Dance for Parkinson’s opens in Canning Town

Finally English National Ballet has moved to Canning Town in London and weekly classes will resume. It all sounds incredibly exciting but my journey will be more complicated and possibly longer. However, I plan to “give it a go” and attend the first class on October 5th. The initial class will be shorter and include a tour of the new building to help us find our way round. We have focused on Akram Khan’s “Giselle” for the first few visits and this weekend the group  travelled to Sadlers Wells to see a performance of the new version of the ballet which is very different from the classical most of us know. It is the second time I have seen it and I felt I understood and appreciated it more, the dancing was amazing.
In today’s Sunday Telegraph there is a thoughtful feature by BBC broadcaster Jane Hill whose father and uncle were both affected by Parkinson’s. There will also be two follow up radio programmes called “The Truth about Parkinson’s”.
Up till a few days ago we were lucky enough to have had a glorious, sunny and dry month. I have so enjoyed our trips to West Wittering and playing on the beach and sands. Wonderful to watch the enjoyment of our 2 year old grandson and join in the paddling! We have spent time too in several National Trust properties in Sussex  particularly Nymans, plenty of open spaces for a toddler!

Tennyson Down on the Isle of Wight.

We were also blessed with long fine days on the Isle of Wight which we revisited after an absence of many years.
We climbed Tennyson Down, (see photo),visited Osbourne House and reminisced over holidays when we were young.

 

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A suntan just isn’t worth it with Parkinson’s

Many years ago, while a student, I lived on Brighton seafront. If you didn’t have a suntan by the end of April  you weren’t worth knowing!

However, this summer has experienced some days when temperatures have soared to more than 33C and I find myself seeking the comparative coolness of the lounge with a fan switched on continuously. This change has come about for two reasons. Firstly, I realise taking care of your skin is pretty important as you get older and, secondly, I don’t think Parkinson’s tolerates extremes of temperature very well. Apparently in hot conditions the body uses extra energy to stay mobile. However, the Parkinson’s sufferer is lower on energy to begin with so when the body needs more you are likely to suffer from increased symptoms which can include dizziness and fatigue.
To celebrate becoming 70 years young the dashing son kindly agreed to spend the day with me in Sevenoaks in Kent, the town where I lived from the age of two until eighteen. I  had a wonderful day looking at my old homes and reminiscing about my schooldays and growing up in the 50’s and 60’s. We even managed a walk in Knole Park, still stunningly beautiful. It was a day to treasure.

My first home in Sevenoaks ..1951!

Back home the lovely daughter and handsome Henry are well settled. Life is hectic but wonderful. I have a nap some afternoons to try and allow me to stay up till 9 o’clock at least! I love hearing his language develop, new words every day. Perhaps a little less of “no” would be quite nice!

 

A Garden for Parkinson’s

This month has seen the opening of a garden for Parkinson’s in a park in Haywards Heath. There are raised beds with mixed planting to enable anyone in a wheelchair, or using a stick, to access this new facility. Local dignitaries there for this special occasion included two Mayors, with their chains of office, looking very splendid. James Morgan, a world renowned composer and conductor and young onset Parkinson’s sufferer living nearby, cut the ribbon. The Chief Executive of Parkinson’s UK, Steve Ford, came to support the local Branch. He was very easy to talk to and it turned out that his wife and I went to the same school!

James Morgan (left) & Steve Ford open the Parkinson’s garden.

The weather has been hot and sunny for much of July allowing the lovely daughter, Handsome Henry and myself to enjoy days on the sandy beach at West Wittering in Sussex. He was initially unsure about the sea but gradually grew in confidence, running in and out of the sea and building his first sandcastle.

The beach at West Wittering, Sussex.

I was pleased that despite having had Parkinson’s for more than six years, and now being seventy, I could still join in the fun!

 

Give the local Parkinson’s Group a “go”

It is nearly seven years since I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. For the first few years I had very little to do with the local Parkinson’s support group apart from joining the jazz choir, to which I still belong. As time has gone by I have begun to appreciate how much help they provide for sufferers and their carers. The “Shakers and Movers” magazine, produced every 2 months by the local support group gives details of exercise classes and communication skills groups. The monthly branch meeting has visiting speakers, musicians and offers many other activities. I recently joined the committee and have been impressed by everything that is available and the dedication of the local organisers. It’s never easy to go along to a group the first time but it is worth giving it a go; you might be very pleasantly surprised!
Regular readers of the Blog will know that my favourite Parkinson’s new skill is Dance for Parkinson’s run by English National Ballet, originally in Kensington but to be in their new headquarters in Canning Town, hopefully later this year. This has not been popular with the “dancers”, I just hope it works.  Currently about 20 of us meet in a room at the Royal Albert Hall once a month for a fabulous class. This month we had the opportunity to watch Cinderella “in the round”, wonderful, just like attending a blockbuster film! As we had been learning some of the mime from the ballet it was a  fabulous occasion.
Back at home the Lovely  Daughter and Handsome Henry have been able to admire the lush green of the English countryside. It would be very nice now if we could have sunshine as well to convince them of the benefits of returning to the UK….

The 40+30 Birthday Cake cutting!

With  a 70th and a 2nd birthday to celebrate this month we have been busy.

 

The Optimist

Earlier this month I went to hear Paul Mayhew Archer talk about his life with Parkinson’s at the Komedia theatre in Brighton. It was the first time I had been there for 50 years and I felt very nostalgic when staff stamped your wrist; it reminded me of student days at discos.
Paul quickly had the audience in stitches as he told anecdotes of life with Parkinson’s interlaced with stories of his career. He is probably best known for co writing the “Vicar of Dibley” with Richard Curtis and comedies such as “Mrs Brown’s Boys”. He decided when he was told he had Parkinson’s that he was going to be an optimist and look for humour in every day life. The hour of comedy sped along with much laughter. Paul decided to go on tour with his show following success at last years Edinburgh festival, certainly the audience loved it!
I asked him how he was getting on with writing a “rom com” about a romance in a Dance for Parkinson Class. He chuckled as he explained that he could write the first two parts but was having trouble about what happened next,
We all left the theatre feeling uplifted!

Paul Mayhew Archer and I at The Komedia Brighton.

The local Parkinson’s group held a pop up coffee morning recently. It is a great idea. Anyone wanting to find out about or share experiences of the  condition is invited to come along for free coffee and cake and chat.

The Lovely Daughter and Handsome Henry, plus Billy the 6kg cat, are now settled back in Sussex with us. Suddenly being awake early in the morning is no longer a solitary time but an opportunity to play with toy cars and Thomas the Tank Engine! My fumbly fingers may find nappy changing tricky but I can play endlessly on the carpet with a 2 year old toddler!

A simple act of kindness in Parkinson’s awareness week

Recently it was Parkinson’s awareness week and lots of amazing people were raising money to help find a cure and make the lives of the 127,000 UK sufferers a little easier.
A wonderful story caught the attention of the social media and  went viral.
A man was travelling in Wales and wanted to get off the train but he suddenly froze, unable to move in any direction. A young girl saw his difficulty and asked if he needed help; she knew a little about Parkinson’s and was able to give him the support he needed to get off the train at his stop. The power of the Internet made it possible to find  the name of the student and bring the two together on television in an emotional meeting. It could have been easy for fellow travellers to assume that this was someone who was drunk, a situation that can often happen to people with Parkinson’s. This charitable response will hopefully encourage more people to be good Samaritans.
At the beginning of April the Dance for Parkinson’s class met in the Royal Albert Hall and discovered a camera crew from BBC London News waiting to record the session. We enjoyed another great meeting learning about the ballet Cinderella with lots of mime and music which was broadcast that evening. I think it gave all the participants a real boost and we left feeling energised and ready to fight our everyday challenges.
A sponsored walk was held locally this month in a nearby park and raised more than £800 to help fund local Parkinson’s UK (PUK) projects.
The local PUK group brought a group from a nearby nursing home to the April meeting, following up on visit made a few weeks earlier. It was lovely to see them again. The ukulele music and sing along was popular with all and hopefully we can continue this initiative, reaching out to those who need some help to access support.
Our family is about to see some big changes!  The lovely daughter and Handsome Henry are set to return to England after twelve years in Australia. It will be lovely to share their lives more and be there to help when needed. Bille the cat has arrived first, having just collected him from Heathrow after his long flight; he will need lots of time to rest and adjust to his new surroundings.

Sussex bluebells.

Spring is definitely here. I helped lead a walk through the bluebell woods this week, a beautiful experience. Let’s hope that the sunshine of the Easter weekend continues.

 

Challenges of Parkinson’s

We have been home from Australia for a month now and, at last , we are catching up with appointments, jobs to do and friends.

The local Parkinson’s UK group held it’s AGM  this month and I am now confirmed as a committee member. They would like to reach out to members who are in later stages of the condition and look at ways of helping them. With this in mind we recently visited a local nursing home to chat over coffee. As would be expected we talked to any residents who were near us! Their war experiences were the favourite topic and I learnt lots about life as a child evacuee. We plan to offer transport to one of the monthly meetings.

At the beginning of the month I went to a Dance for Parkinson’s class in the Royal Albert Hall. They had cleared a bar on the 3rd floor and we focused on Swan Lake. Lovely music of course and we had a pianist. We learnt some of the gestures and linked together a series of movements, lots of concentration involved! It was a sunny day and the window was open. What an amazing view looking directly across to the golden statue of Prince Albert. I look forward to the next class on Cinderella.

The golden statue of Prince Albert

I watched the recent two programmes on BBC2 entitled “A Miracle Cure?” about a research project for Parkinson’s which involved complex brain surgery and months of drug infusions with a protein (GDNF) that supports the survival of brain cells including the cells lost in Parkinson’s. (GDNF is Glial cell line Derived Neurotropic Factor). In many ways they showed a possible way forward but I found it all rather depressing. Things are obviously not about to change in the near future.

At the beginning of May we are going to see Paul Mayhew-Archer present his one-man show “The Incurable Optimist”. Paul is well known as a co writer of comedy programmes such as The Vicar of Dibley. He was first diagnosed about the same time as me so it should be interesting and funny. Having heard part of his act at the Edinburgh festival, and seen him talk about his life on television,  I am looking forward to it!

Whilst I am becoming more aware of the challenges of Parkinson’s I am still able to carry on as normal with a few adjustments. I still drive but only locally and I accept I might need a nap some afternoons!

The beginning of Spring is always an uplifting time …… I always enjoy walking through the bluebell woods.