Mother may have dementia says the consultant

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Mother is back home after ten days in the hospital. She is the centre of a lot of attention and not just from us, her family.

She’s on the care list of the NHS integrated community response service team, which includes a nurse, a physiotherapist, an occupational therapist, a social care assistant, a social worker and her GP. Even a handyman. All have been in attendance as the Court Circular might say.

‘I’ve got more flunkies than the Queen,’ Mother says.

Does she have more flunkies than the Queen?

She’s wrong. The Queen has over 1,000 people in the Royal Household. But I see why she thinks that. There is a large number of people going in and out of her room asking her if she needs anything. I am certain of one thing – that not even the Knights and Ladies of the Garter could be more dedicated than Mother’s band of NHS helpers.

It’s not just their practical help that’s impressive. It’s the way they speak to her. The tone in their voices sounds almost like love. I wonder if I sound as considerate when I speak to her? I am not sure I do.

I’ve nicknamed Mother’s helpers theA-Team. It’s my homage to the soldiers of fortune in the 1980s TV series, who specialised in getting people out of dodgy situations, which the legal authorities couldn’t handle. Which is exactly what this team have done for Mother: got her out of hospital, where she didn’t want to be, and got her back home with us, where she did.

Her carers are like the A-Team without the guns

The only difference between the A-Team and Mother’s care team is that the NHS team is armed only with blood pressure monitors, pills and PPE; not tanks, rifles and grenades. That said, if Mother asked them to get her a tank to go shopping, I’m sure they’d sort it out and quickly.

‘Our mission is to do anything we can to stop her going back into hospital,’ said the unit’s head honcho, reminding me of the pipe puffing Colonel John ‘Hannibal’ Smith, leader of the fictitious A-Team.

Mother was taken to hospital after a fall. My daughter discovered her at seven in the morning on her back on the sisal carpet outside her bathroom, staring up at the skylight. Distressed and confused, she kept saying she didn’t want to disturb anyone. Could someone help her back to bed? I’ll be alright after a cup of tea, she said.  Of course, she wasn’t.

The ambulance crew put Mother back into bed. Her condition got worse quickly despite a lakeful of sweet tea. She became delusional: she saw a man knitting flowers in the trees outside her window. She thought I was her husband and our house was a hotel. After a few days, the ambulance came again.

In hospital they think she may have dementia

In hospital, they diagnosed an attack of acute delirium. But there were no broken bones. A CTI scan suggested her brain had shrunk, though. They said this wasn’t unusual in someone her age but to do a proper diagnosis her acute delirium had to be finished. She needed an appointment at the Memory Clinic.

‘Your Mother may have dementia,’ says the consultant. The word exploded shock waves through the family. What does this mean for her? For us?   

The day she returned home, she and I sat on the patio next to a wilting tomato plant in a terracotta vase. She talked for over an hour in the sun without pausing. A dam broke inside her and a rag bag of memories, questions and thoughts came flooding out. Is this the dementia? Is this how it’s going to be now, I thought?

A week later she is weaker, but seems to be recovering. It seems her her old sociable self has returned and when the community team come, she turns on the charm. It’s darling this, darling that. Lazarus walks again. The only strange thing is that she is speaking a weird Franglais to her carer who isn’t French. This is both bizarre and comic. Is it a sign that Mother may have dementia?

Why is she talking french to the carer?

‘Le toast est beaux,’ she says gratefully waving the half-eaten piece of toast the carer’s given her. ‘Tres bons, les eggs’

The carer smiles, patiently. I hope it doesn’t sound patronising.

‘She thinks the carer is French. She’s trying to be friendly by talking to her in her own language,’ says my wife. ‘It’s harmless.’

‘As long as she doesn’t start talking in tongues, we’re fine,’ says my son.

The doorbell goes. The delivery driver hands over a large box of books about dementia. The first one I pick up is called ‘Breakfast with the Centenarians’. Is this book a prophecy? A sign that she will be breakfasting with us in three years? I make a note to call the GP to see if Mother’s appointment at the Memory Clinic has been fixed yet.  

This blog first appeared in the Chiswick Calendar

Mother suffered an attack of acute delirium

Acute Delirium

The first time Mother suffered an attack of acute delirium I thought she was playing up.

It happened a month or more ago. She was in the sitting room watching Good Morning Britain on the TV and I was in the kitchen loading a large sausage sandwich into my mouth.

I could barely hear her calling with all the churning and jawing noises as the first bite of my sandwich did a gentle tour around my molars.

She’s just forgotten how to use the TV remote again, I thought. I’ve got a minute or two before she starts cursing more loudly. I’ll finish the sandwich and then pop through.

My sausage sandwich is as large as Stonehenge

After all, I said to myself, the pure pork sausage was from my favourite farmer Richard Vaughan, doyen of rare breeds, and deserved to be slowly savoured and respected.

Plus, I had garnished this Stonehenge of a sandwich with mayonnaise, mustard, gherkins and tomatoes, which meant it was packing upwards of 2,500 calories. This was more than double the number of daily calories I had pledged myself to eat under my new Bojo inspired ‘Calorie Cuts against Covid’ regime.

I decided that if I was going to blow the overdraft on my daily diet with one gob-filling breakfast sandwich I would at least eat it slowly, so I could enjoy the full flavour of my guilt in all its sausageness.

TV sets were better in the 1950s

There was another faint noise from the sitting room. I put the sausage sandwich in my mouth, like a harmonica, and walked into the sitting room.

I was ready for a tirade from her for not having come sooner or a rehash of the lecture she gave my son the last time she lost the TV remote. It’s one in which she says TV’s were better for you in the Fifties and Sixties because you had to walk over to them and press a button on the set if you wanted to switch channels.

‘You mean you had to get off the sofa to choose what you wanted to watch?’ asked my son, incredulous.

‘Yes,’ said Granny. ‘You had to make a choice and stick with it. Or get off your behind and change it. There was none of this channel surfing nonsense in those days.’

‘My God,’ said my son. ‘It must have been savage.’  

Mother is shaking uncontrollably

Instead of a lecture, I found Mother shaking uncontrollably at the ironing board. She was holding her hands out in front of her own. They were trembling uncontrollably. She was staring at them as if they were foreign part of her own body.

‘What’s happening to me,’ she asked, without anxiety, very softly.

Her feet and legs were jittering up and down, uncontrollably, and her head shook gently. It looked like she was in the process of being possessed.

‘I don’t know,’ I said.

‘Why can’t I stop shaking.’

‘I don’t know,’ I said. 

At first, I thought this is a heart attack or a stroke. But she was still alive. And we were talking to each other, even if some of what she said was feverish and non-sensical. So, it can’t be that bad I thought, calming down.

I call NHS 111

I resisted the urge to call 999 and spoke to NHS 111. When i got through they asked if she was taking anti-biotic pills for a urinary tract infection. These infections are common in old people but not lethal by themselves.

When I dug out her box of pills box it was clear she had not been taking her tablets. After a little persuasion, I managed to get her to take the antibiotics and got her into bed. She fell asleep quickly. I went downstairs and slumped onto the sofa.

The window cleaner appeared from nowhere and leant his ladder against the house. Hello, he bellowed. Windows, today. Why not I thought and went to pick up the sausage sandwich which lay on the carpet in two pieces like an open book. 

‘Can it happen, again,’ asked my wife, later that evening.

‘I hope not. It’s not a great experience,’ I said. 

First published in the Chiswick Calendar

Bad Grandma wants a dinner date with Mr Williamson

photo of woman showing her cellphone to her grandmother
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Dear Mr BoJo  

Re: Unleash Britain Fund Appeal

I received your charming fund-raising letter ‘Unleash Britain Fund’ (July 2020) and felt an immediate sense of pride.

It is not often ordinary mortals, like myself, receive such intimate and important letters from people of your stature.

In fact, I was so flattered I asked my grandchildren to stand to attention at the breakfast table while I read them your inspiring words.

Your appeal to the national spirit struck an immediate chord with them. They were so excited by your ideas for their future in the U.K. that they left the kitchen table the moment I finished reading your letter to ran upstairs to check if their passports were up to date. They tell me that they plan to emigrate immediately to help you in your goal of building a truly Global Britain. I can’t tell you how proud I felt.

Get a move on

I was going to point out to them they should get a move on. They will lose the right to live and work in the EU come January 2021 and we can’t expect the intransigent and truculent Mr Barnier to do them any favours in the Brexit negotiations.

But I didn’t because, as you know, young people can’t handle the truth. Jeez! If they knew what was really going on there’d be a permanent picket outside Downing Street!

Anyway, back to the business of your letter.

Precarious finances?

I was shocked to find out how precarious the Tory party finances are. I thought the contributions from Mr Desmond, various gentle folk from Russia and the so-called swivel-eyed loonies who have re-joined you from Mr Farage’s old party meant the party finances were ship shape and Bristol fashion. Clearly, I was mistaken. 

I detest the idea of political parties competing for votes on the basis of equal budgets, like you. I am also terrified about what might happen if young people wake up and start voting, so I am willing to donate to your fund safe in the knowledge the Tory party will always prioritise me and my peer group over the whipper snappers.

But what can I get for £20?

A dinner date with Mr Williamson?

I am not naïve enough to think £20 will get me to a Guild Hall dinner. But what Bad Grandma really wants is a dinner date with Mr Williamson who has very shapely buttocks. Is this possible? Or Mr Hancock? I imagine both will have some spare time for fund raising duties after the Autumn reshuffle.

If neither of these is available, I will settle for tea with Mr Jenrick, as my son-in-law has a problem with planning permission for his new garden shed.

Yours sincerely  

Bad Grandma


Might your father be available? If so I might stretch to £100.


If you send Mr Williams please ask him to bring one of his whips.

Will the exam fiasco trigger a children’s crusade?

Gavin Williamson interviewing for the post of janitor at the US Embassy. Sadly, he was told later he didn’t have the grades to qualify for the position.

Will the exam fiasco will trigger a new children’s crusade? I don’t mean a medieval religious crusade like the one in 1212.  Only a lunatic or Donald Trump would consider an actual religious crusade now.

But might it trigger a modern children’s ‘Grade Crusade’ to reclaim the confiscated exam results stored in the vaults of the mean spirited Ofqual? Or a siege to set the department of education free from U grade management aka Gavin Williamson, perhaps?

Is this a new children’s crusade?

Looking at the news, this is what appears to be happening right now in the UK. History is repeating itself. Outraged by an algorithm, young people have actually taken to the street to protest and not just vented their spleen on social media.

Good on them. I am all for young people asserting their rights, especially when it appears the so-called grown-ups don’t know what to do. After all, if they won’t fight their own fights, who will?

I’m too busy worrying about Mother’s health, the miserably low annuity rate I’m going to get for my pension pot when I retire and England’s fragile middle order batting to do their protesting for them.

My days as a street fighting man are gone, so my only advice to them is not to sit down in the cycle lanes, because if you block Jeremy Vine’s cycle route home there will be all hell to pay.

Don’t organise a sit down in the cycle lanes

And protesting nowadays isn’t too tough. The young people on the original thirteenth century crusade to Jerusalem spent weeks trekking across the Alps by foot. This generation can get to Westminster by tube in thirty minutes, stage a sit-down and be back in time for supper.

Though it is true TfL have cut free fares for under 18s which means they’ll have to pay to stage their protest. This may stick in the throat of some young protestors or even dissuade them from coming. It may feel like another inter-generational kick in the teeth to set alongside Climate Change, Brexit and house prices. But let’s hope that doesn’t stop them.

I pray the fate of their medieval peers does not put them off protesting, either. Two dodgy dealers – William of Posqueres and Hugh the Iron – sold the original lot into slavery in Tunisia which isn’t likely to happen to this generation because of international human rights legislation. Besides, the logistical task of transporting thousands of young protestors to a foreign shore is beyond this government unless it recalls ferryman-in-chief Chris Grayling.

Why was Hugh called ‘The Iron’?

I am distracted from my outrage for a moment. Where did Hugh the Iron got his name? Did someone give it to him? Like Bob Monkhouse gave Bernie his nickname ‘The Bolt’ on the TV show the ‘Golden Shot’? Was Hugh the Iron a medieval metrosexual trailblazer who earned his nickname for ironing his own shirts when this a job for women and outlawed for men under Church Ordinance?

‘Listen to this joke,’ my son says. ‘What’s Gavin Williamson’s favourite type of shoe?

‘I don’t know,’ I say.

‘Flip-flops,’ he says.

I hope the joke is right. Sometimes flip flopping is the right thing to do, even if it makes you look a bit of a clown.

The mystery of the Colman’s mustard tin

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‘Mrs. Johnson. Dr Smith will see you now.’

I am in the queue at the family clinic waiting to help Mother show the doctor her right leg which has turned blue like an uncooked lobster and ballooned up again. 

‘Mrs. Johnson?’

The doctor’s surgery makes me anxious. The people in it are ill or withering away. The atmosphere is hesitant. It’s a picture of an inevitable future: mine. And I resent being reminded of this future now. I feel like a dog having its nose rubbed in a mess it hasn’t yet committed.


The young receptionist’s voice is suddenly as loud as a fog horn.

Like a flash mob everyone in the reception comes alive, turning around to find Mrs. Johnson. Suddenly, we’re all playing the NHS version of ‘Where’s Wally?’.

Some of the waiting patients call out ‘Mrs. Johnson’, softly. They want to help but because they are British they don’t want to do it too loudly or enthusiastically. One or two women look furtive, as if they might actually be Mrs. Johnson, but don’t want to admit it now, because it would be too embarrassing to be the centre of all this fuss.

Is there an NHS fast track pass?

I wonder if there is a prize for finding her, for example, an NHS Fast Track Pass which takes you straight to the front of the queue whatever your ailment?

Even if there isn’t, I want Mrs. Johnson to step forward soon because it will help me and Mother get in and out of the clinic quicker. It’s a selfish thought and I blame my ‘surgery stress’.

The person standing in front of me moves aside. I step forward to give the receptionist my Mother’s date of birth. I feel my mood tick up because checking in is one step closer to checking out. 

‘We love your Mother here,’ says the receptionist, standing up to wave to Mother. ‘She makes us laugh so much.’

‘I should bring her more often then,’ I say.

‘Why would you do that?’ asks the receptionist, wondering what sort of son would take his mother to the doctor more often than is strictly necessary. 

‘To cheer up the punters?’ I say.

I must remember my wife’s warning

The look on the receptionist’s face reminds me of my wife’s warning. When you’re with people you don’t know, don’t try to be funny, she says. Your sense of humour is problematic and many find it offensive. In fact, as a general rule, it’s best to keep your personality under wraps whenever you’re outside the family bubble. You’re a very slowly acquired taste, she says.

The receptionist is still looking at me, curiously. Is she about to push the panic button below her desk?

‘Your Mother brings her urine samples to us in a Colman’s Mustard tin. You know, the ones normally filled with mustard powder,’ she explains.

NHS staff are usually professional and kind. But surely this one is literally taking the piss? Really? I ask. Yes, she says. In a Colman’s Mustard tin, she says. She looks me straight in the eye. 

What is the mystery of the Colman’s mustard tin?

‘But how does she get her urine into a Colman’s Mustard tin? She can barely bend down to put her socks on.’

‘Isn’t the important question whose mustard tin she uses and what happens to it once she’s finished?’

One of the challenges in looking after your old parents is you learn things about them which you never knew before. Sometimes these things are uplifting. Other times, they are not. This is one of the latter.

As the doctor inspects Mother’s lobster leg, I begin to think that I will ask Mother about the Colman’s mustard tin. It can’t be hygienic to transport urine samples in mustard powder tins, so I have a duty to investigate. To lift the lid off the Colman’s mustard tin mystery.

‘The receptionist says you take them your urine samples in a Colman’s Mustard tin?’ I say, as we walk to the car.

‘Colonel Mustard?’ she asks.

She hasn’t got a ‘Cluedo’ what I’m talking about I jest to myself and then ask her again, more slowly, if she takes her urine samples to the doctor’s in a Colman’s Mustard tin.

Last time she used an eggbox

‘Yes,’ she says. ‘But I lost the mustard tin so I used an egg box last time, instead.’

‘Don’t they give you a test tube?’

‘Of course, they give me a test tube. I fill the test tube and then put it into a mustard tin so if the glass breaks it won’t ruin my handbag. What did you think I do with the mustard tin?’

I can’t answer this question without looking like an idiot or a pervert.

‘I’ll buy you a new mustard tin on the way home,’ I say wishing I had never tried to solve the mystery of the Colman’s mustard tin.

This article first appeared in the Chiswick Calendar