Miss Marple’s Recovery Journey

The 4.50 from Addiction

 

1. Mrs McGillicuddy panted along the platform in the wake of the porter carrying her suitcase. Mrs McGillicuddy was short and stout, and the porter was tall and free striding. The race was therefore an uneven one and the porter turned the corner at the end of the platform whilst Mrs McGillicuddy was still coming up the straight. She was sadly out of breath.

The porter retrieved her suitcase and installed her in her coach in solitary splendour. She settled herself back on the plush cushions with a sigh. Her mind wandered to her good friend, Miss Marple. She was worried about her. She had been in her mind as she sipped her G+T at the hotel after lunch. As the Watson to her friend’s Sherlock, she saw the furtive disposal of empty bottles, the succession of rather dim and incompetent maids, the increasing vagueness.

Could her niece help? What does she do at the addiction charity? She realised she had no idea.

As the train rolled through the suburbs, her eyes began to droop when she saw a book abandoned on the seat opposite. She picked it up and began to browse. ‘The culture of addiction’, she read. Who was it that released the safety on his Browning when he heard the word ‘culture’? She read on. ’The culture of addiction is a way of life, a means of organising one’s daily existence….’

She reached for her flask….

2. Mrs McGillicuddy had recently wondered why Miss Marple drank so much – it was a comment by her niece that made her aware of the habit. She began to realise that when they shared a sherry before dinner that this was merely topping up an afternoon of ‘tinctures’ – that Miss Marple’s unsteadiness was not just a product of the passing years.

‘The culture of addiction encompasses values, artifacts, places, rituals, relationships, symbols, music and art….’

She started to wonder if she had been asking herself the wrong question. Perhaps the main issue was not why she drank but what it was about her way of life that kept her drinking so much. What did go on in that village that seemed so English and peaceful? She realised that all the houses she had visited supplied lavish selections of alcoholic drinks, and that social events were not complete without a sherry or a gin bottle to hand. The Colonel’s red face gave him away straight away; that odd couple of middle aged women were rarely seen without a glass to hand and at the big house, the squire seemed to have an unhealthy knowledge of single malts. Even the vicar’s morning sermons seemed occasionally to acquire a kind of extravagant incoherence, and everyone knew the curate’s habit with the communion wine.

Time she thought to find out more about St Mary Mead. She just needed something to distract Miss Marple. Just then, a train ran parallel with hers – a blind flew up………

 

3.  “Oh Jane”, she wailed. “I have just seen a murder.” “The best thing you can do, my dear, is to go upstairs for a wash and then we’ll talk about it over a nice drink. I prescribe a glass of my home made wine.”  As she splashed her face with cold water, Mrs McGillicuddy thought about the styles of cultural involvement in addiction that were described in the book. She thought of Jane Marple as an ‘acultural addict’ – someone who hid her addiction in the confines of her own home. But then she thought how easily she had been drawn into an idea that alcohol would be a good sedative after the trauma of the journey. This reflected how the social intercourse between village residents usually went she realised. Still, she had set out on her plan and had drawn Miss Marple into her murder story – she would continue. That night, she read about the different kinds of ‘addiction tribes’ and thought some more about the village community she knew. The St Mary Mead she had encountered must be seen as a ‘celebrated drug’ tribe – and she realised that she would face universal denial if she tried to challenge the drinking patterns in the village head on.

She needed an ally, so worked out a plan to get her niece, Lucy Eylesbarrow, involved. She could get her a domestic post at the Crackenthorpe house just outside the village – the perfect base for observing village life.

 

 

4. The more she thought, the more complex the picture that was forming. She thought about the widespread use of cigarettes amongst the villagers (the ‘tolerated drug tribe’), the way in which people spoke of their need for painkillers as if this was a constant preoccupation (the ‘instrumental drug tribe’).

And she was soon shaken by Lucy’s announcement after a few days in Crackenthorpe house that there was a trade in illegal drugs led by the Crackenthorpe family, and staffed by residents from the old Council house estate. Lucy was convinced that the drugs trade gave the Crackenthorpe family a continuing status in the village and provided the only substantive source of income that enabled them to maintain the large house and its estate.

Jane’s absence searching for the body on the train enabled Mrs McGillicuddy to study the book more carefully. She came to the chapter on the core elements in the culture of addiction and thought she should get to grips with this before launching into actions to change Jane’s behaviour.

First of all, language – how much of Jane’s conversations were focussed on drinking alcohol? Certainly, as she had realised when she told Jane of the murder, alcohol was the chosen method for coping with any crisis or stress. You only had to stay a day or two with Jane to realise how alcohol was a kind of clock marking the stages of the day, the aperitif before lunch, the wine to aid the digestion over lunch etc.

 

5. Jane had gone round to Gossington Hall for pre-dinner drinks with the Bantry’s – a regular Saturday night ritual it seems. It seemed to be an occasion when Jane drove, seemingly oblivious to the danger she posed in a car given the amount she had drunk through the day. The whole village it seems conspired to dismiss concerns about road safety, the only dangers anyone seemed to comment on involved that arty couple who had got into trouble with the body in the library at Gossington. Jane Marple had always seemed a very moral person but those strictures departed when it came to her drinking habits, and no one in the village questioned this behaviour, least of all Inspector Bacon, everyone’s favourite local bobby.

So values were skewed by alcohol, and just as the book suggested, Mrs McGillicuddy realised that drink was surrounded by rituals and symbols – the special cut glass decanter, the elaborate pouring rituals, the regular times for drinking and so on. Jane also had a sturdy friendship with the landlord at the pub, and it seemed she had a steady order ready to be collected from the off licence counter. Now she was staying with Jane, she realised that the musty smell coming from her clothes came from a less regular attention to her laundry, her poor maids lacking the initiative to do more than they were told. As to leisure time, it was apparent that Jane Marple’s whole existence took place just seconds from a drinks cabinet.

 

6. The other thing about St Mary Mead was the issue of death. There seemed to be a remarkable number of deaths in the village of a rather dramatic kind, involving all kinds of sensational and eye catching features. As a consequence, Mrs McGillicuddy thought, no-one paid much attention to the less sensational passings. No-one ever died from too much drink in the village – heart attacks, strokes, cancers, road accidents all left their mark on the village, and despite the fact that alcohol could be seen burrowing its way under many of these individual illnesses and deaths, no-one ever commented on this, let alone blamed the drinking. Least of all Dr Haydock…

And drink did feature in more high profile deaths – Marina Gregg’s dispatching of Heather Badcock used a daiquiri at a drinks party, that unfortunate Rudi Scherz had been shot whilst the company was sipping the sherry,

Like the role of drink in deaths in the village, the existence of violence was also subject to a sort of shared taboo. There was Agnes Woddell’s boyfriend, whose ‘temper’ would get the better of him sometimes, with the result that she would spend many a tearful afternoon on her own at the Symingtons. Everyone knew, but no-one said, that Colonel Protheroe used to his wife after a few drinks. Miss Hinchcliffe might not physically attack Miss Murgatroyd but her verbal assaults could be bitter, aggressive and wounding.

Yes, there was violence in the village.

 

 

7. Jane Marple was now hot on the hunt of the murder enquiry that Mrs McGillicuddy had brought to her. She was convinced that there was a body somewhere near the railway line that went through the Crackenthorpe estate. This meant that she kept meeting Lucy and was making all sorts of discrete enquiries into the Crackenthorpe family. Funnily enough, Mrs McGillicuddy realised, most of these enquiries involved meetings over a glass of wine here, or a gin and tonic there. It did not seem possible for Jane to do anything that did not involve a glass or two. She realised how the right the book was to emphasise addiction as an active lifestyle, always on the lookout for seemingly natural drinking opportunities. Jane was also very skilled at hustling – so much so that those supplying her with drinks gave no thought to the matter – she was such a dear lady.

Talking to Lucy about the Crackenthorpe’s she learned that in the world of drug addictions, hustling for drugs, for money, for contacts was a major part of their business activity and the family’s status depended on success in this. The eldest son, Harold was known to be the most skilled dealer in the family and even the old man had to back off if Harold put his foot down, Lucy said.

What Mrs McGillicuddy started to realise was how much of Jane’s pride in herself came from her ability to manipulate the villagers into supplying her with free drinks.

 

8. The book talked about how personalities adapt to addiction. She sat down one night and put the characteristics of addicts in one list, with Jane’s character alongside:

Manipulation                – Jane loved to manipulate policemen who were stumbling through some murder investigation, but her status on the village came from her role as the dear lady who could meet her needs for alcohol without anyone seeing.

Paranoia                      – Mrs McGillicuddy only now realised how Jane’s famous observation of the village characters, was part of her watchfulness – she needed to observe people acutely in order to maintain the safety of the role she was playing.

Narcissism                  – whilst Jane seemed to take an interest in the other villagers, this interest was only in so far as they were potential suppliers of drink or as part of maintaining her public character. It struck her now how little interest Jane took in what Mrs McGillicuddy was thinking or doing during this stay.

Authority problems      – apart from her contempt for policemen, Jane had no time for doctors either, despite the way she buttered up to them. It was the nurses sent to minister to her who found that she was a difficult patient!

Risk taking                  – Mrs McGillcuddy knew that in solving murders, Jane seemed to bring them to a conclusion with some very risky  plans, setting a trap for the murderers so as to expose them in the most dramatic ways. This tendency acquired a new significance as she read about addictions.

 

9. Since it was now obvious to Mrs McGillicuddy that she was not just facing the task of helping Jane Marple out of addiction, but with changing a whole community and lifestyle to support recovery, she realised that she needed to understand the key characters in the community, and the next chapter of the book seemed to provide the framework for this – ‘key cultural roles’. She had spent a couple of weeks getting to know the villagers with Miss Marple, at some risk it might be said to her own liver. She started a card file index:

Dealers; High Priests; Storytellers; Medicine men and midwives; Jailhouse lawyers;

Ambassadors; Addict with money or fame; Working class addict; Weekend players;

The crazies; The marks; The ‘man’; The snitches; The protectors; The profiteer

Just writing out the list made Mrs McGillicuddy feel faint and discouraged. But she had to see whether the book’s account could be evidenced from the people of the village. First she started to put names against the roles:

High Priests – the Vicar, Leonard Clement

Storytellers – Mr Petherick the solicitor, Dr Haydock

Medicine men and midwives – Miss Hinchcliffe

Jailhouse lawyers – Colonel Bantry

Ambassadors – Jane Marple

Addict with money and fame – Marina Gregg

Weekend players – Basil Blake and Dinah Lee

The marks – Miss Murgatroyd

The snitches – Colonel Protheroe and Marta Price-Ridley

The protectors – Dolly Bantry

The profiteer – the landlord of the Blue Boar pub

The Man – the Methodist minister

Not all perfect fits she thought, but close enough!

 

10. Dolly Bantry would see when Jane was ‘not well’ and whisk her off to some hotel where they could sit drinking all day without attracting remark. The body in the library was the perfect excuse to get Jane away to the hotel in Danemouth for a week. Of course, Dolly was herself in constant distress from some ailment or another and required the help of a seemingly unending range of prescriptions that Doctor Haydock seemed all too ready to supply. The appearance of the body in the library caused such a shock to her system that the share price of the drug manufacturers must have risen in the Stock market.

Her husband, Colonel Bantry was a rather distant authoritative figure, close friend to the County Sheriff and with firm and somewhat bleak views on the local institutions of authority. He was never happier than when, with a glass of whisky (two fingers and just a drop of water) in his hand, he could point out the error of the ways of the Magistrates, the police, and of poor Dr Haydock (who it  seemed, issued prescriptions to Dolly on Colonel Bantry’s instruction!)

Of course, Dr Haydock and the local solicitor, Mr Petherick, knew all kinds of village secrets having long worked locally. They could tell a story or two about lively aspects of Colonel Bantry’s younger days, about the goings on at Basil Blake’s colourful weekends, and about the way in which Jane Marple wound the village around her little finger……

 

11. The vicar was of course the high priest of the drinking community, though no doubt he would have been shocked to hear it. New arrivals were quickly indoctrinated into the benefits of the sherry party, and of the village supporters of the church, access to whose homes was always alcohol lubricated. The tee total Methodists were regarded with the deepest suspicion by the Vicar, who thought their attitude to alcohol was most peculiar and certainly without any theological foundation.

The whole village was agog at the arrival of the film star, Marina Gregg into the community. She introduced a whole new level of glamorous alcohol consumption and the pockets of the Blue Boar landlord did well from the orders of champagne that emanated from the Gregg house. There were of course those who believed that Marina Gregg’s relationship with the Crackenthorpe family was a bit odd, but Lucy’s recent discoveries shed a new light on what might have fuelled such an unlikely friendship.

Basil Blake and Dinah Lee were of course the weekend partying types, but they were somewhat detached from the mainstream village community, though they seemed to have a soft spot for Jane Marple after the body in the library incident, and she would find herself at the Blake house for a drink or two with surprising frequency. Blake too was a regular visitor at Crackenthorpe Hall it turned out, and Lucy did not think the calls were borne of affection.

 

12. Then Mrs McGillicuddy thought of Misses Hinchcliffe and Murgatroyd. She found this couple somewhat disturbing for reasons she did not like to admit. But she thought that Miss Hinchcliffe’s aggressive manner was understandable – she would have paid a high price for her choice of life and for the unspoken condemnations from which she must have suffered over many years. In truth she was a great source of advice in the village, not the kind of which Dr Haycock approved but still, frequently accessed by villagers who found themselves reluctant to discuss symptoms with the good doctor. She was moody but could consume quantities of liquor, such that poor Miss Murgatroyd could often be the victim of angry denunciations or extravagant and not always appropriate public gestures.

Miss Murgatroyd tolerated all these mood swings with meekness and a tendency to apologise as if it were all her fault. She always had an explanation for Miss Hinchcliffe’s outbursts, but in truth it was Miss Murgatroyd’s private income that kept Miss Hinchcliffe in drink – Miss Murgatroyd was one of the few villagers who confined themselves to soft drinks. I am afraid however that she was rather ignored by the villagers as if she were one of the servants.

And so to Miss Marple who could go anywhere in the village and be treated with respect! She was ‘an ambassador’, and here was good news; the book said ambassadors ‘show a remarkably good prognosis when their affiliation is shifted to an active recovery network’!

 

13. Mrs McGillicuddy thought she was beginning to get the measure of the problem. True, she had not yet worked out how to start changing Jane’s behaviour and she thought she had better look more closely at Jane herself. Jane was getting very excited because Lucy had found a body in a barn in Crackenthorpe and the police were now involved. Her old friend Sir Henry Clithering had come down to see her and all this activity meant scope for many a sherry party in Danemead Cottage.

The book suggested the idea that addicts embark on a career of addiction and it was easy to see how this applied to Jane, from her early entry into the social life of St Mary Mead when participation in drinks parties would have been essential, to regularisation of patterns of social contact, and the establishment of the drinks cabinet in her own home with the rituals of drinking at home, to which her domestic staff were steadily accustomed.

Some time ago, Mrs McGillicuddy had wondered why Jane so rarely visited her but now she realised that although she would buy in a bottle of wine to have with dinner when guests came, to Jane, her home must have seemed like a dry house! Now her whole sense of identity came from being part of this drinking community in St Mary Mead. The consequences of her drinking, the odd dizzy spells, the losses of balance or clumsiness, the forgetfulness, she could happily put down to her age!

 

14. What was striking about Jane Marple was the sense that she did not really have any family at all to speak of. It was as if the village were her family. The more Mrs McGillicuddy considered this, the more it occurred to her that this was one of those ‘curious incidents of the dog in the night time’ issues. Instead of thinking that Jane’s family was irrelevant, she decided she should see them as part of the problem.

The nephews and nieces were represented in St Mary Mead only by occasional visits from Raymond and Lionel, usually wanting to be rescued from some disaster and always ready to join in the alcohol based social life of the village. The rest stayed away and Mrs McGillicuddy could not recall Jane ever mentioning any of her family other than these two and occasionally Diana Harmon.

All this meant that nobody from her family ever really saw Jane’s state of health and well being, nor how much she drank – Mrs McGillicuddy thought this could be a case of ignorance being bliss, but if Jane were to be helped to a new way of life without alcohol, there had to be some role for her family to become part of the answer rather than colluding with the problem.

She would have to start with Raymond and Lionel. The chances were that they knew far more about Jane’s drinking than they had admitted to as they took the line of least resistance!

 

15. There was a section of the book that Mrs McGillicuddy knew she had skipped over. It was not a subject about which she felt on safe ground herself. She realised that she would have to face up to this now. It was an odd thing really – when she spoke to that nice young man, ‘Robbie’ Lewis, she knew his boss was always falling in love with his suspects and witnesses, but never had this issue seemed to arise for Jane Marple. She could see that sexual feelings and identity would be a significant part of Miss Hinchcliffe’s engagement with the world, but Jane Marple?

Perhaps it was like the family – a dog that did not bark in the night? The lack of any evidence of sexuality and sexual emotion was the remarkable thing. Could it be that Jane Marple was ‘gay’, as they said these days, and that she had hidden this from the world and perhaps herself?

But then there was that young soldier who died in the war…….Had that loss killed off emotions in her and helped push her towards drink to mask the sense of loss and futility? As she mused, this seemed all too likely. Take away the drink and might this sense of loss with so much that is irrevocable at Jane’s current age, come flooding back? It is good she had made herself think about this – it would be so easy to go blundering in Jane’s life without knowing what she was stirring up!

 

16 At this point, Lucy suddenly appeared at Danemead Cottage to see Jane because she had found a body in an outhouse at Crackenthorpe Hall. She was feeling understandably nervous and shocked. Should she carry on at the Hall? With all the drug dealing business she had unearthed, she felt she was now at considerable risk.

They discussed the problem at length and Mrs McGillicuddy, armed with the insights from her book started to ask some questions about how the drug business worked. Lucy thought that the physical movement and storage of drugs was kept away from Crackenthorpe Hall so that this would be a safe haven for the family, a place where they could present themselves as normal socially acceptable people. She did not think therefore that the murder had anything to do with the drugs business.

Her only doubts concerned Dr Quimper, the family doctor (not Dr Haydock they noted), who she thought must have some knowledge of the source of the family’s money. Lucy was sure that Emma Crackenthorpe was in love with Dr Quimper but also that she had no idea what her brothers (and father?) were up to.

Clearly, the discovery of the body would make the family very nervous, so they decided that Lucy should leave. Jane decided she would try and worm her way in, in her place. The family would already be making sure that no connection could be made between the murder enquiry and their real business activity.

 

 

17. This new arrangement suited Mrs McGillicuddy perfectly – now she had not only the book, but Lucy to help her plan to deal with Jane and her drinking! They spent the evening talking about the culture of addiction that the Crackenthorpes inhabited.

The Crackenthorpes were involved with all the issues of criminality that go with drugs, but Mrs McGillicuddy learned that in all sorts of other ways the Crackenthorpe addiction culture was entirely in line with the addiction culture in St Mary Mead. Similar distorted values were at work. They had some of the same roles in the community, from Dr Quimper, a ‘Protector’, Emma a ‘Mark’, Alfred, an ‘Ambassador’ perhaps, and old Mr Crackenthorpe seemed to be the ‘Jailhouse lawyer’. Cedric, Lucy thought, was a ‘non addicted hustler’ more excited by the criminality itself and careful to control his drug use. Harold was a sort of mixture – ‘High Priest’ but not above using gangsters to maintain the business?

It was difficult to know how far this family was just a bunch of criminals who happened to be involved in drugs or whether it was the drugs that was a spur to their criminality. The truth no doubt was a bit of a mixture. Cedric she thought was just a wrong ‘un but Brian Eastley was a troubled unhappy person and seemed to have become trapped by the drugs. But then, it probably suited Cedric to play the part of a criminal – his life seemed empty and pointless behind the bravado.

 

18. Lucy was very impressed by what Mrs McGillicuddy told her about the St Mary Mead addiction community, and she thought it was time for her to talk about how to approach treating the problem. Jane was far too involved in worrying about who the body might be to notice how involved Lucy and Mrs McGillicuddy were in their conversations.

Lucy began with some general points. Mrs McGillicuddy had already begun to understand from the book that addiction was not some health problem which could be treated by a single intervention. People did not recover because they had regular conversations with a therapist, took a medication, or went to AA meetings. Any of these approaches could have a part to play but they were not ‘the answer’. As the book revealed, recovery would be a process in which all kinds of life style issues would need to change, and which would involve not just, in this case Miss Marple, but her whole social world.

The process was better understood as a ‘journey’. Strategies would need to change and develop as the journey took place. Some of the station stops on the journey could not be predicted in advance and so the well intentioned helper couldn’t assume that they would always be the most useful person at all stages. They could however stay around so that if the journey is broken at any stages and Miss Marple starts to get lost, they would be there to get her back on the train.

 

 

19. Lucy also warned Mrs McGillicuddy that she should not think of Jane Marple as just a ‘patient’ who is in receipt of treatment. It is easy for the helper to think that they hold the answers, for the therapist to imagine that they are the experts who are dispensing their expertise to a less well informed person.  This is a common problem, she said, and it leads to the helper feeling powerful and the helped person as weak and dependent – just the reverse of what we would be trying to achieve.

There are two things that happen in treatment that can feed into this tendency. First of all, the treatment worker can be faced with denial by the addict, with resistance and manipulations to avoid facing the truth about their condition. This can be frustrating to the worker and one way of overcoming the anger it can arouse is to say to oneself that the client ‘can’t help it’.

Secondly, many clients will happily slip into the role of ‘patient’ and flatter the helper by emphasising how they are keen to learn from the helper’s superior knowledge and expertise. Given such an apparently motivated client, it is easy for the worker to be drawn into this kind of relationship, only to find the ‘patient’ never changes, safe in the knowledge that failure to make progress will be because the expert is not good enough..

‘You have to think of Miss Marple as a partner in the change process’, Lucy said.

 

 

20. ‘That sounds cosy’ said Mrs McGillicuddy. ‘Well, I suppose it does, but do you know any partnership that does not involve really difficult arguments. In fact, I always think that the real test of a partnership is the quality of the arguments that take place. Jane is not going to get much help from a friend who won’t stand up to her, tell her the truth and argue their corner!’

Now Mrs McGillicuddy could certainly hold her own with the butcher in her High Street, and with the vicar, but Jane was a different matter! She felt a little weak and got up for a strengthening drink when she remembered what they were talking about, so pretended she just needed to stretch her legs.

Later that evening, Mrs McGillicuddy turned to the section in the book concerning milestones in the addicts career. She was now quite used to thinking of Jane as an addict, though she thought Jane would be horrified by the suggestion! Well, Jane had passed the initiation stage long ago and had moved beyond the phase of controlled use – her rituals of use (when, where,how much) were established, she was established in a social network where her drinking could be sustained. It was hard to think of any of her friends where drinking was not part of the relationship.  Jane now had a wide repertoire of excuses for a drink – feeling good, feeling bad, to keep other people company, to calm the nerves and so on!

 

21. Mrs McGillicuddy had been impressed by Lucy. She had not really understood until now what her job entailed, but she had discovered her niece spoke with knowledge and impressively about the problem with Jane and how to deal with it.

The book was making sense as well – Jane had, she realised, changed as a person the more she had immersed herself in this culture of drinking. She was in an ‘addiction – denying’ group – they all managed to hide the fact that having a drink was not an incidental addition to their social intercourse, but the main reason for it. She was a woman of standing in the community, and she could ‘hustle’ – manipulating people into supplying her with drink. She was skilled at explaining lapses away – digestive problems were attributed to ‘something she ate’; she fell asleep at Dolly’s house one afternoon and this was explained by the fire there being ‘far too hot’; a morning headache would be blamed on some villager  who had ‘insisted that she take another gin and tonic….. “and I didn’t want it, you know.”  Funnily enough , the morning headache did not seem to stop Jane from taking a ‘small sherry’ well before lunch. A near accident when she was driving close to the village was the fault of some young man who was ‘driving far too fast’, and so on….

Mrs McGillicuddy thought that she had now spent enough time trying to understand the problem – it was time to act. But how?

 

 

22. Mrs McGillicuddy started on the second half of the book and came across a section that seemed especially important for her current problem – ‘engaging the client through cultural and personal identification’. This seemed at first sight a bit of a mouthful, but she realised it was crucial – how would she engage Jane in a recovery process with which she could identify, rather than one imposed upon her.

This pointed Mrs McGillicuddy and Lucy to the kind of social world of which Miss Marple was a part, but which had other ways of sustaining itself than alcohol.

The book emphasised four conditions for successful intervention. The first was ‘high frequency of contact by the treatment staff, by others who had progressed in treatment and by self help volunteers’

So Mrs McGillicuddy thought she needed some allies in addition to Lucy, who could become part of the recovery process. She would start with the family and visit Lionel, Diana and Raymond.

Three things were needed from the family –to stop colluding with the problem, to become part of a solution and to point to social contacts in Jane’s life that might become part of the recovery process. They needed to be clear with Miss Marple that they saw she was drinking too much, and to find ways in which they could support, not just activities, but purposeful activities that would move her life away from the culture of addiction. Hopefully, they would help to identify some more potential allies.

 

23. To their surprise, the family were readily cooperative. Raymond’s wife, Joan, said she had been going on about this for some time to Raymond. They hatched a plot to get Joan, an artist, to paint a portrait of Jane – a process that would involve frequent modelling sessions. They could then control Jane’s access to alcohol for a while.

Lionel Peel was a bit difficult to find because he had separated from his wife, but he came up with a Mr Rafael, for whom Miss Marple had great respect and who was an addict earlier in his life. He was a very wealthy and successful business man and Lionel suggested making contact with him.

Diana ‘Bunch’ Harmon turned out to be a god daughter and not a niece, but she was a vicar’s wife and her husband knew Rev Leonard Clement well. It turned out that the drinking habits of St Mary Mead had been discussed in the Clement vicarage on more than one occasion. They said they would discuss how to approach the vicar with the Bishop. They also mentioned Marjorie Hubbard, a good friend of Jane Marple in the village but one who had broken free of the drinking culture.

After all this, Lucy and Mrs McGillicuddy felt much encouraged. Now they thought they had the beginnings of a recovery strategy. They knew that it was a small step – any plan for recovery would have to belong to Miss Marple herself – it could not be sorted out for her.

 

24. As the book said however, most people are impelled into treatment by a crisis. Mrs McGillicuddy was wondering how this might apply to Miss Marple, when she heard her come in from the Crackenthorpes. Things had been getting a bit lively up there and this afternoon, Miss Marple had been meeting Inspector Craddock to share her ideas. Instead of coming into the lounge with a smile of triumph, however, Miss Marple slumped into a chair, only pausing briefly by the drinks cabinet to pour herself a large G+T.

When she was eventually persuaded to talk about what had happened, it turned out that the meeting had been a disaster and Miss Marple had completely lost the thread of what she had wanted to say. She had muddled up Cedric and Harold, and kept calling Dr Quimper, ‘Haydock’. “I must be sickening for something” she said……….

Mrs McGillicuddy seized the moment. She was strengthened by the book’s comment about the need to put to one side the natural wish of a helper to try and reduce pain, but to focus on maintaining the intensity of the pain to encourage motivation to change.

Not that much went in, given Miss Marple’s inebriated state but both Lucy and Mrs McGillicuddy followed the talk up the next morning, as Miss Marple battled with a headache! Instead of denial and outrage, which they had feared, they found Miss Marple knew she was drinking too much and was ready to talk.

 

25. Lucy launched out. “The truth is Miss Marple, you are dealing with a problem that people often want to solve either alone or in some private therapy. In fact, people very rarely recover in that way – it is almost always a process that has to happen with other people. In my treatment service, we sometimes make the mistake of imagining that we need to write a treatment plan and get the client to implement it – you will need to have a plan for recovery and there are ways of helping you think about that, but it has to be your plan. As a professional, I have some responsibilities of course – I can help your plan be informed by what works and by what I know about your issues. For example, we tend not to talk any more about ‘treatment plans’ but about ‘recovery plans’ just because people need a broader strategy for getting better than just what happens in any treatment process, I also have to be responsible for assessing any risks there may be – for example in your case, there would be a question of whether you have other medical conditions that might affect the recovery plan or, since you live alone, whether there are supports available to help you through any difficult patches as you recover. You would also have to think about your driving – you have not always been safe you know!”

Miss Marple nodded miserably and a tear ran down her cheek.

 

26. ‘Right, let’s get started,’ Lucy said. Then Mrs McGillicuddy with Lucy’s help, went through all she had learned from the book and from observing life in St Mary Mead. She was so used to listening to Miss Marple explaining the intricacies of a solved murder mystery that it felt odd to be explaining things to Miss Marple and to see, despite her acute observation of people’s behaviour when she was ‘sleuthing’, how she had not seen things in the village that were right in front of her.

In particular, she had managed to avoid noticing Dolly’s use of prescribed drugs. Mrs McGillicuddy had just read the section of the book about ‘secondary drugs’, so she pursued this with Miss Marple who had often got the doctor to prescribe a sedative to her when she found sleeping difficult. She went to fetch the book and they went through this section with Miss Marple, showing how reducing her drinking could easily lead her to use prescribed drugs more regularly.

“Oh dear,” said Miss Marple and she looked more miserable.

“Don’t despair, Miss Marple” said Lucy, “you’ll get through this. Let’s start thinking about a plan. You might like to use these mind maps to help you think about everything – we use them at work and people find it helps them to see the full picture, and to plan how to deal with each aspect of their problem.” “Let’s you and me go through them together later today”, said Mrs McGillicuddy

 

27. And so Miss Marple and Mrs McGillicuddy sat down together later that day and over the next few days, reviewing what needed to change and how they might go about making those changes.  They also discussed the progress of the Crackenthorpe case, which was very helpful because it reminded Miss Marple of where she was more capable and skilled than Mrs McGillicuddy. Despite her confusion when she met Inspector Craddock, the case was nearly solved and she recruited Mrs McGillicuddy into a plan to expose the murderer.

The first job was to help Miss Marple to disengage from culture of addiction in the village. This of course was not easy but two or three ideas emerged. First of all, her drinks cabinet would be removed – it could be brought back if she were holding a social gathering that she felt must include the offer of alcoholic drinks. Then, she would take Marjorie Hubbard into her confidence since Marjorie had undertaken a similar disengagement from the drinking village a little while ago. Also, since visits to Gossington Hall were a prime occasion for drinking, she would invite Dolly Bantry over to Danemead Cottage instead. Then it would be easier to have non alcoholic drinks to accompany their gossiping.

It turned out that Diana’s husband had had success with Rev Lionel Clement, or rather Mrs Clement had taken up the cudgels and where she led, Rev Lionel tended to follow. Mrs Clement popped round to see Miss Marple and promised to help.

 

28. The next day, when Mrs McGillicuddy and Miss Marple returned in triumph from the Crackenthorpe’s, having trapped Dr Quimper into admitting his guilt, they found a letter from Mr Rafael. This was an invitation to Miss Marple to join him for a couple of weeks in what was in fact a health spa. “Oh, dear….. I couldn’t….” hesitated Miss Marple. “Now, my dear, I am sure this is just what Dr Haydock would order for you,” said Miss McGillicuddy. “Let’s see what he thinks.”

The good doctor of course said that she must go and it was just what she needed, so an acceptance was sent back to Mr Rafael.

This was an ideal next step since it gave Miss Marple a break from the social round in St May Mead with all its temptations. It meant that she would be in an alcohol free culture with Mr Rafael who was teetotal. Her body could adapt to the effects of abstinence from alcohol and in an environment where any sleep problems could be addressed supportively. Miss Marple would also get help with what positive actions to take to promote her health and fitness appropriate to her years.

The book had a useful checklist of issues to be addressed and a copy of this was made for Miss Marple to take with her to the Caribbean, which is where she would meet Mr Rafael.

In the meantime, they gave much thought to healthy nutrition at home.

 

 

29. As the book pointed out, there was a real risk of replacing alcohol with caffeine and so Miss Marple had to experiment to find out which drinks she could enjoy. Mrs McGillicuddy also encouraged her to think more carefully about what she ate, emphasising the point of building her body’s strength as it got used to life without alcohol.

They also talked about ways of dealing with some of the psychological problems of changing her lifestyle. How was she to refuse drinks when she did visit friends? Should she be open in explaining what she was doing? How could she change her daily routine so that she would not be drawn to pre-lunch drinks or to a ‘stiffener’ when she was feeling upset or lonely?

In fact, Miss Marple did get rather emotional and tearful at this stage of her recovery. One evening, she talked for the first time about the young man who had been killed in the first world war. Raymond had told Mrs McGillicuddy that the family thought there had been someone to whom Miss Marple had been attached in her younger days but it was never spoken of. Mrs McGillicuddy had the good sense not to probe too deeply as Miss Marple began to talk of this, much as she would have liked to know more. She just encouraged Miss Marple to say something about how this memory affected her now, about how often and in what way she now thought about him.

 

30. Mrs McGillicuddy was a bit relieved when Jane flew off to the Caribbean. The last few weeks had been hard work. Lucy had been brilliant in providing support and practical help but she still felt the strain and truth to tell had had to alter her own drinking habits too!

She knew however that the journey was still in its early stages and there was still much to tackle. She returned to the book. The physiological and the psychological ‘zones’ of change had been much discussed – now she was faced with the ‘spiritual’, the ‘interpersonal’ and the lifestyle zones of change. There was of course a fair degree of overlap between these ‘zones’ but it was useful to think about them so that she and Jane Marple were not diverted by one particular aspect of the change process. It would have been easy to put too much focus for example on the sadness regarding her wartime loss.

Postcards came from the Caribbean and Mrs McGillicuddy was not surprised to see that Miss Marple and Mr Rafael had got involved in solving a murder at the health spa. One advantage of this, she thought, was that Miss Marple’s mental skills would be put to good use, an important issue for the future. She would need to create a lifestyle in which her brain was active and engaged if she were not to relapse into the old ways…..not that she could lay on a series of murders simply for Miss Marple’s benefit!

 

31. The issue of spiritual change interested Mrs McGillicuddy. You might have thought that Miss Marple was well placed in this part of her life. She was a regular church goer and had a strong moral streak to her. And yet, it may be that the very skills that made see through to the solutions to all her murder mysteries were also an impediment to her achieving a sense of spirituality that could sustain her. She always saw the evil in people so clearly. As one policeman said of her: “I’ve heard her called the best personality analyst in the world, a ruthless forensic brain – a mind like a bacon slicer”. This must put a strain on the capacity for hope and awareness of beauty on which spiritual health depends. Also it probably means that Miss Marple sees through to her own failings all too easily. She was after all, very hard on herself for the way she had treated her young man in the war period.

This is where Diane and her husband could come in to help – the local vicar was not really much use at the moment, but if Diane and her vicar husband could get Miss Marple talking about her beliefs, about her capacity for self forgiveness and about the value of her insights for wider and more life affirming purposes than catching evil people, perhaps she could make some progress? Diane’s idea of doing Miss Marple’s portrait would provide ideal circumstances for some such intimate conversations.

 

32. Miss Marple returned to St Mary Mead having agreed for Mrs McGillicuddy to come and stay with her again to help her get back to normality. She was full of excitement about the murders in the spa and her work with Mr Rafael to solve them, so St Mary Mead seemed a little lacklustre by comparison.

The book wrote about the need for change in the ‘Interpersonal’ zone. This meant Miss Marple would need to rebuild her social and family relationships in a way disconnected from the drinking culture. Marjorie Hubbard was especially helpful, having faced the same problem. She said that her first hope had been that she would just be able to carry on with her old friendships but with more will power to resist the temptation to drink. This had proved unsuccessful, forcing her to approach relationships in a new way.

First of all, she told her family they must talk openly about the issue of her drinking – there were to be no secret hushed conversations. If they were uneasy about something, they were to say. Secondly, she thought she should do something active to create different kinds of relationship. To help with this she worked in the local charity shop. In Miss Marple’s case, she knew she was fond of her garden but might there be a way of developing that interest differently?  Perhaps a project with the local primary school, or a church based group to promote health through locally grown produce from people’s gardens?

 

33. Miss Marple of course had bad days. One evening after being at Dolly Bantry’s and falling for a few drinks, she said to Mrs McGillicuddy, “You know, this has made me realise how little we really talk to each other in the village. It’s all so trivial”. A tear trickled down her cheek. “This is true of so many places, Jane” said Mrs McGillicuddy, “and I see it is often true even within marriages”. “I suppose the drink was a kind of anaesthetic” said Miss Marple. “It helped us not to mind feeling lonely”.

“It seems to me though” said Mrs McGillicuddy, “that there has been more truth in our friendship as we have discussed recovery, than there has been for years. And look at your conversations with Marjorie and Mr Rafael – you are creating friendships that have the strength to look life with all its difficulties, in the face. Even with Raymond, Diane and Lionel, there is now a chance for you to know them more fully and for them to know you?”

Mrs McGillicuddy had been watching out for times when this kind of conversation could happen – the book spoke of an ‘emotional thawing’ as people move into the culture of recovery, and so despite the relapse that afternoon, she felt encouraged that Miss Marple was progressing. The book spoke of the moments when the addict ‘stands naked in the light of self-perception and simply gives up’ – and sees these moments as a key part of recovery.

 

 

34. A few mornings later, a letter arrived for Miss Marple from Mr Rafael’s solicitor, Mr Rafael had sadly died. Miss Marple was prepared for that news – he had been very frail, though spirited in the Caribbean. What she was not ready for was the bequest. She was left a very large sum of money but the condition was that she should undertake a coach trip that Mr Rafael had arranged, and solve a mystery. She went to the solicitor to check the details and found it was quite true. She felt obliged in Mr Rafael’s memory to go through with the plan. Mrs McGillicuddy was not free and so Raymond was enlisted to accompany her.

Having read a really interesting section of the book about the importance of symbols to support recovery, Mrs McGillicuddy decided to give Miss Marple a present to take with her on the trip. It needed to be something that would remind her of her recovery so she arranged for a little photograph to be taken of the children from the local school who were going to work in her garden. One of the children gave her a little round polished stone as a present for Miss Marple and so this was added to the little parcel with a card with all the children’s names.

 

35. So Miss Marple set off on her trip. Raymond joined her at the pick up point and they watched as the other passengers arrived. A couple of people Miss Marple thought she recognised, but for the most part they were the kind of mixed group you might expect on a coach tour of ‘famous houses and gardens’.

The tour was blessed with excellent weather and the party all mixed together very happily. Rather oddly, it seemed that none of the party took alcohol when they stopped in hotels overnight, but as the days passed, Miss Marple learned that most passengers had some sort of connection with Mr Rafael. It turned out that all had had some addiction problem and were making the same kind of recovery journey as Miss Marple herself, (with the exception of Misses Barrow and Cooke, who behaved very furtively and kept themselves somewhat apart from the others.)

She realised that Mr Rafael was not only asking her to solve some puzzle, which seemed to involve a murdered girl engaged to his son, but was helping Miss Marple to build friendships that were completely disconnected from alcohol, that could become a ‘recovery community’. Her experience as an ‘ambassador’, as the book designated her, stood her in excellent stead when building friendships between all members of the coach party.

Throughout, she wrote to Mrs McGillicuddy and Lucy – helping her to keep her recovery progress under review and to reflect on the difficulties and achievements of each day.

 

36. Of course, Miss Marple was intrigued by what the book had to say about the roles people took in the recovery process. The talkative Mr Caspar was a ‘storyteller’; Professor Wanstead was of course a ‘professor’; Mrs Sandbourne was the ‘organiser’; Mr Jameson was a ‘pigeon; Mrs Riseley-Porter was what the book called a ‘ bleeding deacon’ and Miss Temple appeared to be ‘a pilgrim’.

Then the trip took a nasty turn as Miss Temple was badly injured by a rock. It turned out the Miss Temple was more of a ‘chronically falling sinner’ since she was not entirely sober at the time of the accident, if that is what it was. Presumably, her inebriated state had made it harder for her to get out of the way of the rock. Sad though the event was, it did reinforced the sobriety of and strengthen the growing alliance between the rest of the party, and the shock encouraged some like Mrs Riseley-Porter to be more open about themselves and their struggles.

It also brought Misses Barrow and Cooke more into the community. Miss Barrow turned out to be something of a mentor for the party including Miss Marple, and the confidence that grew between them was of course crucial for solving Mr Rafael’s puzzle.

Enquries about Mr Rafael’s son were yielding confusing information. He seemed to be involved with homeless alcoholics in London, but whether as an addicted member of this group or as a helper was not clear.

 

37. Mrs Mc Gillicuddy and her niece met up for tea and cakes whilst Miss Marple was away. Lucy pointed out how well this trip fitted with the book’s description of the four core activities for the recovering addict.

  1. ‘Centring rituals’: the regular conversations about the recovery journey, the daily discipline of writing letters to Mrs McGillicuddy and Lucy were both activities of this kind.
  2. ‘Mirroring rituals’: Miss Marple’s respect for Miss Barrow and Professor Wanstead especially meant she was obviously drawing on their experience and wisdom. The constant contact with the other members of the coach party and the growing corporate sense of the group working together fitted well with the books description of this core activity.
  3. ‘Self – constructing behaviours’: Miss Marple had clearly shared her story with other members of the party, and the puzzle Mr Rafael had set was also helping to shift the focus of Miss Marple’s life away from drink.
  4. ‘Acts of Service’: Miss Marple was clearly enjoying her role in helping the coach party to gel as a group, and she took a bit of a lead in visiting Miss Temple in hospital and in supporting Mrs Sandbourne with the practical consequences for the tour of Miss Temple’s accident.

Raymond was playing his part in all this, helping with Mr Rafael’s puzzle, ensuring that Miss Marple took daily exercise and that she did not get overtired. Miss Marple was now sure that she must solve the murder of young Rafael’s sweetheart.

38. A few days later, Mrs McGillicuddy received a letter announcing that the puzzle was solved and the murderer had committed suicide after exposure by Miss Marple. Miss Marple was therefore saying goodbye to the friends in the coach party and coming home.

Lucy decided she would visit, so that she could review Miss Marple’s progress with her and discuss some psychological techniques that Miss Marple might find useful. She decided on two elements.

First of all, she spent time talking to Miss Marple about ‘self commands’. This was something to use when she found herself slipping back into old self defeatist patterns of thinking – such as “I’ll upset Dolly Bantry if I refuse to have a drink with her”. She also taught Mrs McGillicuddy the technique and left them to practice its application. The book gave them step by step guidance so that their practice could be well focussed.

Secondly, Lucy thought she should talk to Miss Marple about constructing her personal story. Again she included Mrs McGillicuddy in this and they were given homework to answer the six questions set out in the relevant section of the book:

  • Who was I pre addiction?
  • Who did I become when I was addicted?
  • Why me?
  • How and why did I stop?
  • Who am I now?
  • Where am I going and what do I do to get there?

The plan was to construct a personal story that supported her self esteem and recovery.

39. When Miss Marple was answering the first question, she revealed to a shocked Mrs McGillicuddy the reason she rejected the young man’s advances during the war. She knew she was not attracted to him. It was other girls that she would dream about. She had always been ashamed of these feelings, but it was when she met Miss Hinchcliffe and Miss Murgatroyd that she began to think differently. She saw how deeply attached to each other they had been.

When she became addicted therefore, she had found a way of suppressing her feelings. She could disappear into the image of a sharp and nosy lady that she had created. During that awful discussion with the policeman, she thought her intellectual powers had gone. It was as if she were left with nothing; neither the emotional closeness for which she yearned nor the alternative person she had created.

This then explained the crisis which had fuelled all Miss Marple’s efforts at recovery.

Speaking of ‘who I am now’, Miss Marple said that she felt sad about all those years hiding her true feelings. But, she had been able to find a new kind of emotional closeness to people through the work on recovery. Being more open about herself, and encouraging others to share their personal struggles had led to all kinds of more rewarding relationships, with Mr Rafael and his son, with Professor Wanstead, Miss Barrow, Mrs Sandbourne, with Marjorie Hubbard, with her nephews and with Lucy and Mrs McGillicuddy!

40. The day before Mrs McGillicuddy was to go home, Miss Marple confided that she was frightened. She feared that once she was alone with her old village life she would go back to the old ways.

Remembering what she had read at the start of this journey that change involved a whole culture not just an individual’s change, Mrs McGillicuddy suggested they went to see the Rev Mr Clement. They found him contrite about failing to see what was going on in the village. Sherry had been banned from the vicarage!

He had been delighted to hear of Miss Marple’s school project and they discussed whether this could become a way of strengthening the alcohol-free life of the village. He thought the Sunday School and youth club might look after the garden during weekends and school holidays This would bring more adults from the village into the project. The vicarage garden had areas that could be developed and they thought an annual flower festival in the Church would be a real attraction.

Miss Marple returned home in positive mood. She decided she had a plan to manage:
– Daily rituals of stress release, diary keeping and self commands where needed

– Do a deal with Marjorie Hubbard so that she could call on her when she felt lost

– Building the garden project to help the village

– Sitting sessions with Diane for her portrait
And of course Mrs McGillicuddy and Lucy were just at the end of a phone.

41. A day or two later, Miss Marple received a letter from Mr Rafael’s solicitors so she went off to see them in London. She found that having solved his mystery, she had inherited a large sum of money. She shocked the solicitors by insisting it went into her current account. ‘I’m going to spend it, you know. I’m going to have some fun with it!’

She did two things to start with, She bought a large greenhouse that would fit in her garden and enable the children to work on the project in all weathers. She also arranged for a coach trip to
houses and gardens or Europe for her companions from what she called the ‘Nemesis tour’.

Of course, life was not always plain sailing. She did occasionally relapse, usually at some social event involving Dolly Bantry but there were always people around to pick her up again. The garden project involved more and more of the village and other people brought their gardens into the project so that the church was always supplied with flowers and the greengrocer with fresh fruit and vegetables.

Marjorie Hubbard and Miss Marple were in and out of each other’s houses constantly, and if you had watched them closely, you might have discovered that on some evenings they did not return to their own homes.

Lucy and Mrs McGillicuddy said that the book was right when it said that recovering addicts can be ‘better than well’!

The End!