I have just come back from a trip down to Dorset to stay with my dad.
My dad lives in a beautiful small north Dorset town, and it should be (and mainly is) a pleasure to visit. If you take out the M1 and the section of the A303 where it passes Stonehenge, the journey is relatively relaxing and there are plenty of lay-bys with views to stop in. I can watch gliders land at an airfield as I drink slightly plasticky tea from my thermos, or check out the vintage clothing corner when I stop at the Antiques Centre to use the loo.
Whenever I visit my dad there are a few things that we always try to fit into the itinery:
• A day at the seaside with his dog, Isla
• A Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra concert
• An outing to the theatre
• A Track Day at dad’s Model Engineering Society in Yeovil
• A trip to the local men’s wear shop for a few pairs of the next size up trousers.
This, of course, is the ‘pleasure’ list, and neglects the ‘standard items’ list, which includes: washing bathmats, restocking continence pads, shopping, cooking, checking for unprocessed paperwork, taking dad to medical appointments, keeping the dog’s grooming and flea/worm treatments up-to-date, a visit to the tip with surplus rubbish (North Dorset District Council believe in tiny wheelie bins, and dad’s helpers often put the wrong one out so it isn’t collected), checking the carers’ log and taking over their role in supplying memory medication, meals, clean clothes, etc. I always go there thinking that I’ve left enough gaps in our plans to fit all this in, but inevitably end up needing an extra day or two with an additional list of things to do when I get back home.
On this particular visit our planned ‘day out at the seaside’ had been thwarted by a very wet weather forecast, so I asked dad what he would like to do instead. “Go to the theatre” was his instant response, but on checking out the local options we were rather limited (‘local’, in north Dorset speak, means between 22-30 miles away). The only contender was a production of Little Shop of Horrors at Salisbury Playhouse.
There are a couple of things worth noting here about my dad:
1. When he says he likes music, he means classical music – the full symphonic version and ideally Mahler not Mozart.
2. When he says he likes theatre he means plays, with words and straight from ‘a’ to ‘b’ storylines.
Nevertheless, dad’s love for a trip out was greater than my warnings about the nature of this weird and wonderful musical, and we found ourselves, accompanied by one of dad’s lovely neighbours, immersed in the seedy world of Skid Row and surrounded by joyful live rock and Mowtown.
Now apart from the Alzheimers, my dad is partially sighted with very little central vision at all. Most things appear as a bit of a blurry blob to him, and even the nature of the items on his dinner plate prove a challenge. You can imagine the impact of getting to grips with a people-eating plant that grows into a larger green blob with every scene! ‘Dazed and Confused’ is not simply the prerogative of Led Zeppelin.
Despite this, and the fact that the ‘music’ involved not only guitars but drums too, my dad clearly loved the experience. The theatre is the theatre, after all, and implausibly confusing plotlines can easily be compensated for by interval ice cream.
Reading my work out at Nottingham Writers’ Studio ‘Diamonds in the Rough’ session!
Enjoying dad’s pleasure as he inspected the steam trains during his Model Engineering Society Track Day. I can just picture him now, wandering between the engines with his oily peaked cap, head stooped, intent on fireboxes, water pressure and pipework.
© Anne de Gruchy 2015