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  • 15th August 2016 | By David Jolley

    ‘Golden’ is Black Country for anything which is wonderful, as in ‘He was Golden’ – from a widow remembering a much loved husband.

    Friday took us to Warburton Street in Didsbury – tucked away and still with its cobbles, but much tidier and to a degree more limited than it was in the 1970s. Then Eric Morten was still publishing his books on local history. The book shop no longer straggles the two sides of the street and the pavement display of second hand books is constrained to one table instead four of five. But it is still a special place and Number 4 is just right for lunch with special friends from the 1970s.

    B is now a Dame and D a retired Professor – both still active in responsible roles, as are their spouses. It is just good to know that these lovely honest human beings are still so much themselves – as are we, we trust – interests in families, other friends, the health of the locality as well as the nation.

    Is that why I am digging this morning? – ridding beds, which might be home to flowers, cut into the grassed area which is the Manchester Road Corner across from The George and Dragon and The Wheatsheaf, of the weeds which have taken hold following a tentative bid to plant them by another voluntary group who have found the task beyond them.

    These challenges and our responses to them are what defines us, what defined us in the 1970s and still runs true. Defined Rob Jones who worked with B before both came to spend time with us – marvellous fusion of spirits in causes which have remained related if not identical.

    The key has to be to put your hands on, risk getting them dirty, and use the received wisdom and restrictive rules of the time with a pinch of salt. That is how I see our Dementia Conversations initiative, and that’s the point of the spade in my hand this morning.

    A lady stopped to say thank you. ‘I am retiring next week. I shall come and join you’. A taxi driver drew up and came over. He had words of advice and pointed us to a similar initiative he’s seen in another part of the town.

    It is catching .....

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    11th August 2016 | By David Jolley

    ‘A poor ghetto that suffers from inbreeding’ - Blighted by ‘a mass of crime, drug problems, huge unemployment’ and underperforming schools.

    This is how David Hoare has caricatured the Isle of Wight! Responses from hurt locals have led to his apologising – but as far as I can see he does not retract his view. Indeed his perception is in keeping with Uswitch’s rating of the island as 124th best place (out of 138) to live in England in 2015 https://www.uswitch.com/place-to-live/isle-of-wight/ Mind you the list has some unexpected rankings – Darlington is in the top ten ( maybe showing my prejudices) – but North of Greater Manchester better than the South of Greater Manchester? No doubt my prejudice again.

    Other perceptions place the Island as the most desired residence by older people http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/pensions/article-2286021/Top-10-retirement-havens-revealed-Isle-Wight-popular.html at least of the present generation.

    We are collecting donations for a car-boot sale to raise funds for Friends of John Leigh Park on August Bank Holiday. People are generous and we enjoy these sale days for the people we meet as customers and as co-stallholders. You learn a lot about people from the donations – books which have been bought and read, clothes which have been loved and now passed on, gadgets which may not have fulfilled promise, crockery and ornaments – often from previous generations. This week’s collection has yielded a fabulous map of Cheshire 1833 – engraved by ‘Sidy’ Hall of Chapman and Hall – 186 The Strand. We discover that ‘Sidy’ is Sidney and he was originally from Staffordshire. (Wolverhampton was in Staffordshire when I was growing up there – Staffordshire knots were well known to us scouts). The frame has broken and we will need to have the map properly reframed to be shown to the best effect – but an old map tells you so much about a place – the basic co-ordinates of where we were and now have grown to become.

    I am an endlessly enthusiastic supporter of Alan Godfrey’s maps: http://www.alangodfreymaps.co.uk/ I would always encourage people to purchase copies of their localities when moving in from elsewhere – or simply to explore places we know, have lived in or passed by for holidays. His maps give you the geography of the time – but they also tell you something about local industries – and about the people. He offers maps from the Isle of Wight 1907 and 1901.

    This is me, I guess, perseverating on Postcodes and Village People

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    30th July 2016 | By David Jolley


    Dreadful news of killings by young men in France and Germany – and there have been killings on ordinary streets elsewhere. Desperate young men who have sometimes been known to be troubled but those who knew did not intervene – often because they could not believe that someone so ordinary would actually do something so terrible. Perversely the perpetrator often believes they are acting as brave heroes for a cause.

    Thursday’s Guardian (28.7.16) carried a front page picture of the attempt on Ronald Reagan’s life in 1981. Reagan survived the assassination attempt as did three others shot in the incidence, though one, James Brady, died 2014 and his death is said to have been a consequence of his injuries – death by homicide.

    This is front page news 35 years on because a federal judge, Paul Friedman, has ruled that John Hinckley Jr may be released from prison quite soon. Hinckley had been in treatment from Dr John Hopper, a psychiatrist, for five months before the shooting. He was found not guilty of charges because of insanity. The expert evidence seems to have considered him ill because of depression or schizophrenia or alternatively a frustrated young man who was used to getting his own way. Everyone agreed that his muddled motivation related to his infatuation with Jodie Foster and the story contained in the film Taxi Driver where a character plots to assassinate a candidate for the Presidency. The link between these threads was Hinckley’s determination to make himself interesting to Jodie Foster – killing the President would bring him from obscurity to fame of a sort.

    This is tortured logic whether it be driven by selfishness or psychosis. The question must be whether time and treatment have changed this man so much that he can now be deemed normal and not a threat to the safety of others.

    Strangely the front cover of the July issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry carries a portrait of Jonathan Martin http://bjp.rcpsych.org/content/209/1.cover-expansion

    Martin became a Minister in the Methodist Church but developed dangerous thoughts about other churches. In 1818 he was committed to an asylum, having threatened to shoot the Bishop of Oxford. He escaped, returned to preaching but then set fire to York Cathedral with the belief that God wished him to cleanse that place because of the sins of its clergy. He was detained at The Bethlem for the rest of his days. It is reported that he: ‘conversed with propriety on most subjects’. But on matters of religion he remained convinced of the wickedness of some clergymen and declared he would take action against them of their churches.

    This must be the dilemma for Judge Friedman and his colleagues. Even though Hinckley is said to be remorseful and to speak without betraying any hostile, abnormal or dangerous thoughts – can we be sure of what he is thinking or may come to think in the future? Can we be sure he would share such thoughts if they recur?

    Hinckley’s case aroused great concern. There was examination of the concept of insanity and its relationship to responsibility and guilt. There was change in the law concerning the purchase of guns by people known to have mental health problems – a change supported by Ronald Reagan, but subsequently reversed, I understand, in response to pressures from the gun lobby.

    There are lessons to be learned from recent and distant events.

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    25th July 2016 | By David Jolley


    Last Tuesday was THE hottest day.


    Steve and I travelled the lanes from Altrincham to Wilmslow to catch the train to London.  Temperatures there were predicted to rise above 30 degrees C.


    We were to attend Dementia Pathfinders’ celebration of what is going on, at the Hallam St Conference Centre. This is not far from Euston, so a walk is the best way there. Lunch at the Royal College of GPs – convenient, cool, quality and dignity with a modern twist – just the right mood.


    Starting with a hug from Sandra – this was to be a great afternoon. We met our colleagues from the Isle of Wight – Veronica and Vidya – it was they who, with Barbara, had begun the Dementia Conversations movement which we have followed and hope to see adopted in lots of other places. Strange how at ease you can feel with people of similar spirit, even though you are meeting for the first time. Veronica just twinkles openness and honesty in pursuit of truth. No fudges.


    Participants were skewed to female and youth – well, younger, and looking and moving with confidence and grace. These were people gathered together by Barbara, with a message and delivered with bubbles.


    The strength in this initiative lies in the real personal experiences of the main players, and their determination to harness these with their many skills and talents to make things better:

    We heard of love tested and not found wanting by dementia, which came too early. On reflection it does seem that Early Onset Dementia is something different – as Mr Alzheimer would agree,

    We were reminded of Margaret Butterworth and all she stood for http://www.kcl.ac.uk/sspp/policy-institute/scwru/events/mbchf/About-Margaret-Butterworth.aspx


    It was moving to hear the accounts of generous, dedicated care being provided by three modest front-line staff who were in receipt of rewards. They are valued in this – but how far is their value reflected in the status and financial recognition given to them in the routine weeks?


    Tina English is encouraging faith communities to use their strengths and memberships to take love and support to older people without visitors in care homes – a winner with minimal extra resources.


    Then there was dance – dance in several formats and then broken down to its basic elements so that we could follow and join – and soon Steve was dancing with Veronica – They were both surprised and very pleased.


    Music and movement – making magical communications where dementia had seemed to fragment all meaning and understanding.


    Dementia Pathfinders is stepping aside from the mainstream – not to deny its strengths, but to add some alternatives, which relate to individuals, to special places, to special individual strengths, shining through the difficulties.


    And then there were quiet conversations after the main event – or maybe this was the main event – for we discovered extraordinary connectivity, some based in unsuspected historical and geographical links.


    There is something special happening – it was a very warm day – a melting pot of possibilities.

    We will see what we can make of them.

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