• Small talk 12 November 2018 | View comments

  • 5th November 2018 | By David Jolley

    I am grateful to Hannah Jane Parkinson for her first article in the Guardian Saturday Colour Supplement 27.10.18.

    Mostly I scan the colour supplement for pictures, and read only the ‘Let’s move to’ story. Last week it was Worcester, this week Wimborne Minster. I hope that one week it will be Wolverhampton’s turn.

    I think it was the header ‘The joy of small things’ which caught my eye. I am keen on joy, and small things. But she drew me to look at J.B. Priestley and his book of essays: ‘Delight’. J. B. Priestley is a name I have known but never known much of. Now I find him to be of my grandfathers’ generation, Yorkshire (Bradford) born, taking a local clerical job from school but then studying at Cambridge after time with the armed forces during World War 1. It is sobering to know that something good followed from that dreadful conflict. He became a celebrated author, essayist and playwright. Celebrated too as a curmudgeon, he would say. He countered this infamy with a collection of essays about those small things which gave him quiet delight – outwardly enjoying his grumble – inside experiencing a private ecstasy.

    It is these smallish personal things which mean most to us, away from the yawning of national and international politics and corporate endeavours. These are the pleasures and values which stay with us in times of happiness and times of trial – deep enough to withstand the erosion which dementia and similar illnesses might bring.
    So far I have read his reflections on fountains (generating a list of fountains I have known), shopping in a small town (well my home town, current market town, markets which are past, and favourite holiday places), detective stories in bed (not for me – I simply hold tight to a prayer, and flick through the now-and-then of things I might have shelved for the rest of the day. Then sleep.) Finishing a task, a friend’s face or voice in a lonely place, deck in the early morning (never been on a deck but every morning is a good place, the earlier the better), tobacco, gin/tonic and crisps in solitude at his local after a routinely crazy week at work in London, and tobacco again!

    These essays are no more than two pages, perfectly written, and each a delight in itself. I shall carry on reading to one-hundred-and- fourteen. Hannah Jane Parkinson has written this week of dressing gowns. It seems to me that this is an exercise we could use when people come together for an afternoon of conversation, whether or not their memories are becoming stretched by the details of the here and now.

    Thanks to JBP and to HJP

    Best wishes to everyone at the Dementia Congress in Brighton. This is the first I have missed. That’s the thing with the coming of grandchildren

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