Baccy tin posted by Andrew Alison

Alan the young mental health social worker scrawled brief notes across his writing pad; struggling to keep pace with Colin’s marathon conditioning.

‘’I like to walk fifteen to twenty miles at a week-end, and maybe wash a few cars, or peoples windows, plus do my paper round. Keeps me fit, keeps me busy, gives me some baccy money and stops the drugs you lot shove down my face, getting the better of me!’’

Colin was only thirty years of age and lived in a specialist residential home in the Wimbledon suburbs; they called it ‘Green leaves’. Molly a home care worker was preparing lunch; she chopped the vegetables as fast as Colin’s rapid-fire speech.

Colin sat in an armchair but it was as if talking to a fellow human being was a torturous activity; his feet, hands and arms, were a constant whirlwind of activity seeking escape from Alan’s assessment process.

Alan was newly qualified and found Colin’s constant wriggling disconcerting. Nevertheless he persevered:

‘’that’s great you keep yourself busy Colin; but how do you rest, relax, have you got some friends, family you can see?’’ asked Alan determinedly.

Colin set off on his 100metres dash once more:

‘’I finish my work, walks, eat my food, take my drugs and go straight to bed. No family, no friends. Now can I finish Mister, I want a fag?’’

Alan looked intently at Colin; he could hear and feel human warmth beneath the irritability and agitation and decided to cut Colin some slack; he nodded firmly to Colin that it was ok to finish.

Colin stood up, rocking back and forth on his heels; as he pulled out his baccy tin from his jacket pocket and began to hand roll a cigarette.

Alan noticed that Colin’s bronze baccy tin was beautifully embellished with an image of a very young man holding a pretty young blonde girl in a white dress. There were what appeared to be palm trees in the background. The boy looked around eight and the girl around ten years of age.

Alan took a risk and decided to go for it before Colin escaped for his fag:

‘’Colin, I could not help but notice the lovely image, on your baccy tin. Who are those children?’’

Colin paused and looked intently at Alan; then said slowly and surely:

‘’That’s me with my childhood sweetheart Sarah. We were on hols with both of our parents in Spain. I lost touch with her when I became mentally-ill. I don’t know where she is now, but I still love and miss her very much. That’s why I walk; it eases things for me, a bit.’’

A tear caught the corner of Colin’s eye; Alan, also felt a pang of sadness surge through him. .

Colin caught a second wind; his cigarette rolled, he put it in his mouth ready for lighting and strolled quickly towards the front door. He shouted out to Alan as he went:

‘’I’ll see you next week then Mister, thanks for talking with me; look after yourself, be safe.’’

Alan tucked his notepad away in his holdall.

He felt he had taken a small step with Colin, but he still had much to learn.

‘Don’t ever assume anything,’ was Alan’s one clear thought, as he left Green leaves.


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