We all need therapy now and then

Thank you for being my therapist

I really do appreciate it. Listening to me when I need to vent, not interrupting my outflowing of septic thoughts or shouts. Just being there, as they say.

You see, just the brain activity in ordering my chaotic and occasionally tortured mind, of forcing them into words that make sense, into sentences (mostly), of restarting my ironic ways of seeing the world and words…this just gets me going again, and I climb out of the valley and see the sun kissed peaks again in the distance, across flat, grassy uplands.

The last couple of days have been bad. Recent events in my tiny hamlet have demonstrated to me that humanity is still capable of being nasty, twisted and horridly malevolent. And that feudal ways are alive and kicking here.

No details here, but my bubble was pricked on two occasions, and blown off course on another, by people who live very close.

And when I walked around part of Colemere the very few people I passed were miserable, wanted to avoid a nod and an ‘afternoon’ as we went by. Not a smile. Just misery.

So I have retreated again, and am trying to recover my inner balance.

Last night it churned through my mind so I just dozed and half dreamed.

I hope it will just take a day or two more to forget it all and just carry on in my bubble.

Meanwhile, I have been thinking and reading about this government’s performance over big V.

It is becoming clear that Boris has sent his closest ministers out to share the burden at briefings. So there has been no consistent message or leadership.

It is also clear that facts have been fiddled and hidden as necessary to cover government shortcomings. Policies denied when inconvenient. Facts hidden when unhelpful.

What has struck me is the sheer implausibility of these ministers’ attempts at empathy and compassion. Whenever Matt the Hancock speaks about his shared grief over deaths, he pauses too long, he stares too intently, he phrases just too deliberately…and we cannot actually believe his words.

The others are pretty much the same. Some look like they expect a shark to jump over the stern and drag them away. Others just seem uninterested. And they regurgitate the same old messages and self congratulation in the face of facts that suggest otherwise.

When Big B is on he says very little in a lot of phwaw words, clenches his hands in the most unnatural way, as if he is carrying an invisible tray (perhaps his butler has Big V), then disappears for another five days.

This is, and we put him there, our leader in this challenging time.

He imagines he is Churchill and cannot but fail. As a presidential candidate once (almost) said to another, on TV, ‘Mr Johnson, you are no Churchill’.

And said non leader B is eviscerated in Parliament by Sir Keir Charmer, when he lacks his rowdy Bullingdon fellows roaring behind him.

I think we are seeing a narcissist who lacks self confidence, and who depends on being loved and admired to survive, beginning to implode.

B lacks confidence, determination and courage. He plays for his audience and cannot see through a long term strategy. He depends on others to do his work.

That is not leadership. That is Etonian entitlement and personality dysfunction.

That is chaotic twisting in the wind.

And I think big B and his chums may not last too many months as this whole, awful mess churns around us. People are seeing truth beneath the rippling surface. And, like Jaws, that truth bites.

Sustaining intelligent life

I am worried.

Big B seems not to be in charge or decisive.

Big V is not going away, contrary to Trumpy’s fantasy.

And lockdown is being eased.

Schools are going to be safe apparently.

Transport is fine, just keep your distance…on the Tube, on buses?

Gateshead and Cumbria and Stoke-on-Trent are behind the curve, with continuing high R.

Yet B wants the economy to get going. And I am sure he would be right to, in other circumstances.

Care homes have been hung out to die. Untested patients evacuated from hospitals into care settings to start the bonfires. No extra help.

Are older people in care not still people? Are they not entitled to good health care too?

And what worries me is that as people return to meeting and working the virus will grow again, and we older people with other conditions will be left to, well, isolate or die.

All the concern about getting food and medicines to the 1.5 million most vulnerable? Banana flavoured angel delight is great probably, but unlikely to sustain intelligent life.

We with dementia, often living other conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, what are we going to do? What will happen to us, as those around us carry the virus towards us. Others may well survive, even hardly notice it, but many of us will have to continue this isolation until a vaccine is available. That is at least a year away, in sufficient quantities.

It is gratifying to know that fertility services are getting going again, and then cancer. But what does the future hold for us?

What I worry about is that we will be forgotten, because we have to stay behind closed doors, away from friends and family, away from shops, away from the life affirming places we love, like the sea and the lakes and the hills.

Because for us it is life or death.

Keir Starmer, bless him, is beginning at last to turn the screws on the lack of decision and compassion of our shambolically amateur government. Boris has started to retreat. PMQs may break him, since he cannot stand up to a forensic, legal interrogation.

Politics aside, all I want is decisions and actions that are for the many not the few. Or, better, for all of us.

My friends and I have been working for years to get dementia on the agenda, in the open, and addressed in a meaningful, compassionate way.

I fear we will again disappear and be left to our own devices as big V sweeps us either under the carpet or under the ground.

Watching time

I have taken off my watch.

When I was 16 dad bought me a wristwatch for my birthday.

I have been trawling to remember the brand, but it was, of course, Swiss made, and may have been from an H Samuel shop. Not Omega or Tissot…just can’t get it…

It showed the date. Oh my, how fine. And how proud I was to wear it.

That lasted until around when my father died, in 1992. 25 years showing me when I was in the world.

Then I actually started wearing one of dad’s old watches. He had spoiled himself with a Rolex Oyster when I was probably about eight. Then that was stolen, along with almost everything of value in our house, so he tried a Tudor. Self winder. It only stopped once, when dad had a slipped disc and lay in agony in hospital for days.

When I was 50 my wife bought me a Tag Heuer. Ooh. Yes, I did want one. It was the least expensive model, but just brilliant. Not too showy, but noticeably Tag.

And I still wear it.

Until last month.

Why do I need to have a watch on my wrist now?

Why do I need to know the time at a glance?

There’s no train to catch. No meeting to get to.

No cricket to check. No hospital appointment to attend.

In fact, time has become just a slow watery flow that gently meanders towards the sea

Never ending, never changing

I see time slipping away, I feel time slipping away

I see nature change, seasons move, birds arriving, nesting, leaving

But I don’t need to know that it is 10.58, or 2.14.

At night I see the time illuminated beside me, 1.08, 2.10, 3,06, 4.20, 8,47

This time of gentle slow living, of looking more closely at the natural world, listening, smelling, touching…this time is like childhood.

I remember the walks from Abergavenny up the Sugar Loaf, through St Mary’s Vale

Stopping for lunch under our favourite beech tree on the side of the hill.

The smell of bracken broken as we step through it

An adder, coiled silently where I was about to step

A family of grass snakes sliding off the towpath into the canal nearby, swimming in the sunny water as we walk carefully by

Even a slow worm on a dry hot bank on the lane down to the River Usk, where we would paddle between sandwiches and squash

My walks with Lupin through my local little woods and fields here take me back there, and I know that time does not matter, or, anyway, has slipped away.

But my memories of safe, happy, childhood in Abergavenny with my lovely Welsh granny are still here.

So who needs to know the time?

I deeply hope that we will all continue to live slowly when we are unlocked. That everyone will simply do what they have to when it suits them, not when a clock says “Work!” or “Go home!”

Staggered starts at work. Why ever not? And when you arrive, not when you are told to arrive.

Allow people choice and responsibility, and to enjoy their lives more.

Of course we will need timetables for trains and planes and buses.

Of course we will schedule meetings.

Schools will cling to timing as if its a life raft to prevent chaos.

But let’s just relax a bit, and remember that amongst what we all know to be essential there are many things that are just simply not time sensitive, if we allow them not to be.

The graveyards are full of people who thought they were different and important and indispensable.

Time is like that. A few minutes here, an hour there…

We try to use time to make our lives more meaningful. A full diary, we proudly say.

Got to start on time, we are told. Why? So we know our place in the hierarchy.

Well something dementia teaches you is that time is running out and you remember less and less of where it has gone.

You need to think back to earlier years, to memories of happiness and warmth and safety.

And to get on and live as ever you choose.

Carpe Diem!

Silent Spring

My penny has just dropped.

I get it. I understand.

The world has stopped and I love it.

Yesterday I was asked to do an interview for a radio 4 programme. About the effects of the lockdown on people living with or caring for dementia.

And I said I am enjoying it.

Pardon. Er, why?

Well, because I am not constantly annoyed about the CCGs and others refusing to either listen, engage or act to improve dementia services. And planning my strategy. Writing another letter, another FOI. It’s been a pain in my brain for nearly ten years.

And now it has gone.

And that, folks, is such welcome relief I am happy.

But this morning I have just realised another, even more important and revolutionary benefit…

No noise.

It is quiet out there. It is silent, but for the singing of birds, branches rustling, leaves fluttering, a distant train hooting once a day.

And that, my friends, is an enormous win for me. That is why I am enjoying my days of isolation here. I am not overwhelmed by the noises of busy living.

The trains, and stations.

The cars and motorbikes screaming, police klaxons, airplane thundering.

People talking too fast and loud. Or not loud enough to hear clearly.

The work we put in in order to deal with, to process and understand and respond to, all this cacophony, is enormous.

So, silent spring, welcome. I love you.

Of course, there is a flip side.

There’s always a pay off.

When, how, will we get dementia back on everyone’s commissioning agendas?

For the moment, Big V is THE only issue. The only show. And rightly so.

But…as ever…but…why is dementia not one of the criteria for exceptional support? For special shopping times or queues? For food deliveries?

Those living alone with dementia will be finding getting food and meds difficult. It’s all very well advising home deliveries, but you can forget the big supermarkets. Their slots are gone by 2 minutes past midnight. And that presumes you have smart tech. And can use it for shopping.

I know there are many wonderful support groups springing up, and shops are delivering locally. And I’m pretty sure many who live with dementia in towns, or perhaps tiny villages, will have neighbours who will help.

But remember, many with a diagnosis do what? They withdraw. They lose confidence, self esteem, sense of value. They stay at home, hidden away.

Who will help them?

We are living in a world of exceptional contrasts, extremes.

I am enjoying this silence. Many are not…they will be alone, staring at walls, unable to get the food they enjoy, wander around, maybe see familiar faces passing their windows.

And many will not understand why. They will not remember why.

It must be a difficult time for those in more advanced stages of dementia than me.

The BBC person said, gently, you don’t sound, the way you’re talking, as if you are very affected by your dementia. I mean, I know you’ve got it, but…

Well, I said, if I were not taking my pills I would be unable to put a sentence together, or do much else.

I explained a few of the difficulties I have, which are pretty minor on their own, but which together have changed my life.

Ah. I see.

You can hear, these days, the pennies that drop gently into the ponds and send out ripples.

Rachel Carson may have died, but this silent spring is for me a welcome change.

We have fewer birds and insects, fewer ‘weeds’, and that is shameful, but the world learned from her work.

Let us hope the world learns from this year’s silent spring to value quiet, slow living again.

The poetry of zoom

Today I took part in two ZOOM meetings with friends from the DEEP underworld. Loads of stuff came up, sad and bad, so I have tried to combine them into a poem. Not a great piece of literature, but some thoughts.

Let us sit on the ground and talk of the deaths of friends

While we knit square huggings for those we miss

And mourn those who find they cannot go on.

We meet by courtesy of some foreign land

We inhabit nowhere we know

We are shadows trying to avoid the darkness

Of closed doors and lost touch

We learn to cook and carve new things

To paint the faces of people we miss

We say hello to Siri

And goodnight to Alexa

Our lives are jigsaws

Put away for these dark days when

We have to construct the light

That illuminates our days

We piece each day together

Tell jokes, play songs

Plant seeds, take our walks

And forget the darkness elsewhere.

Because we are not there.

We cannot be everywhere, just here

Here and now, keeping our balance

Listening, talking, sharing, scaring

Occasionally, for good measure

Our poems cheer us into another round of greetings

Anon and his gentil cock

Wordsworth on London Bridge

Sumer is icumen in

But for now we lie, half awake, half dreaming

Waiting to see if our clock is about to stop

Waiting for the warming sun to rise on us again

Waiting to pass into a new land

The same but profoundly different

Less Better Dementia Care in Herefordshire

I’ve just heard confirmation that an Admiral Nurse (AN) service has closed in a West Midlands county. It’s been going and growing for two years, and now, before big V came along, funding has been withdrawn from their local Better Care Fund.

Otherwise known as money taken from social and health care to develop ‘better care’!

Controlled by? CCG and Council, or possibly an integrated care system (ICS).

I was contacted a couple of months ago by someone who was benefitting from the AN service there, and who had to put me right about expanding services. Theirs was closing.

Why do Admiral Nurses matter?

Because they provide the expertise in psychosocial care and support to keep families and care partners going through critically difficult times.

And no one else does.

They take over the myriad challenges that carers face, like having 20+ organisations and phone numbers for arranging care and getting advice.

Like helping those affected to understand what is going on and why.

They get things done! Yes, I said it. They get things done.

Dementia UK (who train Admiral Nurses) have collected evidence that shows that an Admiral Nurse service saves the local health economy around twice the cost of the service.

And that does not include the reduced mental ill health stress caused by crisis to dementia carers.

They help family members and they help neighbours and other friends who are providing support and care. (Don’t forget that 30% of people living with dementia live alone.)

I have heard many stories of abject, horrifying crisis for carers who get to the end of being able to cope.

And yet, and yet…

Admiral Nurses are not mandated as a service that all people affected by dementia should have access to.

CCGs choose whether to fund them. And whether to fund other services that support people affected by dementia.

They do this often not on the basis of cost benefit, or indeed compassion, but whether they can spare money from their historically commissioned services.

It is not my job to advise which services are good value for money. It’s theirs, the commissioners. And they are paid well to do it. No one forced them to take the job.

It is not my role to say that one service is more worthwhile than another. IVF? Transplants? Hip and knee operations? Steroid injections?

That is their job. So I ask…please will they do it.

I do not expect any progress with dementia care during the Big V, but we will come out of this phase, even if we have to live with Covid19 and vaccinate each year.

I do expect progress next year with providing good, appropriate care and support for the million people living with dementia, and the half million providing unpaid care.

This is a crisis. Just as much as the Big V is.

The Big V will recede. Dementia will not.

Don’t forget the Admiral Nurse Dementia Helpline…for anyone anywhere in UK

0800 888 6678

Zooming Blooming Chaos

We look so ordinary. So normal. Siting at our desks or reclining graciously on or in our beds.

You see little pictures on the screen and the green box illuminates around a speaker. The host invites you to contribute and you unmute. If you remember.

Then…as you wait for a fluent stream of words, and wait, and hope, and pray that the words will come for the struggling thinker you can see…then you remember that a diseased brain is invisible.

You meet new people on ZOOM, people who have dementia and who look just like anyone looks, of course. But ZOOM catches them out, because suddenly they are ‘on camera’, with the red record button glaring at them, and a dozen or more people listening for their pearls of wisdom, and sentences, and ideas…and…and…

Nothing. Or a hesitant phrase or two.

It really is challenging.

If you have something to say, a fleeting thought flits in and you need to get it said…and then it drifts away again. You try to get it back, to find it amongst the crowd of odds and ends and tadpoles that swim around…you go back to something you remember being said, and retrace the path from those words, hoping the trail will reappear and lead you back to that flitting, fanciful idea you had, but have lost again…

(What is the collective name for tadpoles? A mess of tadpoles?)

And all the time the camera stares at you, and you colour up, that tingle of sweat arrives, you start to wonder about what others think of your inability to get the words out, and…

You give up and mute yourself again. And probably you don’t try to say anything else.

You watch and listen and think of past times, good times, times when you could hold a room, an audience, a meeting…

But they are gone.

You are still the same person, but let’s not pretend that any of us can do the same as during our working lives. As another zoomette friend said today, we move into a new world, into new lives, as we join DEEP groups and meetings. Friends who get it. Away from care partners who are tired. Away from long years of patterns that may have become stale, or just habitual.

But…

ZOOM has two sides, like Janus. One is positive, fun and useful. One is negatively awful, dark and lost.

Which side will come up today at the toss of the coin?

One day a friend is giggling and joking and expansive…another, she is lost, eyes closed, hesitant and reluctant. She disappears from the screen, and I know she has retired to a quiet, restful place, to regain composure and peace of mind.

I have become intolerant of meetings that lose my interest. And the same happens on ZOOMs.

Watching a film in a cinema, that thing we used to do once upon a time, looking at your watch is a sure sign of second rateness. B listing.

The same happens to me during ZOOMies. At a certain point I wonder what’s on my whatsapp. Or check email. Or check the time. And that’s when I either send a message about a new subject and try to lead it elsewhere, or I give up in my mind.

I’m sure I am not alone in this.

I also find meetings of more than nine ZOOMers impossible to follow easily, or at all. They don’t all fit one ipad page! So people can speak and I don’t know who they are, and I lack the contextual knowledge of what I might expect from them. As important as facial expressions.

Everything said has a context, a history, an underlying attitude. When I studied English Literature at university I really didn’t get structuralism and marxist analysis. I think I do now.

(If only I could be young again…)

So lacking the underlying context and attitude prevents understanding and emotional empathy…these are rarely virtual!

Virtual meetings are amazing and becoming part of life. Great for contact. And ideas. But in these days of sunlit darkness I miss the face to face chat and joke and satire and irony and rudeness and general chaos of our usual, less frequent real meetings.

There are others, bless you, who love this chaos. It shows through. And long may it.

Chaos. Disruption. Wonderful.

Of course I like the seriousness of discussing subjects that matter. But…

I am truly tired of seriousness about subjects that I cannot change or influence.

For the many not the few

It seems to me that we have the real possibility that thinking about economy, entrepreneurship, health provision and government may soon change.

We have a health provider system that is based on the belief that humans only act out of self interest and the desire to have more (money, possessions , comfort, security, health) than others. It is concocted out of a cocktail of laissez faire, profit seeking, artificial markets, and political self interest.

We have an economy modelled for the benefit of those who can, at the expense of those who cannot.

We have an approach to public health based on spending as little as possible from the centre, and hoping (and nudging) that people will have the good sense and ability to make healthy decisions.

And we have government which for centuries has predominantly been by the rich for the rich.

This may change.

We are seeing growing awareness that our NHS has been so chronically under resourced that it is stretched to breaking point, and some other countries are doing better. And we are the people who are dying from this under resourcing. There are not enough critical care beds and equipment. Not enough staff. Our system is funded almost the lowest per head in Europe. That is not a coincidence.

Our doctors are making increasing decisions about who to treat and who to allow to die. Sometimes because dying is less cruel than attempting to save. Sometimes because there are no ventilators or beds.

No one could have know CVID would appear. But every government has a risk register, and emergency stores, for when pandemics strike. Ours, it seems, like the USA, chose to reduce costs in recent years and reduced our stores of emergency stuff.

In January, when the big V appeared and was belatedly confirmed in China, some countries and scientists started work. We did not. As with other decisions, our government took the view that they would see what happened, and was always just behind the action curve. When they realised that the economy would be shattered by what was coming they acted, though for many with loans rather than grants. Once again, it was the economy that drive the decisions to act, not the science or compassion.

We have a mindset in our society that sees everything as profit or loss, income or cost. An attitude to borrowing by government that works for individuals but is inappropriate (and historically inaccurate) for governments. As Will Hutton often has written, governments borrow. That is what they are for. They borrow to make things happen. To invest. For us. And, now, to bail out those in need.

I pray that this change in attitude and action will last into the post virus future.

We must not revert to Osbornonomics. He said yesterday that the UK could only spend now because ‘they’ fixed the roof after 2008.

Well, er, no. They actually removed the walls, the pillars, so the roof had only one way to go.

They actually enabled rich to get richer, while poor got poorer. They destroyed the NHS and social care. They removed safety nets. In the pursuit of profit and riches.

Let us hope that the old Etonian, if and when he comes off a ventilator, has a Pauline (or possibly near death?) conversion and sees a new future for our country. A new Jerusalem. A fair, just society, in which we pursue happiness for the many not the few.

Positively ZOOMing

I’m in a funny mood.

Not ‘funny’, you know, comic sans…humour

But slightly, irritatedly, out of sorts.

And it’s ZOOM to blame again. Zooming blooming zoom.

I enjoy some ZOOMies but not all.

I like the ones where we have a chat and catch up. When we tell each other what we’ve been doing to occupy our isolation time.

Not what we’re missing.

What we are enjoying.

Not what we’re hating.

I know that this isolation is a test, and at the best of times, and with a known deadline, it would be hard.

And we have not got a deadline. I expect minimum 13 weeks. Possibly nine months. Possibly longer, until there is a vaccine to protect me/us.

There will be darkness and light, false dawns and very real nights.

There will be deaths. People we know. People we love. People we say hello to often and pass on our ways.

I have just had an email from my CCG Chair, replying to a letter of a month ago, offering a telephone meeting about a concern regarding dementia and a care closer to home project. But I have replied that I am suspending all my engagement on this until the big V has passed.

He and his staff have much more important things to do now. I know, as I get inside info from my NHS wife.

We, living with dementia, just have to get on with IT. Whatever our particular IT is.

Today on a ZOOMy, I listened to a lot of people expressing concerns about difficulties with this isolation, with lack of contact or care from health or social care, with difficulties getting food supplies and meds.

Yes, it is hard. But these are still early days. Systems are only just being thought through and set up.

It takes time to organise 700,000 volunteers.

My little Parish Council very quickly and excellently sent cards to us all with a contact number for help getting food or medical supplies delivered. My neighbours, bless them, ask if we need anything if they are going shopping and buy my diet tonic water (tastes good without gin and is a good evening substitute).

There will soon be groups of volunteers attached to pharmacies and GP surgeries, and supermarkets everywhere.

We may not have the care and support some of us need. We definitely won’t have the face to face company and touch that we all very much value. The travel that provides variety, challenge and confidence.

But it does me no good to think about how things ought to be. How things might be in a perfect or even imperfect world.

And it does me no good to dwell on this shitty disease, the nightly mareish dreams, and the things I find difficult.

Yesterday I put pepper into my bread mix; too late, I thought.

Today I fumbled a roll of toilet paper and dropped it into the loo.

Tomorrow…who knows. A quarter pound of tea in the pot perhaps, again.

No, I am feeling much more relaxed than for years. Hugely relaxed. Can’t believe it.

I’m not angry and frustrated about my CCG.

I’m not worrying about an agenda for an upcoming meeting. Or whatever I committed to doing at the last one.

The evenings are getting lighter and, sometimes, warmer.

My seeds are growing.

And – and this is key – I am learning new skills and polishing up existing ones.

I am whittling and carving…or learning to at least. Collecting drift wood along hedges, through woods, around fields.

Hedge combing.

I’m taking photos again, after such long, cold, soaking days and weeks of grey, miserable, stormy walks.

Processing the pictures, editing, altering, tweaking…to get new ones in ‘my’ style. Just an hour here and there is very satisfying.

Next job is to order some prints and then make frames out of found, combed, driftwood. (Look on pinterest…)

And I’m going to tune my piano. That’s going to be…um…interesting.

So my message is…

Don’t dwell on difficulties. Find something new to do.

Origami. Whittling. Knitting. Painting by numbers. (Some demanding but comprehensive kits out there, esp from USA.) Write letters by hand. Make models…again, there are some interesting kits online, and not just airfix. Jigsaws (aaarrgghh…)

Get good at something simple and it becomes absorbing as you take it further. Become an expert. Then share it. Teach someone else (virtually for the time being).

We could have ZOOMy knitting sessions! Now actually that would work.

I need to focus on positives, to be optimistic. And I need to avoid and keep away from pessimism, and what’s wrong with the world and with my life.

Take exercise, inside or out.

Get Alexa to help with ideas and singalongs. Or even ‘jokes’.

Find something to do with your hands (and, therefore, brain).

Talk to people you know, virtually. Seeing the person makes it so much better (and easier when you have brain disease).

Ask not what society can do for you…but what you can do for yourself and others.

Just, I dunno, just think positive and do things.

Just do it. You can. You really can.

…….

[I hope this blog does not upset people. It’s not meant to be a lecture, rather an exhortation and encouragement.]

Dementia in a time of plague

It’s lock down time.

Lock up your daughters, and your sons. Your wife and your husband. Your mum and dad.

Lock down yourself.

Turn the radio off if you want to keep sane amidst madness. Or at least the news.

Does it matter much which day of the week it is?

(Anyway, who decided we should have a seven day week? Why not a seventeen day week?

Why not 7 months of 52 days each? With a requirement to rest every fourth day?

I have taken off my watch. Yes, I still have time on my iphone, but it does liberate a little.

I’m not enjoying reading the Guardian as much, since it is stuffed with Big V stuff. I must look harder for the other things of life.

ZOOM is taking off big time.

I even got an NHS Trust using it because the staff working from home couldn’t get the official webinar thing to work for them. They love ZOOM now. As do my family.

And I can mute them when they say things I don’t want to hear, if I’m quick enough.

I have got over my initial shock and discombobulation that was last week. It will return from time to time, but I am getting used to new routines, or lack of routines.

And I have today carved my third (working) whistle. Not an expert yet, but one day…

I will soon have to move on to something a bit more demanding, which is frightening, as I have very little pictorial artistic imagination. So patterns are good; snake heads pretty much impossible.

I had wobbles on a couple of DEEP ZOOM meetings this week. Everyone was talking about all the great ideas they have to keep people in contact, running singing online sessions, or, for god’s sake, radio shows! While I feel…actually, I don’t think I have the resilience to do that.

Oh yes, I am running a weekly ZOOM meeting for DEEP groups on Shropshire, or anyone else with dementia who wants to join. Publicised it on local radio this morning. But as I said in a meeting, you can have too much webinaring. Staring at the screen, with uncertain sound and transmission delays. It is great, but we have got to keep sane in this time of Big V.

I am blessed to have a huge garden, and lanes and fields to walk around.

I am blessed to have my younger son and daughter-in-law living eight miles away, and driving collection errands for us.

I am blessed to be able to grow plants and vegetables, to sit out in the sun, to hear the birds as they grow in confidence this spring.

And I am blessed to be able to forget the whole damn Big V thing if I choose to.

Cos I don’t see anyone!

It is so quiet. Extraordinarily quiet.

….

So I put together a few simple suggestions for people living with dementia and their families during this time of plague. These are pretty much based on things I have heard in recent ZOOM meetings.

Keep exercising your faculties. Keep speaking, even though there may be no one to listen. Read a book aloud. I suggested to one lovely woman she should read Wordsworth’s The Prelude, since she loves the Lake District. (You know who!) And why not record sections and send them to friends. It’s good to have a reason.

Send them to me. I’d rather listen than read it all.

Write real letters, by hand. Good motor control and you probably think more as you write.

I am going to write a letter to my children, just in case…put it in the safe.

Play cards, the old games like snap and rummy. Play dominoes.

Draw.

Learn a new skill. Mine is carving wood that I find on my walks. But you could learn to recognise bird songs. Or about law. Or how to sail a boat. Or the latin names of the plants you see on your walks and in your garden.

Do the quick crosswords (if you can stand the torture).

Take a virtual tour of art galleries and museums.

Just for fun.

Just for fun. Isn’t it nice to remember those words…just for fun.

….

Now it’s time for another walk with Lupin.

I am reminded of a little snippet from Dostoyevsky’s The Brother Karamazov, which I think I got through in my early twenties. A leading character, one of the brothers, says one day:

“Gentlemen, I have had a good dream.”

Today is a good day for me. It’s sumptuously sunny, and gloriously grand.

Come on, Lupin. Enjoy it while it lasts.