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  • 13th August 2017 | By David Jolley

    As planned we bought the beach to Bowdon Vale this week – with sand and windmills, sounds and stories. 

    Dina told us tales of Wales in her beautiful Welsh voice – and brought along a conch she rescued on a cruise to the West Indies. 

    Stuart is a natural in the sand and dressed for the weather. So we saw skills with bucket and spade – later turned to good use in French Cricket. But mostly he and Aileen would tell us about South African adventures. 

    Two new friends from a housing trust joined us for the first time. They came to see who we are what we do but also to say a bit about their interests and initiatives. They threw themselves readily into the spirit and set up a brilliant performance of Punch and Judy. 

    Jack and Emma, as ever, were stars of fashion and narrative – beautifully supported by Sarah and Anita. They showed talent with magic painting – and disappointment when their spectacular creations faded as they dried - reusable product!

    Jack gave guidance to late comers: Andrew came by bicycle, as did Barry who came even later. Bikes are a new thing for our Tuesday group but perhaps show a widening of appeal. 

    We had ice creams from the ice cream man and cakes and sandwiches galore. Alex’s family gave us the joy of generations all at ease with competition and understanding on the beach. The spade, which had made sandcastles, now became a bat and the soft ball a means of stirring contacts between groups. Bubbles from those little tubes and the sound of the sea from a special CD. The duff of the day was the promise of scents of the seaside – they all smelled much the same – and we had ice-cream for real and could get sun oil – why not for next time!

    We liked photographs and a picture book. We will make our own as a scrap book using photos and words from our own past outings. Stuart mastered the jigsaw. We guessed the picture came from a rather posh resort – no knotted handkerchief hats on these sands!

    This was our holiday – but it made serious points of how we can make contact with each other through memories linked to sensory experiences now and long ago.

    Back in Manchester, Altrincham and Bowdon. Ann told us of a most encouraging meeting with the mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham. He is determined to see Greater Manchester lead the way as a Dementia Friendly community. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NpztY6BQARE

    We are with him on that. 

    Our next venture is to create a Dementia Friendly Harvest Festival – encouragement for thi8s came from a study day at Luther King House – It will be a challenge to put the learning into practice. One day on the beach, soon to be on the farm. This is OK – and all the time we are listening and thinking.

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    07th August 2017 | By David Jolley

    Our seaside was Rhos on sea, with mum and dad or Aunt Annie, Aunt Hilda and Uncle George and grandad – Sometimes all of us. A pebbly beach, a sandy beach, work lines and shells: often raining and blowing but just a great place to be.

    I remember playing endlessly with a very small Dinky lorry. It had a red cabin and a cream painted tipper behind. That lorry is still with me in this study. We have shifted a lot of sand.

    There was the day I was sent down the beach to get a bucket of seawater to clean our toes before returning to socks and sandals. The bucket was tinny, shiny and had a picture of a pirate painted on the side. It was bigger than I was used to and when it filled with water and the returning tide sucked hard – small DJJ went with it and head over bottom into the water. Salt water in my mouth and up my nose – probably out of my ears. I thought my time had come!

    We had a pier with live shows which we went to on Thursday evening in a small ‘Runabout’ bus. The village still had trams which ran between Colwyn bay and Llandudno. Some were double decker and others just single. A single with no roof was called a ‘Toast Rack’ according to Annie. A toast Rack trip to Llandudno was a special treat, best if it was not raining.

    Mostly we stayed at ‘Auntie Dora’s’. Dora was not a real auntie, but affectionately adopted into the family: a friend who had lived beside the family in Ettingshall and had moved to Rhos to run a boarding house. We would be in a room right at the top of the house and would peep into the dining room where the regular residents would have their meals, or the sitting room where they read large newspapers for most of the rest of each day. Breakfasts were porridge and toast and tea. We were very comfortable and enjoyed the walk down the hill to the front. On the corner was a shop, still there now, which sold newspapers and toys. Grandad would take us down early to collect his paper and we would wonder about which toys would be good. Wondering, like dreaming, is free! The marvellous thing was, there was never any disappointment in those toys, because we never got to find out their weaknesses.

    My red and cream lorry is the only one I can remember we bought. And see how it has lasted!

    This week at Dementia Conversations, we are holding a Beach Party at Bowdon Vale. The idea came from Ros. People are really excited and making plans. We have sand and water and windmills and beach games. We have a special book and a box with seaside scents and a CD of seaside sounds. There is a small Punch and Judy cabin and a jigsaw and magic painting book.

    An ice cream man is booked for 2.30pm. 

    We will find some sort of deckchairs and we will find music such as is played at roundabouts and hoopla.

    Some people will dress for the beach. I shall roll my trousers up and have a knotted handkerchief tied over my balding had. This is for real.

    We look forward to some stories and, hopefully, the return of feelings which cling strongly to this very special place – a distance away and with the magic and excitement of earth washed by restless water under an open sky.

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    1st July 2017 | By David Jolley

    These weeks are filled with a mix of experiences, shifted now well away from the routines of paid employment, but with a rhythm of regular routines laced with extras. It has been a pleasure to meet visitors from Chile – friends of Sarah – they met in Vancouver. An international world which is beyond me, but here in flesh rather than via the mysteries of the internet.

    Preparations for a beach party at our next meeting of Dementia Conversations have drawn me into another world of cues and nostalgia – It is wonderful what is available when you look around.

    Battles with invasive plants feel winnable, thanks to days of rain which has softened the soil. Thanks also to a marvellous device I have learned is called a Mattock – bought from our last Car Boot sale it is a combination of pickaxe and hoe. Mattocks have a long history https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mattock: certainly the exercise makes me feel much at one with Bronze Age man.

    Preparation, preparing the ground are essentials if a venture is to have a hope of success. 

    So the sadness and frustration of the week relates to my attempts to obtain help when troubled by noisy youths promising mischief and worse on our local park. I have tried to arrange for PCSOs to call as a routine on nights – especially Fridays and Saturdays – when problems are most likely.

    They do not come. If they did we believe their presence would change the equation from uncontrolled mayhem to a situation where the law can see what is going on and can be seen to take an interest.

    They do not come because they are called away to higher priority crises where matters have escalated to danger of one sort or another.

    There is no way to contact PCSOs after 3pm on any day – and there is no way at any time during weekends when problems are most likely. 

    The only recourse when faced with behaviour which does not justify a 999 call is to call 101: on Tuesday 35 minutes on the phone failed to get through to a person who might help but introduced me to an automated message which told me every 2 minutes: ‘All our call handlers are busy’ ….and could I try contact via the GMC website. The website advises I call 101!

    A more worrying situation on Wednesday night so I tried again: 40 minutes and no contact. I sent a complaint to the Police Professional Standards unit and have made our local MP and the Mayor of Greater Manchester aware of the situation. 

    There is no police response before matters escalate to crises of 999 proportions. This is not the civilisation I have lived with for 70 years. This is a pretence at providing a safe community.

    This model is applicable in other situations, including the care of people with dementia and similar conditions.

    My mum had much wisdom and passed this to us as hymns and songs sung as she went about her work – or short sayings or proverbs. For these situations she would give us:

    ‘A stitch in time, saves nine’.

    This is a received and widely known truism. Why are we unable to act upon it?

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    27th July 2017 | By David Jolley

    Wednesday took me to Worcester – to the Association of Dementia Studies which Professor Dawn Brooker has created, impressively and productively, from scratch in the matter of a few years. The centre has a pretty broad approach to studies and practical applications of findings, but has a particular interest in the arts and dementia. With Nottingham University they have a project to train PhD students in the relationship between art and dementia: www.worcester.ac.uk/discover/tandem-phd-studentship.html

    As part of this Dawn has arranged for Cathy Greenblatt to spend time with the PhD students, sharing her exquisite skills in photography as a means of investigating and evidencing quality of life which is possible for people with dementia and their families and other carers www.cathygreenblat.com/table_of_contents.cfm

    I was honoured that Cathy gave the fifth David Jolley lecture that Wednesday afternoon. She is an extraordinary individual who has followed a successful career as an academic social scientist, with a second career of her own design. Fascinated by photography from an early age, she resolved to turn a hobby into a passion in ‘retirement’.

    She shared with us the strange turn of events which has led her to devote much of her work to the study of two topics she originally swore to avoid: these are dementia and dying. Like many people she had felt they were too hard, too difficult to address. She has found close acquaintance with both to bring about a different understanding for her – and through her eyes to encourage a clearer insight and acceptance for others. She has travelled the world to meet the dying and those living with dementia in many places and many cultures.

    Her beautiful photographs are displayed in Power Point and in printed publications. They are the product of painstaking study and enquiry as she gets to know the people, their stories and the means by which communication can be achieved and pleasures rediscovered.

    So behind every photograph there is a story – very often of a life which had been given up:

    ‘She is very demented now – There is nothing to be done but wait for death as a blessed relief’.

    But risking something more – an outing – a dance – music is everywhere – play with clay, colours, sand and flour. See the expressions of wonder, horror, amusement and mischief.

    A very senior and respected colleague assured me that very same week: ‘There is no a jot of evidence that music as therapy works.’

    Well we know it does – and Cathy’s photographs give the lie to such nihilism.

    ‘And in her smile I see something more beautiful than the universe’

    Beth Revis

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