It’s been four months since Welcome to Biscuit Land was published and one of the best things about it’s been all the amazing emails and messages I’ve received from people who’ve read it, are in the process of reading it, or desperately want to read it.
The variety of people’s responses really shows how much the book’s taken on a life of its own now it’s out there.
An email from a long-serving paramedic who’d just finished it caught my eye recently. He explained that he’d devised a biscuit-based game to help patients feel at ease when he was caring for them at work. I’ve made up plenty of games based around my tics before so I was naturally intrigued by the prospect of such a biscuity pursuit. I asked him for more details and he wrote back with a fantastic explanation of not one but two biscuit games.
The explanation was so good that, with his permission, I’m going to share it with you in full. So, let me hand you over to Richard the paramedic.
Let the games commence!
There are two versions of the biscuit game…
The first was started in Croydon Ambulance Station by me and some like-minded biscuit-loving colleagues. The game took place whilst we were in the process of doing a patient assessment. Using the opportunity when tea was offered, we would try to get a biscuit from each call and then score the biscuit for its rarity. Nursing homes were easy pickings for this. A Rich Tea would score a lowly single point but a Garibaldi or a posh M&S biscuit would be a good 10. Extra points were added if you got one with McVitie’s branding. This was made special when one of the game’s founders met a McVitie’s rep and had his picture taken with him.
The game began to take over our lives a bit and we were thinking of a league table and chart on the wall with stars. The downside was that high jinks and mischief could ensue – people would spot a high scoring biscuit and go to extremes to score a point (no names mentioned… though Zippy’s been sacked) especially with a high-scoring tin of shortbreads on top of a kitchen cabinet.
My biscuit expertise became so good that I could pretty much guess an individual’s favourite biscuit with a 90% success rate. We even invented a biscuit which didn’t exist. Damn you McVitie’s, if you’ve shelved it and plan on bringing it out in 25 years, I’ll be watching! Sadly, the digestive with a sprinkling of spacedust was never to be.
The second game developed as I became a more senior member of staff. The older members are charged with looking after newer trainee staff, who are almost always younger, and sometimes not equipped with the life skills to just chit-chat with patients, and no matter how we explain about ‘reassurance being the best medicine’, they can’t break away from classroom medicine.
I devised a way of getting them chatting the very distracting nonsense we all talk! As people invariably have a favourite biscuit, I get the trainees to find out what it is! This breaks down barriers and is extremely distracting from the situation. At first, calling an ambulance can be a very harrowing experience for people. In my experience if you can arrest the worry of an ensuing nightmare, people normally calm down and respond better to treatment. The ‘What’s your favourite biscuit?’ question can also be a very good way of breaking someone’s negative focus on a room full of uniformed people who will more than likely add to any anxiety they might be experiencing.
It’s a question that’s completely without harm, prejudice, bias or negativity because everyone has an opinion on it. I’ve had many a psychiatric patient with delusional behaviour being completely unreasonable, and us needing to address the individual’s care. Once you can break the cycle of this delusional behaviour you can have a conversation about something that’s utter rubbish but allows a connection.
This isn’t validated by any medical journal and I’m sure the higher echelons of the mental health community would pooh-pooh this method, but they’ve clearly never been in Lewisham High Street with a naked man covered in butter!
I’m considering asking the UN to test this approach out on the Middle East peace process. Things don’t seem to be going too well there, so what harm can a teatime selection do? Unless a fight starts over the Bourbons!
Photo: Lee Lardy Parker