• Keeping on 23 January 2017 | View comments

  • 23rd January 2017 | By David Jolley

    Sue bought me Alan Bennett’s latest book ‘Keeping on keeping on’ at Christmas. She knows I can listen to him, watch plays by him, or hear stories read by him without ever tiring. When you read his books you can hear his voice in every word. I do say he is the best writer on mental health of our generation and I regularly recommend his ‘Untold Stories’ to medical students and anyone else who wants to learn about depression amongst older people or dementia in the same age group.

    I have read the diaries of 2005. It seems like only yesterday, but there have been quite a lot of years since then. It is soothing and amusing to follow his reflections, so many of them akin to mine. Moving on to ‘Baffled by a bookcase’ for a change of pace and longer exploration of a theme, I am with him again in the institutions, uncharted paths, and ill formed hopes for social and professional growth of our late teens. It is a time which Alan Bennett returns to repeatedly and I might feel I rarely leave. Certainly every return is to such a welcome familiar aura, that I cannot have been away very long.

    This week we have lost Rachel Heyhoe Flint. As a student at Wolverhampton Girls High School in the 1950s, she was a teenage idol. Not for her singing, though she may have been good at that too, but for her exceptional sporting abilities. She went on the captain England at cricket and see women’s cricket grow in popularity and resect around the world.

    Wolverhampton, my town, had Billy Wright and Rachel Heyhoe. We rode bicycles to school, stayed for school dinners and had trolley buses for trips to town.

    Quite marvellously, during my ten years back in Wolverhampton and its community and mental health trust and university, ‘The Varsity’ as one of the city pubs dubbed it, I met her through her PR work with Wolves. She and Steve Bull were prepared to help us raise interest in the needs of younger people with dementia. Both legends, both utterly normal and easy to be with, and generous beyond belief. So she has been with me as a person of real flesh and spirit through all these years and a reassurance that right and honesty coming from our shared roots can be linked to success.

    Marvelling at this, it is doubly warming to know that these are feelings shared with Alan Bennett and perhaps a whole lot of others. Despite the punctuations, these feelings will continue.

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