Mr Chartwell

Yesterday’s Meals
Porringer 1 – 2 eggs, 2 rashers, 2 cups coffee with 4 teaspoons of double cream
Porringer 2 – cheddar cheese with butter, pot of tea
Porringer 3 – cabbage and mini sausages, pot of tea
Porringer 4 – 1 glass wine, chicken breast, peppers, onions, carbonara sauce, pesto
Evening coffee – 2 cups coffees with 4 teaspoons of cream, 9 plain shortbread biscuits

Yesterday I was in a state of mind that was bordering on panic.  I had been feeling the urge to diet so strongly that I got out the kitchen food scale and set it up on the counter.  Then I set up my nutritional software as a new user and plugged in the perfect numbers.  I felt awe at seeing the numbers hitting right on target.  It was moving into self righteousness as I started to envision a whole new go at losing this weight ONCE AND FOR ALL.

I picked up the oddest book at the library this past summer called Mr. Chartwell.  I thought it was about the personification of a big dog, perhaps even a children’s story, but it didn’t matter, it was on the 10 pence a book table and that was like picking out penny candy.


I have been reading it and last night, it struck me to the core.  It is a novel about depression being personified by a big black dog.  The story revolves around a newly widowed woman seeking a lodger in her home and Winston Churchill who is about to retire.  A mixture of reality and fancy.  Churchill actually had a long hard battle with depression back when there was no medication for it.  He called it his black dog.  This dog, Mr. Chartwell takes up the lodger opening in the woman’s life as she slips into a depression and the meeting between the woman and Churchill (she is a secretary) when they realise that they both see the same black dog in the room.

What struck me was the relationship between them all, the dialogues, the way the dog behaved in particular.  Churchill’s advice to the woman made my ears perk up and I felt like I finally understood my own beast, the one I have called my sleeping dragon and hearing it through ED’s voice (eating disorder).  I have fought him, I have given in to him, I have gone through just about every emotion I could fathom, but still he’s present, always present being as annoying as any big dog who talks shite can be.


It’s one thing to try and wrestle this all on my own and read about others dealing with EXACTLY the same thing in the EXACT same way, even though it is a simple novel presenting a concept in a unique way.  Last night, I felt like the woman in the novel when she realised that Churchill knew the dog as intimately as she did.  Someone else had named it and knew it’s every move, it’s persistent argument, it’s long string of plausible lies.  In an instant, lying there with my book in hand as husband slept, I understood my relationship with my own beast who has taken up lodging and that I tolerate with loathing, but never quite kick out.

And how has my black dog, my beast, been behaving lately?  He has been reminding me continuously about my separation from my family, been going over old photo’s of my daughter as a baby until the tears stream down my face and nudging me that I should feel resentment with any intrusion of anything that takes my mind off of my depression. Eating and drinking he urges is the solution, the balm I need to cope and he promises to stay by me and I realise that as much as I detest him and all that happens with him around, I also admit my dependence on his presence, it is part of the dysfunctional relationship that I know so well.  And as distasteful and devastating as it can be, at least familiarity with the beast is comforting in it’s own sick way.  Churchill was in bed, sleeping, waking up slowly…..

Churchill was aware of its presence. He didn’t need to see or hear it to know it was there; he had more of a sense, an instinctual certainty when it appeared. Its eyes pressed on him hotly, imploring him to wake up. It willed him to move. After hours of waiting it ached with the desire to explode from the corner and shake him. Churchill spoke in a barely audible whisper, not that it mattered he knew the thing would be listening.

‘Bugger off.’

There was a long silence as the thing scrabbled to compose itself. Churchill could feel it grinning filthily in the blackness. It said with unsuppressed relish, ‘No.’

I am almost finished with the book, but I already understand a new point of view that has revealed to me a necessary step I have to take.  I see how the dieting pattern was taking root again because that is how my beast controls me, cornering me into submission by making me fight an invisible and incomprehensible weight-scale enemy, by tormenting me with cravings and keeping my mind locked on endless numbers and formulas to a science project that has no beginning and no end.