Mirror in the Bathroom


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The Child Who Was Father To The Man
By Stephen Elkin

ISBN: 978-1-84747- 946-4
Published: 2009
Pages: 236
Key Themes: mental health, self harm, empowerment



Nature or nurture, what is it that makes us who we are? After reading ‘Mirror in the Bathroom, The Child who was Father to the Man’, you decide.
Born to warring parents in the winter of 62’, a complete mental breakdown at the age of twelve is Stephen Elkin’s escape, only to find him self incarcerated against his will into a home for juvenile delinquents.

The story then moves on twenty five years, finds him happily married, set up in life, only for the demons of a past to come a calling.
What follows is a horrific case of self harm, as the author, after numerous sorties with a corrupt cosmetics industry, describes how he tries to eradicate a face, the fall out knowing no bounds. Another breakdown follows, only for his long awaited recovery to be ended, as an accident in a top cycle race sees him wake up a different person.
A suicide attempt leads to second incarceration into a mental hospital, while only then is he able to compare a mental health care system of the ‘then’ and ‘now’, whilst he finally finds himself diagnosed for the condition that has been the bane of his life.

An yet the book is far more than a misery memoir, for it is a book of hope, explanation, as it illustrates through pertinent flashbacks – just what might be to blame for such a mental malaise. As it gets inside the mind of the mad man and boy. Describing in detail the lead up to a breakdown.

Whilst it is also comedic, ironic, as it sets itself against the background of a quite unusual famous cycling family of the ‘60s. As finally, and most importantly, be it through the medication, the numerous hours of counseling, the self help or the attention to diet, it shows that where there is a will, then there really is a way, as one family finally makes a success of their lives and move on.

About the Author

Stephen Elkin was born in 1962 and lives in Warwickshire. After leaving a school for the physically disabled in 1979, he set about making his way in the world of industry and commerce, studying accountancy before reaching middle management level.
However, the pull to start his own business, was always very strong, resulting in him taking the plunge in 1996, and which has seen the accounting partnership he runs with his wife grow ever since.
A keen sportsmen, he has represented his county at cycling, whilst his devout love of animals was paramount in his decision to become a Vegan.
However it is a love of writing that has dominated his life, culminating in the completion of his first book.

Book Extract

As the doors flung open so the impasse continued. Stared longingly at the stranger, cold features etched across a face once so predisposed to radiating love. Just willing her to make it better, make it all go away. For she could, she could do anything. The one person who’d been there for me in each and every crisis of my life, the cause and effect, I remembered a man, the questions he’d asked – the stigmas attached. You know she’d sat with me then, the concerned parent, aghast at her son’s strange behaviour.
With our escort’s patience palpably draining, finally she got up. I followed almost immediately as if attached by string, suspecting they were least likely to leave me there as two hands disappeared unerringly deep inside a cheap red padded plastic, as I hauled myself up, before making my way to the exit.

However, and on negotiating the steps, then I would feel myself suddenly becoming unstable. A simple enough task, the four tonnes of prime NHS stock, so diametrically opposed to such meandering, then all at once the vehicle began to double as a grey metallic bouncy castle as one-by-one its steps, so out of sink with such clod hopping – they started to reverberate, pushing up and hard, counteracting as they did so each and every movement of a frail lower body.

It would leave me feeling somewhat aggrieved, irritated almost, at such incursion into pathos, threat to an already shaky equilibrium. As after all playing the fool was the last thing I needed, even if I did consider that at any other moment, another place in time, I would probably have gained some comic relief from a situation that forced me to mimic the weightless motions of an American astronaut, or achieve a passable impersonation of old time music hall legend Freddie Frint. Although I was only guessing at Frint, for in an age of the ‘flare’ he was, and always had been a mythical figure, a character well before my time. Imagery formed in the mind of a child as his name was trawled vindictively from the archives to berate a wife once more. Although reasoning he must have played ‘the drunk.’ The notion appearing to correlate as ‘Freddie Frint! Freddie Frint!’ was repeated over and over again. Each time with greater venom as her walk became more unsteady across the room.

Unsteady as mine now as the steps unleashed one last kick! Threatening to catapult reluctant limbs deep into the air of a bright Autumnal day, light release from the climatically controlled claustrophobic atmosphere just vacated. Sensation about a body and soul that once more felt familiar: playtime, hurrying away from class before the sides were picked for football. Although puzzled as I was now at the lack of exaltation, feeling of anticipation, as I cleared the doors to be met by my reception party: a young doctor, and an even younger nurse.

‘Stephen!’ Her senior announced, his beaming face appearing to acknowledge the arrival of a long lost friend. I’d never met the man. Nor, given the choice, did I feel I would ever have wanted too. His welcome designed to placate. While all at once I would feel myself becoming nauseous towards such a demonstration of calm, in a situation that called upon one only to SCREAM! Feeling of revulsion towards the person displaying all the job satisfaction of an SS interrogator, and yet how exactly did he know my name?


After a brief, and yet awkward stalemate, he ventured towards me. His right hand poised like that of a gun-slinger as it jutted out at ninety degrees from his side, before slowly I surrendered mine. It was then that I was ushered towards the glass doors situated just behind him.

Stood silent, incredulously observing as they opened and closed as if by magic, the small reception area they concealed appeared modern. Why even more so when compared to the dark foreboding Gothic surrounds that had so dominated a landscape the moment we left the highway. And as I looked straight ahead, a stringent nurse busied herself behind a tall laminate desk. Surrounded as it was by four or five easy chairs, a selection of predictable painting, far removed from all the Accident and Emergency units that had acted as staging posts before another re-admittal, and yet displaying all the characteristics of a cheap motel. And as she failed to look up – I was taken straight through.


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