The structure of the Psychology Service in the South African Medical Service (in 1986) consisted of:
Brigadier O. (a Colonel when I first met him) was the Director of Psychology Services. He spent his time co-ordinating all psychology services, therapeutic and 'other', from the SAMS headquarters. I believe he had a background in Industrial Psychology. He sent each of the psychologists a Christmas card, surprisingly military in message and format, but an unexpected arrival.
His deputy was Commandant Hennie V. (a major when I first met him). I don't think I know anything more about him.
The most senior psychologist based at 1 Military Hospital was COMMANDANT ANDRIES K. (A major when I met him). He was the overall co-ordinator of the psychology service at the hospital, and was based with most of the non-clinical psychologists on the North West side of the Old Military Hospital.
There were three Departments of Psychology at 1 Military Hospital:
(1) The Department of Clinical Psychology. The head of Clinical Psychology was MAJOR DOLF O.. The Clinical Psychology department was based within the Department of Psychiatry, which was situated in the north east side of the old 1 Military Hospital building. The Department of Clinical Psychology tended to have referred to them people who had some psychiatric diagnosis; depression, anxiety, suicide attempts, and of course, psychosis. (There was some overlap with the Counselling psychology service, and where a particular patient might end up often depended on who referred them.) All patients brought into casualty with mental problems were referred to psychiatry, and then often sub-referred to clinical psychology.
The Clinical Psychology Department consisted of:
MAJOR DOLF O.
CAPTAIN PIETER G.
Ms/CAPTAIN RENE V.
LIEUTENANT ANDRE G.
Interns: GLENN T.
BARRY FOWLER (Me!)
STANDING: (L to R) Glenn, Dolf, Rene, Rheta, Andre and Pieter. LYING: Barry and Annette.
(2) The Department of Counselling Psychology. The Head of Counselling Psychology was MAJOR 'OLLIE' O.. Although the Counselling Psychology Department saw patients suffering from some adjustment difficulties, anxiety and depression (in common with the department of Clinical Psychology), their specialty seemed to be working with families. Ollie was a very strong advocate of family therapy (following a systems approach). In addition to this, the Counselling Psychology Department saw children with emotional or educational problems, and also helped with the psychological assessment of people who had volunteered to serve at the South African meteorological bases in the Southern Atlantic; Marion Island, Gough Island, and on the mainland of Antarctica; SANAE (South African National Antarctic Expedition).
The Counselling Psychology Department consisted of:
MAJOR `OLLIE' O.
CAPTAIN WILMA B.
CAPTAIN ZAAN E.
CAPTAIN NAAS R.
CAPTAIN JOHAN A.
CAPTAIN DEON C.
Intern: MRS. PAT C.
(3) The Department of Medical Psychology. The Head of the Medical Psychology Department was MAJOR COETZEE B., and it was claimed that such a department of medical psychology at a general hospital was a first in South Africa. Medical Psychology consisted mostly of working with people who had neurological injuries, and those who had lost arms, legs, hands and feet. They also worked with people who had been badly scarred or burned, and offered a consultancy service to the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
The Medical Psychology Department consisted of:
MAJOR COETZEE B.
CAPTAIN ELFRIEDA P.
LIEUTENANT TREVOR R.
LIEUTENANT ALAN C.
All of the above made up the Psychology Personnel at 1 Military Hospital, in Voortrekkerhoogte. Ironically, right next door to the Old 1 Military Hospital buildings, was the headquarters building of Northern Transvaal Medical Command. They had their own small Psychology Service that seemed to be almost inter-changeable with 1 Mil's Counselling Psychology Department.
DOLF O. (HEAD OF CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGY)
Major Dolf O. was a really great chap, relaxed and friendly, and I was very fond of him. He was tall and slim, dark haired but balding stylishly. He had a thin face, blue eyes and a big black moustache. He was thirty one years old when I started at 1 Mil.
Dolf was still a bachelor, and he shared his house with a miniature schnauzer, called 'Max'. (Short for Maximilian). One day at morning tea, Dolf was showing everyone the centrefold of the dog-owners magazine that he gets. There was a photo of a miniature schnauzer sitting in a field of pink poppies.
"Are you into dogs?" one of the doctors asked him.
Dolf is great to tease, and Glenn and I as the liberal 'rooinekke' tease him about his fabricated A.W.B. ("Afrikaners Without Brains"?) connections.['Rooinek' is a derogatory Afrikaans term for English people, equivalent to 'Limey' or 'Pommie', which originated from the Boer War when British soldiers suffered from sunburned necks. A.W.B. stands for the Afrikaner Resistance Movement, the Neo-Nazi's with the Swastika make of three sevens.]
Dolf mentioned that he didn't like the 'Cosby' show. "Why don't you turn the colour right down," I suggest. "Then you won't notice that they're negroes."
I was alone with Dolf in his office once, and with his eyes glinting mischievously, he mentioned a 'joystick', saying that it was pink and hard, and he thought I might like to put it in my mouth and suck it. I started to feel uncomfortable. Was Dolf Gay?
Dolf let me squirm for a while longer, piling on subtle homosexual insinuations, and then with a broad grin placed a sweet on the table in front of me. The wrapper declared it to be a joystick, and it matched his description in every detail.
I asked Dolf to give me a reference so that I could get involved in Scouting again. He wrote a kind reference in Afrikaans, and put it in a folder for me, with a note saying the equivalent of "Please translate this (into English if possible)". He had a great sense of humour.
Dolf told a little story which might actually be true; A mother decides to listen to what her kid actually says during his bedtime prayers; "Our Father who art in heaven, Hello, what's your name?"
Dolf had an interesting relationship with the Head of the Department of Psychiatry, Commandant Anton P.. Apparently they had been at the same school, matriculating in the same year. Commandant P. had been the head boy, and Dolf had been the deputy head boy. They had both started to study medicine; the Commandant was successful, and he was completing his postgraduate degree in Psychiatry when I knew him. Dolf had dropped out of medical school, and gone into Psychology instead, ending up one step removed from being the equivalent of deputy head boy again. A funny old world!
CAPTAIN PIETER G.
Pieter G. was the deputy head of the Department of Clinical Psychology. He was in his late twenties, and married. He was very 'Aryan'-looking; blond with fair skin, and a man who would put on weight if he didn't keep himself active. He was a 'man's man' type; chauvinistic, and did all the right things. Playing golf was one of the things to do if you wanted to make the grade in the army as a psychologist. Pieter was good. Dolf didn't play golf at all.
Pieter was the supervisor of Annette V. and me; his two interns. I generally got on very well with him, and on one occasion, he told me; "You are the best Englishman I've ever met."
As a supervisor he was generally quite happy for me to do my own thing, and to go to him when I had problems. My perception of the environment in which I had studied was that we had to make sure that we were proficient with any and all psychological tests that we used. When I started at 1 Mil, I was not familiar with one of the tests which was routinely used, and I assured Pieter that I would get acquainted with it that evening. His response was, "Okay, but don't bust yourself. I know how busy you guys are." I thought that was very nice.
Pieter was also a good story teller in our gathering place, the departmental tea room. He told of how a minister of religion had come to lay hands on one of Pieter's patients to exorcise him of demons - great stuff! After he had left, other patients started going wild - setting bedding alight, throwing furniture around and breaking windows. Someone made the comment; "He didn't cast the demons out - he just made them angry!"
Following a particularly cold spell, in the highveld winter, when we were all huddled in the tea room. Pieter's comment; "Ja, ek dink die ergste van die hitte is verby!" ["I think the worst of the heat is over!"] True!
Early on in the year, Pieter invited Glenn and me, the two MALE interns along to play 'Action Cricket' with what he implied would be most of the other male members of the department. Cricket has been the sport that I dislike most and am least competent in (Baseball and Volleyball must be in the league of games I hate most as well!), and I warned them of this, but showed willing and went along to be 'one of the boys.' It turned out to be a few of the department, and a number of complete strangers - not a department function at all. I demonstrated my lack of proficiency with such games. When my morale was down later in the year, Pieter drew on this saying that he had been impressed, while my lack of ability was obvious, that I had tried. It sounds terribly 'Scouting for Boys' doesn't it?
During a mini-psychiatric panel, a young soldier was presented who had made a very superficial and unconvincing suicide attempt. He was uncooperative, saying that as soon as he was discharged from hospital, he would made another attempt, and this time he would succeed. There were no signs of depression, and there seemed to be no significant events that might have triggered his suicide attempt.
Marius was the psychiatrist chairing the panel. In a very interesting interaction with Pieter, Marius suggested that the patient might be interested in joining the suicide squad that Pieter was a part co-ordinator of. The idea they developed was that such volunteers, who really wanted to die, would be given two rifles and as much ammunition as they could carry, and be dropped off in Southern Angola with the idea that they would just keep walking north, killing any SWAPO member they came across, until eventually they themselves were killed. I knew that they were making it up, but I did have fleeting doubts, so convincing was the act.
With a 'we shouldn't really be telling you this' manner, they asked the patient whether he would be interested in joining such a unit, which would provide him with the death that he wanted, and give his parents and loved ones something to be proud of; a funeral with full military honours.
Marius suggested that the patient put some thought into it, and report back to Pieter. The chap's bluff was called - he must have been very gullible! - for he reported back to Pieter a few days later that he didn't feel at all suicidal any more. In fact, he felt a lot better.
Glenn T. was a year older than me, twenty-five when we first met, and he was married to an American teacher. He was English speaking, had done some of his schooling in England, and had similar political views to me, which would probably have been described as moderate/liberal. Not very common ones in the army! He is small, precise, with wavy blondish hair and glasses, and he looked very similar to Chester Crocker, who was then the American Secretary of State for Africa.
Glenn told a story of when he had been interviewed for the intern post at 1 Military Hospital. Dolf, who was on the selection panel had asked some question, essentially about whether he could be trusted with sensitive information. Glenn had the perfect answer to this; before doing his postgraduate psychology studies, he had been a permanent force member of the Air Force, during which time he had worked in intelligence. This more than answered Dolf's question, and had apparently embarrassed Dolf, and the two of them joked about this afterwards.
Working with depressed-suicidal patients, or patients with serious problems which one does not seem able to help them with, has a demoralising effect on psychologists. To counteract this, we would make a point of having tea in the staff room and having lunch there where we talk, and tell jokes, and laugh, and cheer each other up. It wasn't always this bad, but one can get cut up by the pain that one can feel eating up the insides of your patient. There are other ways of fighting this morale deterioration - and Glenn and I played many mind games.
Sometimes, on quiet Friday afternoons, when many patients were home for the weekend on recovery leave, we would play war games, or cowboys, where we would have dramatic silent shootouts in the passages of the hospitals. We ran the risk of being seen. But we were in the right place; a Department of Psychiatry. We knew the staff, and when certified, I am sure that we would have been well treated. That would have been better than working.
We had a pan-cake duel one day - tossing imaginary pancakes - and miming many absurd things that might happen when one is tossing pancakes - look up as it goes up - look back in the pan waiting for it to come back down, look up and find it on the ceiling. These things all happened spontaneously - usually in sight but out of earshot of each other.("I'm sure someone's going to see us one day. Maybe they're used to it.")
Glenn's master's thesis was on some aspect of the life experience of Black people living in the townships around Pretoria - a subject surprising for someone doing their internship at a military institution.
In the second half of 1986, Glenn's domestic assistant, a black lady, was accidentally shot and injured by the police. She was a bystander at a mini-riot. Glenn was irate and depressed when this happened, and I think that he went to visit her in hospital.
In one of our morning tea meetings, I mentioned that I had been helping my friend Fred the Vet with some spayings. I introduced the story saying; "One on my vets is a friend ..." and this mistake was greeted with greater delight than my actual story. Glenn never let me forget that comment.
Retha E. was the youngest of the four clinical interns. She was short and dumpy, and paid a great deal of attention to creating an image around herself. She presented a 'mystical' image, and always seemed to be pouncing on people, sensing that there were 'bad vibes' emanating from people around her, which she wished to resolved. She would not believe the other person if they said that they were not aware of the feelings that she believed them to hold. Although her interrogations were along the lines of 'lets get such things out into the open', my experience during such interrogations, was that she was analysing, and trying to store the information she believed that she was gathering into deep semi-conscious memory banks. I think that much of the information which she so gathered would have been very inaccurate.
Retha did strange things to her office. She produced large sheets of faded pink material, which she spread loosely over the chairs. She would also dress rather exotically; looking mystical rather than fashionable. Something that I mentioned to her during one of my interrogations, was that I thought she was being unfair on the soldiers that she was seeing. Most of them were having difficulty adjusting to the army, and here she was, essentially working in the army, but presenting a rather bizarre image. What would they have made of it? Surely it was better to present a straightforward conservative image?
Retha seemed to draw out Marius's (psychiatrist) curiosity. In a playful way, he would make comments about 'Stinky pinky'.
Retha did her thesis on young children's' interpretations of fairy stories. She got her sample of children from a nearby children's' home, and I remember a couple of them running around the department one afternoon. Another unusual thesis topic for someone doing their internship at a military institution.
Like Glenn, Retha left 1 Mil when her Internship finished at the end of 1986, and I lost contact with her. Glenn told me that she moved into a commune near Cape Town which was like a Dope Den; which must have appealed to Retha with her mystical-image concern. Apparently, she couldn't cope with the situation as well as she hoped, and she left almost screaming after a week.
Annette V. was the other intern, who, like me was supervised by Pieter G.. She was a fully qualified nurse, who had an excellent reputation from working in intensive care. She had been in the Permanent Force for several years, and while receiving her full Permanent Force pay, she wore civilian clothes while doing her Clinical Psychology Internship.
Annette V. has the dubious distinction of being mentioned by name in COSAWR's supposed `expose' of the SADF Psychiatric wards. (COSAWR, No. 47, 1986-1987, pp. 12 - 13.) She was also a 'cover girl' in the sense that she appeared as one of two figures in a picture in a South African Defence Force calendar.
Annette as she appeared in a SAMS/Military calendar at about this time - when she was in a more traditional medical/nursing role.
Annette was good to me, but this had a price. She was friendly, and helped me to settle in, and used her contacts with the military authorities to arrange furniture for my office. The price was that she wanted to organise me, which I didn't like, and we ran 'hot and cold' with each other.
She had a running battle with one of the black domestic servants, a young woman called Emma. (Phonetically, 'Emma' means 'bucket' in Afrikaans, which Annette observed on occasions.) Annette's persecution of Emma became quite petty sometimes.
Annette would do pleasant things like phoning me when I was in my office to let me know that a drug company rep. had brought cake along for the morning tea. She would then damage this caring image with a comment like "Have some more cake, Barry. If we leave it the blacks will eat it."
Of the Annette vs. Emma conflict, Emma won hands down in my books; Emma brought along cake for the white staff to eat on the occasion of her birthday.
Annette was the first of the four interns to have a patient commit suicide. It was the wife of a permanent force member, not a young national serviceman. Losing patients to suicide is an occupational hazard for anyone working in mental health, and I think that Annette took it badly.
Annette did her thesis on 'Myocardial Infarctions' which I think has something to do with heart attacks. People who knew her well admitted that she lacked compassion that might have been appropriate when working with young national servicemen with adjustment difficulties, but everyone who knew her agreed that she was very good in intensive care situations. Most of the people that she worked with for her thesis were middle aged or old, which meant that they tended to be senior officers or senior NCO's.
Material written at the time describing my ambivalent relationship with Annette:
"There has been a definite cooling of any friendship that existed between Annette and me, following several incidents where she has either been inconsiderate or outright rude. One busy afternoon I showed one patient out of my office at three o'clock - I wanted to spend more time with him, but I had arranged another appointment for 3 p.m. I showed him out of my room, and could see my next appointment, a P.F. family waiting down the corridor.
As we walked out of my office we walked into Annette. "You should know that Barry will chuck you out at three," Annette told my patient whom she might have seen once or twice before. "Barry always has to go for his tea at three."
I was really irritated by that. And I didn't get tea that day anyway. My next patients were waiting."
Apparently, in the year before I started my internship, there were no groups run in the department of clinical psychology. Annette organised me into running groups, by suggesting the idea, and then finding some reason why she could not do it (Is this fair?), and so suggested that I co-ordinated them. The main groups organised in this way were a 'General Adjustment Group' and a 'Gay Adjustment group'. (More detail later on.)
"Also this little 'Aanpassings Groep' ['Adjustment group'] that she's so pleased about has been a problem. Annette and I have been taking it in turns to be therapist, but when I'm running the group Annette still runs around telling me which patients I must get for the group, and she recruits any patient, without ever consulting the other psychologists involved with those patients.
Last time - and I aim for it to be the last time! - I was running the group, she stuck her head through the window to "see how things were going". It was about twenty minutes into the group and I had just got some group processes going, and she asked if we could please stop and wait for some patients that she had collected from the ward and who had misunderstood her instructions and had been waiting outside her office. She would fetch them and we could start again.
I was taken by surprise, and agreed, but then I thought about having to get the group started again, and I decided, 'No, its too late now', and I raced after her. I reached her as she was bringing the other patients back to the group room and said (to them) that I was sorry, but it was too late for them to join the group this time. Annette's mouth just dropped open, and was still open when I turned and raced back to the group room. That was a week ago now, and we've never spoken about the incident."
Annette hated the idea that she might be left out of anything. In the department we had a facility where we could order photocopies of journal articles, which the hospital library would then make for us. One of the doctors organised a photocopy for me of an article on something that I had discussed with him. Annette walked in, found what was going on, and took offence because the doctor had not also arranged a copy for her. She didn't speak to us for some days after that.
Glenn and I joked about this, ourselves not having managed to read all the photocopies we had ordered, fantasising about all the uses which such photocopies could be put to; you could read them (boring!); you could rest hot mugs on them to save heat damage to your table; you could use a pile of them to keep your doors open in a breeze. It must have been a quiet day, for Glenn and I let our imaginations run wild.
BARRY FOWLER (Me!)
I was the last of the four Clinical Psychology interns. This whole project is written from my perspective, so information about me has to be inferred. Anyone reading this who knew me at 1 Mil - do you have any suggestions of material to write about myself?
Lieutenant Andre G. was a national serviceman, the only one in the Clinical Psychology Department. He had trained at the same university as I had, Natal (Pietermaritzburg), where we had known each other vaguely.
Andre worked at the new hospital, so we didn't see much of him, except at the weekly S.O.S. departmental meetings, and occasionally at the Officers Mess.
Andre presented a theory that he was only paid to work for an hour and a half each day. This he explained in terms of being the amount of time that he was paid for as a national serviceman, compared to what he could earn as a psychologist in 'Civvy Street.' It had an appealing logic about it.
Early on in 1986, Andre told me that he thought that people who did not cope with the army would also have problems in civilian life. At the time I disagreed with him, though I probably did not discuss it with him; I felt that the army was a destructive force, that would traumatise many of the youngsters that we had seen. With two years more military psychology experience, I am more inclined to agree with Andre; and I explore this in the 'Patient'-section of this project. I remember having a lovely argument/discussion with Andre one evening in the Officers Mess. It was regarding the scoring of the famous Rorschach Ink Blot Test. I suggested that there were several ways in which the test could be interpreted and scored, but Andre insisted that there was only one, that proposed by Klopfer and Davidson (1962), which certainly was the most popular system in use. Andre was adamant that that was the only system to use; the flaw I detected was that the Tests had been developed in 1921, and the Klopfer and Davidson system had only been published 41 years later. Had Hermann Rorschach insightfully developed the test in the sure and certain hope that someone else would develop the perfect scoring system for it? It was a good argument/discussion anyway!
Andre finished his national service at the end of 1986.
Rene V. was English speaking, in spite of her name. She had been an intern the year before me, and had joined the Permanent Force, as I also went on to do. She worked at the New Hospital, along with Andre, so we didn't see much of her either. I worked at the New Hospital in 1987 during which time I saw more of her.
I wasn't impressed with her at first, but I grew to like and respect her when we spent more time together. At first she had seemed to be a very shallow, concrete sort of person. Although she was a Permanent Force officer, she was in no hurry to get into uniform, and she dressed as though she was a fashion model, which helped to reinforce my initial impression.
In 1987, she was in uniform, and worked on the male psychiatric ward at the new hospital, Ward 9. Rene left the army at the end of 1987, a month or so before I left 1 Mil; she transferred to a non-psychiatric post in the civil service.
MORALE IN THE DEPARTMENT
The relationships amongst the Clinical Psychologists were good. The relaxed atmosphere might have been possible because all the Interns were technically students, and were civilians - with the possible exception of Annette. Although having 'Officer Status', the interns had to function within the military machine, but we were not subject to the dreaded 'Military Disciplinary Code'. Not that this really changed things as far as I was concerned; I was polite and respectful to all officers and NCOs, dressed conservatively and kept my hair short. The latter was out of courtesy to my patients; where I differed with Retha. The credibility gap between us would have been very wide if I had dressed otherwise. Imagine a shorn-headed recruit trying to 'relate' to a hippified psychologist, asking 'Yo! What's this like army like, my man!'
We did work hard from time to time, mostly during the first month or so of basic training, after which things generally quietened down. Friday afternoons were often quiet, with many ward patients having been given weekend passes. The other interns had their theses to work on, and were supposedly allowed some time during their work hours. They also had to go to be supervised by their tutors at the University of Pretoria, which was some distance away. As I was already qualified in the Counselling category, and had finished my thesis the previous year, I had more time on my hands. I used this time to write 'Epic Novels'.
During quiet times, there was a light-hearted atmosphere in the department, with everyone teasing everyone else.
Early in the year, Dolf phoned me in my office, disguised his voice a little, and (all in Afrikaans) pretended to be the father of some National Service patient, and accused me of having told his son that he was 'mal' [mad]. I was a bit surprised, because that's not the sort of thing I say to patients. I didn't know I was 'being had', so I remained calm and asked for the details of his son; name, rank, date of birth, Force number - that always stumps people! (There's plenty of potential for passive aggressiveness/ dumb insolence with 'Force Numbers'. You can say that you don't know who the person is and you need to have his force number; "Yes Mr. Jones. You have told me that his name is Clarence Xavier Jones, and he says he spoke to me for an hour this morning, but I do need to know his force number.")
"How the hell am I supposed to know his 'Magsnommer' [Force Number]?" Dolf stormed, still pretending to be someone else, but then I recognised his voice. "Is that you, Dolf?" I asked, and he burst out laughing. Busted!
"Ever heard of a 'pull-cracker'? It looks like a piece of string, but if you pull it, it explodes with a bang. One prank is to tie one end around the cable where it goes into the base of the phone (to anchor it), then you unscrew the cover of the mouthpiece, put the other end of the string in, and then screw it back on again. (It is important for the owner of the phone not to walk in at this critical stage!)
Then you dash out of the room and - usually you and confederates - wait for the victim to arrive. When he or she is approaching, someone phones to their office, and they are supposed to dash into their office, grab their phone, and have it explode in their ear.
Believe it or not, I don't think this is funny enough to participate in such activities myself, but I know that it happens. It only happened every couple of weeks, once everyone had relaxed their guard again - and to prevent shell shock. The other day my phone rang while I was in the corridor, and I dashed into my office. I have the habit of leaning over my desk to get at my phone, and I saw the cracker in time to prevent it detonating.
Pieter, who had set it up, was watching from his doorway. "You must answer your phone more aggressively," he told me. He told me that it was Dolf's cracker, and I dismantled the booby-trap and took it in to him.
"Here's your cracker, Dolf," I told him, throwing it on his desk. He sat open mouthed, his blue eyes sparkling, while I told him what had happened, and when I turned to walk out he detonated it with his hands. Bang!! I got such a fright that I just about dived under his desk."
There is another such story - these things only happen during quiet periods - but long before I arrived. Someone had taken an old EEG (Shock Treatment) machine, and connected it to his door handle, in such a way that anyone who grasped it was given a non-damaging but surprising shock. He then phoned around and asked various members of the department, one at a time, to come into his office urgently.
They all responded, and came rushing to the aid of the person who had called them, only to feel a tickling feeling as they touched the electrified door handle, and had the door open to show the collection of people who had already been suckered, whom they would join to await the entrapment of the next victim.
I identify with the last victim, whom I picture wondering where everyone was, as the department seemed to be doing Marie Celeste impressions. And then his phone rang ...
(Remember this is a psychiatric hospital in the Army. No one will ever believe it.)
My boss told several stories of his friends' experimentation with drugs. They were at a party, and were high on something, probably cannabis. Great party, but then it was time to go!
Someone was hallucinating; he believed that he was a lizard, and he couldn't get into his car because his tail kept getting stuck in the door.
Another person phoned a friend to come and collect him. He couldn't drive himself home because there were too many dead elephants in the road. The friend went to collect him, and the person who was hallucinating made him drive carefully around all the dead elephants on the way home.
I love the hypocrisy of knowing that while we worked with substance abusers, it emerged that many of us had experimented with illegal drugs themselves. I commented on this once, and it was suggested to me that our use had not been a problem, whereas to the addicts we worked with, drugs were a problem.
THE CLERK FOR THE PSYCHOLOGISTS
The Psychiatry Department had two clerks, National Servicemen who had been patients, and who would be unlikely to be able to complete their National Service if they were 'returned to unit'. There were a fair number of tasks which they could do, fetching and carrying, which the medical staff would otherwise have to do, so they served a useful function to the department, and received a cushy life in return.
The Clinical Psychology department did not have any support staff. We could use the staff of the Counselling Psychology Department elsewhere in the Old Hospital, or the Psychiatry support staff, when they were not busy with Psychiatry work. Either way, the Clinical Psychology tasks were put at the bottom of the pile.
We wanted to have a clerk of our own. After some arrangements, we were allocated a clerk; again, a former patient, about nineteen years old, called 'Frikkie' [A derivative name from the Afrikaans version of Frederick.]
Very soon we found that he was more of a nuisance than an asset, and one would spend as much time finding him, giving him a task, checking that it had been understood, then finding him a while later, asking if he had done the task (Invariably 'No!'), explaining the task again, and sending him on his way again. It would invariably have been quicker to have done the task oneself.
Almost immediately, Frikkie started to take advantage of his situation. I would often walk into my office, to find him sitting with his feet up on my desk, doodling on my notice board, making an apparently private telephone call from my phone, and using my own personal pen.
He would also do things like arrive late in the morning, sometimes sleeping on the ward to avoid the barracks, and awake startled from a bed when the staff started a 'Ward Round'. He was never around when one looked for him, and he would customise his uniform - a strict no-no! in any army - wear hiking boots with his CWDs (Combat Working Dress), and then claim that his army boots (both pairs) had been stolen.
Whenever Frikkie was reprimanded, he would drop eye contact, start to cry, claiming severe personal problems as the cause for the misdemeanour. At our weekly Clinical Psychology Department meetings, time would always be spent airing our grievances against 'Frikkers' - as Pieter dubbed him. Glenn would take the mickey out of me, working myself up to confront him, but always backing down when the opportunity presented itself.
Having gone to some lengths to procure a clerk, it was rather difficult to get rid of him, especially when we wanted another person to replace him who could be more effective; and we would have no shortage of volunteers.
Eventually Frikkie was removed - he had been given a plumb job, but he had exploited it so far that he had blown it. We never did manage to get a permanent replacement.
The last I heard about him was that he was in trouble with the RSM at the NCOs and Privates Mess; his room was filthy at the time of a known RSMs inspection. He barricaded his door shut with a broom stick so that the RSM could not get in. Apparently he did not get away with this, but I do not know the details.
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