, and though I had worked well and soon understood the system, I found I was being squeezed out of the more interesting parts of the work and often had little to do.

I continued to work there until about the end of October but started to look for another similar job. I saw that they wanted "quality assessors" at the Metal Box factory and applied there. I was accepted and gave TransEurograhia a week's notice. I could walk to the Metal Box from Mayola Road. I was feeling weak and felt that not having a bus journey to work would be an additional benefit.

As soon as I got to the Metal Box factory, I wished I was still working at TransEurographia. The quality assurance work took place in the factory and was very routine. I was inducted into the work by a young Irish girl called Millie. She was cheerful and friendly, but I found it hard to cope with the work. The factory was very noisy and all the staff had to wear ear- plugs while working. I could still talk to people while wearing these plugs, because they only cut out the more damaging aspects of the noise of the factory machinery. We stood by one of the conveyer belts and inspected the tins as they passed by. All the tins which were unsatisfactory we rejected. A tin was regarded as unsatisfactory if the inside surface was not smooth. Opinions differed on what was a smooth surface. At various times I was told that I was rejecting too many tins and at other sides too few.

Millie told me that we had to work differently according to which supervisor was on duty that day. One woman wanted very many tins that I had passed to be rejected, and another thought that I rejected too many. I told Millie that I found it impossible to work this way. There must be one correct standard for doing the job and I would be happy to comply with that, Millie laughed and said that she found the job awkward but had learned to adapt to it. If we talked to the manager we would simply be told to do whatever the supervisor said. "When Anne is supervisor," Millie confided, "I find the work awkward, because Anne changes her mind so much about what is a satisfactory tin." Anne told me that she used to be a nurse in the psychiatric ward at Hackney Hospital, but had left ten years ago to be supervisor at Metal Box, as she was tired of listening to the complaints and problems of the patients. I decided not to talk to Anne, as I wondered what she would think if she knew that I was living at a place like Mayola Road. The manager who engaged me knew me only as a quiet woman with GCE "A" levels. They did not mind employing such people even in jobs which most employers would think too unskilled to be suitable for them. Fred Ahearne who had passed "A" levels in Ireland worked on the factory floor as an inspector. He had come over from Ireland as a teen-ager and had failed to find more suitable employment. Surprisingly, Fred was a member of the "Teilhard de Chardin" society. In his spare time he was a serious-minded Catholic. Fred chatted to me sometimes, both on the factory floor and in the canteen. Later Fred became friendly with Tony O'Donnell and Denis. Denis was Tony's former room-mate at PRA, who used to be a mathematics teacher. Denis was trying to get work teaching again, but having failed to do this, was working in an accounts office.

I was getting very tired standing at the production line as I was not used to it. One of the women supervisors was very hard for me to cope with. Sometimes there was a pause in production. Then we were taken to a place where unsatisfactory tins were stored. This woman made us stand in a circle where she could see each of us, and pick up a tin and scrape from any projecting, there rough pieces of metal. These tins were those that had been previously rejected because they were rough on the outside. Those which were rough on the inside could not be repaired in this way. All the other women could do this work better then me. My wrists were not strong enough, and I could not bring enough pressure to bear on the tin to remove the rough edges with the tool I was given. This caused the fore-lady to shout and declare that I was no good.

I went to the manager and told him that I had not expected this kind of job. I had not known what quality assurance was and thought it was more like laboratory work which was often called "quality control" in the food industry.

I was told to continue working until after Christmas, when he thought he could find a job in the office for me. I agreed to accept this.

On Christmas Eve the factory was decorated. The staff were in roistering mood. I asked Millie how everyone kept so cheerful.

She became serious for a minute and said, "It's only on the outside. No-one is very cheerful here. They keep up a front."

Someone was weighing something on a chemical balance in a small room set into the wall of the factory floor. I went in and said that I could use balances as I had worked for many years in a lab.

Anne said, "Can you, dear? Well you are not allowed in here. You are not supposed to know how to use them."

An Indian came in and weighed something. I spoke to him and he said that he did not like the work as he was qualified in accounts. No-one seemed very happy, and Millie told me that the fore-lady who had shouted at me because I could not scrape the tins properly had just lost her husband.

The factory was very hot, and even though it was cold outside we were all wearing summer clothes. The decorations dangled and work stopped. People had a few drinks on the factory floor before they went home, wishing each other "Merry Christmas". Normally food and drink were not allowed on the factory floor.

I went home to Christmas at Mayola Road and a new visitor called Janet Cresswell called and said she wanted to cook our Christmas dinner. But Valerie had her own plans and made a pudding containing chestnuts, mushrooms and onions for Christmas and also mince pies and jellies. Rebe, another MPU member who was friendly with Valerie's daughter Lily, called and Valerie gave her some mince pies. Christmas in 1974 was quite tiring at Mayola Road.

before after


What does she do
when she is not drinking tea?
Find out even more
about Joan's work


hallucinations and Hackney Hospital

Copyright Joan Hughes 1993-1997. Published with permission.