The fish came on a plate that had to be a foot long and it still hung over either end. Freshly caught that day from the Atlantic with a Mediterranean waft of garlic, simple herbs and salted potatoes that made it perfect. A small restaurant where the head chef would come and speak to you and ensured everything was going well, surrounded by my family on a holiday where I had forgotten the rest of life.
The heat of the evening blended with the heat coming from the open-plan kitchen and the dancing candles dazzling my eyes in the dull of the romantic shadows across the table, or may be that was the gushing alcohol. There is something about rustic food, it doesn’t matter how many fish bones that are recovered, the preparation is what makes the experience living; that and family.
I was up early. I had to set my alarm and hadn’t drunk too much at the restaurant the evening before. It’s hard for me to do early mornings but when there is a reason to get up, a special life affirming reason, then it’s much easier. A little after sunrise when the rest of the family were emitting zeds in their rooms I was taking the short walk from the hotel to the sea front. Even on a sub tropical island in March the early mornings have a freshness about them. It doesn’t cut like a British spring morning, it’s not razor sharp, it’s gentler than that. Feeling refreshed in my running shorts and trainers, just in case I find the energy to run back, the cool air still massages the calves – it just doesn’t cut. Bring in a sky and equally azure Atlantic sea and life suddenly seems simple – like the Seabass.
The sun cast soft shadows of the thatched beach shades on the sand while the sea lapped uncharacteristically flat and surfers further out along the less tourist flavoured wild coast line catching picture–perfect crests, reaching out and dragging their fingers along the surface of the water. Simple idyllicism and yet it was real. Planned but not constructed. Once I had taken as many deep breaths of serotonin filled air as I could, taking in the panoramic view from runners on the palm tree lined path to the man driving a rake that combed and flattened the beach back to perfection, I jogged back to the hotel.
A few days later life was back with a thump in much the same way as the plane had come into contact with the runway. The affirmation remained and I refused to be dragged back into the old habits of the mundane cycle part of British culture – seven and a half hours, dinner, TV, bed, repeat et al. Ideas of how to shake out of an unhappy stressful career and do something that I actually enjoyed and to live somewhere I’d love to live and be a bit selfish about it too. The only teeny tiny problem is most paid enjoyable jobs don’t support my expensive tastes. But hell, few jobs do and happiness is beyond the materialistic short term medication of retail therapy – eclectic rather than consumeristic.
The intent was there and everything to make it happen would just be minor details to prepare and act out, may be over a few weeks, months or probably a year, but the gender thing would still have to be dealt with in some way. Find where I want to be with it. Is where I am now just fine or may be I just need a little more, a lot more and less likely a lot less. It doesn’t really matter and with an appointment just a week after being back from the ‘tropical climate of inspiration’ it was perfect timing to sort things out. Get the emotional support I need from the psychiatrist doctor at the local hospital and finally get some answers about that next referral that I had been assured was on its way. It got to a point where some months ago where I wrote a letter to the local hospital asking the Psychiatrist why I hadn’t had anything in writing and what was happening.
When I arrived at that small waiting room there was a new receptionist and new daytime TV on show to an empty bland waiting room. A million miles from the morning in the sub tropics. “Are you watching this?” asked the receptionist.
“No, go ahead.” I replied.
She flicked through the channels looking for another drug of daytime television. She landed on ‘A Place In The Country.’ “Wouldn’t it be great to be able to live somewhere like that.” she said from behind the desk, now with added privacy partition which meant the receptionist was now only head and shoulders – and a phone handset to her ear on occasions. It was ironic to hear her mention, from behind the desk, of a nine ‘till five life, well – nine ‘till four given it’s the NHS, talking about the impossible escape to something more idyllic. It was practically a reflection of myself just a few years ago.
The psychiatrist turned up, he was one of the ‘randoms’ I’ve had the past four appointments or so. The original Dr Neil had long since been absent from my sessions. As our session started, sat next to the desk with the computer terminal and with the psychiatrist sat at the computer, the atmosphere was more clerical than supportive. I got straight to the point. “I’ve heard nothing about my referral. It was supposed to be March, it is March. I’ve had nothing in writing. In fact I wrote a letter to the hospital asking what was happening and no one has replied.” I came straight out with it. I know they got the letter so there were no excuses. Right to the facts. Adding my letter had not been responded to was a minor embarrassment used as post-reluctant ammunition.
There was no explanation offered, no real apology. He typed away at the computer trying to find a number for the referral hospital on the slowest access to the internet in the last ten years. As he typed and periodically waited, staring at the screen, he asked “How have you been?”
“Well, I’ve been going through a bit of an emotional rollercoaster.”
That was his reply. There was no follow up. No conversation started, no support. He just continued to stare at the screen. I could have pushed for support but there seemed little point in attempting to engage with someone disinterested from the outset. This lack of support was on another planet from the support I’d had in the past from Dr Neil at the beginning before being assign one of the randoms.
He got on the phone and called Charing Cross in London. I could just about hear the automated options coming from the ear piece, ‘Press 1 if you are calling about a referral..’ he pressed one and received an automated response about waiting times before it hung up on him. He tried again prodding in the phone number with patience and listened to all the options. It got to option 5, ‘press 5 to speak to a member of staff.’ He hung up and dialled again and listened to all the options again pausing at option 5.
“Press five for gods sake.” I thought. Practically willing him with the mental powers of Derren Brown. Thankfully, after deciding to actually press number five, he got through. After an explanation of a letter for referral that was dated March 2015, just over twelve months ago, he was informed they had no record of me. There was a discussion about faxing over the letter and my psychiatrist kindly said, ‘That would be helpful as it would be unfair to put [him] at the back of the waiting list after all this time.’ I only heard the one side of the conversation but it spoke volumes.
The session ended with a promise of a phone call to me once they had a response from the faxed letter; he corrected himself at that point, “or at least my secretary will call you.” I think I had formally become a matter of bureaucracy and paperwork now.
I walked out the exit, past the windows of those small consultant rooms where I’d had all those supportive sessions with the psychiatrist and more importantly the psychologist and realised so much had changed. I was mildly happy at ruffling some feathers and finally getting something moving and yet also disappointed, rather than angry, at the lack of care taken to ensure my pathway was handled correctly. Disappointed that people weren’t effective at correcting problems with the system. They let the system control the outcome and systems don’t care. Systems are cold, logical and lack any responsibility. A lightyear away from my idyllic life plan.
At home I realised the only thing keeping me from getting frustrated and annoyed was the memory of the azure sea and the fresh morning air. I also knew that I couldn’t give an inch with my own care. I would have to call each day until I would get answers; and thats what I did.
Until next time.