Monthly Archives: May 2016

If those lips could only speak, if those eyes could only see…

This old song, describing the sorrows of a man recalling his dead wife while standing before her portrait, was  sung by my mother’s mother when one of her daughters would play the piano after supper on Sunday visits.

She sang only a few favourites….one, whose verses I no longer remember though the tune remains, had a chorus:

‘Pull down the blind,

Don’t be unkind,

Someone’s a-looking, dear,

Pull down the blind.

‘Silver threads among the gold’ would signal the end of music for the night and was the prelude to the hunt for coats, gloves and bags, the issue of tins containing  home made cake and the sortie into the night air – I always remember it as being chill – to walk down to the bus stop, the lights of the main road visible at the end of the long lane from the house.

This came back to mind after listening to a programme on BBC Radio 2 which was part of a week when the Beeb concentrated on mental health awareness.

This might be a link: the programme was called ‘Dennis Skinner vs Dementia’

It was presented by someone called Jeremy Vine, whom I imagine to be some regular chat show host and took the form of an  interview in which Dennis Skinner described his mother’s descent into dementia, and how he came to realise that music evoked a response from a woman who no longer recognised her own family and brought her alive in herself.

Who is Dennis Skinner?

dennis skinner

He is now 84 years of age and has been Member of Parliament for the seat of Bolsover in Derbyshire since 1970 in the interest of the Labour Party.

A rarity in modern politics he has worked for a living in a hard business –  coal mining – and gained experience in local government before his first election to Parliament where he made it his business to master the procedures of the House of Commons in order to best further his aims of protecting and promoting  the rights of the weak in society.

Mark you, anyone who could understand and manipulate the rules of the compositing committees for the Annual Conferences of the National Union of Mineworkers and the Labour Party would have had no problem with the centuries’ old arcanae of the Mother of Parliaments.

Child’s play.

Known as the Beast of Bolsover he has gained a fearsome reputation for his impassioned attacks on Tory ministers;  frequently expelled from the House for his use of unparliamentary language, he is anathema to the blue rinse brigade and this was reflected in the presentation of the programme where Vine continually wailed that the listeners were not obliged to agree with one word Skinner said, nor approve of his political views…

I can’t imagine he would have found this caution necessary had the programme featured on of the Tory party Big Beasts – nomatter how objectionable their views on the deliberate impoverishment of the working class and the ruination of the NHS.

However, the meat of the programme was a description of Skinner’s attempts to communicate with a mother who no longer knew him, nor any of the other children she had slaved to bring up.

Finally he remembered from his childhood that when she was working – cooking, washing, ironing  – she was always singing! So on one visit home he took her to a quiet part of the park and began to sing one of the songs from the musicals  that she had loved…and in seconds she was singing along with him.

It did not bring about communication, or recognition, but for the length of the song it restored that woman to herself.

It is dreadful for the people who lose a loved one to dementia…but how much more dreadful for the sufferers themselves, cast adrift in a world with no compass….

Rest after toil

Port after stormy Seas

Ease after war

Death after life doth greatly please.

Spencer’s words may apply to those who retain control of their world…but where is the port for those tossed on the tempests of dementia?

It appears that memories laid down early remain the longest and revival of those memories allow those with dementia to return to the self that they were, that they knew…if only for a short while, to find port after stormy seas.

Sing songs may be fine for older people…but what of younger ones, brought up on the ‘worble worble bleep bleep boom’ of video games when their time comes to encounter dementia?

Will someone  think to revive these blasts from the past in the way that Skinner does for the groups he visits on the care homes of his constituency?

There is no history of dementia in my family: just as well.

After all, where, in Costa Rica, would there be anyone who knew the words and music to

‘The Hole in the Elephant’s Bottom’.

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under BBC, dementia, musical therapy, Uncategorized

Let joy be unconfined..well, mine anyway…

puris sapo

I can write again!

No, I had not lost the use of hand or eye: I had lost the use of my USB mouse.

I was left with the ouija board on the laptop.

Does it transmit calls from the Other Side?

No…but it might as well because every time I touch it strange things arise from nowhere: I am thinking of calling it Glendower as it  defies Hotspur’s cynicism and produces the goods…

To be fair to it, my coordination is not of the best: but I am frustrated by thinking that I am scrolling down when in fact I am bringing up advertisements….or altering the screen proportions from something only seen on optician’s test sheets to an intense view of one word. Extremely frustrating and profoundly inhibiting.

How did my predicament come about?

My ancient USB mouse had been confiscated by Higher Authority.

Higher Authority’s approach to computers could best be envisaged by imagining him shouting ‘Montjoie St. Denis!’ while hoisting the oriflamme to indicate that no quarter will be given as he prepares to give combat.

The results frequently resemble those of the French at Agincourt…

Squawks of frustration and alarm are heard from the office. Dogs slink under tables.

An infuriated figure appears, announcing that the screen has  turned purple…or that the page he was looking at has disappeared…or that EVERYTHING has disappeared….

He returns to the fray, only to emerge again with the news that his mouse won’t work.

As it is

A: made in China

and

B: its functioning depends on a batch of rechargeable batteries purchased in France in the Dark Ages which in turn rely for boosting on a temperamental machine which refuses to light up to indicate whether or not it is working

this doesn’t surprise me.

The saga of changing and charging batteries takes its course until we run out of charged batteries and the fatal announcement is made:

You’ll have to give me your USB mouse.

Which leaves the household in peace again – odd occurrences of purple screens apart – but leaves me with the ouija board.

Usually this situation lasts only until the batteries are all charged again…but this time it has lasted for all too long. Higher Authority likes my old USB mouse far better than his fiendishly clever Chinese one – easier to hold for paralysed fingers.

Why not buy another?

Because this is Costa Rica where maintaining stock is an art yet to be acquired by shopkeepers.

Discovering a void on the shelf where the item used to be you ask the young assistant if there are any more in the stock room.

Obligingly he will disappear and return to tell you, beaming the while, that they are out of stock, adding helpfully that they must have sold them all..

It says a great deal for the effect on me of the pleasant way of life in Costa Rica in general that this response does not elicit – as it would have done in France – the urge to disembowel the lad without the assistance of cutlery: but then in France he probably wouldn’t have gone to look in the stockroom either…….He might even have shrugged.

So I have had to wait until the inscrutable workings of Providence filled the shelf with the items I required.

The young lad was in attendance again, beaming.

But why did I want a USB mouse he wished to know. They were old fashioned. He understood that old people (me) didn’t keep up to date, but I should really go for a wireless mouse – much better!

I thanked him for his advice, but  declined.

Best to let sleeping mice lie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

41 Comments

Filed under Costa Rica, shopping, Uncategorized