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When I was a little girl, we wanted to buy a teddy bear.  Long before the days of cheap Chinese imports, you could buy a handmade teddy from the local looney bin. Or at least, that is what we called them when we were little kids. Redhead of course didn't call them that. She called them " special hospitals. " And therein lies the rub: who knows what goes on in a child's mind? And childish minds now rule our world.  

Children see things through different eyes. As adults, we see things objectively and with a reasoned and experienced mind.

But children? Children see things simplistically and cannot rationalise what is truly going on. Children see things through a different lens. 

It is the lens of innocence and the lens of inexperience. 

I want to preface this article by saying that I have written it through the eyes of a child. The child I was when I experienced my visit to what I now know to be a Care Home. 

I hope that my readers understand that much of what is written is as I remember when I was 7 years old. 

I believe, as an adult, that some of my views were unfounded. Yet many were and are still relevant. 

My point in this article is this: we adults may see what is going on but our children see things through a different lens.

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 This is a piece about how we need to stop thinking like children and become adults.  When the shit hits the fan. It worries me that the kids will be in control and the adults will be locked down. locked out and locked up. Welcome to the world of the child who is about to decide your future. I may have been seven years old but I was not in Parliament. As an adult of nearly 70 years of age, I have to wonder: is my 7 year old self now in charge? 

So here is my " I remember when .. " and I remember when I was a kid and not in charge of the world. 

Today, children are being congratulated for holding a view and are able to speak on global platforms.

 

 The eyes of a child should be full of wonder, not full of fear. I remember when childhood was about the joy of life not the fear of death. 

 

  

So I start my essay on this premise. The innocence of childhood. 

 Well, my little cousin wanted a teddy bear for her birthday and Redhead had decided that she would get her that teddy bear and it was up to us to make my cousin's dream come true.

By going to the local "  looney bin."  

It was just down the road and it housed people that I now realise were just folk who had lost their way. We kids actually had no idea about folk who suffered from dementia or alzheimers or similar. But such is the way the young mind works, words like dementia are meaningless. Cruel, yes. But as a 7 year old, fear is fear and it didn't matter what Redhead called them, my cousin was going to get a teddy bear made by a looney.

 And as Mr Gormsby said. there is nothing wrong with that. 

The hospital ran a programme whereby the residents had an active occupational therapy slant. They made soft toys. These were homemade soft toys for children to enjoy and cuddle. It seems to me in retrospect that it was a lovely way for people who were losing their way in life to reconnect with a past that they could still remember: childhood.

Back in the 1960's, people who suffered from mental illness were carted off to be housed in places that kept them away from society and society away from them. They were quietly removed and everybody could get back to being " normal."

 

In my local area, there were two " special hospitals " The one we were to visit was what we would now call a " care home " and the other was a hospital for the violent, the criminally insane and the " terribly, terribly nervous " as Mel Brooks would have said.

  One of our neighbours worked at the latter. It was known as a mental hospital or mental asylum. Asylum meaning to give shelter and protection. It was an old, imposing building and one that was common throughout our communities and accepted as a part of life.

The place down the road from me was for those who were nervous but not necessarily dangerous. Mostly older people who had lost their way in life when their brains had started to falter and their memories were being stolen by old age.

As a  child of about 7, it frightened me. The idea that someone could lose their mind was foreign to my sense of logic. Why on earth would you lose something so important? Surely that was careless?  I told my own teddy bear  ( that night ) while lying in bed and about to drift off to sleep that it seemed a rather silly thing to be so irresponsible as to lose one's mind. A school jumper or hat is forgivable. To lose one's shoes or lunch bag was perfectly understandable. But to lose one's mind?  No, that was definitely something that was just plain.. well, looney!

We arrived at the care home one morning. Mum got out of the car and headed to the administration block to find out how she could acquire one of these precious toys. Within seconds, my brothers and I hit the locks on the car and sat, terrified, alone, and fearful of a “weirdo “ racing out and attacking us.

 

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After what seemed like years, Mum returned. We unlocked the doors and let Redhead in. Our protector was back. Mum announced “ Apparently they are making rabbits this week. No one wants to make a Teddy Bear. “

We were horrified. We sat in the backseat of the car and looked at each other: it was all my cousin's fault for wanting a teddy bear. It meant, that, for the next weeks or months, we would have to visit the place that frightened us and sit in the car and wait until Redhead came back and announced that the ladies were back to Bears and off Rabbits.

 

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Duck or rabbit?

One day, sometime later  ( weeks? months? I do not know ), Redhead emerged with a bear in her arms. By this time we were somewhat accustomed to the fear and had ceased to be quite so terrified. But we were glad to finally pull out of that carpark and leave that place for good. The bear was given to my young cousin and she loved that bear - no doubt almost as much as I loved my Teddy. But it would be impossible for her to love her bear as much as I loved mine. No, that was unthinkable.

Our next-door neighbor worked as a Nurse at the " special hospital " for the terribly terribly terribly nervous. That place was not known for making teddy bears, but for making mayhem.  She was killed by a patient who stabbed her with a pair of scissors. 

Was she a nurse or a guard? 

Who knows? I often, as an adult,  wonder what goes on in these places.

 

I recollect thinking that perhaps if the patient had made teddy bears and rabbits. as they did in the care home, he would not have felt the need to kill the lady next door because it seemed rather a waste: she was a nice lady and to die because she was trying to help people who had lost their minds was not terribly responsible and that God must have been having a snooze or a day off because it was not something he should have allowed to happen.

Now that I am all grown up - or at least I think I am - though there are times when I wonder whether we are truly all " grown-up ", I can reflect on that time when we visited the "  looney bin " and re-assess it through adult eyes.

As an adult I see that people like Barry Watts are criminally insane and just bad bastards. Should they be locked in prison or in asylums?  

As the decades have passed, mental illness is now not confined to stark and imposing hospitals, buildings that are almost frightening on their own, no matter who resides within.

Our teddy bear makers and rabbit makers are taken to care homes and caregivers make money out of " caring " for our physically frail and frail of mind. 

Yet they no longer make teddy bears. They are drugged up with sedatives and have their pensions taken by private enterprise and no one visits because they are not allowed because the government thinks it is unsafe for them to have a hand held in this covid age of fear.


As an adult, I cannot imagine the grief I would feel that my loved one was not making soft toys and I was no longer allowed to visit and embrace them with the love and respect that they deserve, need and crave. I would be so angry that I was unable to share my love with those whose life has meant so much. 

The people who used to go to the place that used to be known as a mental asylum or " special hospital"  because they could stab someone with a pair of scissors or set off a bomb now live within our community. Apparently to ease their integration and to ensure that they are not ostracised. Yet our vulnerable and elderly are locked up and unable to see those who love them?

Perhaps some of the modern-day asylum seekers need to be put into an asylum, a place of sanctuary and safety?

Not only for their own well being, but for the community at large? 

Instead, it would appear that camps are being built all over the country to house those who are unvaccinated. Or " infected. " Or those that might be a danger to society because of a virus that may or may not be life threatening. And our dear fragile of mind are unable to gaze into the eyes of the child who loved them and unable to hear the whispered words of " I love you. " 

All the while, children are fearful of climate change, covid and are taught to embrace the lunacy of importing loonies who want to blow us up, destroy our way of life and steal our lunch and our governments are telling us that WE are the loonies for fighting back.

The lunatics have taken over the asylum and we are locking ourselves in the car and hoping like hell someone like Redhead will come and save us.  

Is it not time to reopen some homes for the terribly terribly nervous and start making some Teddy Bears instead of bombs?

Because we are starting to get terribly terribly nervous. With good reason.

 
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