I had to go to Sutton for work earlier today which meant getting off early. I set off to walk down the River Wandle with my camera afterwards to take a few photos, something I've done before and enjoyed. On the way I stopped to take a photo of the evening sun reflecting off the windows of a block of flats. A few minutes later I was stopped by two “special” constables or whatever they're called.
I was asked what I was taking photos of, why, if I had any reason to do so, etc. I was pretty pissed off and replied with one-word answers. I didn't really have any answers anyway – I was taking photos of stuff for no reason and that was about it. I'm aware that I'm within my rights to take photos of what I want in a public place, but telling them to fuck off didn't really seem like the most sensible option. They weren't happy though, and radioed for back-up.
Two proper PCs arrived. More questions, and a request to look through my photos, which I was happy to show them – the pictures of the setting sun should have exonerated me really. But no, a search followed. I was given no reason for being searched. I would have kicked up a fuss but was a bit worried what might be in my bag – I've got a “tin” which variously hangs round in my pocket or bag or on the coffee table at home and I wasn't totally sure where it was.
The whole thing took half-an-hour. It would have been embarrassing if it hadn't been for kids in the estate opposite shouting “Fucking coppers!” at the police at amusing intervals.
I'm a bit hacked off about it. The questioning is OK, I can understand that, though it could have been more polite – there was a distinct lack of a presumption of innocence. I wasn't that bothered about them going through my photos either, though I might have been if they'd been of something else – it's private. What bothers me is being searched after it'd become obvious what I was doing and what I was taking photos of.
I requested documentation and will be making a complaint. Apparently they should have given good reason for the search, which they didn't. I will also mention their discrimination towards me as a Person of Height.
Read RD Laing's “The Divided Self” a couple of months back as a companion to Freud's “Civilisation and its Discontents”. It has rather a dense writing style which is a bit difficult to hack your way through at first, and I felt the opening chapters could have been more concise.
Laing was part of the British “anti-psychiatrist” movement of the 60s, something which is a lot less hippyish than it sounds – the basics seem to be that psychiatric patients should be treated as human beings and not locked up, given electric shock treatment etc. The most striking thing about Laing's writing is his compassion for his subjects. He talks a lot about the special bond between therapist and patient, which he goes as far as saying should be one of love.
“The Divided Self” sets out the basis for these ideas, that mental illnesses are an extension and exaggeration of normal psychological responses, made abnormal by environmental factors, most usually the family. Patients' “abnormal” exclamations are taken at face value and investigated to find root causes – for example, whereas “They're all out to get me!” would normally be seen as a simple expression of insanity, Laing believes in finding who exactly is out to get them, and unlocking the psychiatric problems behind it.
There are case studies, and at times the exploration of schizophrenia (which the book concentrates on) can be distressing. As an illness it expresses itself as a void of personality which is crowded out by other, more powerful external phenomenae, a frightening process for the patient which results in withdrawal and occasionally an aggressive (or more often passive-aggressive) defence against others.
This is a fascinating book which sets out an alternative but very logical attitude to mental illness and I suppose is even a manifesto of sorts. Despite the sometimes difficult writing, later in the book Laing's compassion adds beauty, and that he ends on a poem written by one of his patients is just perfect.
Also read JG Ballard's “The Unlimited Dream Company.” I'm a massive Ballard fan – I've been to academic conferences! - but my enjoyment of his actual work does waver. His later novels aside he's rarely an easy read, and there are niggling doubts about his ability as a novelist sometimes.
“The Unlimited Dream Company” is like this – a series of fantastic, very visual surreal passages about the London suburb of Shepperton being transformed into an erotic tropical paradise, without that much of a story to link them together. Of all his work this one reminded most of William Burroughs and his use of comic and horror “routines.” There is always a lot to chew on in Ballard's strangely descriptive, dreamlike yet scientific prose, but overall this one felt a little shallow.
I've been reading a lot more recently so more reviews to come: Stephen King's “Duma Key”, Paul Kriwaczek's “Yiddish Civilisation: The Rise and Fall of a forgotten Nation”, and Dostoevsky's “Crime and Punishment” (or “Crime and Prejudice” as I don't seem to able to stop calling it).
I've been writing a horror review blog for a while which I've been enjoying a lot. An online contact who knows the blog and knows another contact etc recommended me to US genre movie review site Quiet Earth (Google it, I don't like link-backs), who were looking for a London correspondent. They like my work and I got the job. When I say job it doesn't pay, but I'll be getting a press pass to attend film festivals etc and go on-set. I've been warned it might be quite a bit of work but I'm pretty excited, it's good experience. Onwards and upwards!
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