At the next table are a middle aged woman and a man in his late thirties. He is tall, heavily built with an untrimmed goatee. He speaks quite forcefully to his companion, breaking off to order something from the waitress. He then continues to make his point but I’m no longer listening. The waitress returns with a message for the couple and goes back to the counter. The man says “They won’t give me what I want.” The woman murmurs something. He raises his voice, “They won’t give me what I want.” He repeats this over and over, becoming more anxious and sad with each declaration. Soon he is weeping. The woman is trying to calm him down. He won’t be calmed. He’s loud now. The woman takes his arm and leads him out into the street.

He’s a big baby.

I think quite a lot about how my early then subsequent reading of psychoanalytical material impressed on me the idea that mental suffering, anxiety and worse were largely a product of the subject’s immediate and local experience and that this, in turn, was distilled and refracted in the subject’s mind, often reinforced and renewed by ongoing family experience, for better or for worse. Notwithstanding my strong engagement with Laingian ideas in the 60s and 70s, wherein the notion of the ‘maddening society’ was lucidly, shockingly and, for me, attractively, laid out, I still persevered with the diagram of the ‘patient in a bubble’ that featured the marginalising of broad social input and seemed to restrict the scope of a maddening network to a very few persons, usually known to the subject. Now that the world has actually gone mad and may not be able to locate the resources for its own healing, it has become appropriate to characterise it as a psychotic terrain stippled with pockets of sorely tested mental integrity.


The big baby was shouting at the intersection of the nursery and the supermarket – two locales in which desire is impassioned. While the guardians of the nursery impart the management of impulse, this requirement is waived in the supermarket, because you deserve it. You’d think that because you deserve it they’re going to give it to you. Don’t be silly.

It’s enough to drive you mad.


Cafe Society I
Down Roundabout Way: Part II