Monday, April 30, 2007


The first thing Margaret does after opening the door is to lead us into the kitchen.
'There', she says, proudly pointing down to a splash of crimson on the lino. 'That's me, that is.'
She is holding a flannel to the back of her head. Although she is about forty, she stands with a childlike hunch to her shoulders, as if she is expecting instructions, or perhaps some shouting. She is wearing a saggy old, shiny arsed tracksuit; her straight black hair is flecked with flakes and curls in at the neck like a costume wig.
'Margaret - let's sit down for a minute and see what's what,' I say. She slumps off into the sitting room and plops herself down on the sofa amongst dozens of sheets of drawings. She fishes one up for us. A line of men sitting cross-legged and looking off to the left, each with a flame coming out of the top of his head. They are identical, drawn with a poor grasp of perspective that makes their limbs seem broken rather than folded. Their faces - the repeated face - is just familiar enough to give me a stab of recognition.
'Who's this?' I ask.
'Oh. OK.'
She offers up another. That face again, but close up and smiling, wearing a Robin Hood cap.
I recognise him. Errol Flynn.
'I copied the video cover,' she says.
'Excellent, Margaret. Right. Let's have a look at your head.'
There's no wound to speak of, just a minor abrasion. Margaret answers all our questions, so she won't need a trip up to A&E. She tells us she fell over when she had another fit, and banged her head on the kitchen wall. Although her medication has been working well lately, she still averages a fit or two a month. I fill out the form and make the usual run of observations. Whilst I take these, Rae asks her about her drawings, and the two big black and white photographs on the wall, side by side, seemingly taken minutes apart. One is of a woman in bat winged specs holding up Margaret as a smiling toddler, her hair flying out like pine shavings. In the foreground, the muzzle of an enormous dog emerges darkly.
'That's Bobby,' says Margaret, as I dab at her head. 'He was a cross between an Airedale and a Great Dane.'
The other picture is of Margaret again, with the same frilly dress and curls, laughing and hurling herself forwards on the swing.
'I was raped by my brother for seven years,' she says suddenly. 'From the age of seven, in fact.'
'Oh. My goodness. Have you spoken to anyone about this?'
Margaret ignores the question and holds up another drawing instead. With the same, neutrally informative tone she says: 'Look. This is one I did as if I was flying over the house.'
There is a moment's silence, then a muted roar sounds from outside and reverberates through the room.
'Hark at that rain,' says Rae. 'We'll be getting wet later.'
The pattern of the rain on the patio windows smears watery shadows over everything.
'I fell down the stairs once,' says Margaret.
'Was that a fit as well?'
'No. It was the cat. It wound itself round my legs. The plumber was at the bottom. He'd just taken the old toilet out. I fell all the way down and landed on top of him. He ended up with his head wedged in the toilet. They had to walk him out to the ambulance holding either side.'
I take a step backwards with the beauty of this image.
'That's fantastic!'
Margaret looks up at me. 'Maybe, but the plumber was furious.'

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