The phone rings.
It's my little sister. She is talking very loudly. She does this when she is feeling confident.
'Hi', I say, 'where are you?'
'I'M IN A CAR WITH FRANK! WE'RE GOING TO HIS CARAVAN! HE'S MY NEW BOYFRIEND, HE LOVES ME AND WE'RE GETTING MARRIED! ISN'T IT MARVELLOUS?'
I'm used to such calls from my sister. She is in her late 40's, extremely fragile emotionally and has a personality disorder. She has lived, for the last 20 or so years, on the fringes of society, in and out of psychiatric wards and through many frightening psychotic episodes. She has lost all of her friends, most of her family, her looks, her potential, her sense of belonging in this world and her sanity. She is mad. She is the woman who you avoid when you see her raving to herself and walking towards you in the street.
She can be funny, somehow reaching inside and harnessing her deep dark intelligence while recalling amusing anecdotes but mostly she is sad or vicious, irritating or down right rude. She hallucinates, has fairly infrequent washing habits and often sees dead members of our family. Her mind is so addled and ravaged from years of prescribed and recreational drug-use that there will now never be any hope of redeeming fully what was once lost.
The council has just re-housed her after a long stretch in hospital. But she is lonely.
'FRANK'S AN ANTIQUE DEALER! I'M GOING TO HELP HIM WITH HIS BUSINESS. HE'S VERY ROMANTIC, WE MAY RUN OFF INTO THE NIGHT AND LIVE LIKE GYPSIES!'
I am immediately suspicious of 'Frank'. My sister is vulnerable and prey to any undesirable with dishonest intentions. Who could possibly want to marry this confused woman with rotten teeth, dirty hair, whose body will sometimes shake violently with the powerful side-effects of her anti-psychotics and who constantly talks of seeing the dead?
But that doesn't stop her yearning for love. And who am I to question the requirements of a partner? Maybe Frank will be the one to give my sister the love that she desperately needs.
A few days later and she calls again.
She is subdued. I ask her about Frank.
'Oh Frank, he dumped me, said I was a head-case, too much to handle. We're still going to be friends though'
I'm not surprised. What ever his motives were, perhaps in the end, like the rest of us, he just couldn't cope with her full-time.
She tells me that she is waiting for her case-worker to visit. She's going to try to do some washing. Or make a sandwich for lunch. I doubt she will do either though. Some days she has so little energy, so little to look forward to, that all she can do is rock from side to side while staring into space.
A few days later and she tells me that Frank has been over with her to her lock-up. This is a small garage where she stores all of her belongings. A damp sofa, bags of smelly clothes, books and childhood trinkets, photos and letters from the past. Reminders that she once had a life.
She also has a small fridge and a TV, a microwave and a few other electrical goods. I ask her what they were doing.
'FRANK'S BEEN SO KIND AND HE'S TAKEN EVERYTHING OFF MY HANDS!'
He gave her £40 for the lot.