LATE SUMMER is a difficult period for us patients who've been here a few years. Mid-August, the place starts to fill up with seasonal casualties. There's always a sudden influx of Test Match Special Withdrawal Symptom sufferers about now - shortly after the last two days at the Oval are rained off, they come bundling in here, coachloads of them, chattering together, always chattering: "And here comes Tufnell, fag in mouth, with a blistering spin down the leg side..."; "And as Atherton looks dubiously at the cloud cover, it's time to hand you over to Christopher Martin-Jenkins..."; "Oh look, here's a cake in the shape of Blowers' trousers, thoughtfully sent in by a Mrs WG McPartlin of Lewes..."
We tend to leave them to it, as they mill around together, speaking pathetically into invisible microphones like youths playing air guitar at a Motorhead gig. It's been like this every year since Brian Johnston popped his clogs. Soon they'll be herded off into the Nonsensical Cricket Bollocks Dormitory, to get it all out of their system in role-play sessions and imaginary interviews, and they'll be bused back to civilised society on Monday.
More alarming, because it's a more recent phenomenon, is the Frustrated Gritty Realism Photographer Syndrome, rather a new kid on the block in neurosis terms. At the Friary over the years, we've looked after a lot of depressed lensmen who've spent their lives trying to be Don McCullin - they desperately want to be war photographers, full of inarticulate rage and compassion, keen to capture dying PoWs, homeless orientals, inner- city poverty. Then they join a newspaper and find themselves sent off, at this time of year, to get pictures of schoolgirls hugging each other and pretending to have just opened their A-level results. None can ever be found who has made a total cock-up of their economics and applied maths.
No wonder the photographers are frustrated. Who wants happy snaps? You can comb the national press in fruitless search of young women who got anything less than starred-A grades in rocket science, advanced semiotics and higher Hindustani. Surely one of them must have blown the British Constitution paper? No way. The snappers slink glumly home, knowing it's their turn next week to photograph the jolly black lady with the policeman's hat on.
The end of August is also, traditionally, the time when the TV channels start unveiling their autumn schedules, knowing the papers have little to report except the exciting news about the Darren Day Xmas Xplosion. I'm afraid this is always the signal for an outbreak of fantasising and jealousy in the Sad Television Losers Ward. Things can get very bitchy and unpleasant. The staff have had to ban certain kinds of conversation. They include any monologues that begin with the words:
"That bastard Spielberg pinched my idea. I had this screenplay about the D-Day landings, right, well, more a treatment really or, to be fair, a sketch, well, certainly an outline on a single sheet of A4, right, and the next thing I know..."
"Course, I'm not going to be in here for long. Melvyn's sending a car round at noon, to take me to lunch at the Orange Tree..."
"Did I tell you I had a sitcom coming up on Channel 4? It's about these rag-and-bone men in the last war who join the Local Defence Volunteers..."
And who am I, you were wondering? Who is Fingers Dangerfield, and why has he been incarcerated here for years? The sad truth is, I've got Anti- Zeitgeist Perversity Syndrome. I'm hopelessly addicted to being in the wrong place at the wrong time, preferably wearing the wrong clothes. In the Sixties I was a short-haired junior loss adjuster in Croydon. In the Seventies, when punk was breaking out in Soho and Manchester, I was in Filey selling holiday timeshares in Chernobyl. In the Eighties, when everyone made fortunes in property, I was finding a higher truth in a yurt outside Coventry. In the Nineties, I completely failed to buy a mobile phone or read Captain Corelli's Mandolin. I'm just chronically unfashionable and nobody will talk to me. In fact the only trendy thing I've done in my whole life is be a patient in the Friary. Which, I suppose, is why they've just told me I'm being thrown out tomorrow. Bye-ee!