My father was a psychiatrist. I needed to explore my memories of a childhood spent in the sprawling grounds of a psychiatric hospital.
I wrote “Blue Remembered Sky” to emotionally integrate what I saw and heard. I wrote so that psychiatric power might be more closely examined with a specific focus on how this played out in my father’s personal and professional relationships. I wrote to acknowledge the debt of gratitude I owe to the African servants who cared for me and my younger brother, who gave us one of the most valuable gifts in the world – the experience of being loved and comforted with unfailing tenderness. This was at a time when the Africans around me were denied their humanity and were treated with utmost contempt by the majority of white people.
Psychiatric hospitals were exported around the world during the British Empire. I am concerned that human rights abuses were perpetrated against anyone who did not meet the colonial authorities’ view of what ‘normal’ might mean. I grew up at a time and in a place where ideas about ‘the other’ were dismissive and could often be disturbingly brutal. As a girl, I had no emotional language and was ridiculed for being ‘over emotional’. I put all my energy into playing sport. In my teens, I became a national tennis player.
My father believed he was an expert on human relationships. He served on the Marriage Guidance Council and the Mental Hospitals Board. He was on first name terms with the Minister of Health, the chief medical officer and highly ranked members of the judiciary.
Nathan Filer in The Guardian (11 May 2019) says: “There’s a fragility to the mental health of everyone. It serves us all to be part of the conversation.” I agree with him.
I hope you will read my memoir.