It is Saturday the 31st of January 2015 and I am walking my usual circuit around the grounds of *Heron Unit. A nurse is with me, amicably filling me with optimism about my upcoming transition to a new unit.
“So where exactly is it?” She asks as we turn down the path and overtake some adult patients in their usual cloud of smoke.
“Back up North, in Yorkshire!” I have spent the last five months being ‘the Northerner’ in a hospital in which all the patients are Southerners from about as south as you could get. Any further south and the hospital would be in France. The thought of going back up North had never failed to cheer me up over the past few weeks.
“So that is north of Basingstoke right?” There was an amazed silence as I stop walking to give her a withering look. “I’ve never been north of Winchester…” She admits,
This example was overall representative of what the whole patient and staff body felt about my move.
“Yorkshire? Is Birmingham near there?” They would ask with an alarming lack of irony.
The new unit is indeed North of Birmingham, and Basingstoke. Excessively North of Basingstoke in fact. 246 miles North from it.
To the other girls, all of whom I have seen arrive on the ward, my move is a big conversation point. Not about my leaving you understand- more my guide dog Noodle’s. To them it seems inconceivable that there won’t be a dog on the unit anymore. Plus the concept of ‘The North’ appears to be of similar sustenance in their heads to that of Neverland. They have never been, they can’t imagine it and they get alarmed when they get confronted with Northern accents on Coronation Street.
“Is it NHS?” Was a top question. The word NHS was said in a Miranda style whisper. We were, after all, NHS patients in a private hospital which we unanimously agreed was appalling, so the idea of anyone going for treatment on the National Health was concerning. On this assumption we were all pretty sure children who got put in psychiatric units on the ‘Nuh-Huh-Suh’ would appear, looking sad and impoverished, on comic relief in a ward full of bed bugs. I’m no snob- but by the time move day came after all this discussion I was convinced I was going to get frostbite on the journey up and starve to death on a diet of gruel when I arrived. But still- it was north. So it certainly would be better than anything that the south could offer me. I was coming home- well kind of.