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  • Funny and wise 08 January 2019 | Comments (0)

    7th January 2019 | By David Jolley

    We have watched the two programmes with Billy Connolly in these holiday weeks. https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0bwzhy6/billy-connolly-made-in-scotland-series-1-episode-1


    We were captivated, as we have been by his performances over a fair proportion of our lifetime: always funny, always wise, and touching feelings and experiences in common.

    Billy Connolly is intrinsic Scot – but his communications reach into people from all over. Max Boyce is intrinsic Welsh (‘I know, because I was there’), Mike Harding intrinsic Manc (born in the shadow of the biscuit factor in Crumpsall), Peter Kay – Bolton/Irish, Hilda Baker (‘She knows y’know’) spoke for small people, Victoria Wood for women of a certain age. Sir Lenny Henry speaks Dudley and African Caribbean and the Goodness Gracious Me team are British Asian. In their particulars they are from different worlds, but in spirit we are all as one.

    These fellow travellers can all put a finger on what is really important, so important it makes us laugh with pain and joy.

    Billy Connolly’s two programmes included excerpts which reminded us of his magical skills and presence as an entertainer – so we might laugh again. We saw the impact on people of all ages, chuckling and crying – helpless as babies and pleased to be so tickled. ‘So tickled’ of course brings Ken Dodd to mind – and we have enjoyed the earlier programmes which reviewed his life, career and death. Doddy told us: ’You don’t tell a joke, you sing it’ – and Billy Connolly and others do just that with the rhythm and movement of their shows, sometimes gifted further with the inclusion of music.

    We saw the poverty of Glasgow: ‘We didn’t know we were poor until they came and told us. Told us we were living in a slum and must move to somewhere better’. Somewhere better was a new town outside Glasgow – Flats with baths, toilets and other conveniences – but with no cafes, no cinemas and nowhere to be together. Connolly hated it but found freedom and another life on his bicycle, with his banjo, and in pubs where drink and music and jokes were shared. ‘I didn’t come from nothing. I came from something’.

    He grew to become an international superstar, demonstrating an extraordinary range of talent. But here we were seeing him as old, old and changed by Parkinson’s disease. ‘I’ve got Parkinson’s Disease. I wish he’d kept it to himself.’

    This was the power of these programmes. So many people will turn away from their reflection rather than address the truth of their ageing. This is not for Billy Connolly. He lists the losses and frustrations. He showed us his recent performance on stage where his wit and mischievous eyes were still on view – and used mercilessly against himself to point out that he can no longer prowl the stage or clown as he used to.

    ‘I am 75 and nearer the end than the beginning’. Of course he is, yet he shares no bitterness but a wise, philosophical whimsy.

    We need more of this. So much effort is wasted on the pretence that every individual must live on and on. We are so fortunate to be living such healthy and productive lives, some into their nineties and beyond. But there has to be an end, and for some the months or years before death are characterised by loss of abilities, physical or cognitive or emotional, which have been theirs to take as granted. Living with limitations with some sort of grace is a noble and admirable thing.

    The internet tells us that some people have found these programmes depressing and we find Billy and his wife Pamela apologising for this. www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-46769046

    It is sad to see the passing of personal heroes, as with the loss of family and friends, for they are at least as close as these. But loss and sadness are part of the human experience, to be hugged close and with thanks, not to be denied.

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    31st December 2018 | By David Jolley

    Wolverhampton Wanders beat Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 at Wembley Stadium this weekend. Sue and I had bravely listened to the game on our newly set up DAB radio. The radio is a gift, given to us a while ago but we had not investigated its powers until our old Roberts radio began to cough so much that it was a struggle to listen, especially when the volume was turned down low. The DAB requires time and patience in tuning, though Sue has now discovered how to set particular stations (a mystery still to me).

    The combination of tuning and a famous and fabulous football match took me back to a Saturday afternoon in the 1950s when I was tuned to the Light Programme for the game between England and Scotland. In those days there were many fewer internationals and the competition between the Home Nations was all-important. Wolves (Wolverhampton Wanders as the commentators on this Saturday kept calling them) provided several players for England – always including Billy Wright as captain and Bert Williams as goalie. But the day belonged to Dennis Wilshaw, number 10 for Wolves and number 10 for England. He put the ball into the Scots’ net four times during the afternoon. Every goal gave be a surge of pleasure and pride of belonging and sharing in the success. I thought I might burst. Salvation was time in the small back garden with a ball after the final whistle.

    There may be similar memories and experiences for the rugby tribe, but these are not know to me. Football memories have been found by others to be useful as reminiscence topics which will engage otherwise grumpy old men. http://www.footballmemories.org.uk/ I have seen several life-stories of former professional soccer players amongst the good work of residential homes. Such projects are great for the individual and for his family. They can also be used to link with shared memories of contemporaries who are now sharing difficulties and are in need of care. One of our firsts was a former Manchester City fullback. The club was interested and supportive. In recent years a number of clubs have recognised that former players have developed dementia and have reached out to their families and become a focus for support for people with dementia in the town. There are a number of examples of this: www.burnleyfccommunity.org/health/community-groups/dementia-cafe/ , https://www.theguardian.com/healthcare-network/2013/sep/10/football-unlock-dementia-patients-memories

    There has been concern for some time that playing football might increase the likelihood of developing dementia. The focus has been on players who are known to be frequent headers of the ball. It may be that the heavier balls used in the 1950s and previous seasons were more dangerous than the more recent lightweight balls. Comparisons have been drawn with the dementia associated with boxing – Here it is the lighter weight boxers, who often have their heads knocked backwards by punches, who are most at risk of developing Alzheimer changes. The shearing rotation of the brain is believed to be the cause of the damage, rather than the weight of the blows. The situation is complicated. Professional footballers are exposed to repeat head injuries not linked to heading, and some experience repeated episodes of unconsciousness. There is interest in researching the issues in soccer and other contact sports such as rugby and American Football. https://www.england.nhs.uk/blog/does-playing-football-cause-dementia/

    Now this has reminded me that we have promised to review the relationship between head trauma and the development of dementia for our next meeting of Dementia Conversations at Bowdon Vale

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    On the cards 02 January 2019 | Comments (0)

    24th December 2018 | By David Jolley

    We like our daily paper to be on paper/newsprint. Some parts hardly get a glance, others take time and may need to be revisited. Special bits are clipped out and kept at least for a while. It is the rhythm that makes the receipt, the unfolding, and the visiting of each page so attractive.

    Cards at Christmas have the same virtue of currency but potential permanence, clues from handwriting, a colourful stamp and the postmark. There is the added dimension that we will be the reporter and editor of a communication toward these friends and family near and far – near and far in time as well as geography.

    We do have emails and electronic cards, and some of these bring welcome entertainment and warm messages, links that go on then for a while after silence of months. But the sending and receiving of cards in envelopes – some by post, others simply delivered round the corner, is a pleasure with history. We have a system for sending which shares responsibility between Sue and me. There are some exceptions to the main routine – special care here to try to avoid missing someone – or sending twice over. Messages may be short, but every one has thought behind it – and associated feeling. In doing this we have conversation across the dining room table that relegates radio and television to some other time. This is time together with people from our earliest days – family still who shared a childhood, a few who were at junior school, more from the teens and secondary school or other activities. Then there is the series of lives lived through work, the neighbourhood, children, more schools and church.

    The list of contacts, ‘individuals of interest’, continues to grow though some are lost. Some who wrote last year are not with us for this. They are remembered.

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    Carol 17 December 2018 | Comments (0)

    17th December 2019 | By David Jolley

    This has been a week of carols. On Tuesday Dementia Conversations celebrated a Christmas party at Bowdon Vale – in the Methodist chapel school room where we meet each month. We gave time to welcome a new patient/carer couple and to review the thoughts and experiences of others in these weeks. We find still that the process of assessment and diagnosis can take time, include frustrations and bewilderment, that arranging sensitive, flexible care at home is an art form which can be learned, that communication between carers and a person with dementia – both ways – is not easy, and that, when all else is exhausted, placement in a good care home is a blessing. There is an uncomfortable worry that this is happening too often via a crisis and necessitating use of the Mental Health Act. Shared festive food and continued discussion gave way to carols of our choosing and where we sat, to a guitar accompaniment.

    Thursday afternoon at Bowdon Vale celebrated Christmas with the Pop In – which weekly offers time and space and modest refreshments to anyone who want to pop in, especially older people and others with vulnerabilities. This special week we began in the chapel itself, to sing six popular carols to an organ accompaniment. Most of those who came along do not worship regularly, but we made a fine noise and warmed in the arms of the chapel pews and the small space which has known all this for 130 years. Then there was time for food and fellowship in the school room.

    Sunday found us singing Carols on the Park - about 300 people of all ages – but a heavy presence of juniors with mums, dads, grandparents and all. Just an hour – and giving thanks that the temperature was bearable, the wind calmed and the rain waiting until we had finished and most people had gone home. We heard the Christmas story through short readings. We reflected sadly on the extremes of poverty and homelessness. We sang carols led by a marvellous band and singers – but we all joined in with gusto. ‘Away in a Manger’ was led impromptu by small children who gathered around the microphone with natural confidence – and knowing all the words!

    Not rocket science – But a sort of magic – A continuity across communities, across the generations and the years. A source of comfort and hope.

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