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Dog, Grass and Beauty. March 30, 2015

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Dog, Grass and Beauty..

BEAUTY February 19, 2014

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Gilded Birds Interview: Jane Haynes

Gilded Birds, Dec 5

‘Dog and Grass’, copyright John Haynes 2013.

King’s Review is pleased to present material from Gilded Birds(www.gildedbirds.net). Gilded Birds offers ‘a snapshot of contemporary ideals of beauty’. Through a series of interviews with influential artists and thinkers, Gilded Birds explores broad conceptions of beauty through the narrowest of lenses. Interviewees are asked to discuss a significant object – a painting, a sculpture, a photograph, a book – which, to them, is beautiful. The objects of Gilded Birds take us beyond ourselves, into questions of aesthetic judgment, the value of art, and the relat, Joion between beauty and ideology. They also turn our gaze inwardly, to something common in all of us. We may not all agree on whether a particular object is beautiful, but we all make such judgments. Beauty matters to us all. The beauty of the interviews in Gilded Birds is their ability to bring into focus the shared experience that lies hidden beneath a wide variety of different objects. In the words of the site’s curator, Kerry Shaw:

The porcelain makers of the eighteenth century believed that they were creating some of the most beautiful objects in the world. These painted figurines and gilded vases were miracles of craftsmanship in their day but are no longer seen by most people as beautiful objects. In fact some people find them hideous. Artists of today and tomorrow will always reject and react against previous ideals of beauty.  But fashionable or not, we are still surrounded by beauty in the world. We are asking some of the world’s greatest creative minds to show us one object of beauty that can contribute to a bigger picture of today’s ideal.

Below is the first in a series of interviews, originally published by Gilded Birds, which will appear in the King’s Review. More will appear in the coming weeks, including an interview with King’s College’s Christopher Prendergast.

Jane Haynes, psychotherapist and author, on her husband’s photograph, ‘Dog and

Gilded Birds: You’ve chosen a photograph of your dog. So is the beauty sentimental? Would you find this picture beautiful without any personal experience of this dog or this grass?

Jane HaynesI have no interest in the sentimental and regard it as a vice. In both my consulting room and in my private life, I remind myself that beneath the sentimental often lurks repressed sadism. The reason I have chosen this image is because it represents a random moment of phenomenon I regard to be beautiful. The grass is not my grass. How could it be, and although the dog is ‘my’ dog, she does not ‘belong’ to me. My husband’s image captures a reflection of an autumnal dog in declining grass. The grass matters as much as the dog. It also reminds me of Dürer’s ‘Clod of Earth’. Snakes lurk in grass but so do daisies (which once upon a time I wove into endless chains of love), buttercups, sexy-milked dandelions and minute orchids with beautiful names: green winged orchid, the lesser butterfly orchid, the bee orchid. Although I cannot possess those exquisite seconds of nature they are re-membered in the fact that I prefer not to work in my consulting room without purchased consolations of moth-winged phalenopsis orchids that help me to soak up those woven-fine joys and woes of life that I listen to every day. Oh, I should add that the dog is a Magyar Vizsla and I regard the breed whose eyes and nails are polished autumn amber as ‘living art’.

Gilded Birds: Do you think your picture is universally beautiful? Does this choice reflect a current state of mind or would it always be an ideal of beauty for you?

Janes Haynes: I do not think there is any such thing as universal beauty. I am not interested in the universal or collective but prefer the subjective. I might allow the moon the privilege of being an universal image of beauty, but then again how to choose between its slither and full? I also privilege the sun, but unlike the moon, which inspires me with awe, my sensation of the sun is accompanied by an intrusive fantasy of foolish human beings sunbathing without realising that the God is flaying them alive.

Gilded Birds: Do you think it reveals other things about you other than simply what you think is beautiful?

Janes Haynes: Not unless I share them with you. I have already indicated that I like the idea of the grass concealing exquisite beauty and deadly snares. It also happens that the dog’s pedigree prefix is ‘Siriusbell’. It must already be evident that I find the natural universe beautiful and I also find it serendipitous that ‘Sirius’ stands for the brightest star in the universe but it is also the feared ‘dog star’. I value all combinations of opposites. I like the fact that Keats’ last poem was, ‘Bright star would I were steadfast as thou’; that Shakespeare immortalised the star to every wandering bark, and that ‘Bell’ is the name of my youngest grand daughter whose beautiful smile was born on the seashores of the world.

Gilded BirdsDo you think we can become more self aware through examining what we find beautiful?

Janes Haynes: Most definitely. I am obsessed with and by Beauty. My family would say I am Beauty-Obsessive-Compulsive-Disordered. I am not proud of that but it is true. I earlier referred to the fallen ‘snake in the grass’, and beauty can become that snake. Nobody describes it better than Yeats in his poem Prayer For My Daughter:

May she be granted beauty and yet not
Beauty to make a stranger’s eye distraught,
Or hers before a looking glass, for such,
Being made beautiful overmuch,
Consider beauty a sufficient end,
Lose natural kindness and maybe
The heart-revealing intimacy
That chooses right, and never find a friend.

But, I am consoled by physical beauty in men and women and when I was twelve I fell in love with the most beautiful girl I have ever seen. I wanted to become her altar-maid because I swooned at her beauty, which was as aloof as any white tail deer fawn. Yes, I was fawning of her beauty.  We are still friends although I have found it difficult to witness her decay and perish with age. ‘Bare ruined choirs where late the sweet birds sang’. (I should add that she also became Ossie Clark’s muse, which was perhaps one mark of a cultural beauty pedigree. Ah, but to think of Ossie Clark is also to think of murder and to return involuntarily to fallen nature.) It goes without saying that she also has a beautiful mind although to begin with she did not heed Yeats’ warning and neglected it. Beauty may be foolish but it cannot be stupid.

To return to your question: beauty whether in nature or the flesh – since childhood when I searched in the grass endlessly to find a four leaf clover – has been a consolation to me for the loneliness and ugliness that I feel in being human and separate. I find it hard to forgive ugliness whether it is in architecture or ignorance.

Gilded Birds: What makes something worthy of the word Beauty to you?

Janes Haynes: Symmetry. Soul. Mystery. Myth. Language. The Fall… Yes, a terrible beauty is born.

With thanks to Kerry Shaw  for permitting the reproduction of this material..

For my grand daughter Portia: ‘Ward Seven’ May 12, 2012

Posted by janehaynes in : Atomies of love, Becoming..., Thinking skywards, Uncategorized, Writing a book , add a comment

I haven’t blogged for months, perhaps a year, I have had writers’s block and haven’t been able to write my book either, but now it seems to be thawing, along with the weather in St. Petersburg where I shall be on Monday. It’s been a hard day’s work trying to get a ‘business’ visa released from out of the Russian Embassy but at deadlines last night they issued it and I shall be spending next week working at the Eastern European Institute of Psychoanalytic Studies. While I am there I am going to try, if time allows, and time is always out of mind, a brief journal for Portia. I am not however taking my laptop, as I have a skilled way of losing it when I am travelling so the blog can wait for my return.

Portia decided she didn’t want to go to University and she is working night and day, day and night for a film company in Charlotte Street, where she has discovered what the meaning of the verb, ‘to work’ really is. She is often – unlike her brother who rises at noon and only begins seriously to focus at dusk –  up with the blackbird chorus and only home long after the sun has set. Last week she told me that when occasionally she has nothing to do at work she has been reading my blog, I didn’t know that she knew I had one,  and that with the exception of Proust which was not her  cup of tea, and I understand why, she has felt drawn in and engaged by my writing to all sorts of new thoughts…

I cannot imagine anybody giving me a better gift, and it has certainly helped the iceberg to thaw.

In the interim between leaving and returning I am posting for Portia an earlier experience of my work in St. Petersburg and like Portia the Russians all know how to work, when I was privileged to visit the most notorious and ‘luxurious’ psychiatric hospital in Russia, the Bekhterev Brain Institute.

Portia, I hope, on my return to be able to provide you with a more light hearted read… especially as the women of St. Petersburg would not be seen dead in a snow boot but promenade St. Isaacs Square in Christian Louboutin seven inch stilettos. Well, those of them that have money, the rest are vulnerable, if not to being run over by buses, to being dragged along beside them when their impatient drivers barely stop. And then there are the dancing, oops I mean the chained bears. I have to close my eyes but I can still hear the clunk of chain,  and the risky business of hitching random lifts to Nevsky Prospekt and the Institute in the scruffiest Skoda and Lada cars, which you just hail down,  but with warm hearted drivers, for  a handful of roubles.  And, I thought I might even try to find the time to look for a winter leather coat…


I am returning to St.Petersburg to give a series of lectures at the Eastern European Institute for Psychoanalytic Studies. My host is Mikhail Reshetnikov, an ex-military general and physician who persuaded Yeltsin to return psychoanalytic psychotherapy to an official status in the national medical curriculum after its demise by the Communists in 1927. Reshetnikov now presides over a stylish eighteenth century building on Bolshoy Prospect that Yeltsin gifted to him, which hosts a refurbished training institute replete with the largest psychodynamic library in Russia, a Dream Museum, and an annual intake of over 100 postgraduate students. Psychoanalysis was forcibly liquidated in the 1920’s and officially no forms of psychotherapy existed in Russia until 1975: neurosis was classified as a typical feature of the decadent West. By December 2000 there was one medical psychotherapist per one million people.

During this visit I intend to venture out from the ‘good city’ and find out whether it is true that even in the big cities like St. Petersburg and Moscow, medical psychotherapy falls far behind the collective national predilection to consult witches and mages and whether the Russian youth have become vulnerable to cults. Genuine healers come assorted and state accredited, along with all sorts of quacks and criminal charlatans, who use varied miasmatic techniques to brainwash their audiences into spending thousands of hard earned roubles for the promise of a quick fix. The Russian mentality – borne out of eternal struggle for survival – has become nationally addicted to the consoling idea of ‘a quick fix’. It seems that a new age occultism is fast becoming the religion for many Russian people. There are about 25,000 psychiatrists and psychotherapists in Russia versus 300,000 legally certified magicians and healers! There are more than one hundred state licensed schools for magicians throughout Russia.

In addition to an expanding occult industry the country is spawning more and more pseudo religious sects that are becoming increasingly irresistible to a floundering population, which is not yet skilled in the architecture of psychological individuation. Between the Russian Revolution, with its suppression of individuality, and Glasnost the average Russian had scant opportunity to develop a sense of personal agency or autonomy: the Russian personality is still adolescent in its explorations of subjectivity and the sources of self. Jesus of Siberia is not a national joke but a 42 year old prophet called Vissarion – a former policeman from Minusinsk – who claims to have 80,000 devoted followers, many of whom have followed him to an ecological settlement on an icy Siberian mountainside.

There are at least 500 different sects in Russia with well over one million followers of which the majority are young people. What disturbs – in particular – is that some of these so called new religions are commercial organisations with a ruthless focus on power rather than religion and a totalitarian mission of transforming the Russian psyche according to their own rules of political conformity.

Traditionally, Russia has been a country in which cults, correctly referred to as new religious movements, have flourished. Amongst the intelligentsia, pre-revolutionary society spawned Masonic rites, table raising séances, court orgies, theosophy and the phenomenon of Rasputin, another Siberian peasant. Rasputin, like Freud, was fascinated by hysteria and the powers of hypnosis. Freud applied himself to a theory of sexuality whilst Rasputin became an expert in sexual hypnosis. That was at the core of his impact on high society women, including the Tsarina, who were culturally susceptible to the mysterious arts of hysteria. Rasputin, like that other Siberian trickster, Vissarion, thought of himself as Christ and made others believe it as well. Both had innate origins in a cult which beckoned the Russian sexual revolution, the khlysty, a romantic sect that combined assiduous piety with sexual promiscuity. In their youth the future leaders of the Soviet intelligentsia, such as Gorky, Vladimir Mayakovsky and Lunacharsky were as influenced by Dionysian energies and Nietzsche’s vision of Superman as they were subsequently to be by Marx. In rural Russia magic and religion have always co-existed. Siberia, along with its mystical birches, has incubated generations of Shamans. Under Soviet rule it was rumoured that the KGB, scouring Russia for psychics to assist in their extra sensory perception researches, searched the forests and mountains of Siberia for mystics and children who displayed precocious psychic sensitivities. They forcibly recruited them into research projects for ‘Higher Nervous Activity’ at flagship research institutions like the Pavlov Institute in Moscow.

In a country that no longer knows what – or who – to believe in, whose people are floundering in an ideological void, there is an innate predisposition towards any authority that holds out the combined promise of prosperity and emotional containment.

Of particular relevance to my specific interests in Russian mental health is Scientology’s vast propaganda machine, which is fuelled by their generic hatred of clinical psychiatry. Of particular concern to Russian politicians should be the fact that their leafleted attacks and pamphlets carry truth in their squall. Russian psychiatric services are now at an all time low due to negligible budgets and the fact that state national insurance does not have any cover for mental health. Outside the major cities most of the acute psychiatric hospitals have reluctantly degenerated into primitive vehicles of restraint My medical colleagues tell me that in the provinces psychiatric hospitals are often deleted from the state budgets altogether. Many hospitals cannot afford modern pharmaceuticals and the older technologies like insulin, and the primitive equipment that is still being used for ECT are more likely to kill patients than cure them.

Officially banned, L. Ron Hubbard’s Church of Scientology is still alive and kicking in Peter’s great but confused city: it is alleged that its steely long arms have embraced senior Russian officials in both capital cities. Vladimir Agishev, director of SPB’s largest mental hospital has described how Scientologists disseminate huge quantities of leaflets attacking psychiatry as evil and the patients as prisoners. This is nothing new in terms of scientology’s politics but the consequences of its propaganda will be different in Russia where the current state of mental hospitals makes Chekhov’s shocking account of psychiatric care in Ward Six almost seem homely by comparison.

Arriving at my hotel the manager comes to greet me: This is my third visit this year and my eighth to his hotel. Good and bad news awaits me. The good news is that my room has been upgraded and the bad is that in the last week about forty guests have been mugged with varying levels of physical brutality. The muggings have not taken place down a cul de sac but outside the hotel whose boundaries are marked by private security and a legion of minders, who seem to turn a blind eye to everything except their bosses’ BMWs. The manager confides that it is the gypsies and that he is beginning to despair about the fate of his beautiful city, that several tour operators are threatening not to send future guests. The Astoria is one of the most beautiful hotels that I am acquainted with. Built in 1911 it was where Hitler planned to sign and celebrate his Russian victory. It is also where the revolutionary poet Eisenen slit his wrists and scrawled his dying name in blood on a banqueting wall.

Tomorrow I have plans to visit the Bekhterev Brain Institute that was established under Vladimir Bekhterev – another army general – in 1907. It was the august Bekhterev who first identified Rasputin as an expert in sexual hypnosis but his promising diagnostic perspicacity came to an untimely death after he was invited to give Stalin a consultation in 1927 and diagnosed paranoia. Surviving for only one day after this event, the Kremlin physicians diagnosed food poisoning! The Bechterev Institute is still privileged to be the country’s flagship of neurobiology and psychiatric research. After the emotional warmth, intellectual energy and aesthetic refinements of Professor Reshetnikov’s Institute, I am taken by surprise to arrive at a building, which has become so environmentally hostile that it has driven many patients to suicide and where only its most indefatigable psychiatrists have escaped, burn out.

My host Rada, Medical Director of the Outpatient Department of New Technologies, and President of the Russian Federation of Medical Psychotherapy: a man in his mid forties, with a prophetic beard that rivals his founder’s, and burning eyes, is one such triumph. Rada’s eyes, and professional devotion to finding ‘new clinical technologies’ – Russian’s are still addicted to technology – seem to me to be one of the few beacons of light and hope in a therapeutic space that has become as desolate as Sodom and Gomorrah. I find it hard to conceal my incredulity as he explains that included amongst the inpatient community there are affluent people who pay large sums of money to be here.

We pause outside a locked ward where a stern notice dictates to all inmates precisely the rations that they are allowed to bring along: all forms of salt, homemade preserves and pickles are, to my mind, illogically forbidden. As we enter I have a sensation of déjà vu: The windows are disfigured on the side with iron bars. The floor is discoloured and full of splinters. The place smells of sour cabbage, unsnuffed wicks, bed bugs and ammonia, and this picture of smells at first gives you the impression of having entered a menagerie. The words are Chekov’s but I feel as though I have walked backwards through a looking glass.

Originally the ward must have been designed to facilitate sedation through its naive deception that patients were accommodated in a country dacha, or turn of the century Swiss sanatorium. Ravaged by time and the absence of any budget for restoration, it has shrivelled into a crumbling set that has become the stage for an unintentional theatre of cruelty. Mere shades of their former three-dimensionality,


personalities now wander aimlessly between nothing and less than nothing and I feel that I have entered an abode of the living dead. Most of these shadow-selves lie on their overcrowded bunks in heavily sedated and catatonic rows.

The ward psychiatrist makes a brief appearance from his internally locked office and explains, not without pride, that a policy change has been instituted whereby they no longer have any wards, just informal dormitories, but these are dormitories from hell. I still haven’t seen a nurse anywhere and I experience a sadness that extends beyond words. Whilst he is talking to me I am aware that a woman is booting his door in suspended agony, imploring entrance to discuss the fate of her suicidal adolescent. Unlike my host this ward psychiatrist, who sports a deaf ear, speaks immaculate English but his eyes are like cold fish; their only commonality exists in the animation of their cigarettes. Russian men, and they don’t even need to be psychiatrists, never seem to tire of making jokes about their addiction to smoking and its associations with oral deprivation at the Soviet Breast.

As I am led to another dormitory the psychiatrist explains that ‘These people are acute suicides and require a 24 hour watch’. Nobody there to watch them, still not a single nurse to be seen, nobody therapeutic anywhere; and besides these patients are definitely too sedated to move. The only redeeming feature is that the electro- convulsive therapy treatment room looks reassuringly non operational. One principal clinical difference between this flagship institute and the provinces must be that it still has a budget for twenty-four hour sedations.

It is no wonder that the ward psychiatrist has eyes as dead as fish, no wonder that in a society that pays its medical professors less than 200 dollars a month, he is in a crisis of existential despair. No wonder that no experiences of human suffering will ever surprise anyone who works, or tries to work here, again. No wonder at all that the Scientologists are onto a winning wicket with their anti-psychiatry pamphlets. Not at all surprising to any of my companions that I breathe a huge sigh of relief when that dreadful parody of a chalet door is unlocked again and I am reunited with Rada’s quizzical eyes and his offer of a constitutional lemon tea heavily laced with cognac. I am inspired that Russia still has philanthropically motivated doctors like Rada who, despite their profitable and thriving psycho-sexual private practices in the city’s’ centre, also continue to toil and trouble in this wasteland for a reformed vision of state mental health-care provision. As we prepare to depart Eliot’s words float into consciousness: ‘On Margate sands I can connect nothing with nothing’. This really is a world without connection.

On our way out of this baneful yet nationally prestigious institute – to which I have had privileged access – whose principal detail of aesthetic décor seems to be provided by a tracery of mice droppings, we stop at cluttered kiosk, such as you might find beside any metro station. This is the pharmacy and because medicines cost money it is attended to. It looks more like a wizard’s booth and prescriptions are clearly optional! When I ask whether the pharmacist has any Prozac for me Rada and Mikhail Reshetnikov laugh, light up, and shake their heads but they are the misinformed. Prozac she has indeed; just like vodka, cigarettes and software you can buy it cheap, even though it is a powerful mind altering drug which, when improperly imbibed, can transform depression into florid mania in a matter of hours.

The citizens of St. Petersburg make no secret of their distinction between the ‘good city’ and the ‘bad city’; tomorrow I am going to the Northern district of the ‘bad city’ to an old cinema to watch so called ‘folk healers’ perform. Remember, this is the country which, in the late ‘80s, an influential psychiatrist called Kashpirovsky transported himself into a populist hypnotist who managed to hold the nation in hypnotic thrall through the television screen.

I wake up to an autumn day that would make Wordsworth proud to be a Russian: the roads are silvered in a film of ice and my ears begin to freeze as soon as I enter St. Isaac’ Square to catch sight of a school crocodile wearing its homogeneity like an uniform. I realise that a sight of national physiognomy has become an anachronism in London where any large group of children come as assorted as Smarties. Almost all of my Russian friends found it hard to accept that my grandchildren are mixed race. Amongst the most liberal you often find that the African students – who were imported into Soviet universities – are still blamed for causing the Russian HIV epidemic, which will soon implode and explode the country’s inertia and denial into crisis. When I am in Russia my worst thought is that I will need to be hospitalised and require a blood transfusion.

Today, my translator and confidant, Lara is taking me across the city to visit a former Soviet cinema called Prometheus where we will witness the nationally esteemed folk healer Marina and her adept in crime hypnotise their audience into fiscal submission. More than a hundred, closer to two, old and not so old citizens are gathered in this derelict and unheated dump to be hypnotised into health. Soon the unbelievable will happen before my eyes as this patch-worked community offer up their hard won roubles in return for worthless talismans. I already have no doubt that this couple are neither mages nor folk healers but criminal charlatans who know how to work the collective mentality of a crowd of people whose lives have been scarred by famine, loss, sickness and multi-layered political betrayal. Most will have lost a son, or grandson – here or there – to one war, or another. But I am surprised by the absence of any attempt at presentation: they appear dressed by courtesy of a Russian equivalent of Primark. At the very least I had expected charisma with lashings of Russian soul and more smouldering eyes.

A rusty blaze of sound announces entry: there are no lighting effects, nothing to see except two drab individuals climbing onto the stage and receiving adulation and bouquets of flowers from arthritic men and women who struggle to be the first to offer their cellophaned tributes. Now I see a man and woman whose aura whiffs only of indifference and contempt. Without any attempt at folk habiliment – but lost in moth-eaten fur – the self-professed healer, Lady Marina begins to read her poetry. One ditty follows another until my embarrassed interpreter whispers ‘Frankly this is terrible poetry, let us leave’. I remind her that she didn’t bring me for the poetry but to witness a social phenomenon that happens all over Russia every day amongst a needy and neglected layer of the population which is still too confused to make a distinction between religion, cults, and collective hysteria. Marina’s companion, dressed in a polyester track suit, announces that he is the grandson of the great holy man Gramma Njura: not only can he cure his captive audience but he can also assist all the absent members of their families with his talismans. “Just like the great God Prometheus I can change your destiny.” This is something that no one in this audience, or maybe most of Russia, any longer believes that their politicians,

doctors, military forces, scientists, or national security can do. Njura’s words carry seduction because their promise is of effortless gratification – the nationally longed for quick fix: rewards will be instant; or almost instant and no one needs to do anything at all because Njura possesses the spiritual key to a bio-energy to make all things possible. Energy, one should know, is the second most popular national word after technology. His rhetoric is dissolute: ‘If you haven’t heard from your grandson since he entered the army and left for Chechnya you need only sprinkle a few drops of holy water on his pillow and he will return by the end of the month.’ Sometimes they do! Most commonly as numbers.

The lights go out with a fearful hissing and we are plunged into a darkness that smells like more sour cabbage as the corrosive sounds of attempted sea rhythms now herald the climax of performance. Our polyester trickster Njura behests us to gather a citizen in our arms; to rub away grief and renew bio-energy. Rub! Rub harder and harder! The dark auditorium is alive with the electrical energy of strangers rubbing up a tornado of hysteria, delusion and denial. The light returns and I am amazed to see that the audience has been transformed: a group of cold and hungry strangers are looking towards their seducers with expectant eyes of the newborn. Can it really be so easy to hoodwink and seduce? Are these brave and resilient people who have born so much suffering, so much hunger, really going to bite the bait of illusion before my eyes? Surely such easy believers would prefer a church; but then I realise that prayer demands effort, uncertainty and patience to wait for that eternal reward and that there are no overnight guarantees on offer. In this ghastly cinema the illusion is not on the screen but in front of my eyes. Two greedy queues are forming on the stage and former hobblers appear quick on the hoof. One group are waiting to be blessed with poetry and holy water and the other group, already baptised in collective deceit, are frantically buying the talismans from the holy descendent of Gramma Njura.

The poet Osip Mandelshtam said that it was only in Russia that politicians thought that poets were worth killing. Come to think of it, during almost a century of the political suppression of agency and self, it was left to the poets to burn that counter- revolutionary candle of conscience and subjectivity. Anna Akhmatova, in her poem Requiem, which was banned until after her death, wrote: ‘Beyond the circle of the moon, I cry/Into the blizzards of the permafrost: Goodbye. Goodbye./ In those years only the dead smiled,/Glad to be at rest:’.

Can it only be in Russia – amongst the best educated people of the world – where physical existence literally depends on the acquisition of primitive survival skills, they can delude themselves that doggerel and water contain magic and bio-energetic energies that will bring back their lost boys from Never Never Land? Roubles are falling everywhere, just like the first snowflakes of the season that await me, as emotionally drained, but not financially ruined, we fall out of this corrupt atmosphere that now resounds to an Onegin chorus! During our long, ice blown walk to Lara’s home to eat blini and newly pickled mushrooms we calculate that in the course of one hour Marina and Gramma Njura probably filled their coffers to the equivalent of 1,500 US dollars, not bad for an hourly wage.

It is early evening by the time we return to the Institute for Psychoanalytic Studies and the building has warmed up; the austerity of its marble entry hall is complimented by crystal lighting. Startling nude studies recline the stairs and beckon

towards the main teaching area as if to alert all those brave enough to enter that their task is to unmask psyche. The corridors are alive with the buzz of postgraduate students who have come on from their daytime employment. Fashionable looking individuals cluster out onto the pavement: despite the rigour of the freezing elements they all appear bright eyed and enthusiastic as they shed layers of outerwear and prepare to commit themselves to a seriously long evening of post- Freudian theory and applied psychoanalytic psychotherapy. Many of them are already employed as senior clinicians in mental health services, some are professors and others grown-children of the new affluent classes. Teaching is conducted in formal classrooms with blackboard and chalk.

It is only now – after the recorded events of the day – that I begin to realise how extraordinary the presence and philosophy of this thriving training institute EEPS is and how much its founder and rector, Mikhail Reshetnikov, has contributed to national psychological understanding in the last ten years. He is also a frequent traveller between Petersburg and the Kremlin where he is Consultant to the First Chamber of Russian Parliament. In November he was awarded the official title of Personality of the Year – along with the Nobel Prize winner and academician Jores Alpherov – for his services to the development of Russian psychoanalytic psychotherapy. As always in Russian politics you are either a national threat or absorbed into its mainstream: middle ground remains a neglected concept.

Later on, my lecture delivered, we warm up with vodka, obscured in a tsunami of exhaled cigar, beneath the inscrutable gaze of a lithograph of Freud’s Monday Club, while Mikhail Reshetnikov explains more to me. “I was never a conventional military man and my friends were surprised that I served for twenty-five years, but my primary contribution was to the psychology of trauma and terror. Then, I was invited by the Mayor of St. Petersburg, Anatoliy Sobchack, who was a very popular political leader, to work with him as the Chief of his Analytical Department which led on to my own idea to set up an independent institute. I was only interested if it was for the development of psychoanalytic studies. The idea just seemed to emerge out of a dream; it was 1991 and a period of intellectual intoxication: great ideas were in the air. However, when I said that I wanted to establish an institute of psychoanalysis, I was told that it was impossible. To begin with I had to compromise and it was established as the Institute of Medical and Psychological Problems and only later we changed its title to The Eastern European Institute for Psychoanalytic Studies. Fifteen years ago psychoanalysis was unknown to Russian medical psychotherapists and psychiatrists but now it would be impossible to have a psychotherapy conference without its presence as an academic discipline.”

Over dinner other colleagues explain to me that it is no longer the authorities that pose a threat to the expansion of psychoanalytic psychotherapy in Russia but the collective mentality, which has become addicted to the idea of ‘a quick fix’. Russians are weary of waiting and this contributes to a national predilection for magic and the seductive uniformity of cults where everyone knows what they must do next to maintain the promise of equilibrium. My colleagues express gratitude that I have strayed beyond the civilised confines of the Institute to see the nether belly of their city. They explain that they sometimes find it difficult to reconcile themselves to classical European techniques of psychoanalytic psychotherapy that were not sculpted out of a psychology of famine, and the other unique political pressures and crises of identity that a vast proportion of the Russian population – those who are

neither the poorest nor richest citizens – are heir to. Growing more confident, these accomplished Russian professionals are also becoming determined to combine their desires for international clinical fertilisation with a distinctly Russian passport that will also address itself to the cultural specificities of the superstitious Russian psyche. It is inspiring for me to observe – each time I return -more and more graduate psychotherapists have set up shop in svelte clinical consultation centres.

Psychotherapy – under Reshetnikov’s influence – has already become a profitable and desirable profession with accredited qualifications that reflect European standards. Its skilled practitioners are still busy competing with national predilictions for occult alternatives that state registered quacksalvers continue to peddle but in St. Petersburg it is turning into the preferred treatment for alienated and impoverished professionals and the ‘New Russians’ alike.

I do not want to leave this extraordinary environment and go home. The only compensation is that I will stop smelling like the Russian equivalent of Galloise and will have to give up the appealing habit of cleaning my teeth in vodka.

Allow not nature more than nature needs, Man’s life is cheap as beast’s. March 30, 2011

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Not being a TV viewer I only ever catch the finale of interesting programmes, strange how it’s never the beginning. The other night my husband was trying to find something to distract me from moaning on about my virus when we alighted on the end of Panorama's programme, 'The Big Squeeze' on how living standards have fallen in the past two years and most affected have been those in the building trades.

I found myself taken into the life-worn and immaculate workshop of a carpenter, in a Liverpool industrial area, who had custom built and fitted wooden doors and windows for new buildings. An exacting and precise craft. Rather that is what he used to do, and although he looked like a pensioner but perhaps he was prematurely worn to the bones with stress, that was what he still wanted and still needed and still could do. I have not been able to put his hang-dog dejection, nor his workshop with its metallic precision of polished and blood warm tools and surgical implements out of sight. If I was Seamus Heaney I might want to write a poem, or if I was David Storey, a novel,  for this man, so skilled and outlawed from trade, seemed to me to  embody all the dying poetry of  artisanal  England.

A pause to reflect on the word artisan, which is how the French still refer to their local rural builders, and which embodies the word 'art' which is not reduced to utility.  Manual skill is art, it can be living poetry and this man with his weak eyes stained by permanent tear, where perhaps once a star had spun as he swung his hammer, and who with his complexion now stained raw by blood pressure was still in every cell the artist in his workshop where every tool had its own hand-worn placement of apprenticeship to the wood.

Yes, His act worships itself.

What disturbed  most was that this man, I choose not to use his first name in a wanton intimacy, like other men interviewed in the programme, did not require thousands of pounds to stop his house being re-possessed, his workshop lost, only some hundreds. Why do 'we' need a government and the bureaucracy of  urgent and unpopular tax reforms for those of us who have enough, or even too much, or much too much.  'Oh reason not the need ' Lear  declares, to inspire 'society' to give up just one habitual luxury to prevent our 'neighbours', some might say the working classes from losing their homes and being cast out onto that unchanging heath of homelessness. Homes which the programme told us, within a matter of a year - or in some instances - still more tantalising, months would have become owned but which were now in the steely hands of repossession.

I wander thro’ each charter’d street,
Near where the charter’d Thames does flow,
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

If the 'Big Society' means forming circles of virtue and reciprocity, giving receiving and returning, then I'm all for it but how to start? No, I don't need anybody to tell me, I can if I choose, get on the phone to Citizens Advice in Liverpool and ask for some advice...

Post Script, April Fool's Day:

It is not possible to make any contact because the CAB bureaus are so  overwhelmed that they don't accept emails or phone calls. In Liverpool, rather like our local Waitrose deli, I have discovered that you have to collect a number from a slot in the  wall which tells you where you are in the queue. When there are no more numbers available it means that you must come back the next day and queue again, presumably earlier. Since becoming concerned about 'repossession' I have just read Pessoa's definition of Romantic and I think Blake and Will Shakespeare, at least in some of his moods, might have gone with it:

The fundamental error of Romanticism is to confuse what we need with what we desire. We all need certain basic things for life's preservation and continuance; we all desire a more perfect life, complete happiness and the fulfilment of our dreams.....

It's human to want what we need and  it's human to desire what we don't need but find desirable. Sickness occurs when we desire what we need and what's desirable with equal intensity, suffering our lack of perfection as if we were suffering our lack of bread. The Romantic malady is to want the moon as if it could be obtained.

Is enthusiasm the opposite of depression… August 15, 2010

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I haven’t felt like sharing my thoughts or logging in for months, but today there is something I want to share.

I have been struggling, wading or fumbling into the pages of Love in the Western World by Denis de Rougement. His thoughts are dense and intense and it's easy to give up the effort to think these sentences through. But twice now he's thrilled me and most recently it was with his elucidation, via Plato, of the original meaning of the word, 'enthusiasm'. It seems that to be enthusiastic is to be possessed by the Gods, I love that thought and get it because at the same time it fires another unthought thought in my head, and my sensory memory confirms it. When I am enthused about something I'm inhabiting my environment, I'm being fed by the universe and the mortal world is enough. I sparkle and my enthusiasm might even be contagious. The other thought is that when one stops being enthusiastic, one is, if not sad, depressed and I have been trying to figure out for a long time what might be the opposite of depression, which I often elucidate to my clients as losing desire for the world, and that explains to me why enthusiasm is so irrepressible and when something is irrepressible, whether it's my dogs enthusiasm for her walk, or my irrational devotion to my dog's feelings, it means that repression is absent. And, repression, whether it is anger, or denial, or love, yes we so often repress our love in the fear that it will not be returned is a broad walk to depression.

My enthusiastic dog, Lucy the Viszla in Regents Park, 2009. Copyright John Haynes

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Self-Portrait-In-A-Hat-With-Flowers,-1883Not feeling like blogging  – perhaps too much heady food is still being metabolised … Le Grand Macabre by Ligeti , whose life experiences are painfully tragic to read about and seemingly without much respite but  from out of his cauldron of  sensation emerged so much creativity, wit, love and subversion... and then in the same week even anticipating watching Tristan and Isolde  on Friday induced a physical vertigo.

Ligeti  has drawn me, or rather my Proustian partner who inducted me, has inadvertently drawn me to the surreal dramatist Michel Ghelderode.  I have been trying to memorize his name by imagining that I am riding a geldered stallion, along with Keats' Bright Star, and hope that I have got the spelling right  and then galloping off  to Amazon Prime for the catalogue of James Ensor who was as fascinated by Carnival and Masks and Love and Death and Anxiety as I am, except Ensor painted them and I try to get behind them....many of his works remind me, and are I think, indebted to Goya's black paintings. (Retrospectively, I also feel that Paula Rego must feel indebted to his visceral imaginings and teasing.) I wish I knew where those black Goya paintings are hidden as so few of them are displayed in Madrid, unless they are stored away in unnamed archives.

Even before these artists, discovered  by courtesy of my  Ligeti-trail, came  as a gift into my vision I was intending to blog about Carnival and the Death of  Tragedy, and Rio de Janeiro, and my Capoeira thrusting Berimbar drumming friend Greg Hicks whose life embodies Carnival and who next year will be playing King Lear at the RSC, and then another unexpected pleasure, to revel in the fact that Rio and not Chicago won the Olympic bid, which is what made me think of Greg because he has a flat in Rio at the foot of  the statue of Christ the Redeemer ...  but for now I still need to absorb and metabolize rather than write.  And then last night - at my grandson, Dan's direction - I watched the documentary Gonzo and discovered the death driven genius, the carnival energies, the insight and death-sight. of  Hunter S. Thompson, the beauty of Johnny Depp, and  today I am still more undone and I don't,  after watching the inspiring and fittingly minimalist staging while listening to the frantic and god-like desires, demons and visions and woundings, or should I write wounds,  of  Tristan and Isolde - with my Wagnerian loving/ Proust reading partner - where nothing remains black or white, but returns to shadow, have much to spare.  

34104898James Ensor: Pierrot and skeletons.

The mobility, the anxiety and the waivering of his nature explain at once the feverish searches,the steps forwards, the steps backwards, the brusque advances and the sudden retreats, in a word all the unevenness of his art. Emile Verhaearen, 1908

The intrigueThe Intrigue.

And Self Portrait at top of the page.

John Haynes’ photo of the week: Tiger, Tiger. August 20, 2009

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Tiger copyCopyright John Haynes December 2004

John Haynes’ photograph of the week: Boot Street August 6, 2009

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Please click on picture to enlarge.

2005_1104SquareHoxton0030 copy


Nothing will come of nothing August 4, 2009

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Since I finished the Proust bit I cannot imagine ever having anything to write about again. I suppose that’s what I love about the mystery of writing, I feel like I am a jackdaw on the look out for something that sparkles. A thief. I talked quite a bit, (it’s all bits and pieces this morning),  with Hilary Mantel at the Dartington Festival of Words about whether writers were 'thieves', and whether shrinks could see inside people, which of course they cannot. The shrinks.  If I can work out the technology I shall upload our conversation about Mind, Mood and Memory, one day soon.

I hope all this current media medley doesn't get inside of the Man Booker judges and subtly influence, or even irritate their autonomy of  judgement away from Hilary.  Perhaps, next year they will have to be  shut away in a hotel like a hung jury. Or, maybe the spaggetti junctions of the Internet will soon  render professional judges unnecessary... The thought of The Observer  collapsing, although in many ways it has already collapsed...and, how awful for the announcement to come  on the eve as so many of its journalists depart for their summer holidays.

One thing I know is that I am going to return to Keats' letters for my next quote of the week. Yes, he was a Romantic and I can only imagine he would have hated our world of the Quick Fix but he was also so practical about how to live one's life, both aesthetically and physically:  his mind crossed  a spectrum as varied as any of those terrains he set off to explore. And,  he knew all about the arts of  quarreling. Perhaps, I should write on 'Quarrels' soon.

Amazing,  how different we all are: Keats and Proust both suffered with their health and their breath, and they both died far too young, but one took to his bed - almost from childhood - while the other kept on travelling; even when he was spitting up blood.

Overdiagnosis July 11, 2009

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‘Researchers in Finland concluded in a paper just published on bmj.com that one in three breast cancers detected in a population with a public breast screening program is overdiagnosed. Some cancers are harmless and will not cause symptoms or death during a patient's lifetime. The cancer grows so slowly that the patient dies of other causes before it produces symptoms, or the cancer remains dormant or regresses. Overdiagnosis refers to the detection of those cancers. Since it is impossible to tell apart lethal from harmless cancers, all detected are treated. As a result, overdiagnosis and overtreatment are unavoidable. Karsten Jørgensen and Peter Gøtzsche at the Nordic Cochrane Centre analyzed breast cancer trends before and after the introduction of publicly organized screening programs, in order to calculate approximately the degree of overdiagnosis. They studied five countries: UK, Canada, Australia, Sweden and Norway. For the sake of objectivity, they looked at information from seven years before and after screening had been completely implemented in each country. They included both screened and non-screened age groups. Other factors that may have affected the results were assessed, such as changes in background levels of breast cancer and any compensatory drop in rates of breast cancer among older, previously screened women. The study showed a rise in occurrence of breast cancer that was directly associated to the introduction of screening. A small proportion of this increase was compensated for by a decrease in incidence of breast cancer in previously screened women. Subsequently, they evaluated each country and the estimated level of over diagnosis: the figure  in the UK is 57 percent.'

This has been my own intuitive and lay opinion for years. I have watched friends and acquaintances being diagnosed with breast cancers almost as if they had contracted flu. It has felt more and more like an epidemic for which all sorts of phenomena have been blamed, and if anything caused more and more women to have annual breast screening.  I sometimes hear women  referring to passing their annual mammography as if it was an A level. I have also met women who have had a clear mammogram one week and then produced a lump the following one.

I have watched some of them going through the agonies of recall, and waiting for more test results and critical examinations with surgeons and discussions with oncologists. I have visited them in hospital.  Thankfully, I have also seen the majority of them recover and continue with their lives, and sometimes eventually forget their ordeal and find the confidence to believe they are well rather than in remission.

 I must emphasize that I have also witnessed mothers and daughters being diagnosed - sometimes simultaneously - with a genetic variety of breast cancer in which they have been well advised to have a double mastectomy. I have also seen other women, often tragically young, diagnosed with invasive and galloping forms of hormonal cancers which have required every treatment in the book to try and reverse their obduracy.

I have sadly known some women die from breast cancer, including one as young as my next door neighbour. Read about others, like Linda McCartney, Dina Rabinovitch, and Farrah Fawcett who video recorded her two year battle with anal cancer.

The people that I have seen die from  cancers are often the same people that I have seen receive the most advanced treatments available in the world which have tragically failed to make any difference to the fatal outcome. In other cases medical science has triumphed but I'm not convinced that anybody knows why. I can't help wondering whether for women diagnosed  as a result of screening rather than through the presence of symptoms  there is yet enough justification for invasive treatments. (Unless there is a genetic history to be considered.) At least not immediately. There is also the problem that once one manufactures a cancer diagnosis the anxiety and stress produced is also destructive. More and more, good treatment is equated with speed rather than any measured and expert period of observation. 

Like Germaine Greer, who has also written diatribes against the ever increasing screening processes that women are submitted to, I feel that we have mistakenly  elevated early diagnosis procedurals over my favoured  'watch and wait' process. Of course somebody very experienced needs to be doing the watching. Advanced screening techniques make it dead easy to record a tumour here or there, but  they are less schooled in recording how long the tumour may have been in situ. What scanners cannot do is provide the doctor with the critical information of what the tumour has, or is likely soon to be doing systemically. 

Not that long ago,  an elderly doctor friend of mine was invited by the Wellington Hospital to try out their latest scans to diagnose  the presence or absence of arterial plaque. At the end of the screening he was told that his arteries were lined with plaque and that he must hie himself to the Cromwell Chest Hospital for further urgent surgical interventions. Wise old owl that he is, he replied, 'You may be able to tell me that my arteries are plaqued, but what you cannot tell me is whether it is benign plaque that stays in situ, or killer plaque that  falls off.' He decided to wait and find out; now in his eighties he's still doing fine.

It's a different situation again when an undiagnosed breast cancer turns out to be due to secondaries, but by then it's sadly too late to do much at all, except palliatively.

My own experience of abdominal illness and surgery has convinced me of the importance of learning to stay in touch with my body, know it's general feel, so that should any new symptoms, or lumps or bumps, knock at my door I recognise their intrusion and know it's time to do something. Fast. On the occasion when I did require abdominal surgery several years ago, retrospectively I realised that I had been aware of the symptoms for months before they were diagnosed by scanning, but that I had buried my head in the sand. I didn't take the subtle messages from my body seriously.  I don't go in for mammography, not since my first appointment ten years ago, when I was called back for further investigations which turned out to be a false positive. As far as I know it's not in the family, which would make me think differently.

Recently, I heard a doctor colleague ask another, 'When a patient arrives with what you suspect to be early symptoms of a degenerating disease do you immediately want to impose diagnostic tests and spell out the bad news, or is it better to let the illness - at least begin with -  take its course, which might with any luck be one of several years, before zooming in with a frightening and irreversible diagnosis?' In this case they were referring to incurable and  terrifying diseases of the central nervous system.

I  fear that we have lost  faith in our bodies letting us know when something is wrong and we need to learn to prick up our ears. In the same way that so many doctors have stopped using their hands, eyes and ears, even their noses, in forming their diagnoses. I fear that too many people are losing touch, or forgetting regularly to dialogue with their  bodies. Doctors are always reminding us that ever more and more complex and expensive analyses of our blood are now the eyes of  our bodies. The doctors often omit to tell us that the credibility of many labs is contentious. Anyway, blood is another trickster and what looks like bad news one week might measure as normal three weeks later. At least it keeps the labs busy.