The event starts at 11.00 and I will be there for a couple of hours for the talk which will be followed by a book signing. The Museum have worked hard at putting together a display of artefacts and information from life and times at Knowle so it should be quite an interesting day.
And I get to meet lots of lovely new people.....
For those who are following the novel - here is chapter 28 -
Evelyn was lying on her bed staring at the ceiling. Things were changing in her world. It had started with that new nurse. Something terrible had welled inside her head the first time she'd seen her.
They thought she'd never looked at people or noticed when they came into her room. But she did. She always looked. Out of the corner of her eye so that no-one would notice. She didn't want them to notice in case they hurt her. If you pretended that you were deaf and dumb and blind, you’d be safer, she knew that. Then they couldn’t hurt you.
She'd had ECT once. She was sure it had happened, not because she remembered, but she'd heard them talking about it outside her room. They said it was for her own good, but she couldn't remember what she'd done to be punished like that. Had it hurt? She couldn't even remember that. In the end she stopped trying to remember, just like she'd stopped trying to remember her mother and the last time she'd seen her. Had it been last year? Or many years?
Then that new nurse had come. There was something about her that made some of the memories come back - the daffodils on her birthday and the pink wool. It all hurt so much that she'd been unable to bear the pain. Only screaming had helped to make it all go away. But it only went away for a short while, then it was back again, as terrible as ever. And they didn't like her screaming. They came into her room with medicine and stopped her, every time.
But as she saw more of that nurse she seemed more able to bear it. She felt different when that nurse came into her room. Even to the point of wanting to see her. She relaxed in her company. Trust. That was a word she'd not believed in for so long. Once she'd trusted her mother but had been proved wrong. Her mother just believed what she wanted to believe.
Maybe things would be different from now on. She wondered if that nurse would be on duty today. Karen. That was her name. Evelyn lay in her bed and waited.
The door opened and Karen called in to her.
'Morning Evelyn,' she said. 'How are you today? Did you sleep well?' Her voice was like a song.
Evelyn opened her eyes and turned to look at Karen. 'Hello nurse,' she whispered, her eyes searching Karen's face.
Karen smiled at her but there was something wrong. Evelyn knew just by looking at her. Her face was bruised, but it was more than that. There was something going on behind her eyes, like a deep sadness. Evelyn recognised the look but couldn't find the words to describe it even in her own mind.
'Don't mind my bruises, Evelyn.' Karen seemed to have read Evelyn's thoughts. 'I had a bit of a mis-hap the other day, but I'm alright now. Fit and ready for the day.'
Evelyn said nothing. She quietly sat up, pushed the sheets from her legs and swung them over the side, sitting there for a while, watching Karen as she busied herself getting clothes from the wardrobe.
'I though we might go for another walk in the garden today,' Karen suggested. 'It's a lovely morning.'
'Alright.' Evelyn felt her heart lift a little.
Karen beamed at her. 'Lovely,' she said. 'Come on then, let's get you to the bathroom before the rush.'
Later that same morning Evelyn was sitting in the gallery waiting to be taken out into the garden. She was thinking about how things had changed since she'd been brought to this place. They used to call the garden the “airing court”. She wondered why they'd stopped calling it “airing court”. It sounded as though it was no more than a prison yard, an apt description, and now it was called a garden. The space was still the same, with the same high walls and the same locked gate at the end of the path. They had planted flower beds and there were benches scattered about the place but the old covered shelter was still there, rusted into disuse. She remembered sitting there with her mother a long time ago. Evelyn had been unable to say anything to her when she visited. How could she have told her mother what she'd been thinking and feeling, when she knew that her pain would never be believed. How long ago was it that she'd last seen her mother? The past blurred into the present as she sat waiting for Karen.
When the young woman arrived at the door, her keys jangling in the lock, Evelyn dragged herself back to the present and stood up. The door opened and Karen ushered her through. As they stood at the top of the stairs, Evelyn hesitated.
'Come on Evelyn.' Karen was already half-way down the stairs before she turned.
Evelyn looked at the smiling young face and something inside her lifted the veil which had been draped across her heart for so many dark years.
'I'm coming,' she said, as she stepped onto the staircase, gripped the rail and found herself moving towards the light flooding through the door at the foot of the stairs.
The sun was bright when they moved away from the doorway into the enclosed garden. The fresh smell of the summer morning engulfed Evelyn's senses. After years of being drenched in the inner mustiness of the ward, it was overwhelming. The last time she'd been out here with Karen and that other young nurse she hadn't even noticed the freshness of the air. She'd been too pre-occupied with something else. Today, it was the smells that affected her first. Then she noticed the warmth of the sun on her skin. And the colours so clear and bright.
Grass had never been this green, the sky so endless - the occasional white fluffy cloud passing overhead only added to the contrast of the depth of blue the sky wore. Shrubs were in full bloom, the deep purple of the buddleia contrasting with the pale pink of the mallow. Butterflies were in abundance flitting around the shrubs in an array of colour, deep reds, blue, green and yellow.
The two women walked slowly along the mossy path. A feeling of light-heartedness was seeping through Evelyn as they walked. She glanced at Karen and felt again the shadow that something was amiss in the young woman's life. She wanted to share her feelings with Karen but hesitated. The young woman would be offended, or worse, might assume it was part of her madness. She had no words to explain or question.
They walked in silence.
Karen was feeling uncomfortable, out of her depth. Walking with Evelyn was something that she'd longed to do. To get closer to this woman that she felt such a connection with was important to her. But now that she was alone with her and away from the safety of the ward, she was nervous.
The meeting with Grace was on her mind, but something was holding her back from mentioning it to Evelyn. Karen still felt guilty - she knew she’d overstepped her boundaries. Her thoughts were in a turmoil as she walked with Evelyn. She tried to shake them off and dragged herself back to the moment.
Evelyn was looking about her, smiling at the flowers and the butterflies. It was as though the summer sun was reaching in and healing something inside her. Karen felt the same warmth and realised that the feeling was a gladness to be alive, with hope for the future. As she was pondering these thoughts, Evelyn turned to her and laughed. It was a shocking sound, snapping Karen back from her internal world.
‘What’s so funny?’ she asked.
‘Nothing,’ Evelyn chuckled.
‘Are you happy?’ Karen persisted.
‘Happy.’ Evelyn frowned, turned away and walked a few paces along the path.
‘Wait for me.’ Karen hurried to catch up with her. They walked side by side and sat together under the shade of an apple tree, the sunlight dappling through the leaves. A feeling of uneasy companionship seemed to settle between them.
‘I went to see your mum.’ It was out before Karen could think any more about it, as though her brain was not connected to her mouth.
A sharp intake of breath was Evelyn’s reply.
‘I don’t know why I did,’ Karen babbled. ‘I hope you don’t mind. I just wondered why no-one ever came to see you.’
Evelyn’s eyes flashed.
‘Evelyn?’ Karen said. ‘Are you alright? Look, I’m sorry if I’ve upset you. Your mum is a nice lady.’ She paused. ‘I think she would like to see you one day.’
There was a long silence.
‘No she doesn’t.’ Evelyn spoke at last. ‘She stopped coming. I thought she was dead.’ Her voice was flat.
‘I don’t know why she stopped coming to see you. She found it very hard, I think.’ Karen tried to find the words. ‘It can’t be easy having your daughter in a place like this.’
‘Easy for me being here?’ Evelyn said. ‘She never believed me.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘He died a long time ago,’ said Karen. ‘Do you think he stopped her coming?’
‘No! I don’t know.’
‘What happened to you, Evelyn?’ Karen needed to know.
Evelyn said nothing for such a long time that Karen wondered whether she’d actually asked the question out loud. Then she turned to Karen and looked at her straight in the eye.
‘A baby.’ She spoke so quietly that Karen wasn’t sure that she’d heard correctly.
‘You’re having a baby,’ Evelyn said, clearer now.
‘Me?’ Karen was confused. ‘No, you had a baby,’ she said.
Evelyn stared at Karen, then stood up and began walking back to the ward. Karen hesitated a moment before jumping up and followed her quickly along the path, shaking off her confusion as she went.