When I was 20, I spent the summer working for three research psychiatrists. I’d walked around George Square in Edinburgh looking for a summer job, and was hired by a Medical Research Council unit based there to process the statistics on their findings. The team was investigating the epidemiology of psychiatric illness, including attempted suicides. Professors Carstairs and Kessel and Dr Kidd were all lively intellects, and I learned much, including techniques of hypnosis, which I’ve practised several times since.
On my 21st birthday they took me to a few pubs after work and presented me with a clever hand-produced birthday card that featured a poem they had written, largely done in mathematical symbols. “Now UR 21, life has 0<b-gun,” it began, but with a tiny drawing of a gun instead of the word, and meaning “life has nothing less than begun.” There were about ten lines of it, giving little homilies about life. All three of the researchers radiated optimism and humour, making my summer a very pleasant one. We remained friends afterwards.