END OF STORY

Iused to give Daisy Speedwell a wet shave about once a month. My hands used to shake in the mornings in those days, and Daisy liked to sing while I shaved her, so it was a tricky operation. To steady my hand, I made a sort of snooker bridge on the side of her face and took up the slackness in her jowls with the side of my thumb. And while I shaved her beard off, she sang old-time music hall songs - ones that I'd not heard before - in a quavering, melancholy falsetto. When I'd finished, and dried her face with the towel, she'd present a cheek to me so that I could test its smoothness by kissing it.

Daisy was short and fat, and she always wore the same burgundy-coloured dress, which wafted a sweet and often pleasant smell of stale urine about her as she trotted about the ward. She had been admitted to hospital under a section of the Mental Health Act after her neighbours complained to the police about her singing. They said that she sang all day and all night, and although she had an extensive repertoire, they were getting fed up with it. Our ward psychiatrist interviewed her and came to the conclusion that she was singing because she had a mental illness called manic depression, and he suggested that she stay with us until she was better. It seemed a pity to me that somebody should be banished from civil society for such a trivial offence.

Perhaps Daisy's beard had also been taken into consideration when it was decided to remove her from the world stage. It wasn't your full-on Grizzly Adams type of beard. It was more of your oriental goatee - but very impressive all the same. Whether it was a result of all the drugs she had taken over the years, or whether she was just a naturally hairy lady, I couldn't say. I'm not a medical man. But when her beard was obvious enough to be commented on by visiting relatives, we'd recommend to her that she have it off, and the following morning she'd obediently queue up with the rest of the men for a shave, which was always my job.

Before the drugs kicked in, Daisy sang continually. So that she wouldn't disturb the other patients during the night, we made her bed up in the punishment cell. We left the door unlocked to show that there were no hard feelings. Which was true. All we nurses said what a lovely voice she had.

After a week or two, however, she wasn't singing quite so much. The trick cyclist said that this meant she was getting better. And indeed when I shaved her she sometimes spoke to me instead of sang. She was surprisingly articulate. She told me that she had been born and brought up in a workhouse. Over the years, she said, she had come to realise that love was the key to everything. Only through love can we gain understanding. She felt so full of love for everybody, she said, she wanted to burst.

Once a month we had a ward meeting in the day-room. Apart from Snakes and Ladders, and a bit of basket weaving, the monthly ward meeting was our only nod in the direction of psychotherapy, thank goodness. The meeting was chaired by the trick cyclist, a dignified Indian man whom nobody could take very seriously because he looked so much like the late Benny Hill.

The main idea of the meeting was that patients could speak their minds without fear of reprisals. There would be about 30 of us, our chairs drawn up in a large circle. Nobody ever said much. Sometimes a patient might take the opportunity to accuse somebody of stealing something from him: money or cigarettes usually; occasionally something less tangible like his soul or his dignity. Normally we'd just sit there smoking and smirking at each other. But when the first ward meeting that dear Daisy attended was thrown open, she stood up and said: "Well, I love you all and now I'm ready to do the Gay Gordons."

Naturally such a memorable line as this was taken up and used as a handy catchphrase on our ward by staff and patients alike. It even spread to other parts of the hospital. And it remained in currency long after Daisy had thrown herself in front of the 10.19 from Liverpool Street.

Life and Style
food + drink
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
News
UK Border Control
i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45-55k

    £20000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The company is an established, ...

    Recruitment Genius: E-Commerce Manager - Fashion Accessories

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

    Recruitment Genius: Accounts Senior / Assistant Manager

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Exciting new position available at an independ...

    Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Credit Controller

    £20000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The successful candidate will h...

    Day In a Page

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn