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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
There is a lot going on with Parkinson’s and research currently including two programmes on BBC2 starting at 9pm today, February 28th, which look at the drug GDNF delivered directly into the brain. Encouraging signs of a breakthrough perhaps?
One morning recently I received emails from both Dance for Parkinson’s in London and the class I visit when in Australia both telling me about the World Parkinson Conference in Kyoto, Japan, in June. It aims to give hope and raise awareness of the disease globally. Traditionally it was believed that if you folded 1000 origami your wish would come true. It has become a symbol of hope and healing during challenging times. Members of the Parkinson community who love to dance and move have been invited to create a dance piece inspired by the origami cranes (paper birds) in the art installation “Soaring with Hope”. Both groups that I belong to are submitting videos for this challenge which is exciting news
One of the main reasons we were in Australia at this time was to spend a week of looking after Handsome Henry while the lovely daughter was working in New York. Amazingly he slept every night and we were feeling a bit smug as we prepared to hand him back when crash, he fell over with us standing next to him and a large lump appeared on his forehead and a streaming cold began. A comb over was order of the day !
On the final day of our visit “Down Under” we spent the morning in the beautiful Botanical Gardens in Melbourne which is my favourite place to go. It is so peaceful and shady.
In the Botanical Gardens, Melbourne, with Handsom Henry.
We then began the long journey back, returning on the new Boeing Dreamliner which flies from Melbourne to Perth and then a seventeen hour flight to London Heathrow. I am not sure I would travel on that route again, it was exhausting! We arrived home to find daffodils in full bloom and beautiful sunny weather; not such a bad place to be!