Magazine article The Spectator

Living Dangerously

Magazine article The Spectator

Living Dangerously

Article excerpt

Sharon's been at home for a fortnight trying to write the final 5,000-word essay of her two-year social work diploma course. She's been at it day and night. Fortunately, she's currently barred from the only pub in town worth going to, so it's been a blessing in disguise really. With a day to go before the essay deadline, I get a call from her. She's crying. She's got 5,000 words down on paper, she sobs, but they don't make any sense. Would I go over there and read it and tell her what to do?

So I drive over. The kitchen is littered with sheets of paper. The strain of composition has turned Sharon into a regressive wreck. She's perched on a chair in a foetal position cuddling a hot-water bottle to her stomach and rocking herself to and fro. The tips of her cigarette fingers, I notice, are orange with nicotine. `Yeah, I'm chaining,' she says, reaching for her tobacco tin.

Normally I live there. But when Sharon's there it's best to keep away. Especially when she's got an essay to write. 'Your Dad in?' I say. She gives a contemptuous jerk of the head towards the ceiling. 'James?' I say. (James is her brother.) 'Upstairs ill,' she says. 'Pleurisy.' She picks up a stapled sheaf of paper, chucks it across the table to me, then gets up and puts the kettle on. I pick up a pencil and examine the first page of small densely packed print. The essay is entitled, `The mentally ill are treated at the expense of their rights. Discuss in relation to the medical model.' Her opening sentence, however I look at it, makes no sense at all. Nor does the second. I take off my coat and hang it on the back of the chair. It's going to be a long job.

While I'm working on the essay, there's a knock at the door. Sharon likes to be always at the centre of a web of sexual intrigue. The door-knocker has almost been worn away by the peremptory tattoos of illicit lovers, official lovers, would-be lovers and ex-lovers. 'Roll them all together and they still wouldn't make a whole man,' says Sharon ruefully. The first visitor, however, is her new dope dealer. She brings him into the kitchen. I look up from her essay expecting to be formally introduced, but I'm just an anonymous member of the emergency services and it doesn't happen. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.