Something Fishy: The Other Side
The CBB -> St Hild's Sitting Room

#1: Something Fishy: The Other Side Author: Lisa_TLocation: Belfast PostPosted: Wed Nov 24, 2004 4:48 pm

AN is a vicious illness. It can destroy not only the sufferer themselves, but people around them. Some people may find this part particularly distressing.


Joey Maynard tutted impatiently as she glanced at the clock in the big Saal. Jack was, as usual, at the San. Anna was still working in the kitchen, despite Joey’s protests, and young Gina was fast asleep in the now empty night nursery. To all intents and purposes she was alone in the house, and she had been rather enjoying the peace and solitude.

But now it was nearly ten o’clock, and a Friday night, and still Len had not come to collect her daughter. Joey began to wonder what was keeping her. Even if she’d decided to stay in her rarely occupied room at the school- which happened from time to time- she would have phoned her mother to let her know. In any case, she never stayed as school during the weekend.

Therefore, Joey was forced to the conclusion that something rather drastic had come up, and she was mulling through various possibilities in her mind when the ‘phone rang.

“Hopefully that’ll be Jack saying he’s leaving early,” she thought optimistically as she left the Saal.

Then she paused, puzzled, for the ring was coming from her study rather than from the main line in the hall. The phone in her study was connected to a private line to the School, and useless for any other purpose.

With a frown, Jo went to pick up the receiver. “Hilda?”

“It’s Gwyn, Joey,” came back Matron’s crisp tones.

“Oh. Well, what do you want with me at this hour? And do you know where Len is? I haven’t heard a word from her so I’m assuming I’ve to keep my grand-daughter for the night.”

“Yes, I’m afraid so,” Matron said, and it took Joey a moment to realise that the school’s beloved tyrant was speaking with unusual gentleness. But she had no time to wonder, for Matron was asking, “Can you leave her with Anna and come over?”

“Of course,” Joey responded. “I’ll just let her know. But what’s happened? What’s wrong? Is it something to do with Len? Why-“

“Speak to Anna and then come to the School,” Matron interrupted firmly. “You’ll find out then. Don’t take too long over it either!”

With which she hung up, and Joey was forced to obey, a cold feeling around her heart. Why had Matron ‘phoned and not the Head? Where was Len? With the feeling that something was very wrong, she darted into the kitchen to tell her handmaiden where she was going, and slipped out to get her big wrap before that lady could be moved to ask any of the questions Joey could see hovering on her lips.

The short journey through the shrubbery into the school grounds seemed to take longer than usual, even though Joey ran most of the way. It was getting dark, but, even so, the light was still good enough for her to move easily without fear of falling.

Finally, she reached the Head’s salon- she noted that that room was well lit, but at this time of the night, that was hardly surprising- and entered through the side door in her usual manner.

There she was confronted with the sight of her fifth daughter lying on the sofa, blanketed, white-faced and big-eyed. Matron was kneeling beside her, urging her to drink something, whilst Miss Annersley was tucking the blanket closer about her.

“What’s wrong with Cecil?” Joey gasped, her wrap slipping unheeded to the floor.

Miss Annersley paused, but it was Matron who rose to her feet and turned to Joey.

“I think you’d better sit down,” she said quietly, and guided the younger woman to the most comfortable armchair in the room.

“What is it? What’s happening? You’re scaring me now, Gwyn!” Joey told her, doing her best to keep her voice light, even to laugh a little.

“Cecil is all right,” Matron told her. “She’s shocked, but she’ll recover with time. The problem is-“

“She doesn’t look OK!” Joey snapped indignantly, bounding out of her chair and going to take her fifth daughter in her arms.

Miss Annersley moved to make room for her, but Cecil seemed rigid and unbending in her mother’s arms, and Joey looked down to see the black eyes gazing up at her.

“I’m OK,” the girl insisted. “It’s not me, Mamma. Listen. It’s not me, it’s-it’s-“ She broke off, and Joey turned a puzzled face to the Head.

“It isn’t Cecil,” that lady said quietly, her voice compelling the younger woman to pay attention. “It’s Phil. We’ve had to take her to San. Len is with her now. I’m sorry we didn’t let you know before, but I’m only just back, and we wanted to know more before- before we said anything to you.”

Joey’s arms tightened in a convulsive grip around Cecil, and the girl endured it patiently. She knew how her mother worried about Phil. She’d been six when Phil had had a bad relapse, and she could vaguely remember being packed off to her Auntie Biddy’s for a few days. Joey had tried to laugh and pretend it was for a little holiday, but Cecil had known the truth- that Phil was very ill again and that her mother was desperately anxious. Even after Phil was finally on the road to recovery, Cecil had known that their mother still watched her, still fussed over her, still worried.

“Phil?” Joey repeated. “What’s wrong? What’s happened?”

The Head bit her lip and prayed for guidance. What should she say? What could she say? Fleetingly she thanked God that at least she didn’t have to tell her old friend that Phil had tried to take her own life- or, worse, that she had succeeded.

Hilda Annersley knew well enough that that could easily have happened. The doctors had said so. They had managed to get Phil to admit to taking up to eighteen tablets, and had asked her, rather sharply, if she knew what she’d done. Luckily Jack Maynard had been on a call to one of the higher shelves so Phil had not had to contend with her father as well. Then they’d offered Phil charcoal, to make her sick, but the girl had turned her face away and refused it, and they did not force her. Shortly afterwards, the sickness had begun, and Hilda had had to watch, fighting her own desire to retch as time after time she had to go to the nurse to exchange a filled kidney basin for a fresh one. Eventually, it had stopped, and Phil had fallen asleep.

Len, keeping back until then, had come and told the Head to go back to school. She’d stay with her young sister for a while longer. With mingled relief and dread, Hilda had obeyed, knowing that once she was back at school, she could no longer postpone breaking the news to Joey. And even now she did not know what to say.

“Do you know what an eating disorder is?” Matron asked, sparing her the need to find the words.

Hilda looked at her with gratitude and nodded almost imperceptibly. Gwynneth was a medic, after all. Perhaps it would be better coming from her.

Last edited by Lisa_T on Wed Jul 13, 2005 12:13 am; edited 3 times in total


#2:  Author: Lisa_TLocation: Belfast PostPosted: Wed Nov 24, 2004 4:50 pm

Joey’s eyes flickered in Maton’s direction.

“Not really. Isn’t that the people who starve themselves because they think they’re fat? They don’t eat anything. That’s not Phil,” Joey continued, more for her own benefit than anyone else’s. “She eats, and she’s certainly not fat. Why, when she was at home with me the other week she ate just about everything we put in front of her!”

“And what happened afterwards?” Matron queried.

“She went to the bathroom, of course, but then she always does.”

“How long was she there for?” Matron wanted to know, her eyes very tender. She could see Joey was refusing to accept what she was saying, but she felt that it would be less catastrophic for her to understand something about anorexia before they explained the events of the evening.

It was the only way they could mitigate the appalling hurt that would cause, and Matron knew well enough that even that was little enough. No parent liked to be told that their child was unhappy enough to risk death, even if that had not been the primary intention.

Joey dropped her eyes. “A few minutes. A while. I don’t know. I was helping Anna clear.”

Cecil moved in her arms and sat up, a sudden fire in her eyes. “Tell her, Auntie Gwyn. She was making herself sick, Mamma. And do you know why? Because she hated herself. Hated herself so much that she didn’t care what she did. Even to the point of-“

“Cecil!” Miss Annersley interjected softly at this point, and Cecil gulped and ran down. Her initial shock was wearing off, and she was starting to feel fiercely, terribly, frighteningly angry. She’d tried to help Phil that day, hadn’t she? And Phil had said that she was OK. And now she’d done this. Cecil remembered Phil saying, “It’s me. You can’t change me,” but she dismissed it. She’d still said she was fine.

Now she was lying up at the San, and she could have died! Cecil had tried to help, and Phil hadn’t cared and she could have been dead now! Cecil had not seen the pill packet for herself, but she’d heard the paramedics talking to Matron whilst they were placing Phil in the ambulance, when the Head and Len went to the study, and what she’d heard had devastated her. Since her brevet-aunt had returned, looking more worn than Cecil had ever seen her look, and told her that Phil would be all right- after a fashion- Cecil had had to struggle to contain her emotions.

All she wanted to do was to ‘let rip’ at Phil, but she couldn’t do that. So she had poured out her anger on the next best person- her mother.

Now she bit her lip and wished she’d held her tongue. Joey would need to be told about the overdose, she knew, but she also knew that to have it blurted out in the fashion that she herself had so narrowly avoided would have been the ultimate cruelty.

Cecil glanced guiltily now from her Auntie Hilda to her mother, and whispered, “Sorry. I shouldn’t have said that. It’s not your fault.”

Joey looked at her daughter and then at the Head. Miss Annersley’s face was curiously impassive, and Joey clenched her hands tightly, digging her nails into her flesh, as if inflicting physical pain could postpone the emotional pain she could see was coming.

“What is she talking about, Hilda?” she asked, trying to be conversational.

Miss Annersley reached over and took Joey’s hands in her own. Subconsciously she noted they were cold- but so, too, were hers. They were all more shaken than they wanted to admit.

“Joey, you must remember, Phil wanted to make herself sick. She went down to Berne today for a dental appointment, as you may remember, and as usual, they all went for lunch afterwards. It seems Phil couldn’t deal with having to confront that amount of food. She wanted to make herself sick- that’s all. Not to kill herself. Just to be sick.”

Joey wrenched her hands away from her friend and recoiled.

“No! No. I won’t hear this. Oh, God, no.” Fiercely she placed her hands over her ears, as if by so doing she could block out the dawning understanding.

“You must listen, Joey,” Miss Annersley was saying, gently insistent, and Joey remembered being fourteen again, at the Chalet School- the original one- and how she had fallen into a daydream during a lesson with the new English mistress- as the Head had been then- and how that lady had told her, in just that way, “You must listen, Joey.”

Gwynneth Lloyd watched in silence. This was not a task she would have cared to undertake, ‘tyrant’ or not.

Not that that was a surprise. She’d always known that Hilda Annersley, for all her outward gentleness, had an awe-inspiring internal strength. Joey would take from Hilda what she would take from no-one else. That characteristic combination of gentleness and authority could be devastatingly effective.

Dimly, she was aware that Hilda had told Joey that Phil had overdosed, and that was why she was in the San.

Then Joey asked the question Gwynneth had dreaded: “How did she get the tablets in the first place?” and ‘Matey’ took a deep breath and spoke.

“I’m sorry, Joey,” she said quietly. “I think that may have been my fault.”

Last edited by Lisa_T on Wed Jul 13, 2005 12:18 am; edited 1 time in total


#3:  Author: Carolyn PLocation: Lancaster, England PostPosted: Wed Nov 24, 2004 4:54 pm

How on earth will they tell her, and how will Joey react? Good to see the other side of this, but very brave of you to continue so soon, you must be feeling wrecked with all this.


#4:  Author: Lisa_TLocation: Belfast PostPosted: Wed Nov 24, 2004 4:55 pm

Joey’s eyes glittered, and Hilda Annersley placed a restraining hand on her. Joey, she knew, was in emotional agony. She was quite capable of lashing out and saying words that, once said, could not easily be forgiven or forgotten.

Such a rift between Phil’s home and Phil’s school would make it nearly impossible to deal effectively with the problem.

“No, Gwynneth, it was not your fault,” the Head said, implacable.

It was not a tone that she had ever used before to Matey and that lady gaped at her in a manner that would have been amusing under any other circumstances.

“But it was!” Matron insisted, and Hilda realised that the other woman was closer to tears than she had ever seen her. “I told them they could go shopping. If I hadn’t-“

“Gwyn, think. You couldn’t have known. We’ve never had a situation like this before. I know you’ve been worried about Phil- so have I. However, regardless of how ill Phil is, she is still responsible for her actions. She chose to buy those tablets- chose to take them. She’s old enough to know the possible consequences. You are not responsible!”

“None of this matters,” Joey muttered, drawing her hand across her eyes. “It doesn’t matter. I’m going to San. I’m going to tell them to keep her there, as long as it takes for her to get better. She’s not coming home until she’s fattened up a little and she’s in her right mind!”

Matron swallowed and forced herself to say, “It may not be that simple, Joey.”

Joey glared at her, her control precarious. “Why not, pray?”

“Phil isn’t eating because she can’t. She has, if you like, a mental block about food. As well as that, it’s her way of gaining control of externals. Yes, you could have her restrained in the San. Yes, you could have her force-fed. It’s been done before- but it doesn’t solve the problem. As soon as she gets out. Phil would almost certainly redouble her efforts to lose all the newly regained weight- and then some! That’s dangerous. If she has anorexia nervosa, and I’m starting to believe she does, then the real problem is her mind- not her body.”

“That’s what she said,” Cecil murmured, causing the adults to start. She had been so still they had almost forgotten her presence. “She said nobody could help her because it was just her. ‘You can’t change me’, she said.”

Matey nodded at her. “Yes. You see, anorexics come to almost depend on their anorexia, if you like. It becomes a safety blanket in a sense. After a while they can no longer tell where the anorexia ends and they begin. That’s one of the reasons why it’s so difficult to treat and why there are no guarantees of a complete recovery.”

Joey went white. “You mean, she could always have this? Or-or die?”

“It is possible,” Matron said reluctantly, and Joey slowly placed her hands over her eyes and began to rock in silent anguish.

Cecil watched her, her own eyes empty with fear. Miss Annersley saw it and acted. The girl had been under almost unbearable strain in the past hours, and the Head mentally rebuked herself for not doing something sooner. Then she acknowledged that she, too, was pushed almost beyond endurance.

“Cecil, I think you’ve had enough now, dear,” she said softly. “I believe Matron has left nightclothes for you in the spare room here in the Annexe. Off you go, child. It’ll be better in the morning.”

Reluctantly, Cecil rose. The Head managed to smile up at her and to draw the girl down for a quick kiss. Joey had looked up again when the Head spoke, and she saw with some bitterness that the strain in her fifth daughter’s face eased a little as she smiled back at her brevet-aunt. Then Cecil came to kiss her, too, before retiring for the night- but there was no smile for Joey.

“Good-night, Mamma,” Cecil said, almost dutifully, Joey thought. As soon as the door closed behind the girl, Joey turned to the Head.

“It seems, Hilda,” she began bleakly, “that you know my daughters better than I do.”

She swung to her feet and bent to retrieve her cloak. Matron, however, made her pause.

“That is no surprise, Joey. Think about it. Your daughters begin school here at a young age, and for almost all of their growing up years, they see more of the Head than they do of you. Besides that,” Matron continued, gently ruthless, “I have often thought that for all your skill at getting ‘inside the skins’ of other girls- you don’t always listen to your own children. Really listen to them, Joey. Listen to the meaning as well as the words.”

Joey staggered back against the armchair and collapsed limply.

“That’s an awful thing to say, Gwynneth,” she said, her voice shaken. “I love my kids. I always have! I’d do anything for them!”

“Of course you do,” Matron said more gently. “I’m not disputing that. However, you and Jack chose to send the girls here, in spite of the fact that you must have guessed that, whether we meant to or not, that comparisons would be inevitable.”

Joey’s eyes strayed involuntarily towards the Head, and that lady nodded.

“Yes, Jo,” she said. “This is why I mentioned to you, some weeks ago, that you should take the time to talk to Phil and ask her whether this was really where she wanted to be. Did you do that?”

“No. I didn’t. I forgot! I was so busy telling her the news from Con and Margot and Steve. I shouldn’t have done that, should I?”

“Possibly not, but I don’t know, Joey,” Matron said. Her voice was brisk- but her eyes were kind, and Joey took some courage from that.

“Why- how could this have happened?” she stammered. “Why Phil? All the others are- are OK. Why Phil? She’s already had so much bad luck, poor kid!”

“Perhaps that is why,” Hilda suggested. Joey turned a puzzled face towards her. “I think Phil feels guilty because she was so delicate when she was a tiny. Perhaps that’s why she drives herself so hard- and keeps punishing herself over things. She loves you dearly, Joey, and it’s possible that she hates being such a worry to you. Especially when, to her, all her older siblings must seem so wonderful. How could she possibly compete with that? She wants to. She wants to make you proud, but-“ Miss Annersley raised her hands in a helpless gesture that said more than words.

Joey wiped her eyes again.

“I am proud of her,” she said brokenly. “You know I am! I’m going over there now. I’ll talk to her. I’ll tell her-“

“Don’t do that, Joey,” Matron put in hurriedly. “Wait for a while. You’re distraught, and you’ll be no help to Phil if you go to her like that. Go home. Have something to eat and drink even have a nap. Think about things and recover yourself a little. You’ve had a bad shock. Hilda said that Phil was fast asleep when she left, and that Len and Reg would take turns to watch overnight. Have a rest first and then go- or Hilda will drive you up in the morning when she goes.”

Joey turned with almost pathetic eagerness to the Head.

“Will you?”

“Of course I will, dear,” Miss Annersley said gently, and Joey gave her a rather shaky smile.

“OK. I-I’ll do as you say. I’ll go now. Thanks, both of you. For everything.”

The two older women watched her go in silence. Then they looked at each other.

“I think we’d better follow our own good advice,” the Head said wearily, and Matron nodded.

“Yes. You go on, Hilda. I’ll switch off the lights.”

Hilda Annersley nodded and went. She was too exhausted to do or say anything more.

Gwynneth Lloyd watched her disappear into her bedroom, up the corridor, before she sighed slightly and turned of all the lights.

Then, feeling unutterably tired, she made her way to her own room in the School san and behind to prepare for bed.

As she removed her stiffly starched apron, she felt something crackle in the pocket, and, with a slight frown, reached in to remove it. When she saw what it was she gave a slight shudder and dropped the crumpled metallic piece of red tablet foil into the bin, and stood looking down at it for a moment before she turned away.

As she knelt down to say her evening prayers she tried to put it out of her mind yet inside, she knew it would be years before either she or Hilda Annersley would be able to see that particular shade of metallic red without remembering the events of this day.


Last edited by Lisa_T on Wed Jul 13, 2005 12:23 am; edited 1 time in total


#5:  Author: A fishy... PostPosted: Wed Nov 24, 2004 5:10 pm

Thank you Lisa. Again, sensitively & realistically written. Kiss


#6:  Author: VikkiLocation: Sitting on an iceberg, freezing to death!!! PostPosted: Wed Nov 24, 2004 5:27 pm

Wow! *hugs Lisa tight* That must have torn you to bits writing that sweetie! Guess the bunny wouldn't take no for an answer? That was another incredible pieceof writing.


#7:  Author: jackie greenLocation: Rotherham PostPosted: Wed Nov 24, 2004 5:27 pm

wonderfully written, Lisa. Be proud of it. xx


#8:  Author: patmacLocation: Yorkshire England PostPosted: Wed Nov 24, 2004 5:53 pm

I can't find it in my heart to blame Joey. I could have done the same myself. I've just looked up Phil's DOB in the crib sheet and this must have been in the 60's. I never heard of eating disorders till the late 70's. It must be devastating to feel you have failed your child to such an extent that she would go to such lengths. Very powerful and disturbing, Lisa. ((((hugs)))) Thank you.


#9:  Author: Helen PLocation: Cheshire PostPosted: Wed Nov 24, 2004 5:55 pm

Amazing :worthy: Thankyou so much Lisa.


#10:  Author: Lisa_TLocation: Belfast PostPosted: Wed Nov 24, 2004 6:16 pm

This isn't actually intended to be historically accurate and nor did I intend to blame Joey. I read something yesterday that says it's far too easy to blame the parents of anorexics. Family life can contribute, but what I was trying to get across here is that regardless of whether it is justified or not, the family will feel guilty and ask if they were responsible. Unfortunately, given the way the Maynards are, their family life could quite easily have contributed to this scenario- but it should be remembered that (in this drabble at least Wink ) their ten other children are OK, so it's obviously not right to put all the blame on Joey and Jack.


#11:  Author: CazxLocation: Swansea/Bristol PostPosted: Wed Nov 24, 2004 6:21 pm

Thank you so much Lisa. The characters really spoke to me, and their reactions were all very understandable.


#12:  Author: pimLocation: the Derbyshire wilderness PostPosted: Wed Nov 24, 2004 6:37 pm

Incredible. Thank you Lisa.


#13:  Author: patmacLocation: Yorkshire England PostPosted: Wed Nov 24, 2004 7:05 pm

I think what I was trying to get at, in a muddled headed way because that story hit me between the eyes, was Joey's lack of knowledge of the illness was not unusual and trying to say how devastated any parent must be when it happens. I'm afraid guilt always comes with parenthood because we want the very best for out children and we don't always get it right. Some people around her would blame her and I'm sure whatever anyone said in comfort, she would blame herself. We just don't know the cause of most mental problems or how to treat them effectively.


#14:  Author: LizBLocation: Oxon, England PostPosted: Wed Nov 24, 2004 7:29 pm

Lisa, thank you so much for this. Another incredible piece of writing. Hugs to you and all those others who need it. Liz


#15:  Author: MihiriLocation: surrey england PostPosted: Wed Nov 24, 2004 7:46 pm

Thank you Lisa. You write very sensitively


#16:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Wed Nov 24, 2004 8:18 pm

Perfect characterisation. Perfect content. Thank you Lisa. Kiss


#17:  Author: AnnLocation: Newcastle upon Tyne, England PostPosted: Wed Nov 24, 2004 8:24 pm

Another truly amazing piece of writing, Lisa. When I got to the end I realised I'd been holding my breath throughout reading it because I'd been so absorbed


#18:  Author: DawnLocation: Leeds, West Yorks PostPosted: Wed Nov 24, 2004 8:59 pm

Thankyou so much for this Lisa - so realistic I feel guilty for realising that my daughters friend was losing (too much) weight, but for not realising it was AN. In my position as a youth worker I should have realised and it may have stopped things being so bad for her family. But I didn't and that's something I just have to cope with.


#19:  Author: SugarplumLocation: second star to the right! PostPosted: Wed Nov 24, 2004 9:15 pm

Thanks Lisa Fantastic - very thought provoking


#20:  Author: Carolyn PLocation: Lancaster, England PostPosted: Wed Nov 24, 2004 10:08 pm

Again, I'm amazed at the thoughtfullness of this and the emotion and empathy shown. WOW!


#21:  Author: LadyGuinevereLocation: Leicester PostPosted: Wed Nov 24, 2004 10:17 pm

That was an incredibly powerful piece of writing, thanks.~LadyG


#22:  Author: KimLocation: Tipperary, Ireland PostPosted: Thu Nov 25, 2004 12:29 am

fantastic insight into this issue. Despite a great deal more being known about AN these days it is still very prevalent - maybe even more so than the 60s and just as difficult to treatthank you Lisa


#23:  Author: Lisa_TLocation: Belfast PostPosted: Thu Nov 25, 2004 12:35 am

I shouldn't say this because this is a public forum, but a good deal of this post is taken from RL. AN is still vv hard to treat- and in the UK they take it a lot less seriously than in the US for instance.


#24:  Author: MissPrintLocation: Edinburgh PostPosted: Thu Nov 25, 2004 1:21 am

Brilliant Lisa, really brilliant.


#25:  Author: Rachael PostPosted: Thu Nov 25, 2004 10:34 am

Awesome, Lisa - again. Thanks for addressing such an impossibly difficult subject in such an accessible way


#26:  Author: AllyLocation: Jack Maynard's Dressing Room!! PostPosted: Thu Nov 25, 2004 11:20 am

Thank you Lisa for writing this, it was very moving.


#27:  Author: NellLocation: London, England PostPosted: Thu Nov 25, 2004 11:33 am

Thank you.


#28:  Author: JosieLocation: London PostPosted: Thu Nov 25, 2004 11:47 am

Very sensitively and well handled Lisa. Thanks so much for writing this and the drabble from Phil's p.o.v. Portrays very well how hard anorexia nervosa is to deal with from all sies. thanks.


#29:  Author: CiorstaidhLocation: London PostPosted: Thu Nov 25, 2004 2:54 pm

Excellently written, Lisa.


#30:  Author: Amanda MLocation: Wakefield PostPosted: Sat Nov 27, 2004 12:07 am

Thank you Lisa


#31:  Author: LauraLocation: London (ish) PostPosted: Sat Nov 27, 2004 10:30 pm

Thank you.


#32:  Author: RóisínLocation: Dublin PostPosted: Tue Jul 05, 2005 5:37 pm

I've said it before, Lisa, and I'll say it again - you should be publishing! Fantastic writing.


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