The seymour tapes, p.14
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       The Seymour Tapes, p.14

           Tim Lott
 
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  – Tell her that before we get on to that, I would like to talk to her about something else.

  – She has been feeling much better.

  – That’s good. She looks well. Look, I’m not quite sure how to approach this so I’m going to get straight to the point.

  – I don’t understand.

  –Let me explain. She may remember a woman coming in from Reception when I was examining her.

  – She says she does, yes.

  – Tell her I would like to apologize once again for any embarrassment it may have caused her.

  – She understands. The examination – it was difficult for her.

  – Difficult? In what way?

  – In our culture it is not normal for men who are not our husbands to touch women intimately, even if they are doctors.

  – But she was in some danger. Until I examined her properly I couldn’t be sure whether or not she had an ectopic pregnancy. There was no woman doctor available.

  – She understands. Nevertheless…

  – I mean – has Miss Geale, the receptionist, tried to get in touch with her?

  – Who?

  – The last time she came – the woman who came in. Has she phoned you?

  – Why would she be in touch? Can she speak Somali?

  – Well, she might not have known… Look, could you just ask Mrs Madoowbe?

  – She says no one has been in touch.

  – I see. And last time she came… forgive me, I have to ask this. Last time she came to see me, well, your sister seemed distressed. I wanted to ask her… did she feel I behaved improperly?

  Author’s Note: There is a long conversation in Somali here between the two sisters, sometimes rather heated. Finally Yasmin Farah speaks again to Dr Seymour.

  – She was distressed.

  – I understand that. I know she was distressed. But does she have any complaint to make?

  – She does not want to make trouble. She does not want any authorities involved.

  – Nothing will go further than this room.

  – Why are you asking? What is the importance of this?

  – It’s a precaution.

  – Please, Dr Seymour, what kind of precaution? This conversation is embarrassing for her. For us.

  – The woman… The receptionist, Miss Geale, is under the impression… Because Mrs Madoowbe took off her clothes when I did not ask her to… Miss Geale thinks… She formed the impression that I may have been acting – improperly. It’s complicated. But there is a danger that Miss Geale may make a complaint.

  – We do not want the authorities involved. We do not want a fuss.

  – I know. But it’s important for me, you see.

  – We don’t really see. She doesn’t really see.

  – Look, can I ask your sister a direct question?

  – Can we please talk about the results of the test?

  – I just want to know… those injuries she had. Mrs Madoowbe, those bruises you had when you last came to see me. On your thighs. On the inside of your legs. How did you get them? What happened to you?

  – Bruises? She said nothing to me about bruises.

  – She had them. Contusions, scratches, bruises. Ask her about them. Please.

  Again, Yasmin Farah addresses her sister. This time, the atmosphere becomes extremely tense. Yasmin Farah becomes animated, even angry, while Mrs Madoowbe becomes quieter and quieter, nodding and shaking her head. Eventually she starts to cry, and Yasmin Farah, clearly upset, turns back to Dr Seymour.

  – I think we should go now. This is not good. It is not right.

  – This is completely confidential. I will not –

  – We cannot afford to have problems with the authorities, do you see?

  – Of course, but…

  The women get up as if to go. Dr Seymour also rises from his chair.

  – What were the test results?

  – Mrs Madoowbe is absolutely fine. She just had an infection, which was nothing serious. I am sure that the antibiotics I gave her will have cleared it up.

  Yasmin Farah talks to her sister in urgent, hushed tones. Mrs Madoowbe looks relieved.

  – Thank you. Yes, she is fine. Now we must go.

  – Hold on. Look. Please ask your sister. I want no trouble either. Just ask her if she felt I behaved properly towards her. If she was offended.

  – She was very upset. In our culture –

  – Yes, yes, I know you are not meant to be examined by men. But did she think… that I made… Did she believe I made any kind of sexual advance? Because, you see, this is what the receptionist, Miss Geale, is trying to pretend, to say, for her own reasons. I need you to tell me that this is false. That I treated her with respect.

  Once again, Yasmin Farah appears shocked. They seem about to leave, but Dr Seymour looks pleadingly at them. They have another brief conversation. Yasmin Farah speaks.

  – My sister is a good woman. Her situation at home is very difficult. Without her husband, she says, there is no future for her. There is no money without him. She has to be a good wife. It is difficult for her. He gets… What is your expression? Carried away. He is a passionate man. He has fire in his belly.

  – Miss Farah, please ask your sister if I made any sexual advance towards her when she visited me in my surgery recently. Please. Ask her that question directly. I would be very grateful.

  There is a long pause. The three people in the surgery stand still for what seems a long time. Eventually Yasmin Farah speaks once more to her sister. The exchange is brief. This time, after the translation of the question, Mrs Madoowbe looks puzzled. Then she shakes her head, looks directly at Dr Seymour and answers for herself, in English.

  – No. There was not nothing.

  – You mean there was nothing? You mean, nothing happened?

  – No. Nothing happened. Yes.

  One can almost hear Dr Seymour’s relieved exhalation. He allows himself a brief smile.

  – Thank you, Mrs Madoowbe, Miss Farah. Thank you so much. You have been very helpful.

  – We must go now.

  – Goodbye. And thank you, both.

  The women leave. Now Dr Seymour gazes at the camera, smiles and speaks directly to the lens.

  And thank you. I feel… just like you said I’d feel. Like you always knew.

  Dr Alex Seymour’s Video Diary, Excerpt Three, Saturday, 12 May, Time Code 00.07

  Author’s Note: Dr Seymour looks tired but otherwise seems happy and relaxed. As before, he is in his blue dressing-gown. He is holding a half-filled glass in his left hand, and visible on the table behind him is a bottle of Laphroaig whisky. His words are slightly slurred, but he is not obviously drunk. Again, he keeps his voice low.

  Good evening. Good evening, me. It’s been a good day. A good, good day. For the first time in as long as I can remember I feel… Ah. I don’t know how I feel. But it’s wonderful. And what with all the things that happened on Thursday… A revolution. That’s what it feels like. I’m rising, rising.

  Is it down to Sherry? After all, she talked me into it. It helped me. I hate to admit it, but I’m excited about seeing her tomorrow. Later today. Whatever you want to call it. Really looking forward to it. To share the triumph that I can’t share with anyone – except this tiny red blinking eye in front of me.

  It’s a great weight off my mind. There’s a whole secret world out there, isn’t there? That just drifts away. That you can’t see or hear. People continue to exist when you’re not there. You forget that sometimes.

  But you know who I really have to thank? God, this is embarrassing. God. See, I don’t think it’s Sherry, not really. It’s because… I can’t say it. Sam would think I was off my head.

  Oh, this is absurd. I’m only talking to me. To me. So why hold back? I mean, the whole reason I’m making this tape is to have a record. An honest record.

  In this last week I prayed for the first time in so many years. Which is stupid, because I haven’t believed in God
not properly, not really – since… since I don’t know when. Very hard to believe in God when you’re a doctor. You see the randomness, the pain. Anyway, you can take the boy out of the Church but maybe not the Church out of the boy. The habits – the mental habits – persist.

  I suppose it’s just coincidence. But when I’d got to the end of my tether, with the family, my life, the boredom, the meaninglessness of it all… that was when I reached out. I got on my knees, and I reached out. Felt completely stupid. But the next day – the next day – I went to Hamid Ali’s and got that card. And then Sherry, and then this, a problem that has been eating at me, solved. In the most unlikely fashion.

  It is coincidence. I know that. Or, at least, the rational part of me knows it. There is no God. No one is watching us. No one is looking at us, twenty-four hours a day, checking what we do, how we feel. We are the only gods now.

  But perhaps there is something in prayer. Not to God, not to the old man with the beard. Jesus and Mary. The rosary beads, the relics, all the gobbledegook. But if we’re the only gods, maybe we need to pray to ourselves.

  There’s all this stuff, isn’t there, in your subconscious, that you can’t get at, that you can’t know about? A huge well, a vast ocean of it. That’s God, isn’t it? That’s God.

  This is good whisky. A bit too good. Getting tired.

  As… I… was… saying, if we’re God, we can do it. We can pray to ourselves. Of course, it won’t make things happen – not out there, not in the world, not directly. Winning the pools. Making the cancer go away. But praying to yourself – it’s like diving into the ocean for pearls. It’s talking to the bits of you that you can’t quite apprehend. So the part of you that is unconscious can help the part of you that is conscious. Help you to be strong, to be good, to do the right thing, to make the right decision, to forgive yourself, to forgive others, to have willpower. All these things, they are not something you can muster. They come by grace. They are something you have to accept, to open your heart to. That is why you are like God – your subconscious is like God.

  I’m pissed. I’m talking absolute shit. Except there’s something in it. Somewhere.

  I’ve got an idea. A prayer. A video prayer. Because if I pray out loud, into the lens, I’m putting it out there, not just talking in my head. It’s making it more real, it’s making it penetrate more. My subconscious will listen to me. Because it is being addressed.

  What am I talking about? I want to go to bed.

  I’m going to do it, though. I’m going to pray.

  Dr Seymour drains the remainder of his Scotch, closes his eyes, puts his hands together, giggles, then composes himself. After about thirty seconds of silence he begins to speak.

  Dear God. Dear me.

  I’m not sure what to say. I feel foolish.

  Help me… help me to do the right thing. Help me overcome my fear and anger. Help me to know the difference between right and wrong.

  I am confused. Can it be right for me to watch, as you watch? As you are said to watch? Is it a sin? What is a sin? No one seems to know any more, God. We have to make up our own minds. We have to take the burden ourselves. It is a terrible responsibility. To face consequences without you.

  Help me to look after my family. Help me to be strong with them. Show me how not to be weak. For I know they think I’m a fool. Help me to show them I’m someone they might respect.

  Help me not to hate my patients. For some of them, truly, I do hate. That fat bloody woman from the block round the corner who comes in every week because she wants to pull a sickie. Her stupid, useless husband who pushes drugs and hits his kid. The Russian hustler who looks at me like I’m nothing. That old Polish guy, that old Nazi.

  People are terrible. When I started out as a doctor I thought they were good. But people are terrible.

  Please help me, God. Help me to see the good in people again. Help me to see the good in myself.

  For thine is the kingdom. The power and the…

  Dr Seymour opens his eyes.

  This is stupid. Ridiculous.

  Cyclops Surveillance Systems, Tape Three, Saturday, 12 May

  Dr Seymour arrives as Sherry Thomas appears to be closing the shop. She is switching off the lights, collecting her bags. When Dr Seymour comes in, he is breathless, anxious. She seems professional, regretful, and gives no sign at first of the degree of intimacy that has been developing between them.

  – Sherry. Sorry I’m late.

  – I’m just closing.

  – Yes, I know. The train, it was a nightmare. Broke down, stuck in a tunnel for half an hour. Look, can we talk?

  – Like I say, Dr Seymour, the shop is…

  She looks at one of the two synchronized clocks on the wall.

  –… closed. Why don’t you come back next week?

  – Sherry, don’t be annoyed with me, it really isn’t – Just because I was late didn’t mean that I’m not –

  – I’m not annoyed with you, Dr Seymour. Why should I be? Now, if you could just leave the premises, I need to set the alarms.

  – Don’t be like this. Don’t you want to know how much you’ve helped me? What a difference you’ve made to my life? It’s worked, Sherry. Or, at least, it’s working. Everything is beginning to turn round. And it’s thanks to you.

  – That’s excellent news. However, I’m late for an appointment…

  – Look, I really am sorry I’m late. I know somewhere near here that does a pretty decent lunch. Why don’t we just sit down and talk for a while? I have to talk. There’s no one else I can share this with. And I know we don’t know each other very well, and I’m sorry to assume, but, please, aren’t you just a bit hungry?

  Sherry Thomas does up her coat, picks up her bag and takes a final glance in a mirror situated by the shop door.

  – I think lateness is very rude. It’s unacceptable.

  – I’ve said I’m sorry.

  – Anyway, I don’t think there’s anywhere decent around here.

  – No. But you’ve got a car, and we could go somewhere. Just so we can talk a bit.

  She seems to consider this for several seconds. Clearly she is genuinely annoyed about his unpunctuality. Then she unbends.

  – I’m not a cheap date, Alex. I hope you’re not thinking of a Happy Meal.

  – Do you know anywhere?

  – How about the Belvedere in Holland Park? Ten minutes away down the A40.

  Dr Seymour looks taken aback. (The state of the Seymours’ finances made fancy meals a rare occurrence.)

  – Doesn’t Michael Winner go there?

  – I’m sure we won’t bump into him.

  – In that case, why not?

  – Excellent.

  – And, Sherry, one last thing.

  – This is getting like a Colombo movie. There’s always one last thing. What is it? House wine only?

  – This isn’t a date. It’s lunch. A business lunch.

  – I know that, Alex. What I’m not sure about is what the business at hand is.

  The camera watches both parties leave the shop. The external camera shows them climbing into Sherry Thomas’s BMW, which is parked outside. They drive away.

  Author’s Note: Obviously we have no direct way of knowing what passed between Sherry Thomas and Dr Seymour at the restaurant. She did not talk about their conversation to Barbara Shilling. However, Dr Seymour, in his final ‘confession’ to his wife, shortly before his death, mentioned this meeting. What follows is a transcript of my conversation with Samantha Seymour on the subject of the lunch at the Belvedere.

  Interview with Samantha Seymour

  What did Alex tell you about that lunch?

  Not much. Nothing at all when it actually happened. But at the end I insisted he tell me everything, and he mentioned that they had lunch together.

  You must have been pretty annoyed.

  I was mainly annoyed that they had lunch at the Belvedere. The best we can manage – could manage – was the local Indian. He
was clearly out to impress her – or, at least, keep her on board. And that hurt.

  Nevertheless, he seemed to be at pains to point out that it wasn’t a date.

  He also claimed to me that there was nothing romantic about it. That he just wanted to talk, that the whole thing was too big a burden for him and she was the only person he could talk to about it. So that was what he did. That was all he did. Or so he said.

  Did he give you any details about what they said to each other?

  He said it was all very innocent. That they talked about his job as a doctor, how she got into the surveillance business, that kind of thing. Pretty routine, really.

  But what about the tapes? Did he talk about them?

  He started to. She said she wasn’t interested.

  Really? That’s surprising.

  She wasn’t interested in hearing about them. She wanted to see them. The tapes from his home. She wanted him to bring them to CSS. She said it was purely a professional thing, that by seeing the tapes she could help him interpret the information properly.

  What did he tell her?

  At the time he said no. But then, he told me, he felt it would be harmless enough. He didn’t think it mattered. She was just trying to help. So he decided at some point in the following week to take them to her.

  Did he tell you anything else?

  Yes.

  And…

  He said that Michael Winner looks much older than he does on TV.

  Seymour Surveillance Tape, Week Three

  Sequence One: Front-room Camera,

  Monday, 14 May, Time Code 08.31

  Samantha Seymour is dangling a teddy bear rather apathetically in front of a complaining Polly when her husband walks in.

  – Are you going to the shops today?

  – Probably.

  – Can you pick me up a few things?

  – OK.

  – I need some dental floss, a new toothbrush head, some razor blades and some deodorant.

  – Sure.

  – Can you remember that?

  – Of course.

  – Don’t you think you should write it down?

 
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