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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Down Your Way

Having been somewhat under the weather recently I have taken to resting in the afternoons and, thunderstorms permitting, listening to BBC radio via my laptop.

Thanks to the time difference the Test Match coverage is over by lunchtime, so the whole range of the iPlayer is open to me….but I’ve been disappointed much of the time by the standard of what is on offer.
Perhaps I wouldn’t be so tetchy were I on top form, but it’s because I’m not on top form that I want to listen to something stimulating and informative.

Still, given that the bumbrushers to big business now running Britain want to reduce the BBC to a muppet show I suppose I had best make the most of what there is while it lasts.

Music – the alternative to the spoken voice – is somewhat curtailed since the arrival of the pups.
They have objections to counter tenors so Purcell’s ‘Sound the Trumpet’ is out…

As is ‘No lo diro col labbro’ from ‘ Handel’s ‘Tolomeo’….

The singer’s lips may not have the courage to utter, but the pups have no such inhibitions. Heads flung back they give it laldy with both barrels.

However they have no such objections to the song derived from the above; ‘Silent Worship’….

Unfortunately I do…much though I enjoy Thomas Allen’s voice I find the lyrics syrupy, so for now on the music front it is pups 15, me love.

What has astonished me is to find re runs of programmes I remember from way back….in ‘The Navy Lark’ Sub-Lieutenant Phillips is still to be found navigating HMS Troutbridge with his unique command of ‘Left hand down a bit’ which results inevitably in an unwanted encounter between several tons of moving warship and several more tons of immovable jetty to cries of ‘Everybody down!’ from the conniving Chief Petty Officer Pertwee to be followed by the wrath of ‘Old Thunderguts’ – Captain Povey.

A period piece now – Britain still had a navy when that series went out after all – and far from ‘edgy’, it is still a delight of comic timing and shines like a jewel among the clumping ‘comedies’ of the current era – as does the superb later series of ‘Absolute Power’ with its commentary on the backstairs of the Blair years.

But, joy of joys, they are broadcasting ‘Round the Horne’ again.
This had my parents in stitches when first broadcast and listening to it now it astounds me that the scriptwriters got away with it in an era when prudery ruled the airwaves.
Especially when you consider that it was broadcast on Sunday afternoons.

Older and more aware of the sheer misery suffered by a man straitjacketed by his society’s rigidity I can still enjoy Kenneth Williams‘ in his persona as folk singer Wandering Syd Rumpo

A lesson in how what you read into something defines yourself.

‘Gardener’s Question Time’ is still going strong, though the egregious Bob Flowerdew has long replaced the gentleman who prefaced all replies to queries with the statement that ‘the answer lies in the soil’, but one old favourite not so far repeated is ‘Down Your Way’ a programme which visited towns and villages across England interviewing local residents.
While my father refused to listen to it, denouncing it as a load of claptrap from town clerks and town bores I found it interesting. In an age where we did not travel much it was an insight into how others lived and worked….and in that pre Thatcher era there were still trades and industries to be described!

‘Down Your Way’ came to mind when I was reading an item in the local on line news: a gentleman has been giving a series of reminiscences of his youth in the sixties and locates the shops bars and dance halls he knew, together with the names of the adults and children of his time….with Violetta’s help I can place most of the shops he talks about – and found too that one of the kids with whom he ran about seeking tips outside the bars is my lawyer!

This sort of thing, oral history, brings the town to life for me….in the same way that the books of George Ewart Evans – ‘Ask the Fellows who Cut the Hay’ and ‘Where Beards Wag All’ to name but two bring alive the life of the East Anglian farmhand from a century previous.
Those who wish to be superior decry what they call ‘anecdotal evidence’…but it is the very life of history.

So, what anecdotal evidence has been happening down my way recently?

Well, things are winding up for next year’s municipal elections so the current bunch of gross incompetents are counting on the short memory effect by a bout of sudden activity.

The alcalde (mayor) has been out and about drumming up grants from state institutions to pay for the obligatory study which has to be made before works can be done to repair or replace the many bridges either down or in a dangerous state during the length of his administration.
puriscal bridge
By the time he has the grants he reckons he will be back in power for another few years and the bridges can be forgotten until next time.

This is unlikely to gain him many votes among the indigenous community at Zapaton whose road exit has not been repaired since the great washout of a year ago, leaving many elderly people prisoners in their houses.
zapaton

Mark you, he may not even be put up as his party’s candidate as well founded rumour has it that among the four up for the job is one who will be in the toils of the courts in short order, so painting the podium in the park in his party’s colours may not pay off after all.
park puriscal

Still, he may yet be of service to the community…
puriscal dustcart
Following the travails of the municipal bulldozer, the municipal dustcart has been out of action for some time…perhaps the added weight of the alcalde will encourage its compaction unit to work as it should.
Well worth a try.

And we have had visitors.
IMG_2807
A pair of black bellied whistling ducks.
They have been feeding with our lot for a few days now, so I’m in hopes that they will stay.
Unlike the alcalde.