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Wilfred De'Ath

Regulars | By Wilfred De'Ath | September 2016

Passed from pillar to post

I was transferred from Addenbrooke’s Hospital to the ‘funny farm’ (Fulbourn Mental Hospital) by taxi in the middle of the night. They wanted to send a nurse with me but I explained that, not owning a car, I have spent my life travelling in taxis and was perfectly capable of making the journey on my own.

I spent seven days in the funny farm (extreme dementia ward) as I related last month, and was then transferred again to, I think, the worst temporary accommodation Cambridge City Council could provide. The lights didn’t work, the radiator was broken and kept on at full blast, the drawers were broken too, and the cooker didn’t work.

After ten days of this, I became quite ill with the heat (it was summer after all) and achieved a transfer to the Riverside English Churches Housing Group, where I have lodged before. Here they gave me a better, more modern room. Only complaints: there is no ventilation in the bathroom so it doesn’t get rid of odours and the kitchen is right next door, so when the druggies return at 3am and get ‘the munchies’, they keep me awake by clattering the saucepans.

Parallel to all this, an extremely pleasant young support worker, name of James, whom I had originally encountered in Fulbourn, was trying to fix me up with some accommodation – without success. He tried to get me on to Homeline, a computerised estate agency, but was actually no better at the computer than I would have been. In the end he gave up and transferred me from Homeless Outreach (his own employer) to yet another agency called Central Support. Debbie, a charming black girl, visited me from Central Support to explain that she could not accept anybody over 65. She said there was a special agency for ‘the elderly’ but seemed vague as to how to contact it. 

Meanwhile, I tried to make contact with the chaplain at Fulbourn, a very nice man named John, but he stood me up on three occasions. Fair enough because his father had just died. He did, however, put me in touch with a Pentecostal minister and ‘healer’, name of Phil, who did manage to get rid of a bad stye in my left eye. Phil is an interesting fellow: more about him next month.

I was now near to despair: the healing of the stye was the only positive thing that had happened to me. My GP didn’t want to know, even though I told her I was suicidal. She spent all our meetings staring into the screen and never once looked me in the face. All she was concerned with was my medication, in which I have very little faith. She asked me, rather patronisingly, why I kept going off to France (the man at Cambridge City Council asked me the same question, only he used the verb ‘swanning’) when I should stay in England. The answer is twofold: 1) I have never failed to find accommodation in France; 2) it provides material for this column.

Now I have been approached by yet another agency – that makes ten in all. This one is called NHS ‘Psychological Health’ and they attempt psychological assessments on the telephone. A vain hope but my last one. Otherwise, it may have to be la belle France again, despite all its chaos.

This story was from September 2016 issue. Subscribe Now