14 February, 2018
I saw a programme on UK television recently. Today is St Valentine’s Day and so it seems right to mention it now. We all enjoy a love story and this was one of the finest I have come across for a long time.
A husband and wife, now retired after busy lives in the theatre, were going along a canal in a boat. But this was more than a canal journey. It was a triumphal progress. It was a masterclass in how to tackle dementia and old age. There was no rush, for canal journeys have their own rhythm, but it was a slow-moving lesson in what can be accomplished when life changes.
Probably the pace was too gentle to be enjoyed by anyone under 50 unless they have a vivid imagination and can understand what it is like to lose one’s agility and reflexes and, more importantly, one’s memory. For those older than 50 it says, ‘Look. Watch this, and when things become hard to deal with, remember what can be done!’
So the programme deals with canals, boats and canal locks but really it is quiet and gentle advice on how to tackle an illness which is hard to accept.
Let me explain.
Now in their 80s, two well-known actors, Timothy West and Prunella Scales, take a boat along a canal. The journeys begin in England but later adventures take place in Europe and even in India. Prunella is suffering from dementia and instead of hiding this, she and her husband show how they are tackling it. Timothy says ‘Pru’s memory is not what it was’ at the beginning of the programme. Prunella simply adds ‘It’s a bit of a nuisance but it doesn’t stop me remembering how to make the skipper a cup of tea.’ Nothing more is mentioned.
They negotiate locks and pass fields and villages. They gaze at mountains and valleys and comment on the scenery as they go. They chat to each other about what they are seeing now and what they remember from other canal trips in the past. They have each other for company and they are content.
They simply get on with the job in hand. Cheerfully. Day by day. They enjoy what they are doing. How well they do it too!