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The Peeing Window Face

One moment of foot-in-mouth avoidance at the wake happened with an excellent lady who was close friends with my brother at school. Having neither gills nor incipient madness, she escaped the town and now lives in Andover; what I didn't know/had forgotten/needed delicate reminding of was that her mother developed severe mental illness and ended up in Roundway hospital, the old Devizes asylum. The subject rose when my brother teased her about the time in their youth when he was over at her house, and she and her sister heard a noise in the garden, panicked completely and pushed him out of the door demanding that he investigate. He learned nothing from this except that his mates were definitely not the stuff of which Scooby Doo investigators are made. She had the following explanation for her robust example of utter terror:

The thing about Roundway hospital was that it did have those horror movie Arkham-alike rooms with grim locks and bolts, thick walls and special rooms for troublesome patients. I think it was one of those places where electroshock therapy and lobotomies were carried out in the 40s/50s. By the time my aunt and mother worked there, most doors were unlocked and patients wandered around the grounds and beyond, because while there was a wall around the place there was either no gate or the gate was never closed. The result was an interesting stream of people in various throes of confusion wandering out of the hospital and around the town.

One night, friend and her sister were playing in the house while their parents were out, only to look up and notice an inmate with his face pressed up against the window, looking in while weeing in the garden. After that, evenings in the house without parents always had an added frisson.

Two things occur to me. The first is, how they could be sure the peeing window face was actually from the hospital? Second, it transpires that having been closed for years the hospital has been turned into private flats. Who would buy there? I'd bet good money they never grew up in the town...



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