Handel and the blue TB light

A bit of lightness after the serious post on Coetzee.

Right now I’m listening to Keith Jarrett playing Handel’s “Suites for Keyboard”. It’s soothing music, not completely enhanced by the drone of a rather odd blue TB-light on the ceiling of my office at the military base. This TB light and I are not friends. It was introduced in order to kill the TB germs that some of our patients bring into our offices. Since I share a smallish out-building with two social workers, the main switch for the TB lights affects all of us. I can’t just switch it off, although I’ve negotiated an uneasy truce with the chief social worker whereby I can temporarily switch it off when I am consulting.

Now this is pretty trivial, this kvetching over a TB-light. But fights have broken out over lesser things. I once had a week-long standoff with a colleague because I politely (or so I thought) mentioned that I found it hard to concentrate in our office when she sang. She didn’t speak to me for three days and the awkward silence that reigned in our office was worse than her pleasant if somewhat distracting singing. She subsequently moved into broadcasting and I should really have made more of an effort to watch her show, even if just for the childish joy of pressing the mute button. Ridiculous I know, but there’s a saying about wars being fought over the smallest trifles. I seem to remember a murder case in which the accused (who was well in his eighties) said in his defence that one day he snapped at the breakfast table, he just couldn’t take it anymore. I don’t know what his wife’s “crime” was, perhaps she burnt the toast. It’s sad how tragic stories can be comic at the same time. As a mental health practitioner I should really point out something about the mental health of the elderly. Dementia affects executive functioning (and hence impulse control), which is possibly the explanation for outrageous acts committed by old people.

Returning to the TB-light, my colleague is convinced that this light is responsible for the ongoing wellbeing of his sinuses. So I will have to learn to live with background noise. Perhaps I will build up an aural immunity to it with the help of Friedrich Handel and Keith Jarrett.

In the meantime I’m rather cold and a bit grumpy. I have a PR story to finish and then some delightful reading to do on the Short Story as Case Study. It’s called “How People Change” by Bill Tucker, a professor of psychiatry in New York. A quick squizz at the index shows me that he uses stories by Joyce, Chekhov, Katherine Mansfield, Jean Rhys, Albert Camus and others to illustrate the processes by which people change. I really think that psychology and psychiatry without literature is just tinkering. Stories are what make us human.


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