Pauline Talks about her life, the book living with mental illness and plays her favourite music 

Click on the links below to listen to Pauline being interviewed by local radio presenter Bernie Keyte and playing her favourite music. Unfortunately you will not hear the Carpenter's Top of the World for copyright reasons

Tuscany and beyond successfully launched 

Pauline would like to share with you the highlights of the launch of Tuscany and Beyond, which took place on Monday 4th October at Hertford St Andrew Church 

The opening remarks from the Revd Richard Allen (Manager of the Spiritual Care Service, at Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Trust) 

Good evening and welcome to St Andrews.  Thank you to Alan Stewart for his hospitality.

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Richard Allen.  I would tell you where I fit into this evening, but I’m not supposed to; for you’ll notice that none of us has a label on.  That’s deliberate on Pauline’s part.  She hates labels.  So it means we have to engage with each other in order to find out who each of us is.  What a cunning plan.

What’s undeniable is that we’re here to help Pauline Rhodes launch her new book Tuscany and Beyond, now published with her first one Double Trouble.  So we get two for the price of one!

I’ve known Pauline for six years.  Sometimes it seems much longer.  Compared with many of you, of course, that’s nothing.  To know exactly how we met and what we’ve done together, you’ll have to buy the book and read it.  Start around page 40 of the 2nd volume.

What I will say is that our relationship started out as a professional one, but has developed into an established friendship.  In the last six years, I’ve seen Pauline in various stages of health, good and bad, up and down.

However, nothing prepared any of us for the last 19 months and the effects of Covid-19.  Lockdown was perhaps both a blessing and a curse for many of us.  For Pauline, it gave her the space to write Tuscany and Beyond.

I remember her showing me the first draft and asking for my comments.  I can’t remember what I said, though I hope it was encouraging.  But I do remember urging her to see her story as a journey of Recovery, a 30-year journey to live life to the full alongside her diagnosis of bipolar affective disorder.

It’s very difficult to pigeonhole these two volumes.  They’re part memoir, autobiography, self-help and love story.  Above all, they tell the tale of Pauline’s journey with manic depression in the glass lift of her highs and lows; the glass lift that when she enters it, she doesn’t know whether it’s going up or down, and certainly has no idea of the speed of travel.

They tell the story of her courage in facing these experiences, sometimes in the face of uncaring behaviour on the part of people from whom she was entitled to expect help and understanding.

They tell the story of the love of her family, the kindness of friends and the compassion of members of the church.

Above all, it’s a story of how Pauline has transcended her illness and fought tigerishly to hang onto that most precious of gifts – her identity.  It is truly a Recovery Journey, as the by-line to Tuscany and Beyond proudly proclaims.

If you want to be inspired, buy the book – it’ll help the family finances!  Set aside two or three hours, make yourself a cup of tea, find a Mars Bar (Pauline’s trusted answer to anything) and read both volumes in a single sitting.  I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

Richard Wallace (Pauline's English Teacher from the age of 11) reflects on Pauline and the book

It is just over 50 years since Pauline and I started on the same day at The Barclay School in Stevenage. She was 11 years old in the first year of her secondary education and I was on my first day as a (young) English teacher in the comprehensive school where she was to spend the next seven years and I was to spend the next thirty nine. She was a clever, humorous and forthright young woman.

My time as a teacher is best defined by what I have learned from some of the remarkable young people that I have been privileged to teach. After reading Pauline’s book, I am certain to include her in that list.

Pauline will not mind, I am sure, if, by way of illustration, I tell you first of another Barclay pupil. Ronnie West was a victim (though he would utterly refute the appropriateness of that term) of thalidomide which meant that he was born without arms. Despite this, he went on to achieve many things: he was a Paralympic diver and swimmer and became a radio producer in the USA where he still lives. When, after a vigorous campaign he was finally awarded damages by the Distillers company, he bought a specially adapted Chevrolet Camaro with a steering wheel on the floor which enabled him to take pleasure in watching the expressions on the faces of the drivers waiting parallel to him at the traffic lights, as they gaped open mouthed when Ronnie pulled away with no hands on a steering wheel. If he had been possessed of arms but had been suffering from a serious mental health condition, no one would have noticed anything remarkable about him.

The reason I have told you about Ronnie is to illustrate the very important point that Pauline returns to and illustrates so well in her book that mental health issues such as manic depression are no less, possibly more debilitating than physical conditions because they are hidden and cannot be seen: there is no visual co-ordinate, no external manifestation, no cast to be applied to the break, no panacea.

What Pauline has done in this book by writing about her experiences in a brave, detailed, graphic and accessible way is to provide the reader with a means of visualising and understanding the ravages of the invisible condition from which she has suffered. She describes her experience in such a way as to enable sufferers to reach an understanding of a shared experience while non-sufferers are enabled to obtain greater understanding and insight into the nature of this pitiless condition. Pauline conveys all this with such resilience, humour and self-deprecation. She shows how, as with Ronnie’s condition, benefit, knowledge and understanding can be derived from a condition which can cause such anguish and hardship.

Pauline's reply 

First of all I would like to thank three Richards. Richard Allen and Richard Wallace for those kind words and for Richard Taylor for setting up the sound system so you can hear them! I would also like to thank dependable Dave for selling the books and the lovely Jane for selling my silk painted cards in aid of Mind in Midherts.

 

There are many more thank you’s not least to you all for coming especially to those who have contributed to the book and those who have come some distance. Michael Ball was invited but chose not to reply so I have bought him anyway!

 

Just a few housekeeping things. Please help yourself to some covid friendly snacks and a drink. The toilet is just there and the exit is the door you entered through. Please sign the Visitors Book before you go as I suspect this will all be a blur for me…also Ralph has kindly agreed to take some photos for me. If you don’t want to be pictured please tell him.

 

Those of you who know me well, and "Mrs Pest" has known me since I was three months old, will know that I am a woman of very few words…

 

As the book we are here to launch, contains almost 36,000 of them, I would really like that to do all the talking. 

It may also surprise you to know that I am also someone who has been commended on my excellent silences….I will come back to that.

 

Having said that, I would like to reiterate my heartfelt thanks to everyone who has helped me to get this far with the book and the illness – especially through all the bleakest times. Many of them are no longer with us but you will read about my parents and my mother- in- law and their huge caring roles and you will read too about Eric Scott who made this book possible.

 

Today I especially want to mention Revd Marion Harding who was one of the first women priests and who was a Deaconess here when I arrived 36 years ago this month. It was Marion’s loving, caring holistic approach to my illness which cemented our friendship. From the moment I met her I knew I wanted to worship here with this community. Sadly for many of us Marion went into the arms of her maker just over two weeks ago but for Marion I am sure it will be a great joy. She taught me a huge amount about pastoral care and the work I have done, and the work I may do in the future, is/will be a living legacy to her.

 

I hate statistics, but according to MIND in 2019 1 in 4 of us in the UK is likely to suffer mental illness and I guess that figure is higher since the pandemic. Sadly one in every 50 people will suffer from Bipolar disorder. It is a complex illness and carries an enormous amount of stigma and guilt. This book is my story of living with the illness for 30 years. I hope that it will give hope to others, their families and carers.

 

Many people have said that I am brave to publish my story but I believe the bravest thing I ever did was get up from a hospital floor, when I just wanted to die, and ask for help. Asking for help is hard…but I am still here to tell the tale. As my father was fond of saying “The difficult we do at once, the impossible takes a little longer”.

 

Talking of the impossible, nothing I do would be achieved without the exemplary support of Nigel. Thirty six years ago this month he said for better and for worse…he had no idea how bad things could get but he has been by my side through it all making tea; cajoling me to exercise; hugging me and building a website for the book… and that’s only in the last month. I will never be able to thank him enough. Jenny, Helen, Tom and David are all here tonight and my life would be a lot poorer without them

 

The book is available here tonight for £9.99 as are my new business cards (created by Nigel) which give details of the website selling the book. I am happy to sign copies but they will have a greater value on ebay unsigned! I am sorry that we cannot accept cards here but you can pay that way online.

 

Next Sunday is World Mental Health Day and in a short silence I would like you all to spare a thought for someone you know who is suffering and then we will raise a glass to good health.......