SallyP

Retroladytyping …

What, when, why?

 

Kaleidoscope_17

I started this blogging lark on a whim a couple of months ago because it has been said that I am good with words.  That might mean I talk a lot or it might mean I am, to quote one of my cousins, eloquent.  I like the sound of that.   Two friends write very eloquently; one mostly on one topic; the other on whatever strikes him on the day, which is more or less how I have proceeded.  That’s the problem though …

I am not and never will be a ‘writer’.  I write, that’s all.  Being a writer implies skill.  I don’t use skill:  I just think and type.

I googled ‘How to write a blog’ and wish I hadn’t.   The general idea seems to be to stick to one topic and write every day.  EVERY DAY!  What?  I don’t have enough words to write every day.  Would anyone want to read my musings every day in any event?  Having said that, according to my WordPress statistics, one person read one post 19 times!!  Maybe they had a lot of interruptions …

I have interests, things I care about – dementia and the effects on everyone involved, music, family, nature, gardening, knitting,  – all important to me.  I also have a mind like a kaleidoscope – there are lots of small pieces, but none shout to be a single topic.

What to do?

One topic or random mutterings about this and that as the mood takes me?  How often?  And what about poetry? Another cousin writes beautiful poems and publishes them on WordPress.  No, I don’t think I can do that.  Definitely sticking with prose.  I couldn’t assemble my randomness into a poem, but how often to commit that randomness to an ordered assembly of words which others may read and which hopefully make some sort of sense?

Every day is probably too much, whatever that website says.  At present I am  writing when I feel motivated  – the last post was triggered by an email from the Alzheimer’s Society about a video by  Christopher Eccleston (who I have a bit of a crush on) talking about dementia, produced by Aardman animations (I also have a bit of a crush on Gromit – sorry), so it cried out to be the subject of some writing.  Some topics come to me unprompted in quiet moments – Alchemy was one of those and it just grew as I typed.  See what I mean – random mutterings.

What do any other bloggers think?  Is it something to be done seriously, in a professional manner, every day on one topic or as and when on random topics?    If anyone would like to read  and comment, that is very rewarding especially if they choose to share it, but I enjoy the process in itself.  Is that why others blog, or something more?  Maybe I should buy a book on How to Blog; they do exist; I just googled it … oh dear ….  Maybe I do need to be a ‘writer.’

 

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Dr Who, dementia and an orange

peeled-orange

Those who know me will not be surprised to see the word dementia in the title of this piece, but probably not Dr Who or an orange.  I will attempt to explain:

My  Mum had dementia and my family witnessed her decline from this awful illness at close quarters.  At first we thought it was part of old age:  memory problems affect most of us to some extent.  However, it became clear that this was more than ‘old age’.  Her memory lapses were only part of the illness.  Anyone with experience of dementia, either personally or as a relative, will know that the person as we know them i.e. their personality, what makes them their unique selves, gradually disappears.   This happens while their physical self seems unchanged, for a time at least.    Mum was still Mum on the outside, but parts of her brain were gradually becoming damaged, so she did not seem like Mum.  We didn’t realise what was happening inside her.  We just knew that she was behaving differently and, above all, was frightened and confused. We saw her fear in her eyes, but we couldn’t deal with it.  We were frightened too; the unknown is frightening and our Mum wasn’t behaving as our Mum always had anymore.

The point of this post is to highlight a video made by Christopher Eccleston (hence the Dr Who part of the title) with Aardman Animations,  using an orange to illustrate the physical nature of this awful illness.

Each segment of the brain (orange) gradually becomes damaged until there is nothing left.  The presentation of the illness depends on which part becomes damaged and so affects perception, memory and behaviour.   When the illness becomes apparent to others,   there may be the feeling that, if only the person tries harder, calms down, rests, or just damned well listened to those caring for them, they could ‘sort themselves out’ and stop being ‘difficult.’  That was our experience, but I know, from talking with others since,  that it’s common to think that people with dementia can be reasoned with.  It’s not the illness; it’s them or, even worse, us.  We certainly used to repeat things many times (trying to conceal our sighs)  to Mum in the hope that we could convince her of reality.  You develop a lot of patience when you know someone with dementia, alternating with periods of complete exasperation for Mum and us.

I wish we had realised  that dementia is an irreversible physical illness then, rather than several years too late.  We would all have had a better experience of its effects, Mum most of all, because we wouldn’t have argued with her or tried to convince her of unimportant things like the correct day of the week.  Did it really matter?  Probably not, no, but we felt it did then.  We needed our Mum to be our Mum,  as she always was.  No matter how grown-up and seemingly mature we were, we still needed to be sure of our Mum.  Anything else is frightening.  It was for us; I can’t begin to imagine how it must have been for her.  Terrifying I would think; I fervently hope not, but I fear it was.

I think that the realisation that it is a physical illness, caused by damage to the brain, might help to remove some of the fear and exasperation.  In the same way as you wouldn’t expect an orange to reverse its decay (I was trying to avoid using that word, but I can’t think of a better one to illustrate the permanency of dementia),  it is far better and less stressful to accept the way things are and focus on what is left, so everyone benefits.  Physical illness is, arguably, easier to accept  practically and emotionally,  than an illness which shows itself as a change in behaviour with no visible cause.  That’s why the image of an orange slowing losing its segments is so powerful for me.

One (wonderful) day a cure will be found for dementia.  Until then I think that understanding it as an irreversible progressive physical condition is a huge step towards dealing with its effects.

Understanding and acceptance doesn’t mean giving up though … the Alzheimer’s Society website, link below, is full of information,   resources and coping mechanisms,  as well as offering unconditional understanding and support through its Talking Point forum.

http://www.bristolpost.co.uk/8203-Christopher-Eccleston-stars-Aardman/story-28547938-detail/story.html/

https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Coolness of a Laughing Gnome

laughing gnomeAlong with many others I couldn’t quite believe it when I heard the news of the death of David Bowie.  In my half-asleep state I thought I had dreamt it.  Such an iconic figure must live for ever, surely?  I wasn’t sure why it mattered so much to me; I hadn’t actively listened to any Bowie for quite a few years, then it dawned on me:  he wasn’t iconic at all as there wasn’t (isn’t) a single Bowie identity;  the restrictions involved in that were not what he was about.   He was all things to all people, adapting and reinventing himself throughout most of his life.  Whatever he was at any particular time was ok.

My most formative years, adolescence, were spent listening to David Bowie in all of his incarnations.  During those turbulent times from age 11 to 18 and beyond, with all its uncertainties and anxieties about identity, appearance and acceptability with occasional paranoia and bouts of extreme self-doubt there was one constant – change.  David Bowie epitomised those changes and made it cool to be different.  I often felt different, not one of the crowd, with my then uncool specs, wayward hair and what I believed to be my odd, geeky appearance.  But that was fine … David was geeky, strange and yet was cool.  So I must have been the same.  I wish I had realised that then.  I do now.  It’s ok to be true to yourself, ok to be different, ok not to be one of the crowd; in fact it’s better than ok, it’s cool.  David said so.

I have chosen The Laughing Gnome as the title for this, because throughout yesterday it’s the track which kept coming to mind.  I think it might be because it is so different, is not ‘worthy’ or artistic in the way that his other recordings are and which have been played many times today.  It is, however, cool, geeky and funny.  I loved it as a teenager and I love it now.

RIP The Laughing Gnome.

 

laughing gnome single

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A Myriad of Moons

Moons

After much planning, discussion, messaging on Facebook, texting and  speaking in the real world, an unusual lunar event took place in Bath on New Year’s Eve 2015 at just past noon.

To explain:  my mother was one of eight siblings born to Stan and Lily Moon over 20 or so years from the 1920s to the 1940s.  This means I am privileged to be part of a constellation of Moon descendants – some of whom have moved to other galaxies (Australia) and various parts of Great Britain and Ireland,  some of whom haven’t strayed too far from the mother-ship in South-West England, but we hadn’t been in regular contact due to busy lives filled with work,  travel and such things.

However, a series of events, sadly funerals being one of them, a Golden Wedding, the advent  of the internet and the much maligned Facebook have motivated and enabled us to become friends as well as relatives.  It’s a cliché to say you can’t choose your family, while you can choose your friends, but I can honestly say that all of us have become friends, despite the intervening years.  We shared confidences, jokes and tastes in music,  through the internet and by phone,  but had never been able to meet in one place, with our spouses, children and partners.  Something always seemed to intervene with any plans.

However, during the latter end of 2015, one my many cousins, who lives partly in Norfolk and partly in France, floated the idea of her visiting us during New Year – the idea being that she, and her husband,  would travel to each of our homes for a brief visit.  The logistics of that seemed unnecessarily complicated, so we tentatively suggested a meal with as many of us as possible in Bath.  A flurry of texts, Facebook messages, telephone calls etc revealed that this was just what we’d all been waiting for.  The enthusiasm was palpable.

There were some anxieties (there is necessarily a wide age range, from 6 year olds to 70+).  Would it work with some of us having been out of contact since our Weddings?  Some of the younger members had never met the more senior relations.  Would everyone even want to come as the time grew nearer and Christmas and New Year commitments were arranged?   A venue was chosen and agreed, menus were circulated and all was well.  As time went on, some needed to drop out, some added, but the final figure of 25 was settled.

The result was one of the most enjoyable occasions I have ever had the pleasure to be part of.  Everyone talked, in groups, in couples, to people they hadn’t met, or not for some time. The children behaved impeccably and were confident enough to talk with any of us and tell us about their achievements and interests, even patiently showing us non-techies how to access films on their phones.    There were photographs (one of our number has one of those all-action cameras, so knows what he is doing).  One of us brought Moon nightlights for all of the direct Moon descendants.  Several of us ladies wore Moon-themed jewellery.  There was much hugging  and kissing (with feeling not because it is what people do nowadays), comments on family likenesses, shared memories of those who have passed away and reminiscences of shared family events.

It all came together as planned.

What wasn’t planned was the feeling of well-being I felt as we drove home.  Facebook photographs and comments only tell half the story.  I can’t put a name to the feeling really:  the Facebook feelings option includes “blessed”, but that is not enough.  It is truly wonderful to be a member of such a group of people.

We said we would repeat it as people do on these occasions, but I know we mean it.  We are very lucky that we all truly love and care for each other.  There are differences in attitudes, beliefs and  political allegiances of course, but they don’t matter.  We are blessed and, as our family grows and we meet again, we will feel that blessing again and again.

(Thank you to Las Iguanas in Bath, and any other customers that day – we did rather take over the place!)

 

 

 

 

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