8 Slices
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Medium 9781855752818

Cynthia

Nini Herman Karnac Books ePub

How often I heard the name from G, who is my second child.

‘Nini, I am going to Israel with Cynthia.’

‘Nini, I am going to Scotland, to stay with Cynthia in Dundee.’

‘Nini, listen, Cynthia is in a mental hospital again.’ There is, as matters stand with G, always someone in her life whose name falls on my inner ear with that invasive urgency ambulance sirens instil, or some unanswered telephone pleading in an endless night. At that time it was Cynthia’s name. The name is sometimes of a girl; at others it can be a boy. The two seem interchangeable as I listen to the wavering sound, plangent with contagious fear that such a trophy must get lost, a dreadful and recurring fate that one seems helpless to avert.

This is how G, my daughter, feels. Only, like myself in former times, she must deny this constant, underlying fear that no one loves her, nobody will stay. And so it finds expression in a never-ending search; a frenetic restlessness.

Yet nothing seemed remarkable on the first evening we met. A shy girl, Cynthia focused on her postgraduate studies in South American literature and all her solitary trips through those far regions of the world, in an unobtrusive voice that often faded, like a dream. Her very nearly pretty face jarred like a jigsaw puzzle that has not been assembled quite right, however difficult to put a finger on the actual place. The eyes were clear and very blue, the colour of forget-me-nots. The fine hair, wavy and quite fair, reached to shoulders whose stoop suggested that something heavy must have rested there far too soon, though probably it was the mouth that was out of keeping with the rest. Looking at the mouth alone one would have thought the person cried, or spoke in anger or contempt. And looking back on that first meeting now, uneventful as it seemed, it is clear that she was pleading, in the oldest language of mankind: ‘Are you the one to take me in and save me from this painful fate of standing on my own two feet; from this world of degrees and more degrees I had to set up for myself to avoid adult responsibility which is the thing that scares me most, though I may not admit the fact to you or even to myself. Save me, because I know I can’t go on much longer at this pace, trapped in this unreality and with no ground beneath my weary feet, no substance in my inner heart, the nothingness prevailing there.’

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Medium 9781855752818

Postscript: Reflections after One Decade

Nini Herman Karnac Books ePub

REFLECTIONS AFTER ONE DECADE

How much lifetime has passed. This book was actually written near enough half-way through a nine-year analysis. By the time it went to press I might already have composed something of a variation. I was, in part, a different person, which is always the case with the making of new growth. However, the original assuredly had caught a moment which I was not prepared to scuttle on account of younger shoots. ‘If I cannot be myself in what I write, then my work would be nothing but lies and humbug’;* and now that some four years have passed since I left that Kleinian Home in a row of London houses, at the foot of a small hill, I know that I must try to capture a fragment of truth again, while knowing that it too, in time, will again be superseded.

The last few months and final weeks of the analysis, continued five times a week to the hour of termination, had been punctuated by some deeply gratifying sessions of a profoundly peaceful nature, which perhaps is what is meant by bliss. We agreed that they felt like a satisfying feed, both for mother and for infant. Both were thriving, one could say. What Tustin has evoked so well as ‘a rhythm of safety’ where the mouth and breast achieve harmonious co-operation after troubling trial and error, was gaining in ascendancy. After a life of daunting struggle it was becoming safe to be, as I believed with some conviction.

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My Freudian Father

Nini Herman Karnac Books ePub

The heat lay heavy on the land in that July of 1973. The trees drowsed dusty, somnolent and still. The air was syrupy by day and like a tepid bath at night. Suffolk, Essex, Hertfordshire, were briefly nudged by our tyres and then curled over once again to dream their stubborn history, on which we no more scratched our mark than hens on farmyard dust. Each wrapped in sorrows of their own, both D and B had fallen fast asleep, by way of simple, human self-defence, long before London straggled into sight. And so I greeted her alone, my beloved megalith.

How I had missed her, through those Suffolk years. Past rhyme and reason I had yearned for my old mother of the Blitz. How often she had held my hand when there had been nobody else. There, all my children had been born. My small and her majestic span had brushed so often in the dusk and dawn. And now they touched another time, for some still hidden, and unwritten page.

Such were the sentiments with which I made that hot, homesick drive, to start up up my shrill, persistent, organ-grinder life at some new and hopeful pitch. As is frequently the case when one pins unrealistic hopes upon a change of outer scene, the city of my dreams now seemed less than a total panacea.

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Medium 9781855752818

Therapeutic Interlude

Nini Herman Karnac Books ePub

I would have given almost anything for the opportunity to return to London there and then to start my new analysis. But D’s ‘O’ levels were by now just another year away, preventing any change of school until that hurdle had been cleared. Surely Cambridge had to have more resources than the one gloomy psychoanalyst who had discouraged me so much when I had consulted him?

Yes, a friend of mine replied, a retired therapist lived on the edges of the town and still took patients now and then, the more so if they were short-term.

Two charming whippets peered at me through a landing window when I arrived and rang the bell. The door was opened by a frail, bent man. The hand he gave me so readily felt like the warm nest of a tired bird and seemed to crumple in my own, yet the blue, seafaring eyes chased the weariness away as though one had imagined it. His much-adapted, well-worn house, was a comforting affair set in gardens that an old, gnarled man - the archetypal gardener - tended in the timeless way habitual to monasteries; his barrows, rakes and twiglike brooms appearing dreamlike here or there.

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My Kleinian Home

Nini Herman Karnac Books ePub

The days before the interview, at the end of the same week, I thought and thought about those words. Up to now I had assumed that the person and the place of a psychoanalyst must be swathed in mysteries appropriate to the alchemists. The more the better, certainly. Precious metals, ornaments, symbols, halos, roots and herbs: I demanded everything, tutored properly by Jung, Hans Andersen and the Brothers Grimm. Now Dr G had scuttled that. It was the work, the actual work itself, that was significant. A thing that could presumably be evaluated and assessed like the ploughing and the crop.

This struck me as uniquely right and reassuring all at once. A breathtaking discovery, and I had made it just in time to shed some preconceived ideas which, disappointed, always led to withdrawal and hostility and a lot of acting out. It was certainly as well, because I was not going to find any trappings at this door. Even the window boxes had very little more than weeds.

The wooden plate above the bell of the simple garden flat spelt the surname: nothing more. No letters stood behind the name and no initials in the front. Not even ‘Dr’. Not a hint.

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Medium 9781855752818

Road without an End

Nini Herman Karnac Books ePub

On the horizon a new millennium. I am sitting in a very small room. There is a single bed, a television set which is turned off and, for so small a space, an impressive library - masterpieces by Chinese, Japanese, Russian, French and other visionaries of their day and age. The only sounds are a soft rain falling on a skylight and the breathing of someone close to the end of a very long life. It rises and falls, stops and starts up again.

I am sitting on a wheelchair close to an electric fire at shoulder height. When Josef could no longer bend down to attend to the fire at floor level, Peter Kelly, who with his Irish genius can make anything out of wood, built it into a stand, with a shelf for shoes underneath. I look at the shoes: summer canvas ones and boots for winter. The boots once belonged to my mother. Josef had found them comfortable, soft and warm. My mother only had the best.

She died four years ago, aged ninety-two. My younger brother, George, had preceded her by half a year in his mid-sixties. I am the only one left who remembers a past the three of us shared, set in a frame of my own making. Soon, there is no knowing how soon, only I will remember the forty-five years that Josef - Jodie - and I can bear testimony to, until that logbook too will wind up and be lost.

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Medium 9781855752818

In the Beginning

Nini Herman Karnac Books ePub

All experience awaits recapture in the day to day of dreams, analysis and life. I remember being born. There was a splintering in the head, together with a bursting pain, a gurgling where there should have been breath, a feat of rescue and reprieve equally mysterious as that onslaught just before. This baffling sequence of events I have repeated all through life. Time and again, when all seemed lost, I somehow won through in the nick of time. When it was over there remained a blind necessity to sleep. To relegate this vast ordeal back to oblivion whence it made an illicit, brief escape. For everything has been inscribed in the computers of the mind from the beginning to the end.

‘You almost died when you were born. You had that string twice round your neck and looked quite blue. Well, almost black. Ugly, really terrible,’ my mother in due course confirmed this cataclysmic episode, during my analysis, one Sunday in her tidy flat.

Listening to her carefully I was unable to detect, fifty-three years afterwards, a trace of feeling in her voice, nor any hint that she had perhaps felt terror When her first-born did not cry in that impressive bedchamber of that villa in Berlin in which she too had grown up.

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Medium 9781855752818

My Jungian Mother

Nini Herman Karnac Books ePub

High on a rising Hampstead hill, on a sunny autumn day, the Jungian doctor gazed at me through his horn-rimmed spectacles. He had taken many notes and looked tired now, I thought. The silence in the carefully tended room was ticking like a metronome. My mind lost interest and skipped into the garden, down below, where the yellow roses drooped. It seemed a lovely place to play and shake off the endless worries that were always dogging me.

‘Doctor, alright, I will write to you,’ his voice came and dragged me back again.

‘I would like a lady though… that is, if you do not mind.’

‘I agree with you,’ he smiled, ‘I was thinking that myself. Now then, let me show you out.’

I cast a final, yearning look at the garden where I would never be allowed to play, as the doctor’s children could, and then my battered little Ford took me back to Kensington, and the conditions of my siege.

At long last the letter came. I went at the appointed hour with a sense of gnawing fear that seemed a little ludicrous. ‘Silly child, you won’t be hurt,’ I kept repeating out aloud, as though addressing someone else. ‘You are going to sit nice and still and have some psychotherapy and I am going to find the means.’

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