Utter Bedlam

I had a “five years old today” thing pop up on Facebook. It was a call out from me for people the have their initials scratched on a cell wall in my version of William Hogarth’s Bedlam. By some odd coincidence I am currently ‘doing’ his election series in exactly the same way right now, biro on cartridge paper. Looking at it now, I can see a few initials of people who actually should have been locked up in bedlam or the modern equivalent, but then, maybe, so should I. 

I have been to the actual Bedlam or to give it its proper name, Bethlehem Mental Asylum, you probably have too, at some point, you probably don’t even know it, it’s now the imperial war museum. It’s quite fitting really that a place used for the mad is now used to store the artefacts of the most senseless and cruel things that humans do. 

I was there a couple of years ago, during a major refit, the cafeteria had been moved into an area that wasn’t usually open to the public. It had the same, tell tale, curved roof that you can see in the drawing and as I sat there, nursing a very disappointing coffee, I tried to image being back there amongst the screams and whimpering of what was a dumping ground for London’s mentally ill. It was still filled with tourists, strangely enough, people would pay to come and gawk at and mock the mad. Now we just put them on talent shows it seems and do it from comfort of our living rooms. 

Looking out on the beautiful kept grounds, it was hard to imagine the misery it contained, well the original misery it contained as the killing devices of war were everywhere, having been mad myself and revisiting that terrible land occasionally, I just sat and thought, “this could be me.”

Looking at it now, with the prospect of five more years of some of the most hateful and cruel people running the country, all I think today is, “this probably will be me.” Soon.


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