Garrison Fields

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Chapter 16 - A trip to Cherry Knowles

There were three doctors in attendance. Dr Broad plus two doctors from nearby surgeries that Dr Broad had requested to be present. He quickly briefed the doctors on the case history and why the patient should be sectioned under the mental health act. It was quite a quick process each in turn examined Albert and after a brief discussion withdrew.

The two doctors concurred with Dr Broad and signed the Committal paper. All would now be in order for the bank manager, this paper would now make a formality of making Jane the legal guardian of her husband. She might now act in all Matters of their joint debt as his equal.

Before Dr Broad had arrived, he had telephoned the local sanatorium to enquire if there would be space available to assess Derek’s condition. He could only treat physical symptoms and he had persisted in this to the utmost, he had therefore, urged Jane to commit Albert to the sanatorium, in order that a full assessment might be carried out. He emphasised emphatically that the time would give Jane some respite in order to accomplish those tasks which she had confided needed to be put in place; in order that the guardianship might be sought.

When the consultation with the three doctors had ended Dr Broad, talked to them briefly and thanked them before they left. He then went into the front parlour and sat down as he had previously done at the table.

‘Well Mrs Burns, on returning to my surgery I will have the letters you require typed up. Please come to the surgery at 7pm this evening. Mrs Jenkins will have all prepared.’ There would be a cost, she knew this, Dr Broad didn’t like to talk cost, but Mrs Jenkins would itemise each letter and its cost when she arrived. He continued:

‘And for the other Matter I have asked your husband and he has signed a voluntary committal notice to Cherry Knowles Sanatorium. I would like to continue, by allaying any fears that you might have or rumours that you may have heard in regard to this institution. The doctors are staff are among the most advanced in this type of care in the country and the quality of care that your husband will receive will be second to none.’ She stared at him indeed she had heard many tales of this miraculously reformed institution and many of its nick names which accompanied it.

He saw the concern on her face and realised that he should continue to allay her fears.

‘Your husband would only be going for an assessment, and once that is completed you will be able to discuss the best options for his care.’

She noted that he did not mention recovery, this tipped the scales in Dr Broad’s favour, she needed to know the extent of her husband’s problem, this would allow her to plan for her family’s future. Her voice sounded dry as she rasped out the answer.

‘I agree Dr., I’m sure you are right, and it will be for the best.’ He had won the argument he now looked to extend some words of comfort to this woman who was having such a wretched time of it.

‘Indeed, Mrs Burn’s I am your family doctor and my utmost interest is the wellbeing of you and your family.’

With these words he then placed in front of her a final typed form in which he had entered with his ink pen Albert’s and Jane’s details in the relevant places, he explained the purpose of the form, and asked her to sign it. She did as instructed her look was of one who had been vanquished and beaten into submission, she gingerly slid the papers back across the table and handed back his ink pen, he screwed the cap back on his ink pen and then carefully blotted the document, placing each item away carefully as doctors do, so always being prepared for their next call.

‘Well Mrs Burns, I will telephone the sanatorium on my return to the surgery, and arrange all, you should expect them to send the ambulance tomorrow to collect your husband at around 9am, but Mrs Jenkins will be able to confirm the time with you this evening when you collect the letters and tell you what items you should pack for your husband’s stay.’

‘May I accompany him in the ambulance doctor?’

‘No Mrs Burns - you must understand that he will be in the sanatoriums care and they will want to get him settled in, before any visits. I would say that you should leave it to the following afternoon, the doctors will have begun their examinations by then. Mrs Jenkins will be able to let you know visiting hours this evening.’ All was said that could be said, Dr Broad departed, and Jane made Albert’s last day with her as comfortable and as good natured as possible. It was a day when she wanted to imprint the thought of their happy life together.

She bustled away in the kitchen, she sat with him, she sent the boys on errand. She hummed small melodies that they were both partial to while she was in their room busying herself with getting his clothes prepared for the following day. Whatever else she wanted him to look his best, to be a credit to the boys; she wanted them to remember him as their father. There were no other words to describe him, that one word encompassed everything he had so far been to them all, the father of her children and a good father to them all.

The boys in time returned with Albert’s parents, she had sent the boys to fetch them and she imparted the news to them. There were tears form the boys and Albert’s mother, Albert’s father who was standing by her, put his hand on her shoulder to comfort her. He didn’t say anything, there was nothing to be said, he turned slightly so that his own distress could not be observed and composed himself for a second before speaking.

‘We know there is nothing more you could have done lass, you have been a good wife to Albert. I guess we were all expecting it, but it is still a shock, one I don’t know how we’ll get over, but we’ll all pull together.’

She thanked them and they spent the next few hours being a family, but there was a hollow feeling that day in the pits of everyone’s stomach as they progressed the day with a pretence of normality. It was arranged that Albert’s father would turn up on the morning to take the boys in hand, it would be upsetting for all as it was and the boys were of an age where they might show their upset, and a man’s hand might be needed to steady them.

They all slept a restless night, each bed felt like a tomb to the occupant and when the morning chorus began the thought of awakening held more dread that that of the fitful sleep. Knowing, that in a few hours a visit would take place that would change all of their lives, hopes and prospects. They completed their morning ablutions with no thought of the new day.

They heard the ambulance before they saw it. The horses and the steel rims of the wheels clattering along the cobbles, its livery plainly displaying what it was and where it was from. It is what would be described as a general purpose vehicle, in that it was a wooden vehicle with a rigid canopy for the cabin at the rear and an overhang at the front which protected the driver and the passenger travelling next to him from the worst excesses of the weather.

There were three occupants in total the two male nurses – the size of rugby players with the features to match - in the front and a junior doctor inside who emerged from the back door of the wagon, onto the footstep and then onto the road. The nurses waited by the wagon, they would do so until called by the doctor who was ushered in. He looked around him briefly, holding the door open, so that Jane knew it was not to be closed and asked if her husband’s travelling bag had been prepared as requested. It had and he was informed that Albert was ready and, in his room. This was excellent news for the doctor, these committals sometimes might go awry, and it was best to get things completed as quickly as possible. He placed two pieces of paper on the shelf of the hall stand,

‘Please sign here and here,’ as he handed her his ink pen, she obliged without question.

‘One copy is for you.’ He blew his copy to ensure the ink was dry before folding it and placing it inside his jacket pocket.

‘It is a receipt to show that you have entrusted Mr Burns to our custody.’ The procedure was clinical, it was akin to signing for a package at the post office, the sentiment from that doctor she felt would have been the same if he had just bought a sack of potatoes. The business end concluded he turned and said in a rather brusque manner

‘May I have his bag,’ she obliged, as he took it, he beckoned out of the door.

‘I will ask the nurses to come in now, please do not become involved in any way, my nurses need to ensure that Mr Burns is not agitated.’

‘There will be no problems doctor, Mr Burns father is looking after the boys in the kitchen and will keep hold of them until after you have gone.’

This was excellent news; they would not require the need of a constable to be in attendance to uphold the law. He could hear at least one of the boys sobbing in the kitchen.

He turned on his heel and was out depositing the bag in the wagon within a second all three returned as they passed Jane in the hall the first nurse said.

‘Which rooms he in missus?’

‘The front,’ she said as if surrendering him.

The two male nurses mounted the stairs in rapid strides, the second one carrying a cream coloured canvas item wrapped up under his arm, they filled the staircase as they went up the doctor trailing behind them he looked like a child next to these men although not small himself his size was diminutive when seen against them. They entered the room; from the hall she heard the words of command issued by the first male nurse.

‘Mr Burns please stand up and put your arms out in front of you.’ The door was closed, and she heard some muffled talking. A short while later the door opened and they started to come down. One of the Male Nurses was in front and they held him tight on the stairs; she heard the first one say.

‘That’s good, now you just look at me, don’t look around you.’ She stood to the side in the hall, she knew that her or the children’s presence might disturb him. They came down, as they came into view on the staircase, she now knew what the canvas item was. It was a straitjacket. He looked over at her as he came down, she could see that this morning his mind was clear. He was aware of all that was happening around him, as they looked at each other tears welled up in each of their eyes, she whispered.

‘You’ll be alright, you’ll be back soon.’ He smiled his gentle smile at her as they passed her, and on out to the waiting ambulance. The only sounds were of the gentle of sobbing of the boys in the kitchen. There were several onlookers who stopped and several of the neighbours clapped, a few shouting the odd word of encouragement.

‘You’ll be back in no time man.’

‘We’ll see you soon’ and so it went and under this generosity, a sub current ran, the whisper of the woman to each other out of earshot:

‘He’s going quietly, it’s the best way, they had to gag Mrs Sweeney’s husband on the way out - you know, well god bless him he’s gone now, he died up there you know and well one, shouldn’t talk of the departed unkindly...’

The scene had been played. Jane stood in the doorway, not looking at anybody or anything and watched the wagon depart. She recognised nobody, her thoughts, her mind were in that wagon going down the street, she closed the door and for a brief moment lent her head against it in exhaustion.

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