Adonis Diaries

Archive for February 12th, 2015

Found a little bit of heaven? Have you been in Hell?

She was “away with the fairies”.

She was drinking and smoking from the moment she woke up. “A pint of Strongbow” and “20 Mayfair” were often the only words she spoke.

“I was doing it because it was something to do. I used pubs like day centres, because nobody knows who you are.”

I’ve found a little bit of heaven for those who’ve been in hell

When Sarah Wheeler told me that she had been away with the fairies, she didn’t mean that she was feeling a bit fed up. What she meant was that she was battling the psychosis that she has had to live with since she was eight years old.

It has driven her, at times, to sleep in empty houses because she couldn’t face the chaos of her “rabbit hutch” flat. She couldn’t manage her money. She couldn’t manage housework, or meals. She spent two years sleeping on people’s sofas and living in bed and breakfasts.

Sarah has been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder and depression. She has tried to kill herself 13 times. And 13 times she has failed to kill herself. No wonder, when she had the idea for a “creative endeavour”, she decided to call it Mental Fight Club. The battles she has fought make Brad Pitt’s fisticuffs look like the Sugar Plum Fairy’s pirouette.

You wouldn’t guess any of this when you meet her, at the weekly pop-up cafe she has started in a church crypt. What you notice, when you walk in on a cold winter’s day, is the warmth. There’s singing, and art, and writing, and bean bags, and massage, and fairy lights, and cakes.

There are even little rose bushes in pots on a carpet laid out like a lawn. They made me think of Louis MacNeice’s poem about snow and roses. “World is crazier,” says MacNeice in Snow, “and more of it than we think.”

There is certainly something “crazy” about the Dragon Cafe, which Wheeler founded in the crypt of the church of St George the Martyr, in the London borough of Southwark, and which marks its 100th Monday opening next week. It’s “crazy” not because it’s aimed mostly at people who have struggled with mental illness, but because it seems like an almost crazily visionary project in an often cruel world – many of the people who come to the cafe spend most of their time on their own, and many are living in fear of having their benefits slashed.

“The whole point,” Wheeler told me when I went there this week, “is to be a complete antithesis to your average mental health service.” People like it, she said, because there’s “no pressure to do anything at all”. They can sing, if they want to. They can write. They can paint. But they can also just collapse on a bean bag and snore.

The cafe is run by volunteers. Many of those have known what it’s like to be mentally ill. “We keep it simple,” said Wheeler. “You don’t have to do anything outside your four-hour shift.”

And what they do in those shifts is make “an open-hearted place”. In other words, they make a place that can seem like a kind of heaven when you have been in a kind of hell.

I was never sure what David Cameron meant when he used to talk about the “big society”, but I think he would find it here. He would find people who have been through terrible things, and who know what people who have also been through those things need. He would find volunteers who love their role, and are properly trained, and turn up. And he would find people who are often made to feel like the scrapings at the bottom of society’s barrel getting a tiny taste of what it feels like to be treated with respect.

The Dragon Cafe has some funding. But to survive, it needs much more. I really hope the place gets it. I also hope that dragon cafes, or phoenix cafes, or whatever you want to call them, will spring up throughout the land. Mental healthcare, said the Royal College of Psychiatrists this week, “is at breaking point”; and yet another trust faces being placed in special measures. Even if you are given the right bed, in the right place, that place can still feel pretty damn cold.

My sister had her first breakdown when she was 14 years old. Going into hospital only made her worse. One of the things that kept her going was a cafe that she went to three times a week. It had been started by someone whose brother had schizophrenia. It was funded by grants and run by volunteers.

It was a place where people used to fighting daily battles with their mind could paint or cook or sew. It was a place where they could get some respite from that fight – a place where they knew they were not alone.

When my sister died, her friends at the cafe clubbed together, and in the tiny garden they planted a rose. Let’s plant more roses like this.

Why Israeli women prefer to join army rather than getting married to avoid forced enlistment?

Women constitute 33% of Israel armed forces.  Theoretically, they should form 50%, except that married women, pregnant women and for religious reasons they may opt out from serving 2 full years in the army.

In around 1955, a US vice president visited Israel and noticed that most Israeli couples living in the kibbutz preferred not to get married. He pointed out to Golda Meir, minister of habitat, that to populate Israel couple should get engaged in marrying and bringing up children. “Modern” Israelis relied on constant flow of poor immigrant Jews, flooding from many corners of the world, in order to settle in a promised homeland.

Golda started a program of incentives and building apartments for couples willing to marry and bring children.

68 years after the founding of the State of Israel on Palestinian lands and at the expense of Palestinians fleeing the genocide of the Zionists, Israeli couples still are reluctant to marry and get engaged in forming a family.

Why should they?

Constant preemptive wars launched by Israel on neighboring countries and living in a State of total militarization is not a conducive environment for bringing up children. Particularly that deep down, Israelis know full well that the trend of continuous apartheid policies has proven that the situation cannot last and they will have to pay for all the killing, assassination, humiliation and denigration of the Palestinian people.

The women not serving in the army are mainly from orthodox religious sects and Sepharad behaving with traditions similar to the Moslems: Marrying the children, and especially their girls very early on.

The trend in the last 3 decades is that women serving in the army are from “westernized classes” and over 50% of the rank and file of the males come from these same orthodox sects who votes for the “purity of Israel composed solely of traditional Jews”

Why women prefer to join the army rather than finding options out?

The permissive environment in the army encourage women to indulge in all the free sexual, drug addiction, dangerous associations, away from the close family scrutiny, attention and interference.

Most of the girls serving 2 years in the army graduate as cruel, insensitive and hardened persons.

They have to end up that way, as their male counterparts, since the Israeli army refuse to bring to trial soldiers who behaved violently against the Palestinians and every time got away from their bad behavior.

I doubt that parents will encourage their males to marry this brand of females.






February 2015

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