Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Big Issue, Please.

In my little town - the nearest one to the village where I live – there is a High Street with a Smith’s, a Boots and a Woolworths and an assortment of other shops you’d expect to find in any other little town. Outside the Boots Opticians, by a paved walkway that leads to an underpass, stands a woman with a thick, dark brown plait of hair that comes right down below her waist, and in her hands she holds copies of a magazine.
“Big Ishoooooo!” she calls. “Big Ishoooooo, please!”
She has a powerful voice, like a strong, clear foghorn, and she holds the note at the end for as long as she has breath for the “oooooo.” Most people walk past, and if you slow down for any reason she will come up close to you, switch off the foghorn and try to catch your eye with her own, and she will smile with large rosy lips and beautiful teeth and her voice will become like a housecat’s pleading miaow as she says, “Big Issue, madam, please. Please, madam, Big Issue.” If you buy a copy she will reward you with a look that says you have done a good and beautiful thing. If you walk past she will draw in her breath with an eloquent gasp, as though she has just been stung by a nettle, before recommencing her chant.
“Big Ishooooooooo! Big Ishooooooooo, please!” She is known, perhaps not surprisingly, as the Big Issue woman. She does not come from round here. She comes by train and goes back on it after her day’s work. She has been spotted getting off at Croydon.

She has been doing this for years. The note never changes, nor does her voice falter or lose its power. She has always dressed exactly the same, in long skirt and serviceable boots with a shawl around her shoulders and, with that hair, she looks like someone from the cast of Fiddler on the Roof and I picture her great great grandma and mine and (from the Ashkenazy line at any rate) plucking chickens together in some shtetl. She has exasperated, irritated and intrigued me and now, after all these years, I would miss her if she suddenly decided to withdraw her presence. I cannot help but admire her dedication to purpose, her willingness to give herself up to the one song line which has, as I count, only two notes, the main one being on the dying fall of the “oooooo.” She could have been (perhaps is) a singer. She will catch our attention, whether we want it caught or not.

Her voice has been added to the list of tunes that play themselves in my head. My unconscious likes to think it has a sense of humour and has, for example, played “Stand By Your Man” during the break-up of my first marriage as well as something from the mists of time (and how that was downloaded is a mystery) called “Captain of Your Ship” by Reparata and the Delrons. Today it is the chant of the Big Issue woman. I am going to see a new psychotherapist. This makes it sound as though I’m trading in an old one and do this all the time. I have, as it happens, done this before, but not for a long time. Having made the decision to go for it again last year, I put off actually doing anything until the voice that would not be silenced finally won and I said yes just to get it to shut up. It’s not that I don’t respect the voice, it being the utterance of my inner self. It’s just that I’d like to move forward without that particular number being played and re-played:

“Big Issue. Big Issue, please.”



Saw therapist who said she didn't like "seeing clients with entrenched M.E." She had worked in a Health Centre with "some of them" and found that the M.E. "got in the way." She asked me if I had thought of practising "something spiritual, like mindfulness, so that you can practise being in the Now."

Big Issue. Very Big Issue.

Note: I did not consult her because of M.E. but had mentioned on the phone that I had it. The walk to her house from car park was up a very steep hill. On arrival she asked if I had enjoyed the walk. I said I had been concentrating on walking uphill. But, she persisted, had I enjoyed it? I said not really because I had been (I repeated) concentrating on walking up the hill. But, she continued, had I not enjoyed the lovely view on the way up? It was a lovely view, I said, but no, (for the third fucking time) - I had been concentrating on walking up the hill. I realise with hindsight that I should at this point have walked out.

A few vittun F words apply, I think, but nothing seems quite strong enough just at this moment.


fluttertongue said...

There's this marvellous man in Kingston whose call sounds more like bigger shoe than big issue. I recently rediscovered the Big Issue, it's great for third sector jobs and there's some gems of journalism. Much better than the Metro for a tube journey!

Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) said...

Yes, one needs to move forward in response to the voices if one wants them to shut up. However, how you get Big Ishoooo out of your head is another matter... Here the line that has played through my head since I was a child is the guttural chorus of "Argieeeeeee, Argieeeee", as the newspaper vendor who stands at the street corner announces and echoes, in time-honoured tradition, the arrival of the local evening newspaper... The Argus. The local Big Ishoooo vendors are a less vocal lot.

That's so pants said...

Hi Signs

We have had the same Big Issue vendor in our local shopping precinct for years as well. It occurs to me that the purpose of Big Issue is to provide income for homeless people. I know that homelessness can sometimes be a lifestyle choice but if all the pitches are being occupied by professional Big Issue vendors, does this mean a significant divergence from the original purpose. Near my workplace the other day, I was approached by a Big Issue vendor who was also openly begging. Some quality control by the organisation might be in order.



Kahless said...

That inner tune can be a damn nuisance at times eh? Though fair play to it, sometimes it can be good thing.

Hope the new pschy. was ok. Trust your feelings.


Reading the Signs said...

Hi Fluttertongue,

I do buy a copy from time to time but then never really get round to reading it. Will try and make the effort.

Hi Vanilla,

I used to like the old Evening Standard guy at the end of my road. "Standard! Standard!" which turned into "Dad! Dad!" after he'd been doing it a few hours.

Hi Pants,

What I can't work out is why she comes in from London. It costs a lot to travel on the train. There is something about her in this nearby town that doesn't quite add up.

Reading the Signs said...

Hi Kahless,

Please see my update at the bottom of the post.

I think she must have seen me coming.

Kahless said...

Oh, these crap therapists really make me mad. You have the good sense to walk away pdq; how many of her clients dont?

Keep up the good fight my friend. Check out that site. If references a forum - I post their (under a different name); its interesting to read peoples stories, there is also a fair bit about therapists, is very supportive and the posts are moderated under strict guidelines to ensure positive support.

cusp said...

I'll keep this response short and (not so) sweet ..

Silly Cow !

Ask if SHE would enjoy the view whilst you rolled her down the hill with your toecap.

Reading the Signs said...

Yes, Kahless - next time, if there is a next time, I will wear garlic around my neck. I will also be writing a letter of complaint about this one.

Hi Cusp,

Short and not so sweet will do nicely!

Nicola said...

Hello Signs, I think I should have burst into tears having made the effort to get myself there in the first place. Reminds me of a time I was referred to a gynaecologist having suffered extreme abdominal pain for some months to the point where I had to stuff my mouth with the duvet so the children couldn't hear. He left me alone with various cold, metal bits inserted only to come back and say 'well, there's nothing physical' and that was that. And maybe there wasn't and maybe I was being oversensitive, but it felt like being labeled 'mad'.
If the therapist were to read your blog, she would know, as all of us do here, how very mindful you are and how, through your beautiful facility with words, you show us exactly what living in the moment is about.
Can't help feeling she should have been coming up the hill to see you.

Reading the Signs said...

Bless you, Nicola. I did actually say to her, in response to the mindfulness thing, that writing is my "practice." On reflection, I think she may not have been quite the full ticket. A sandwich short of a lunchbox, if you get my drift. But she's a member of a professional body and I'll be taking it up with them.

NMJ said...

Hey Signs, I'm with Cusp, this therapist needs a toecap in her butt - bet that would make her mindful as you like!

There is a dark-skinned Big Issue seller near me, he breaks my heart cos he says: 'Sorry, please, Big Issue' every time. He is almost pleading that you buy it.

I buy it when I can.


Reading the Signs said...

Hey NMJ, thanks, I like this, yes. Nothing like a sharp stab to bring one into the moment.

I hope you're doing ok with all.

wordstar said...

It is amazing for those of us that have had experience of going to therapy how easy it becomes to spot the ones to avoid like the plague. The therapist you have just experienced (poor you- the thought that you may have even paid for the priviledge makes my blood boil) is one such one. Yes, take your money and run as fast as your feet can take you. If I have to see one more therapist who instantly assumes I am late because I am angry with her about something, just because I haven't the power to overcome traffic problems or bus delays, I think I shall scream.... or at least develope the anger she has preempted. Good luck with your search. Being a therapist myself I have come to have a very low opinion of most of my profession.... but luckily a few good ones do exist, and you seem just the person to spot the dude ones and tell them where to go!

Reading the Signs said...

Hi Wordstar (M-o-W), I think I am a magnet for them or something. Or the "Universe" is giving a clear message not to stick my toe in the water again. Fear not, I have not parted with a penny!

fluttertongue said...

'Entrenched ME' - I love it. Given the chance I would happily entrench your lovely therapist, in the very literal sense.

NMJ said...

I meant to rant about 'entrenched' too: do they talk of entrenched MS or entrenched lupis? I don't think so. I was thinking today - since PWME are all really mentally ill, fabricating the whole neuro-immuno scenario - how the hell do we manage to come up with the same symptoms, all of us, are we in collusion? Do we have a secret network, constantly updating our symptims so we can all have the same story? It's downright sinister, the state of ME (forgive me for punning my book) in this country.

NMJ said...

. . . symptoms, i mean. with an 'o'. i am tired!

Reading the Signs said...

Hi Fluttertongue and NMJ,

I was trying to imagine whether she would have felt at ease saying the same kind of thing to someone with any other illness. I don't think so.

The truth of the matter is that PWME are certainly likely to attribute various things to M.E. - because that is how it is. It is possible to look very depressed or tense when one is in a particular kind of fatigue state. To say, "that's the M.E." is often an attempt to bring in a bit of clarity because of the wrong assumptions that might otherwise be made.

The "session" (which lasted all of 20 miniutes) was actually worse than what I have described. She claimed to have been given "notes" about me - impossible, given the circumstances (and in any circumstances highly unprofessional unless I had actually been referred by someone) But when I said no, I thought not, she judged me to be "antagonistic."

I'm waiting to hear back from the board of ethics person.

Kahless said...

Signs, I have just read all your comments.
You are cool!

Reading the Signs said...

Kahless - cheers, mate. I knew there had to be a silver lining.

Anna MR said...

Oh God, Signs, ja voi vittu. You have been treated like shite and that is no good at all. For what it's worth, dear heart, I am very pissed off on your behalf, and am sending bad thoughts to the "therapist" in question. To you, however, come my best thoughts and a bunch of hugs and mwahs, too. You are a star and no mistake.


Reading the Signs said...

Anna, mcmwahs to you too dear - am expecting further talk with Chair of Ethics person later on today. Will report back.