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72. The New Psychotherapist

It was fifteen minutes before Irene looked out of the door of the consulting room and called Bertie in. He set aside Scottish Field, sighed, and went to join his mother.

Bertie, said Irene, this is Dr. Sinclair. He wants you to call him Roger.

Bertie looked at the man on the other side of the desk. He was younger than Dr. Fairbairn and he had a much nicer face, thought Bertie. It was a pity, he said to himself, that Ulysses did not look like him, rather than like Dr. Fairbairn. Perhaps the next baby if his mother had another one would look like Dr. Sinclair. Bertie wondered if he should say this to his mother, but decided that it would perhaps trigger another curious threat; for some reason she seemed very sensitive about these things. Poor Mummy if only she had more to do with her time; if only she would get herself a hobby he stopped. A depressing thought had occurred to him: I am her hobby.

Dr. Sinclair was smiling Dr. Fairbairn very rarely smiled and Bertie was pleased to see that his jacket was quite unlike Dr. Fairbairns blue linen jacket.

So, Bertie, the therapist began, signalling for Irene and Bertie to sit down. Im Roger Sinclair and Im going to be helping you in the same way as Dr. Fairbairn did. I know, of course, that youll be missing Dr. Fairbairn.

Im not, thought Bertie, and was about to say that, as politely as he could, when Irene intervened.

Yes, he is, she said. But Bertie understands. And hes happy that Dr. Fairbairn has got a chair at last.

Bertie looked at his mother in astonishment. What was this? Had Dr. Fairbairn not always had a chair?

Dr. Sinclair nodded. Dr. Fairbairn left some notes, Bertie, he went on. So I know all about the little chats that you and he had. Did you find them helpful, Bertie?

Yes, he did, said Irene. Bertie found them very helpful indeed.

Dr. Sinclair glanced at Irene. Good. But what do you think, Bertie?

Hes very much looking forward to working with you, said Irene. Arent you, Bertie?

Bertie nodded miserably. He looked out of the window. The tops of the trees in Queen Street were moving there must be a strong wind; strong enough to fly a kite really high, if one had a kite, that is, and Bertie did not. He wanted a kite. And he wanted a balsawood aeroplane with a rubber band that you wound up and then, when you let go, it drove the propeller. Tofu had had one of those and had let Bertie look at it. He was very proud of it and cried when Larch stamped on it and broke it. Even Tofu could cry; Bertie had never seen Tofu cry before. He cried, and when Olive saw him crying she crowed; she jeered. Tofu spat at her. It was always like that, Bertie thought. People did unkind things to one another, and he did not like it.

Dr. Sinclair was looking at Bertie. Your mummy tells me that youre at the Steiner School, he said. I had a friend who was at a Steiner School, you know. He liked it a lot. Are you happy at school, Bertie? Have you got lots of friends there?

Hes very happy, said Irene. The Steiner School is an excellent school. And there are friends there, arent there, Bertie? Olive, for example.

Bertie looked at his mother. It was his mothers idea that Olive was his friend, not his. But he did not think that there was any point in trying to persuade her otherwise, and so he merely nodded, and then looked at the floor.

Olive? said Dr. Sinclair, his voice rising in pitch. Thats a nice name. Tell me about Olive, Bertie.

Shes a very nice little girl, said Irene. Bertie has her to play from time to time. I know her mother quite well. We go to lectures at the Institute of Human Relations together. Youll no doubt be in touch with them, once you get settled in.

Dr. Sinclair was silent. He looked at Bertie for a few moments, and while he did so he fiddled with a pen he was holding. Then he turned to Irene. I think that perhaps Bertie and I are ready to have a little chat, just the two of us, he said evenly.

Irene frowned. Im very happy to stay, she said. This first time, you know. It may be better for me to stay. Im sure thats what Bertie would like. Bertie

Dr. Sinclair rose to his feet. Thats very good of you, he said. But I do think that its important that we have that little chat `a deux. So, if you dont mind, Mrs. Pollock, you can sit in the waiting room. Ill call you if we need you.

Irene had shown no sign of rising from her seat, but Dr. Sinclair was now standing directly behind her, gently tugging at the back of the chair, as if to dislodge her.

Very well, said Irene, her voice rather strained. I shall wait outside.

Once Irene was out of the room, Dr. Sinclair returned to his chair and smiled encouragingly at Bertie.

You know where I come from, Bertie? he asked. Australia.

Oh, said Bertie politely.

Yes, said Dr. Sinclair. Youd love Australia, Bertie. Have you ever seen a kangaroo?

Bertie had seen one at the zoo, when they had gone there on a school trip. Irene, who did not agree with zoos, had always refused to take him.

I saw a kangaroo at the zoo, he said. I really like them.

Yes, said Dr. Sinclair. I like them. But you have to be careful with roos, Bertie. The bigger ones can be quite dangerous.

Ive heard that, said Bertie. Ive heard that they can kick you quite hard.

Dr. Sinclair looked at him with interest. This, he thought, is an articulate, likeable little boy.

And this Olive? said Dr. Sinclair suddenly. I bet you dont really like her.

No, said Bertie, and then, relenting, as he was a kind child, he said, Well, I like her a tiny little bit, but not very much.

Dr. Sinclair smiled. Some girls can be quite bossy, cant they? he said.

Bertie relaxed. He was beginning to like Dr. Sinclair. Yes, they can, he said.

And some mummies too, said Dr. Sinclair very quietly, but just loudly enough for Bertie to hear.

Bertie hesitated. Then he nodded.

Dr. Sinclair looked at Bertie. You poor little boy, he thought. You havent got a mother youve got a personal trainer.


71. A Threat from Irene | Unbearable Lightness of Scones | 73. Of Men and Make-Up