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  • 2nd October 2018 | By David Jolley

    Skipping through the headlines and photographs in Friday’s paper I found that John Cunliffe died recently. I had not soaked up his name previously, but I knew Rosie and Jim and JC was the bearded gentleman who drove the canal boat they lived on. Even more, did I know, do I know, Postman Pat who was also a product of John’s imagination? The soft puppets and animated postie have filled many gentle hours with our children – and are there for our grandson. Lanre Bakare’s tribute to John Cunliffe tells us that he grew up as an outsider in a Lancashire town, where he was unhappy and bullied at school. It sets you thinking about how he might have been, or felt himself to be, an outsider. Perhaps the family moved into the town for work but were not from a line which had given generations in that place. Perhaps the family had unusual beliefs. But he had found his early life to be less that happy. Postman Pat came as a contrast to that and in celebration of good times in the Lake District – a world where every individual person and animal is appreciated for what and who they are. Everyday life is an adventure on a small scale. There may be worries and potential disaster, but mostly these are overcome with friendship and humour. Out of the adversity of childhood came something strong to support other children, and parents and grandparents.

    Another funeral closer to home saw the celebration of another Lancashire man – indeed a Manchester man. But it was only at the funeral that I learned that Ernest had grown up near the centre of Manchester. He and Hilda had arrived in our church community as fully grown retirees, moving into a modern house on a new estate. Ernest worse a neatly trimmed beard, long before the fashion for beards which has taken hold of currently fashionable men. His hair and beard remained dark brown. I wonder now whether he used dyes to achieve this. And the mystery of his background rested on stories of times on oil rigs and the Middle East. All true, it was proved at his eulogy. This life of adventure, glamour and success had happened from middle age because a heart attack which occurred at a time of great stress. Surviving this and returning to work, he deemed fit only for lighter duties. Lighter duties took him to training as a Health and Safety officer, something which suited his careful attention to detail to a tee. He gained experience and additional qualifications which made him a person to be headhunted by world famous companies.

    How wonderful it is to know more about the people we live with.

    We are very pleased with our park Health Walks, which are designed for older people and others who have lost confidence and practice in walking. As we walk, there is much talk – often of reminiscence – time for tea and a modest snack. Total therapy with not a great deal of pain.

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    24th September 2018 | By David Jolley

    Saturday morning is time to check what is about to happen in the world of football. My Wolves were to be playing Manchester United as they get to grips with life in the Premier League with a team that is better than any they have had since the 1950s. I almost missed the article by Damien Whitmore: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/sep/21/damien-whitmore-i-would-find-mum-crying-and-repeating-i-dont-know-who-i-am

    It is an everyday story of life with dementia, by told by someone who is famous in his own right and is prepared to share some very personal stories and feelings with others. We have heard of the frustrations people have with the poverty of services for families with dementia on the Isle of Wight, but here such services are barely mentioned. The perception that mum, whose life had been very different from that of privilege which had brought Damien fame, self-fulfilment financial security, now needed care has brought a family back together and Damien to a changed appreciation of values. He found wonderful help given generously to his mum by neighbours and now to himself. He found excellent professional care from the private sector to complement his own efforts and those of friends and neighbours at home. He found appropriate attention toward her physical health from her GP. He describes mum’s progressive loss of communication skills, and the changes of perception that meant that he became seen as his father – with reliving and re-enactment of the pains of that relationship. We hear of his acknowledgement, in agreement with friends and neighbours, that the limits of care at home had been reached – and then a positive appreciation that life within a good care home provides a new beginning, and reflection that the advance of dementia sometimes brings out a person’s better side, rather than amplifying the worst.

    So interesting that the phenomenon of living just in the moment, which is identified as characteristic of life with advanced dementia, has passed to her son as carer who is cognitively whole. He is grateful for the benefits of this perspective for his personal health and social life, expressed with astonishing clarity which reminds me of the wonderful teachings of Barbara Poyson, derived from life with her husband Malcolm.

    ‘if you focus on what is happening to you in this moment and go with it, life begins to work for you.’

    For all of this, we are humbled and thankful.

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    21st September 2018 | By David Jolley

    Harvest Festival at Bowden

    Simon Jenkin’s incoherent rant (God aside, for whom does Welby speak? Guardian September 14th https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/sep/14/god-justin-welby-archbishop-canterbury-gig-economy moved me to offer a letter to the Guardian: The question requires a calm, simple answer. What the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Pope and other faith leaders are saying is not of politics – it is of a higher order. The principles they declare are fundamental and recognised to be right across cultures and across the ages. Restricting true values to the realm of spirit only, and letting selfishness, greed and prejudice rule everyday life is not right. Welby speaks for me, an ‘ageing (Methodist) communicant’, and for many others.

    It doesn’t look likely to be published for there are several excellent responses in today’s Guardian. The busy week had been dominated by plans for our second Dementia Friendly/Family Friendly/ Traditional Harvest Festival at Bowdon Vale. It has been marvellous to invite those who come to Dementia Conversations, and find that the very mention triggers memories of years ago when everyone carried a small basket of fruit or vegetables to school or church, to be part of a joyful celebration that God is Good – and what a wonderful world it is that we live in – with all its unsolved and insoluble mystery.

    We have a reason to produce invitations to households throughout the village – taking them up short and long drives to the letter box. On the way we see people and homes more closely than at other times. The local shop had a pile of invitations too.

    Naked vegetables and fruits gave anxiety to some who were afraid of potential waste – so much safer with tins and sell-by dates. In the event one of the congregants was pleased to carry a sackful to a nearby residential complex for older people, where we know the cooks will make good use of the fresh produce – Take the risk and you never know what might happen. ‘Merely to follow Providence as it emerges’ – John Wesley.

    The ladies of the church – with some male assistance – produced a magnificent display. People came and doubled or trebled the usual congregation. We had the reading of ‘the sower’ and an unusual interpretation which came out with positives for everyone. We had the very best of harvest hymns and prayers to match.

    We were comfortable. No-one was restless – but we were engaged and at one.

    People stayed for simple lunch of bread, cheeses, pate, fruits and cakes, with tea, coffee, water or juice.

    It felt right.

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    A moment in time 10 September 2018 | Comments (0)

    10th September 2018 | By David Jolley

    This year Altrincham Methodist Church celebrates 50 years in its building on Barrington Road. Last night we celebrated with an anniversary dinner in the presence of a former minister and his wife. They had travelled up from the South Coast. The M6 introduced them to 18 miles of upgrading for a ‘Smart Motorway’. Single lane for miles and miles, slows you down and strains the smiles. It was no surprise that the theme of journeys and journeying gave structure to the evening.

    This building brought together the congregations of five churches or chapels which had been struggling. So the beginning of this 50 year journey was not a beginning, nor an ending but a continuation. The Methodist Movement began in the 18th Century – a development from the Church of England, which was a development from the Catholic Church. Christianity dates from events 2000 years ago and grew from the Jewish faith which has history recorded for thousands of years before.

    We talked of an extension which provides a venue for a coffee bar and other activities through the week. We reflected on the removal of pews. The evening would raise money for a new, pitched, roof for the extension – Whoever thought that flat roofs were a good idea in the North West of England!

    Western Europe is the only part of the world where religions are in retreat, but this is the part of the world in which we live – and the 50 years have seen weekly congregations tumble from 300 to 100. The other three churches linked in the Altrincham Circuit are smaller and have also seen reduction and ageing of membership. Extrapolation is a gloomy business.

    This was not a night for gloom, but for celebration, reminiscences of humorous and wonderful happenings, as well as of sadness for the passing of good friends. But it was also a night for reflection on the nature of journey: We are travelling, learning as we go and aiming to make a better place. But there is no Promised Land, no destination that will mean no more travelling.

    As it is with the churches, so it is with our services to work with people who are unwell, and the families caring for them. It is reasonable to take stock at key times. It is appropriate to take pride in achievements and to be thankful for the dedication and triumphs of key people – and others who are the supportive cast. We find much to be saddened and frustrated about – there is much to be done to right inequalities and frank unfairness. This is the journey and we will be ever looking yonder – best to feel OK with that.

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