Retroladytyping …

Memories, walking, talking – shared experiences – updated for 2017!!


Liz, Sally, Jenny and Kathryn and a cast of hundreds walk to remember …

As I said at the end, we will do it again … and lo and behold, the time has come around again.  This year, 2017, the Walk is taking part in Victoria Park, Bath on 3rd September.  Liz and I are in what passes for training for us … our trainers have been dusted off; our Alzheimer’s Society t-shirts have arrived.  They are a rather attractive shade of turquoise this year, complete with the new Alzheimer’s Society logo.  We are looking forward to the day as we always do.  Even more we are looking forward to being in a group of people all with the same aim:  to raise awareness of dementia, while raising money to support all those who are affected.  My story is below.  Everyone on that walk has a story to tell and that is what makes the day so special.  Alzhiemer's Society logo

I have, shamelessly, posted  link to my Just Giving page for this year at the end of this post.  Shamelessly, because I care so much about the Alzheimer’s Society and so much about doing a little bit to help alleviate its effects on everyone who experiences it, personally, as a relative of a loved one, or as a carer.  If anyone would like to donate, that would be very kind and very much appreciated.


Yesterday, in Bath, a very memorable event took place.  Among all the Georgian, Roman, retail and various tourist activities, hundreds of people assembled on Bath Rec (the home of Bath rugby – another of Bath’s claims to fame) to walk 10K (6 and a bit miles in old money) to achieve three things:  to raise awareness of dementia in all its forms, to remember those affected by this awful illness and to raise funds for the Alzheimer’s Society.  The Society does valuable work to support people who have dementia, their families and friends, to fund research into causes and, hopefully one wonderful day, to find effective treatments and a cure.

I have taken part in two Memory Walks before this one, which was the inaugural one in Bath.  The Bath Memory Walk  was  extra special because I had the company of my friend, Liz, the other proud Grandma of our shared grandson, also Jenny and Kathryn, walking in memory of their Nan.  We didn’t see too much of them after the start – they are young, so went at a pace which we didn’t attempt to match.  We know our limits and keeping up with two twenty-somethings is probably several steps too far and fast.

I do these Walks, as well as volunteer with the Alzheimer’s Society, mostly in memory of my Mum, who died with dementia just over two years ago.  As a family, I know we, being ignorant of what dementia actually means, didn’t  always do the right things by our Mum.  We didn’t know, so how could we?  However, leaving aside any regrets, I am determined to do what little I can now, as well as finding out as much as I can about dementia, its progress and what can be done to help.     I’ve also, again with Liz, done a couple of 10K actual RUNS.  Those hurt and may not be repeated, so onward with the Memory Walks – they are doable and relatively pain-free.

Back in Bath, on a beautiful, sunny Autumn morning, so perfect for walking and an all-round feel-good day, we arrived, did the hug thing, didn’t take part in the crowd warm-up as we were so busy chatting about said shared grandson, looked at the Memory tree and added my leaf,  met up with Jenny and Kathryn,  my nieces, two of my Mum’s grand-daughters, who walking in memory of their Nan, my Mum, and … off we went,  shuffling through the Start line, in the midst of the many walkers with a shared aim – to do something to remember and  support those with experience of dementia.

Before I write any more, I must mention, again, the Memory Tree – at the site of all Memory Walks there is a Memory Tree – a large white leafless twig, with  img_0375many fluttering labels attached.  Walkers and friends are encouraged to write the name of a loved-one,  a memory and a reason why they are walking that day on a blank label, then attach it to the Memory Tree.   It may sound a little twee, but it is a very moving sight.  Some labels  mention a person’s name, some mention more, but all are special.  To see that, on a sunny day, with the label-leaves fluttering memories of so many people is very moving, as is hearing people reading out the thoughts of others.

Returning to the Walk … after the initial shuffling past the Start, participants spread out and followed the guidance of the wonderful volunteer Marshals.  We haven’t been assisted to cross the road for quite a long time, but we were very grateful to  those high-viz ladies and gentlemen who  were great at holding up traffic, directing us across and thanking each and everyone of us.   The drivers must have wondered at the diverse group of white t-shirted people walking in a  disorderly procession with accompanying dogs, toddlers and a couple of people with zimmers – Memory Walks are like that.   Hopefully, those car-bound people  will find out more and maybe even support us next year, as might the slightly bemused shoppers and tourists.

The rest of the Walk went in a sort of haze … Liz and I had lots to talk about:  our Grandson, including the showing of photographs of course, our parents, our philosophy of life  – stuff like that.  We are never short of a word or seven are Liz and me. We  passed some wonderful architecture in the city and  saw some nature in the parks among other  delights which Bath has to offer, including a great many tourists, but we were too involved with chatting and the purpose of our day to take much notice.   All around us were people supporting the same worthwhile and meaningful  cause, all with a tale to tell, some chatting amongst themselves, some quietly walking, most with personal experience of dementia, some directly, some through their loved ones, some through their patients.   Everyone was wearing a placard saying why they were walking, some with photographs, some saying “For everyone with dementia.”  Mine was personal – my Mum, of course.  IMG_0367.JPG I have worn this one for each Memory Walk, although we receive a new one to personalise each year.  Seems wrong to throw it away and start again.   I was really touched that Liz’s sign said “I am walking for Sally’s Mum.”  That was lovely.  Thank you Liz.

As well as Mum, I was thinking of the people I see weekly in our local hospital, who are coping with the multiple and unsettling difficulties of being physically unwell and  in hospital, while having dementia.  Another person who came to mind often was the amazingly brave, stoical and feisty lady I visit, also weekly, at her home.  This lady, as well as living with dementia, is a demon Scrabble player.  The Memory  Walk was for you too,  and I will beat you one day.  My hospital and home visits are each part of the Voluntary Befriending Scheme run by the Alzheimer’s Society – another example of the support they offer, along with Memory Cafes, Singing for the Brain and on-line support through its Talking Point Forum.

I like to think that we were also walking for our shared Grandson and our children, in the hope that, soon,  the shattering effects of dementia and the erosion of personality that it brings are no more.  I wish … and hope.  Meanwhile, we do what we can to just do something, however little, so that those with more knowledge and power can do more of what they already do so well.

At the finish, we collected  our medals and a free bottle of water, which we certainly needed after all that talking walking.   My medal will go in my Mum Box, with photos and other treasures, the label I always wear on these Walks and the other Medals from past Walks.

Afterwards, back to normal everyday Sunday life – we met with our husbands and went to the pub for Sunday lunch.  The day was completed when Liz’s husband, Phil – our un-official photographer, posted some pictures on Facebook.  Thanks for that Phil.  For once, I shan’t delete any unflattering shots.  Liz and I are proud of what we did.  It was ‘just’ a Walk, no more than a long stroll in the park really, but it carries so much meaning and purpose, so is special to us and, I think, everyone who takes part.  There are others throughout the Autumn at other countrywide venues if anyone else is interested in taking part.


We did it (and will do it again next year)













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“Where words leave, music begins”


“Where words leave, music begins … “  Heinrich Heine in the late 1700s

music bird

I spend some of my spare time, under the auspices of the Alzheimer’s Society,  befriending some of those who are living with dementia and coping with hospital admission simultaneously – either is difficult; together …I can only imagine the confusion, uncertainty and fear which can be experienced by those who had formerly been articulate, capable and confident people.

Recently I met, in hospital,  a lovely elderly, and very beautiful, lady who, as part of her dementia was coping with aphasia, the effects of which meant she struggled to compose the random thoughts in her brain into coherent communication.  However, I had been told that this lady had been an opera singer and loved singing still.  My singing ability is more enthusiastic than competent, so I was not sure how our meeting would progress.  I love talking with people, but this was different.  I didn’t want to spend the time talking ‘at’ her.  That would be pointless.  The idea was to engage her in whatever way was possible.  I had met aphasic children in an earlier role, so I decided to give it a go …

On entering the ward, I saw the lady looking very dignified, with the most beautiful white hair, but also looking very confused and worried.   I introduced myself, smiled and waited, talking about such mundane things as the weather, without much response … then I mentioned that I had heard she loved singing …

She flung her arms wide and sang “Yes,  how wonderful!”  I talked for a while about my limited knowledge of singing and classical music; then she said “Let’s sing!”  As I said:  enthusiastic, not competent, but with nothing to lose but my dignity, I sang with her – no recognisable song, just la la las, accompanied by extravagant operatic-type arm gestures from both of us.  My side of this duet was far from tuneful, but this lovely patient lady took it upon herself to attempt to teach me to sing in tune, or at least in a way which would harmonise with her.   She was patient, although she did giggle deliciously when I made strangled attempts to sing at the same pitch as her.   Eventually we had some sort of call and response duet going on in the corner of a hospital ward:  our own little musical world.

I gradually became aware that we were being watched.  Other patients, and some staff, were looking.  Slightly embarrassed, I let my voice tail off.  However, my wonderful, patient singing teacher was having none of it.  She sang “No-o-o, you must sing …”, so I did.   We were communicating – ok, in a slightly unusual way and it certainly got us noticed.  However, my new friend was not in the slightest bit embarrassed.  She was a singer; to her, I was also a singer and that was all that mattered.  She was happy.  I was happy, although slightly more self-conscious than her.  We had made a connection.  Speech could not achieve this.  Music did.

I continued to see this lady for several weeks and, each time, we sang to, and with, each other.  One day, just before Christmas, I was greeted in the Ward corridor by my lovely friend, wearing a festive red coat, ready to go home.  She sang from one end of the corridor to me at the other end of the corridor with no inhibitions at all.  When we reached each other, she opened her arms wide for a hug and told me she was going home at last.  I was pleased to know that, but sad that I would probably not see her again.

I hope she is happily singing away with those who are taking care of her.  I hope they understand.  I hope they are not embarrassed at singing with her wherever they are – in the street, in the supermarket, wherever …  I hope she is teaching them as she taught me.

As I said goodbye for the final time, she took both my hands, gave me a huge hug and kiss on the cheek and said “Thank you for the music.”

I can’t add anything more.