The Smoking Tower

By | 18/08/2019

Inside ‘The Deva’

The Deva, as the Romans called Chester, was an ominous, looming-out-of-the-dark Victorian building, allegedly the best place to stockpile the local mental ill-health community. It’s a huge rambling, austere Victorian building with a tower constantly emitting smoke like a chimney in a concentration camp.

I used to see it from the Chester to Rock Ferry railway line just beyond Upton station. I heard a story one day on my way to St Anselm’s College in Birkenhead, about a patient who escaped from the Deva and somehow got into the tropical house of Chester Zoo. He reached up, caught a parrot in one hand, picked an orange with the other and scoffed them both. This made us all laugh at the time. It was funny but in a dark way. I find no comedy in it now.

Doctor Maddun

“Bring him now, Doctor Maddun’s here.” Folks, if my name was Maddun and I went into psychiatry, I’d call myself Phil, or Bill. Even calling myself Jill would confuse my patients less than calling myself Maddun in an “I’m going slightly mad” type of way.

Job Interview?

Well, like a multiply-spent tri-athlete, led by the hand, I plod an unsteady path down a corridor into a small office where four people sit. Unseen arms propel me into a chair facing them.

Clearly this is a panel interview for a job… What sort of job? International security? Why is one of them a doctor.

Doctor Maddun… Dr Maddun…

Cloak and dagger

Am I here to work? Or is there something else going on, more of this weird cloak and dagger stuff?

“Tell me what you have been doing,” utters a thin mouth in a bony head, eyes boring into me through steel-rimmed glasses.

“I have established a business, and an empire… and I have seen God.”

“Yes. Anything else?”


I have come as far as it is possible for a man to come, and yet… and yet… it seems that there is another step. This is a panel interview for…

Death and yet not death

The penny drops: I am being vetted for my suitability to pass on to a higher plane. This is death and yet not death. I will answer the questions; I will be selected; I will once again be in the love, the light and in the power of God.



“Have you imagined anything else?” Imagined. Imagined? What does he mean? Maddun. Doubt starts to creep in. Are these people themselves God? Where is the love, the radiance, the power?

“Are you God?”


“We are psychiatrists and you are in the Deva hospital. I am Dr Maddun. This is Mercia Ward. You appear to be suffering from hypomania; it is a well-documented if somewhat rare condition.”

Psychiatrists. Hospital.

Hypomania. Maddun. Maddun. Maddun. Mad one? Who is the Mad One?

The black abyss

The penny suddenly, terrifyingly, drops further. Much further. It plummets into a black abyss. It is I who am mad!

I am insane!


I have to escape! I jump up and run. Out of the little room. Left, down a corridor. Which way – which way? I hear heavy pursuing feet. I turn right. Into a little room. No way out. Wait – the window! Locked. The guards catch me. There are at least six of them.


They grab me. I struggle, but I am defeated. I feel a needle puncturing my arm. I am being executed… what but what have I done to deserve this terrible fate?

It is not death that comes to me, but sleep, blessed sleep.