Liz Bentley observing the 2 metres apart with her nearly extinct, Tesco Delivery Man

Blone white woman and black Tesco delivery man stand arms aloft, observing 2 metres of social distancing in front of the delivery van

What a crazy world it has become. I’ve been busy, transferring my private therapy practice, online and working with Student Services at Lewisham College, by phone. I am very concerned about our mental health in this crisis, in my work I am hearing more about deaths from suicide, than from Coronavirus.

Within my community of psychotherapists we are acknowledging how much we have to learn, everything has changed, there are no books, no personal experiences, we have to do everything by trial and error. As comfortable as I have been as a Luddite (I only learned this word recently), I am learning to embrace technology but it doesn’t come without its problems. Part of me relishes the possibilities, the other part continues to address the reality of our unique, traumatic situation.

For some therapists, just finding a confidential space in our homes is tricky. For some clients, the best and only way is to take a 50-minute walk and chat on the phone. When disabilities are taken into account, options are further reduced, especially for younger adults and kids.  Whilst I miss my clients physically in my room, I am experiencing my trauma as their trauma, with all of our other underlying traumas coming to the fore. This is huge, at times overwhelming, but we are all in it together, and this is a comfort, to some more than others.

During my personal therapy session, my computer started playing up, the curser began darting around the screen and pop ups popped up, it was excruciatingly frustrating. I turned it off and on, on and off, changed from Skype to Zoom. At the end of the session, my computer went back to its normal, normal state and hasn’t played up since or with my clients.

Homeschooling my 14-year-old has thus far consisted of writing emails to teachers and ringing the school SEN department, my daughter and I in tears, questioning the flurry of emails, pdf’s with enormous amounts of work that has got to be done yesterday. I don’t understand them, then I realise what is being sent, the reality of the pdf’s is just piles and piles of anxiety, being shoved through the internet. I have had at least 5 detentions by proxy. The education system, and most other systems are seemingly, behaving like this is normal, everything is normal, we just transfer everything online, in fact we don’t need anything, we don’t need teachers, doctors, friends, partners, anyone, everything can be done online. Even PE, sex, everything.  No room to acknowledge the grief.  My son’s very practical music degree is now at home in his bedroom, online. The disappointment for all and the grief that I am trying to contain sometimes feels too much.  See, I’ve said it again.

At the end of the day I pour a large glass of wine. It is my reward for getting through another day.  The two social events I have had with friends, have been nice, we’ve chatted, laughed, but then I have burst into tears as the reality of not being able to ‘be’ with them kicks in. But right now, as psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott would say,  it has to be ‘good enough’, it just has to be.

I don’t have an appropriate song or poem, I have a short play I have written that I shall post soon, but for now, I am having the craziest of dreams. I think Jung’s collective unconscious is at work, the first is Biblical, the second apocalyptic, the third could be a scene from Schindler’s List.

Tuesday … trying to get Oli back from Falmouth, weren’t allowed to use cars so I got a camel. The camel was young, and although could cope with my weight ok, its hoofs couldn’t manage the steep rough terrain and I feared falling into the sea.

Wednesday – The door of my house was open, one of my clients walked in for safety and sat around my kitchen table, shortly followed by a man wearing pyjamas who looked like a zombie, I tried to talk with the man but he got aggressive so I calmley pushed him back into the street where there were zombies wandering aimlessly. Across the road there was an old ambulance, a body was being removed from a house on a stretcher.

Thursday – An army official knocked on our door to tell us we all had to get out. I walkedover to the flats to find out what was happening, people were all moving out of their homes, wheelbarrows carrying their belongings , when I returned back to my house I wasn’t allowed back in, my family had all they could get.

Oh just got Boris’s letter, it’s undated, here is a half baked, immediate poem in response to the intrusion….

 

The Good Girl

Be a good girl

You don’t, or won’t know what is good

I have the secret book

I decide when you have been good, or not

When you are bad, you will know by my silence

Then you will be good

 

You will be good at all times

Even when you think good is not good

I know what is good, and bad

Not you

 

Be a good girl, and if you are not ……

Liz Bentley and our mad mad world, no Tesco Delivery Man

A children's play park, with no one in it

“You need to leave.” Said the masked man.

“Why?” Asked the mother, with two small children.

“Coronavirus.” He said.

I watched while the family left the park and the man locked up.

Opposite the park are flats, full of everyone, families, singletons, couples, pensioners, disabled, with no outside space. As I relish getting vitamin d, sat on my pretty patio, I tried to think what it might be like to be stuck in those flats. It didn’t take me long and I remembered exactly what it is was like for me back then.

28 years ago I was living in a one-bed council flat in a far more run-down kind of a block in Bermondsey. I’d had an MS attack which meant I had to leave my beloved job as a Samaritan youth outreach worker and my job counselling women at Marie Stopes women’s clinics.

I was alone in my flat with neighbours who were drug dealers and had parties with loud music which meant I couldn’t sleep normal hours. I eventually got a social worker who sorted out my benefits (this was so much easier, back in the day). Friends bought me food and helped out when possible. No social media, no disabled community. I felt alone and afraid.

After a few weeks, with the help of NHS crutches, I was able to get down the flight of stairs, haul myself into a taxi and see my private therapist, who had reduced her fees to suit my reduced income. It was many months before I was able to take part in ‘normal’ activities and resume my work as a counsellor. I knew, even back then, how lucky I was to have found a career in this profession. So long as I could listen, I would be ok.

Right now, we are all in unique situations, mine as mental as everybody else’s. I am spending more time than ever on social media, or just sitting, because sorting out everything in one go feels momentous, and as everything changes by the hour, there’s no point in doing too much.  (i.e. I began writing this blog a few days ago, then all I had written became insignificant).

Back 28 years ago, when I was in the cab to my therapist I became elated that the sun was out. I will never forget that moment. I was out, and the sun was out too. ‘The sun had got his hat on’. We may not be able to ‘come out to play’ in the same way, but our internal ‘play’ will come out in ways we would never expect as the sky becomes bluer. As an insomniac, I relish bird song over planes. I am an expert at social isolation. I look forward to allowing my readers into my world over the coming weeks, with or without Tesco delivery man … watch out the Bentley is about..

Empty loo roll whcih reads, time to look at our shit

Here is a Facebook post I wrote last week, it got 16 shares which suggests it was useful, funny or interesting.  I hope you enjoy. My Tesco delivery man did turn up in the end, that story is for another time …..

Psychotherapist by day /Comedian by night ‘Liz Bentley’ helps explain the toilet roll hoarding situation…

Forget sex and death, let’s get back to Freud’s Anal stage of instinct theory, infantile ego development (look it up).

So, my theory, with a bit of Freud’s help, suggests that the ‘hoarders’ are terrified of being isolated with their own shit, nothing and /or no one to project onto. The fear of not being able to wipe it away (ie that old saying ‘brushing it under the carpet’) exceeds any reasonable thinking or thought for others, like any hoarder (and indeed narcissistic), all is based around fear , underlying fear are complex emotions, usually from deep rooted childhood trauma, that many, man, many of us struggle to access….. 
but like an ego , there is a hoarder in us all , part of our survival … 

If you see a hoarder, keep clear, but access your empathy, we can use a watering can on our bits , they are repressing a lot and this could well end up in constipation, then come the laxatives, then come the pain killers, then we have a compromised immune system, then death …. be kind to the toilet roll hoarders and holders (who may be bereft of their rolls ) ….

Now is the time to look at our shit, big time ….

Liz Bentley’s thoughts on International Women’s Day and Crowona virus while waiting for the Tesco Delivery Man

IMG_1724.jpeg

Fancy having a granola named after me. And how exciting that Tesco are matching Aldi prices on some of their ‘own brand’ goods. I’m so excited. Greta would be excited too as my mint tea bags came in a box, just a box, no cellophane package, just the box which went into the recycling. So exciting developments.

International Women’s day on 8th, always brings up difficult stuff for me because my dad wanted me to be a boy. My sister would have been called John Winston, so I guess I would have been called John Winston, but if she had been a boy I would be Mark something. When I used to work at Marie Stopes abortion clinics, women came from all over the world, nearly at that 24-week mark. It is still a tragedy to have a girl in many parts of the world.

Towards the end of my Dad’s life, he really was pleased he had girls to look after him, not that boys wouldn’t have. But gone were the days of him getting involved in rugby.

I had a bit of a difficult experience with the washing this week. I put a tissue in and it dissolved and stuck all over the clothes. It took extra time putting the clothes away. Really irritating.

And then there has been coronavirus, what a load of old shit that is, but a good time to go to hospital, A and E is a breeze right now. I hope you like the photo of my new Crowona mask? My husband’s work colleague bought it for him for me I think, maybe he is worried that because of the MS I’m right weak and vulnerable. But my chest is good, I can breath really deeply, especially at yoga. What poem shall I share with you this time. This one, while I’m talking about hospitals, and it follows on from the food one from my last blog.

Hospital Food

A nice man from the ward domestic staff team gave me a tray of food

“That looks nice” I said

“Believe me, it’s horrible” He said

 

Woman with a crow's mask on
Crowona virus mask

Liz Bentley and Giardia, while waiting for the Tesco Delivery Woman

Liz Bentley holding cucumber with Tesco Delivery Woman

How exciting it was when the delivery man was a woman, and what a lovely large cucumber she bought me, well in its sell by date.

This weeks shopping was hard for me to do because I had nausea. I’m too old to be pregnant and I soon put two and two together and realised it was the return of my parasite giardia. I’ve had it before, some years ago, have no idea where I got it from, I hadn’t been anywhere at the time. Its bloody horrible.

I was feeling ravenous, but sick at the same time as the giardiasis ate all the nutrients of my cucumber. I was exhausted too.

To treat Giardia, most people go to the Dr’s and take hardcore antibiotics, which sometimes work first go, or sometimes you have to take another batch of even harder hardcore antibiotics. I trotted off (via email) to my homeopath and googled every article and chat group there is, about treating giardiasis and parasites the ‘natural’ way. I became obsessed.

I started a no sugar diet, parasites love sugar, but they hate: grated carrot, raw garlic (I stunk) plain rice, fish, chicken broth, grapefruit seed, papaya seed, cider vinegar (table spoons, when I could stomach it), turmeric, and the best things of all for giardiasis,- pumpkinseeds and a tincture of black walnut and wormed tincture, YUM. Unfrotunately most of these items you cannot get via Tesco, you have to buy from a health food store or get from Amazon.

Anyway, after ten days it went, I’m so fucking proud of myself and I’ve put the weight back on already. Doing dry January definitely helped my discipline.  If I take antibiotics, it fucks up my finely tuned system that manages my MS. So fucking proud of myself.

I have two gigs this week, Melancholy and Madness at The Ship, Borough tonight and Perverse Verse at the Ivy House, Nunhead on Thursday. I am writing and rehearsing for these now.  Here is an article about Perverse Verse http://www.run-riot.com/articles/blogs/psychotherapist-day-comedian-night-liz-bentleys-‘perverse-verse’-returns-ivy-house

I did get a little depressed during my giardia time, when I wrote the poem below. Forgetting Giardia, food has been a big issue in my life from birth, but I’ll save this story for another time. However, let’s not forget, it’s eating disorder awareness week from 2nd March. I shall buy some celebratory treats from Tesco next time. I hope you enjoy my poems.

I hate food

I hate having to have it all the time
As I get older and time goes faster
It feels like one meal comes after the other
With no time to think

I hate food
The thinking about it, buying it
Putting it somewhere, looking ag it,
Preparing it, cooking it and then
Eating it

The only bit I like about food is the Tesco Delivery Man, or Woman
I fucking hate scrolling down the isles online
I fucking hate being in a shop, offline
Smelling it, pooing it, seeing the remnants in the bin
At least if I had tube for the food
I’d have more time

I hate clothes
I hate I have to buy them, wash them
Wear them, put them away
Get them out again
Hang them up, take them out again
Find a charity shop to take them
Mend them

I hate needlework too

Liz Bentley wearing the apron she made in her sewing class in 1979

(And here is another poem why I may hate sewing)

Sewing lessons

We were sewing aprons with Mrs Clutterbuck
Using Bernina sewing machines, we liked it very much

“Oh my laddered stockings, what colour are they today?
Michelle you have such golden locks
That would go with yesterday’s socks – but not today
My stockings are dark brown today

Who has dark brown hair in the class?
Stop what you are doing girls I need to find a match
So I can detach a few hairs to darn my stockinged feet
Elizabeth stay on your seat your hair colour is good
The colour of this wood (of the desk) it will match let’s detach”

She bustles back to her teachers’ seat
Darns her stockings with my dark brown hair – there
Leaving me a bald patch, which took time to recover

I have the apron I made in that class, I made two pockets on either side
The others couldn’t be arsed and put one large one in the middle

Mrs Clutterbuck throws a hardwood blackboard rubber at Haidee Fill
Which has broken her Bernina
(I still wear the apron, it is of great quality. The next thing I made in that class was a skirt, but I never got as far as getting the zip in, Mrs Clutterbuck was frustrated that I couldn’t do it first go. This was the start and the very end of my sewing career).

Liz Bentley being comforted by the Tesco Delivery Man

Liz Bentley being comforted by the Tesco delivery man

I’ve been away, it was good to come home to a Tesco Delivery. One of the issues of internet shopping is sizing. I have in the past got excited about offers on wine, only to find when delivered they were little bottles, the same with coleslaw, and silver hoop earrings from Amazon. Today, it was Comfort. Look how big it is. It doesn’t fit in my cupboard under the sink, and I can hardly lift it, but it will last for a very long time and it was on a very special offer.

Just seeing the word ‘Comfort’ gives me a self hug. I was doing an Adrienne home yoga session this morning and she got me to wrap my arms around myself and hug myself. Self self self. All very lonely though. Adrienne has a dog called Benji, I’ve never heard her talk about a partner, I worry how she will deal with her online yoga sessions when her dog gets ill and dies, it will be extremely upsetting for her and her millions of followers.

For years I did Bikram hot yoga, until I tore my meniscus during a class with a crap teacher, and had to stop everything again. Bikram yoga attracts vulnerable young women, including myself (but I’m an older woman). I recently watched the Bikram documentary on Netflix. When Mr Bikram Choudhry was arrested for sexual assault and rape, our studio at London Bridge took down his photo and changed the name of the studio. Oh how the ego interferes and then interferes. A vicious cycle of abuse.

More of that another time, but while we’re on the subject of perversion, Perverse Verse (the night I run at The Ivy House in Nunhead), is back on Thursday 27th February for a post Valentine’s Day massacre themed event.  I usually write my own songs, but on this occasion I am learning Gilbert O’Sullivan’s ‘Clair’. When Clair was number one in 1972, I was eight, I remember it well, endlessly played on radio 2, in my parents kitchen. Check out the lyrics , they haunt me, especially when the child laughs at the end.

Do come along to Perverse Verse if you are able, there is an accessible toilet for a women and the pub have a ramp for the lip at the door for scooters/wheel chairs. The show will be good for your mental health. I am exploring my most chronic valentines of which there are many. Here is a poem about valentines day.

Perverse Verse flyer for Anti Valenties day Massacre on 27th Feb

Valentines Day

Valentines day, valentines day
Don’t ever go away
Don’t go away because I want you to stay
Not because I like you
But because I like things I don’t like

My boyfriend uses a pedometer everyday
I suggested he wear it in bed
He told me it rattles and is disinclined to wear it in bed

Valentines day, valentines day
Don’t buy me flowers today
You will pay more than they will cost tomorrow

All I want for Christmas is a shed put up

Liz Bentley doing a dry January and a jigsaw, while waiting for the Tesco Delivery Man.

A mattress propped up against a wall

If I’d have known giving up alcohol would have this effect, I would be a different person. I wouldn’t have had so many mental fun times, boyfriends and tales to tell, but who knows what I may have been capable of? It’s early days but re sleep, the first week it didn’t make much difference, but on night 6, I slept through and have been sleeping through mostly ever since. Although last night was shite due to anxiety about stuff.

While I have been so sober, I have got a large way through a re edit of my 60,000 word auto-fiction book entitled ‘Jigsaw’. The book was inspired by writing my 2018 blog ‘From Essex to London in 101 Boyfriends’. I have been working on it since then, during this time I was short listed for the Arvon/Jerwood mentoring scheme and was very fortunate to be accepted via Shape Arts to have my work sent to a reader/editor via The Literary Consultancy.

With the advice from TLC I am editing away. Whatever happens, I will publish ‘Jigsaw’. It will never be perfect, but I have enough feedback from the original blog to suggest people will enjoy reading.

New Years revolutions are;

  1. Go with my gut feelings on everything.
  2. Finish my jigsaw of Europe (I was doing well during the Christmas break but haven’t had a chance to get back into it).
  3. Use less plastic, eat more organic.
  4. Try not to let politics, Brexit and the state of our world affect me too much.

liz with Tesco delivery man and 1000 piece jigsaw of Europe

It is annoying that some things aren’t recyclable. Last year I bought a new mattress from Dreams. The deal I got meant that they would take away my old mattress and recycle it. The man that delivered the mattress came on his own, I was worried he would have trouble to get it up our spiral staircase. I expressed my worry to him and he said it wouldn’t be a problem, he was used to carrying mattresses. This is what he wrote to me in an email later for me to leave feedback on his site.

“Hi Liz, it was really great working with you today even if at first you did doubt I would be able to get it up, I always get it up J.”

The mattress delivery man’s name was Kevin, nothing beginning with J. I thought this was cheeky, rude, but then tried to remember that we were of a certain age when Carry On films were indeed the thing, it was just the J that disturbed me, I’d have been ok without that.

I was most put out that I got a parking ticket in the car park outside Dreams. I didn’t know you couldn’t stay there longer than 2 hours, in Curry’s I was warned about this. It takes a long long time for me to buy things.

Here is a poem I wrote after getting my mattress the one before last.

Ian Part 1

A man came to look at the stains on my mattress today
He’d seen the advertisement in Sainsbury’s East Dulwich
I’d lied originally, said the mattress was new
But after the first caller, who questioned its newness
I inspected the mattress further to find milk stains that would have dribbled from my breasts some years ago
So, I rang the council, and a date was booked for removal
Then, Ian rang

I told him what I was doing with the mattress, but his futon was hard and was giving him back trouble
I thought, if we built up a relationship on the phone, maybe the stains wouldn’t matter
I responded to Ian’s back problems in an older, sister-type way
I was nurturing, but not too maternal
Ian probably wouldn’t want to sleep on his mother’s mattress
But I was wrong

(There is a part 2 two this poem, maybe I’ll blog it next time if appropriate)

Liz Bentley wishes you a happy newish year while waiting for the Tesco Delivery Man

Happy newish year. Fenton was my first Tesco delivery man of 2010. In the photo I am holding my 2020 diary. I always buy a Redstone diary and this year, the theme is ‘Dreams of Europe’. The cover photo is a semi-naked Bridget Bardot sunbathing, on what looks like a Greek nudist beach in the ’70s. I used to hang out on Greek nudist beaches, it’s all so familiar to me, but I am in a dilemma that this years diary, may not be entirely appropriate to have on my table, when clients are booking appointments during therapy sessions.

Liz Bentley with Tesco delivery man and 2020 diary

What’s new this year? I shall miss visits from the Thames Water and Eon man. Smart meters are the thing now, another meaningful exchange I will miss. More isolation.

But, I have started swimming lessons again and I’m going to Peckham Pulse. After my lesson, I sneak into the sauna by the side of the pool. There is always chit chatter in the sauna, it’s sociable and I like the cultural mix of people.

My friend Jolie Goodman has an art exhibition at JAG’s swimming pool, in Dulwich. It’s called ‘Swimming in the slow lane’. Jolie also has MS, and works for Mental Health Foundation, you may know of her work its fab. We’d met before, but our relationship developed since meeting her at East Dulwich swimming pool. Jolie asked me to speak at the launch of her exhibition before Christmas. I was delighted to talk about her art and I wrote and performed this poem.

 

Liz Bentley-on-Sea

 

With a hole in my heart I was born in Leigh on Sea

Learnt to swim in the Thames estuary

Great Ormond Street said to my mum and dad

“If she swims, things may not turn out that bad”

I did all the laps I was encouraged to do

And the hole in my heart closed too

 

With no-one to watch me at galas, I gave up

Switched my attention to boys

Written in my school autograph book, twice

“If all the boys lived over the sea

What a good swimmer Lizzy would be”

 

I travelled the world and swam in the seas

Moved to London, then the diagnoses

Multiple sclerosis

 

Just keep moving, reverse it, reverse it

I meditate up and down the ‘middle’ lane

In therapy and creativity

I focus on the body and brain

At home I gave birth in the birthing pool

I pulled out my own placenta, that was cool

 

As a performer, trying to find a venue for a show

Sweet Entertainment said ‘I’ve got the apex hotel pool’  Oh?

I wrote and performed in Camberwell on Sea, Edinburgh fringe on Sea, Hackney on Sea, in the pools with my boyfriend who wasn’t called Paul but was the lifeguard of these pool shows and we bought a house in Peckham-on-sea, in the Pioneer health centre and we swam around the embryonic sac of a dysfunctional rebound relationship

Then, I did a master’s degree on mind/body psychotherapy, got married to my husband who isn’t called Paul either and the Pioneer pool needed a new roof

So, I took to East Dulwich on sea and one Monday, I reconnected with Jolie

She swims in the slow lane, I am competitive, I swim in the middle lane and I’m having lessons

(I have 4 years to get up to speed to compete in the over 60’s Paralympics, I have a long way to go, my instructor is very positive, who knows?)

Bah humbug, Liz Bentley’s Xmas Tesco Delivery Man

Liz Bentley and Xmas Tesco Delivery Man

I struggle with Xmas, but try my best to do the ‘Merry Xmas’ thing. It’s exhausting to be happy, excited and full of joy, when inside the familiar feelings of isolation and detachment whirl around my head. I have to fight to them off as best I can, I don’t want to upset or have an affect on the merriment of others around me. Xmas is hard bloody work.

In the old days I would drink, but now I only drink when I’m genuinely happy, I can’t mask it in the same way. While I’m wrapping presents for others, I’m thinking of climate change, the homeless and all the stuff and how grateful I am that I can have all the stuff, but I’m conflicted, I hate the stuff. I’m thinking of austerity and racism and sexism and other things that are going on outside of Xmas cheer. At Tesco Metro (re my last blog) I gave the homeless man sitting outside, a pound.

“How long have you been homeless?” I asked.
“A year,” he said.
“What happened?’
“I was a carer for my granddad, I lived with him in his council flat. I wasn’t on the tenancy, I went away for four nights, a few weeks after he died, when I came back, I couldn’t get into the flat. I had nowhere to go. I’m waiting for a hostel.”

All the parcels I have ordered for Xmas have arrived. The only one that hasn’t, was a dress I’d bought to wear on Xmas day. It’s been signed by someone, apparently its been delivered, but I was here and I didn’t get it, no-one recognises the signature, most confusing, and sods law. I rarely buy anything new for myself, but I was making an effort, treating myself, nothing too special.  I tell myself it wouldn’t have fit anyway, it was a size small, I’m an extra small, but they didn’t have extra small.

I’m small because I’m small, always been small from birth with my defect of having a hole in the heart. I don’t eat much. I mainly stick with the MS recovery diet, but even before then, I was never a foodie. I don’t look forward to food, I don’t look forward to ordering it from Tesco, buying it or cooking it. I eat to live. But I enjoy my meaningful interactions with the Tesco Delivery drivers.

Food was always an issue for me, as a baby, a child and adolescent. When I was old enough to be really conscious of my appearance, I became bulimic. Xmas was a difficult time because of this. Here is my Xmas medley about Peace.

Peas

Xmas is coming, I won’t be getting fat
I’ll be far too busy, playing with my twat
(wrong song, I’ll start again)

Xmas is coming, bulimics don’t get fat
I make sure the sick doesn’t soil the bathroom mat

Back at the Xmas table, I’m smelling like a rose
But I’ve left a bit of puke that’s hanging from my nose

Food glorious food, hot sausage and mustard
While we’re in the mood, regurgitate the custard

Peas

On my plate one solitary brussel sprout is left
Dad talks of starving Africans and gives it to the pet
Dog, who swallows it in one and puts it’s head upon my knee
I wipe my nose with a serviette and the dog crouches down and pees

Eat the world, don’t they know its Xmas cake
Eat the world, salivate and masticate the peas

I wish you a merry Xmas, I wish you a merry Xmas
I wish you a merry Xmas, and a happy new year

Let’s throw up some figgy pudding, lets throw up some figgy pudding,
Let’s throw up some figgy pudding, and bring up good cheer

Peas on earth good will to men

Thoughts on the election and accessible shopping, at Tesco Metro

These last few weeks have been difficult. Chronic insomnia and flu viruses affecting me and most of my family.  The general election on Thursday falls on ‘Perverse Verse’ my show I host at the Ivyhouse in Nunhead. It was supposed to be our Xmas Stocking show, it’s changed into something more befitting to the occasion. I had no choice.

Liz with Tesco Metro staff

On ‘Int’l day of persons with disabilities’ I was due to host a night of celebration with ‘Hammersmith and Fulham Coalition against Cuts’ but I was ill. I was also supposed to be exhibiting my work at Wierdo zine fest at Science Gallery,  but because of the incident at London Bridge, it was cancelled.

The highlight of my week was popping into Tesco Metro, not to shop, I needed to get cash from the cash point, but I wanted a photo, and to have a meaningful exchange outside of my house.

The shop was virtually empty, it was like I had Tesco metro all to myself.

“Hi,” I said to the one cashier. “I write a blog for Disability Arts Online about waiting for the Tesco Delivery Man, they brighten up my day and today, I’m excited to be out of the house, and inside a real shop with other shoppers” I looked around and saw that there were a few people musing the isles. “And cashiers. I love cashiers,” I smiled at her. “It’s a shame that there are fewer of you, I notice that younger people prefer the machines, I think it’s to do with having grown up with computers, they struggle with intimacy and communication, I’m a psychotherapist and see more young people than ever before.” The woman nodded. “The few times I have used the machines, I’ve got it wrong and have had to call a cashier, so it seems like a waste of time, either that, or I have confirm that I am over 18. But I have MS, I rarely shop anyway.”

Liz with Tesco Metro store manager, posing for photo in the aisles

The cashier beamed at me and produced a Lanyard and a flyer from beside her till, she handed it to me. It read “The Sunflower Lanyard Scheme, some people with hidden disabilities such as autism, MS and hearing loss, might need help while in store…..” Within seconds the manager and another member of staff wanted to pose with me and here they are. I love that Tesco are now offering shopping help like this. As they say, ‘every little helps’, and it may result in me getting out of the house more often, although the traffic was road raged and I am a slow driver.

Now here’s a question, two families brought up in the same town, living in the same street, kids go to the same school, the eldest of the children vote Tory and the younger siblings vote Labour. Do you think this is because the youngest have always had to share and the eldest know what it’s like to have parental support all to themselves and want to recreate that feeling? Hmm.

We are in a state of ‘splitting’ as the psychoanalyst Melanie Klein might say.  It’s like being in labour, the intensity before the birth, then after the long and difficult pregnancy this thing comes out and we have no idea what it will be like.

Talking of babies, here is a poem I wrote and performed (my voice over while I was underwater with a breathing tank that lasted 7 minutes, in a dolphin patterned duvet, floating about, until I rebirth into the Edinburgh Apex hotel swimming pool, 2008, Edinburgh Fringe). The poem is published in my anthology “£500 a line and other poems”.

Birth Story

Thank God it’s nearly over, it’s been really stressful here these last few months, growing, sudden UV lighting and shit music.  If I ever hear “Building baby’s brains” or “Mozart” one more time I’ll do a stillbirth.

I wish she hadn’t given up smoking. I could do with a fag and I could murder a drink. Three glasses of shit CAVA at a wedding then dealing with her guilt for 8 months.That was worse than the gastro enteritis.

I’m really looking forward to going through that deep dark tunnel and getting into the pool.  Soon I’ll be pissing in someone else’s water rather than my own stinky sac, and it’s getting pretty stinky in here.  Just got to hold off from shitting, just for a few more minutes otherwise it could all go horribly wrong and I’ll end up with Dr Bari doing a caesarean, that’s what happened to my brother and he’s never recovered.  They took him to a cranial osteopath but he’s still got a flat head.  It’s difficult to airbrush baby’s heads.

I’ve done my stretch in this old cell, some have made it through the other side – some haven’t. It’s pretty hardcore to survive in these conditions.  It’s dark all the time and very basic.  She could have done it up a bit, she’s 41, she’s had plenty of time, some pictures on the womb wall, wouldn’t have to be anyone too raunchy, Helen Mirren perhaps.  An internal tattoo would have been nice, but maybe that would have stopped my concentration and deep exploration of my inner child.

Thank God the sex stopped. Most unsettling.  Then all of a sudden, it began again and she started taking it up the arse.  That was only two weeks ago and by then it had got so tight that I couldn’t move around, my arse was right by her arse.  I’m going to be a poet when I grow up and write shit like this….

 

I’m a baby stuck in a womb

I’ll be out soon

Thank God they rolled the dice again

Otherwise Boris would have been my name

Apparently, Boris Johnson’s buttocks are similar to those of Adolph Hitler’s

I heard that at a gig she did

That’s when the arse thing kicked off and my kicking stopped

Now it’s my turn to help her out

Otherwise she’ll have to shout – more

So, here we go, I’m really shitting myself now ….

Liz Bentley’s thoughts on her time working in the NHS while waiting for the Tesco Delivery Man

I worked for over 10 years as a psychotherapist in the NHS, managing a counselling service at a Bermondsey GP surgery. My job consisted of giving all patients who were referred for counselling as much support as they needed.  We had good links with the Maudesly, the community mental health teams and other charitable low-cost therapy centres like The Lorrimore and Charterhouse (both of which lost funding some years ago). I was also part of a counselling development group where I led meetings with other counsellors in the borough. We looked after each other and loved our jobs. We were all ‘let go’, and this poem is how I ‘let go’ of my beloved job in the NHS.

Liz with Tesco delivery man and big ben advent calendar

The People’s NHS

For me, things started to change in 2006
I was required to ignore free association and dreams
Focus on CBT
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
Cock and Bull Torture and reams
Of paperwork

Change your thoughts
Don’t believe
Leave the webs to weave
Unwoven for another life

I arrived one day at my office to find that my new
computer was bigger than my therapy chair
From that day on, I learned more about our computer
man’s relationships
Than that of my own patients

I checked my emails
‘Benefits advisor, cut, dietian, cut’
Then a knock at the door
Three nice young men in overalls
“We have come to measure your radiator” they chimed
It was the end of the tax year
Health and safety pockets lined
The excuse, someone had died
Falling out of bed onto a radiator

Once the radiator cover was built and installed into my
counsellor’s shrine
(and into every consulting room, not just mine)
I noticed the nice men had omitted to cut a hole where
I would be able to change the temperature
It took time to get the key to unlock the cover of the radiator
To take it off
Every time it was hot
Or cold or cold or hot

That key and cover were so stiff
I needed my computer man to shift
To turn it up or down
Down or up

Then ….

The forms came marching 2 by 2 hoorah, hoorah
The forms came marching 4 by 4 hoorah, hoorah
The forms came marching 6 by 6
There’s only time for a temporary fix
And they all went marching, down, to the arc, to get out
Of the cuts
Boom boom boom

The ship of relations became an arc of robotics
Clinical supervision was questioned and funds taken away
Management supervision now, more forms and box ticking
Volunteers gone, no funds to support them
And as my support was taken from me
It was easy to see
Why my MS kicked in
I had to use my stick to get myself in
To work
Or not to work?
That was the question

As for the patients
My needs took over from theirs
The new psychologists weren’t aware
It’s not their fault
They are required to vault
From box to box
Helpless to helpless

With nowhere to refer
The arc almost sank
Thank God for the food bank
And suicide note
That keeps the helpers afloat

You need to vote
And protest
Before you are bereft
Of the NHS