Articles 2



The Demise of Sheffield's Old Buildings
By Mick Timmins

Sheffield seems to have a problem with its old buildings, we appear to be in the age of toughened glass and steel in this once architecturally great city of ours. Our buildings are pulled down with no thought for the surrounding areas. Pulled down with a great deal of stealth, I might add, by being demolished from the rear behind high fences leaving just the front standing to disappear overnight as if by magic. If a builder cannot get planning permission the building will mysteriously catch fire or fall down in a high wind that does not seem to affect any other buildings. Examples of this are the Tram Sheds at Albert Road, Heeley that fell down over night after having been solidly stood there for over 100 years. Another example is the old Wigfalls building at Malin Bridge that was once an old mill. If a building is 'listed' and has been refused planning permission the new owners seem to be able to allow the building to fall into such a state of disrepair it falls down on its own. An example of this is an old coach house in Loxley, a large mansion type house overlooking the Strines; and the administration building of the old Middlewood hospital / asylum. Other old buildings and factories around Sheffield are constantly being torn down; if this carries on soon we will have no historic buildings left in Sheffield. Maybe it is time to stand our ground for the sake of our heritage.

Seeing With The Inner Vision
By Brenda Diskin © 2002

To my left is the ocean, bluest of blues, moving calmly and softly. I am walking on a beach on sand that is illuminated (alive) and yet also pristine. I do not feel my feet. I feel light a feather as though I am only in a persons body to reassure myself. To the right green growth as it should be. In front of me on the beach is drift wood, piled up. I decide to go to the driftwood and sit, and wait. Wait for what? I am not sure but the scene is so beautiful I expect, no, I know that there is more to come.
I am not in some idyllic paradise; I am here in the City, full of smoke and pollution.
However, I actually see these things in my mind even with my eyes open.
If you have not experienced the true beauty and euphoria of a Meditative trance, you have missed so much. It is something that can bring some joy, peace and normality into an otherwise turbulent and stressful life.
How long is it since we have, truly, looked at a blade of grass or a tree? Not just seeing what we perceive to be the grass or the tree, but also seeing the whole picture. Each tiny line, each leaf, each dancing light around the leaf.
We spend so much time in the hustle and bustle of our daily lives that we forget about what surrounds us.
We are lucky enough to live in a beautiful part of the country, just a few miles down the road from whatever part of Sheffield you are in there are open spaces full of wonder.
Take an hour out of your hectic life and go and sit on a hill somewhere, look out over the countryside, breath in the beauty. Watch the birds, the animals. See the trees performing their dance to the wind. Watch the sunset, the sunrise, the resplendent colours of dusk and dawn. You will amazed at how peaceful, and yet energised you feel.


My Sacred Space

Whenever I'm feeling sad and low
there is a place I like to go.
It's a place that lies deep within
I just open the door and go right in.

I can sit beside a lake or tree
and my dear loved ones I can see.
I can travel anywhere I like
without a plane, a car, a bike.

The weather there is always good
and the grass grows green, just like it should.
There I can relax and be myself
and do as I please, no need for wealth.

I can go there at any time of day
for help and guidance with work or play.
It's somewhere my spirit can roam free.
This is my sacred place you see.

Brenda Diskin © 2002

Rewritten by Brenda Diskin from an old local story. ©

Do you believe in miracles? Long ago, in the 13th century, most people would have accepted the idea of a miracle. In fact, local stories and legends were often based on them. This is the story of such a miracle. It happened in Westoning, Bedfordshire.

There was an extremely bad-tempered and malicious man named Ailward. He was a very unfair man. He employed a labourer by the name of Fulke and promised him two pennies to plough his land. However, when Fulke went to claim his money, Ailward made excuse after excuse and did not pay him.

It was St. Thomas of Canterbury's Day, and the start of three days of feasting in Westoning when Fulke came across Ailward drinking in a pub, December 29th to be precise. Fulke asked Ailward for his money. Ailward began showing off in front of his friends, he was very drunk. He started shouting at Fulke. "Pay you for what?" I don't remember you doing any work for me" Ailward screamed.

Fulke was taken by surprise and looked to Ailward's friends for support . He said he would accept one penny in payment and use the other penny to pay for drinks all round, to celebrate St. Thomas' festival. Everyone cheered their approval.

Ailward's friends, thought this was a fair solution, as did everyone else,naturally. Everyone, that is, except Ailward. He was extremely angry. He aimed a blow at Fulke and stormed out in a drunken rage and headed for Fulke's meagre home. Ailward battered down the door and pushed Fulke's terrified wife and children out of the way. He proceeded to smash up what few possessions Fulke owned. Ailward stole Fulke's hedging gloves and whetstone in an attempt to destroy his livelihood. These were precious tools in those days. Finally his huge intake of beer got the better of him and he collapsed in a drunken heap in a corner with the tools still in his hand.

The local beadle was called and Ailward was arrested. He was taken to Bedford Prison where he stayed until he came before the Assizes at Leighton Buzzard. He argued his innocence on the charge of cheating Fulke of two pennies.

Ailward was tried by water. His arms were tied to his sides and he was thrown into the pond. If he drowned, he would be judged to be telling the truth and would go to heaven. If he floated, he was guilty!

Obviously, Ailward floated and was pronounced 'guilty' and that's when his punishment began. His eyes were gouged out and his hands and feet were sawn off. His body was then thrown by the side of the road as a warning to others.

This is when the miracle happened. A stranger passed by, found Ailward and took pity on him. The stranger was called Eilbrecht, he took Ailward to his house near Bedford and started to pray for him.

Ailward hovered between life and death for many days. Eilbrecht carried on praying for him and, as he lay on the bed, blind and in pain, Ailward began to feel remorse for cheating Fulke and for the way he had lived his life and he too began to pray.

One night, Ailward had a dream, it was so clear he was sure it was a vision. He saw St. Thomas accompanied by angels. St. Thomas touched his empty eye sockets and the angels laid their hands on his severed arms and legs.
Everyone in the household was completely astonished as over the next few weeks new eyes began to grow in Ailward's empty eye sockets. When the bandages were removed from Ailwards hands and feet it appeared that new ones were growing to replace those that had been sawn off. This was truly a miracle.

News of the miracle reached Canterbury and was met with great joy. The people said that St. Thomas had answered Ailward's prayers and he was now a changed man.

Do you have something that you consider to be a miracle? If so we would like to hear from you.

The History of Bedlam
Written by Brenda Diskin 2008-05-13 ©

The Bethlem Royal Hospital of London, which was commonly known as
Bedlam, is the world's oldest psychiatric hospital. The word Bedlam has long been used for lunatic asylums in general, and later used in vocabulary as a word meaning uproar and confusion.
In 1247 Bethlem was originally a priory for the sisters and brethren of the Order of the Star of Bethlehem. It was first sited in Bishopsgate Street (where Liverpool Street station now stands). It became a hospital in 1330, and was opened to the mentally ill in 1403 when there were only nine patients. If you search early sixteenth century maps you will find Bedlam situated next to Bishopsgate; a courtyard with a few stone buildings, a church and a garden. The conditions were absolutely dreadful. There was no real care the inmates who were restrained to stop them from causing harm to themselves and others.. Violent or dangerous patients were manacled and chained to the floor or wall, their screams were hideous and deafening. Some of the less serious cases were allowed to leave, and were given a license to beg on the streets although the Government later denied this was so. They were often known as Bedlam beggers and sometimes wore a tin plate as a badge on their arms. It is believed that many of these beggars had never actually been inside Bedlam.
Altough Bedlam was classed as a Royal hospital, after 1557, it was controlled by the City of London and managed by the Governors of Bridewell. A Keeper was employed to oversee the day to day running of the hospital. The Keeper would receive payment from each patient's relatives, benefactors or charitable source. An inspection was carried out in 1598 which showed serious neglect; the The cesspit was almost full and urgently needed emptying the kitchen drains needed replacing. There were 20 patients all living in the most appalling conditions, one patient had been there for over 25 years.
Bedlam (Bethlem Royal Hospital) became infamous for the brutal ill-treatment carried out on the mentally ill. It was moved to new buildings in Moorfields in 1675. These were designed by Robert Hooke and were expected to improve the conditions for the inmates. The new buildings were outside the City boundary (out of sight, out of mind). In the 18th century people would find it amusing and entertaining to go there to see the lunatics performing sexual acts on themselves and others or fighting violently with each other. For a penny they could peer into the crowded cells. On the first Tuesday of each month the public would be admitted free and allowed to bring long, sometimes sharply pointed, sticks which they would use to prod, poke and generally provoke the inmates. During the year 1814, there were nearly 96,000 such visits. It wasn't until the early 1700's that the inmates were referred to as patients rather than lunatics. About 25 years later wards were provided to separate the curable from the incurable.
Bedlam was moved to St George's Fields, Southwark (into the buildings that were designed by Sydney Smirke and now house the Imperial War Museum). This was 1815, and now the inmates were referred to as 'unfortunates', which many of them were. Often they were committed for post natal depression, being too physically ill to work, homeless, immoral or melancholy. This new building was very modern with an amazing library annexe, which was well frequented. The sexes were segregated but in the evenings, those who shared an appreciation of music and dance could mix together in the great ballroom. The chapel was divided into two with those of different sexes separated by a curtain. In the 1930's, the hospital was moved to the site of Monks Orchard House which is situated on the boundary between Kent and Surrey.

Charles Bonnet Syndrome
By Brenda Diskin

When I attended the Ophthalmology department of the hospital recently I picked up a leaflet about Charles Bonnet syndrome. I had heard of this condition before but not really taken a lot of notice. I remember reading up on it some time back and thinking 'how interesting'.

What is Charles Bonnet Syndrome?
Charles Bonnet syndrome (CBS) is a term used to describe the situation when people with sight problems start to see things that they know aren't real. Sometimes called "visual hallucinations", the things people see can take all kinds of forms, from simple patterns of straight lines to detailed pictures of people or buildings.
A Swiss philosopher named Charles Bonnet first described this condition in 1760 when he noticed that his grandfather, who was almost blind, saw patterns, figures, birds and buildings that were not there. Although the condition was described almost 250 years ago, it is still largely unknown by ordinary doctors and nurses. This is partly because of a lack of knowledge about the syndrome and partly because people experiencing it don't talk about their problems from fear of being thought of as mentally ill.
Visual hallucination is defined as a perception of an external object when no such object is present. Hallucinations are different from illusions, in which real objects are misinterpreted. Visual hallucinations can occur in various medical, neurological, ocular, and psychiatric disorders and drug induced states. They may relate to anomalies in almost any part of the visual pathway.
The classification of visual hallucinations are simple or complex.
The simple type includes photopsia (flashes of light), lines or patterns (zigzags, circles, etc). which may be multicoloured. Simple hallucinations may occur in such cases as ocular disease (vitreous detachment) or in conditions such as migraine, occipital lobe seizures, tumours of the occipital lobe, optic neuritis or other structural lesions.
Complex visual hallucinations, however, are usually well formed and relatively stereotyped and often involve animals and figures in bright colours and dramatic settings. Complex visual hallucinations may occur delirium tremens, dementias, Parkinson's disease, complex partial seizures, misuse of recreational drugs, schizophrenia, and uncommon conditions such as peduncular, hypnogogic, and hypnopompic hallucinations, migraine coma, and "Alice in Wonderland" syndrome (a disorienting neurological condition which affects human perception.)

About the Condition
Charles Bonnet syndrome is a less frequently diagnosed but a quite common cause of complex visual hallucination. Its occurrence in patients with visual impairment is around the 10% to 15% mark.
The features of the condition are the occurrence of well formed, vivid, elaborate, and often stereotyped visual hallucinations in a partially sighted person who knows that what they are seeing is not real. These people do not suffer from any form of psychosis, impaired senses, dementia, focal neurological illness, are not intoxicated or under the influence of any drugs or medication. The syndrome occurs most commonly in elderly people, probably because of the prevalence of visual impairment in this group. The common conditions leading to the syndrome are age related macular degeneration, followed by glaucoma and cataract. These hallucinations, which are always outside the body, may last from a few seconds to most of the day. They may persist for a few days to many years, changing in frequency and complexity. They have no personal meaning, and many patients can voluntarily modify them or make the image disappear if they close their eyes. The mages may vary from panoramic scenes, to people from various eras, animals, objects etc. These images usually appear in very vivid colour.
Sometimes the syndrome occurs in people with normal vision. It has been argued that diagnosis of the syndrome does not exclude or require eye disease or brain lesions and that it could even be due to lesions that are not associated with the visual system. Reduced or absent stimulation of the visual system leading to increased or decreased activity in the visual cortex is one theory.
Treatment varies according to the nature of the visual dysfunction. If a cataract is present then its removal or recovery of vision due to some other factor leads to improvement. Others find when the eye disease progresses to total blindness the condition ceases. Treatments with drugs does not appear to be very successful.
I personally do not suffer from this condition. but never the less find the subject extremely interesting

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