Monday, 11 October 2021

Mental Health. Helping out. Vaccine supplies. Depressing shopping centres.

I understand that yesterday was National Mental Health Awareness Day. People who know me well are aware that my feelings about these “days” are ambivalent to say the least. But mental health problems seem to be all around us at the moment, so I’ll not be too hard on this particular “day”.

Here is a relevant poem by Leonard Cohen. 

“This is the only poem

I can read

I am the only one

can write it

I didn’t kill myself

when things went wrong

I didn’t turn

to drugs or teaching

I tried to sleep

but when I couldn’t sleep

I learned to write

I learned to write

what might be read

on nights like this

by one like me.”

—Leonard Cohen, The Only Poem

I’ve done my bit for helping out with mental health problems this morning. Our eldest granddaughter has been going through a bad time with depression and anxiety for a while now. She’s been working from home and has been very nervous at the prospect of eventually having to return to the office. Just over a week ago she was told that it was “her turn” to go and man the office today. All the staff have been asked to go in on a rota basis, so she knew her turn was due. This did not stop her going into anxiety overdrive. 

My daughter and I set about working out how she could cope with this. She’s already been into the office once recently and so she knows it’s not impossible. Also the office would be empty so she would not have the problem of dealing with the full office. She had a lost of tasks to complete, all well within her field of competence. But her absolute reluctance to go on public transport was a major blockage in the way. We thought we had solved it as her younger sister also had to go into her (different) office for training today. Maybe they could travel together. A good idea except that the older won’t go on the tram and the younger won’t go on the train, although she has no trouble with trams and buses. Persuasion was getting us nowhere.

So I volunteered to travel in on the train with the older one. This involved  my getting up in the dark and catching an early bus to meet her at the railway station near her house. My own anxiety levels went up as the bus was a little late and, despite the early hour, seemed to have a herd of young elephants on the upper deck (local comprehensive pupils, stamping and swearing at the top of their lungs) and, even after offloading the young elephants, seemed to stop at almost every bus stop to take on a multitude of passengers who needed to discuss their travel with the driver! But all went well. We arrived at the railway station together. She was visibly anxious but we talked our way into Manchester and walked across Manchester together. By the time we reached her place of work, she seemed okay. She’ll have to make her way home alone this afternoon as I have further commitments, but the homeward journey is less stressful that the outward one.

I had decided to run one or two personal errands in Manchester city centre as I was there. Coincidentally, Phil and I had appointments for flu vaccinations late this morning. I had worked out my travel timing and fully expected to meet my commitment to the local chemist. So I cut short my Manchester shopping and hopped on a tram heading for Oldham. That was when I discovered that our appointments had been cancelled … for lack of vaccine supplies! We had been wondering how the chemist was able to offer vaccination while our doctors’ clinic could not do so. Well, it seems they may have been over-optimistic. We will try again next week, unless the doctor contacts us first.

So I finished off my shopping for odds and ends in Oldham town centre instead of Manchester. It’s the first time in ages, probably since lockdown, that I have visited the shopping centre in Oldham. The Spindles Centre was, I think, the second replacement for  a nasty, brutalist affair from the 1970s, a concrete wind tunnel as I remember it. Spindles was always bright and airy, cheerful in a perhaps rather trashy way. Now that Debenhams, the biggest store there, has closed many of the small shops have followed suit and are boarded up. Boots, W.H.Smith and Body Shop keep going. So do H&M and, surprisingly, Waterstones. Between the boarded up shops a number of pawn shops have sprung up, like toadstools in the damp grass. Pawn shops had almost disappeared but now they are back with a vengeance! How depressingly miserable!

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

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