Cell Mates

What follows starts out from a car park, an almost empty psychiatric hospital car park at that!

Why should you be interested? Well if words are not to be wasted then perhaps the mention that the huge frame of Stephen Fry, polymath and mind extraordinary, alone in this car park, bent double and close to vomiting out his soul, will broker your curiosity?

What has all this to do with the title ‘Cell Mates’ and just why might you be interested?

Well you are alive, you are a mass of cells and you believe that somewhere in all this you have an identity. Cells are the rather wondrous elements of life. Put them in the brain and that cellular life leaps into a dimension rather too easily misrepresented by today’s science. That is what this tale is all about, that, and the 1995 disappearance of Fry, from Simon Gray’s West End play ‘Cell Mates.’


Introduction: Get Lost
All quotes in this introduction come from Romanno Bridge by Andrew Greig (2008)

Nearly all my writings get lost. No doubt it is because I cannot be succinct. It is also because I hate to simplify matters that are obviously complex. So it is that syntactically, and in the bundling of my ideas, I might be considered to lose the point. Scientists find this infuriating; they want bullet-points; poets on the other hand may accept such expression of uncertainty in a wider quest for meaning.

In what follows perhaps you shall ‘get lost’ but I rather hope that if you do, you may stumble across my humble realisation? Those of you who have watched my films or read other forms of my narratives will realise that I deliberately carry the metaphor Lost. I realise that it is rather easy to employ metaphor, but in this case I ask you to understand that there is special reason for such representation, as my family homestead in the north-east of Scotland was called Lost Farm.

In my explorations of family past, identity and name, I have come to the conclusion, voiced by others far more able than I, that modern science has lost its need for wider humanities. My job as a medical doctor, so dear to me, reveals daily that there is more to care than algorithm, evidence base, or simplified categories of disorder. In the same breath I understand the need, never to be ousted, of pragmatism. So in your reading of what follows please accept my humble and sincere belief that medicine must embrace the humanities. Stephen Fry’s disappearance will illustrate this argument.


The car park.
Never in a month of Sundays did I imagine that the car park of my old psychiatric hospital, Clerkseat in Aberdeen, would be the hook! Yet it was, appearing as it so unexpectedly did on my television screen on a Tuesday night in mid-September 2006. Stephen Fry, in the two part documentary The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive the rather good piece that he had put together with his Wimpole Street GP, allowed the camera to witness him in a moment of prostrate weakness. He was pallid beyond granite cold, and that giant frame bent double looked as if it was going to  puke. Fry unable to speak! A condition surely antithesis to the loquaciousness that we are so drawn to.

So that is the moment – the unedited moment that so hooked me. It drew me closer to Stephen Fry and his choice not to make such pain disappear from archive.

“One could imagine each moment as having a door into it, a door out.
And in the light bright space between each opening and closing, a life is lived.”
Page 18 of Romanno Bridge

I have carefully considered whether to continue posting this account on the internet, and have decided that, for now, the rest of ‘Cell Mates’ (long since completed) should remain private to Hole Ousia. Here though is the summary of contents:

MacCaig cells 2

(1) Cell One: Says He Says He!
Quotations by Stephen Fry

(2) Cell Two: Says He Says I
Quotations are from Fat Chance by Simon Gray

(3) Chapter three: Homesick
Quotations are from The Antiquary by Sir Walter Scott

(4) Chapter four: Conclusion: Cell Mates
Quotations are from Cell Mates.

Cell mates still

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