Sunday 24 December 2006


Maybe I needn't bother sending Mum presents in future, as this year she automatically rang me up when things came through the door and thanked me whether I'd sent them or not. She doesn't read or maybe mislays any cards. My flowers arrived today, as ordered, thankfully.

Mum wanted me to contact my brother-in-law a couple of days ago. It's indicative of how she is mentally. She rang me up in some confusion to say that she'd had an envelope through her door addressed to him, and she asked what she should do about it. At first I took it that she was penny-pinching again and balking at the thought of buying a stamp. She's funny that way: she'll happily send off £250 to charity, but is flabbergasted by the expense of a 50p stamp. On investigation, and this took her about 10 different attempts before I could get the picture (she really can't describe the same thing twice without it sounding contrary), it turned out that the envelope was addressed by name only, as if it had been hand-delivered. However, when she said there was a sticker on the envelope, I suspected that this covered the original address, which was probably our old house (no point in explaining to Mum). It was about 30 minutes into our Q&A session that she let slip that the envelope was empty.... So she wanted to know if she should forward an empty envelope to my brother-in-law.... It's possible but unlikely that the envelope was opened and accidentally forwarded empty by the new owners of the house. It's far MORE likely that Mum opened it, put the contents on her vast heap of papers that cover her dining table, and then came across the envelope a few days later. Either that or it contained a Christmas card, which she's got on display without realising that it's not for her. I know it's pointless investigating further - what a frustrating telephone call!

Thursday 12 October 2006

nobody's birthday 2

The phone rings.
"Morning. Listen, I haven't got long because my Chiropodist is coming, but I wanted to tell you that I've got a card for you. I'm sorry I didn't get it off on time, but it's a nice card."
"Mum, there's no rush. There are about 20 days 'til my Birthday."
[sounds of consternation]
"Mum, do you know what date it is?"
"Now listen, I haven't got time for this. I've got to concentrate on my feet now"
"Your Chiropodist hasn't come yet, Mum. What date is it?"
"It's the 11th October"
"Close Mum. That was yesterday. Now we had this conversation yesterday..."
"Please leave me alone, after all it IS my Birthday!"
"No it ISN'T!"

etc etc

I can't believe it! Two days on the trot! Then she started insisting that she had £3000 in her current account, which cannot be. I had to force her to go to the bedroom and read her statement out to me. Triumphantly, she read out, "CASH ISA £3000" as if that meant "Current Account"....

It was today I thought about starting this blog.

about 10 minutes later...

Ring Ring
"I've got a parcel here from amazon. I suppose that's from your brother-in-law?"
"Could be"
"Okay, well, I'll open that later"
"Okay, I'll open it tomorrow then."
"NO, tomorrow isn't your birthday.... Look Mum, why don't you wait for ME to tell YOU when it is your birthday?"
"Alright then"

Wednesday 11 October 2006

nobody's birthday

First thing in the morning, my phone rings.
"Happy Birthday!". I take a moment to just let that settle on me.

"Mum, it's not my Birthday today. My Birthday is on the 1st of November".
" what day is it today?"
"It's the 11th of October today, Mum."
"The 11th of October"
"We've not even had YOUR Birthday yet, Mum."
"Well, I've got your card today, it says 'Not to be opened until the 14th October' on it."
"Mum, that's not from me. I haven't sent your card yet"
"Well, who COULD it be from, then?"

I'm not sure why the above has upset me particularly more than the usual stuff. Perhaps, because my Birthday is personal to me, I've taken it personally?

It used to be evenings when Mum lost her edge.

Sunday 8 October 2006

paying for company

Mum rang this afternoon to tell me that she was buying herself a new microwave. Apparently the "old" one had just stopped working. She got pretty shirty when I suggested that she ask the Warden try replacing the fuse first, and it became obvious that she just wanted to BUY something. As the conversation progressed it turned out that she'd already called her preferred store in the nearby town who "are very good" and that the new one would cost around £40. I asked about delivery, but she insisted that delivery and installation were free. I pointed out that if she had rung me first, I could have given her several options on-line and arranged delivery for less, but she stuck to her guns, eventually admitting that she'd already agreed to buy and arranged delivery for Monday. I rang the shop she'd used, which turned out to have a delivery charge AND a charge for taking away the old equipment, which means that she'll be paying £65 in all. Needless to say, she wasn't very happy that I'd checked up on her. This shop has done pretty well out of her, too. This is the same place she bought her new fridge from earlier this year, despite the faulty one being under a guarantee which would have seen it replaced free of charge! A guarantee which she was still making payments on when I got down there this summer...

Mum just wants social contact, and if it means paying someone for that little bit of interaction, so be it. You can hear the excitement in her voice - it's been the same since Dad died and she started having pointless work done on the old house. She just needs company, and she'll happily pay for it. And I'm the bad guy for trying to look out for her and save her money.

Sunday 1 October 2006


Mum rang me with a note of outrage and terror in her voice to announce that she had just received a package from a catalogue firm and that she HAD NOT ORDERED ANYTHING from them! She felt they were persecuting her by sending things she hadn't ordered. I asked her to open the package while she was on the phone, and it turned out to be a blouse that she suddenly remembered that she'd ordered 2 days ago....Later in the day, I reminded her of this to show her how unreliable her memory is - she didn't believe me and it didn't go down well...

Saturday 23 September 2006

bags packed

I had an interesting phone call from Mum's friend P - she and her husband pick Mum up once a year and treat her to a week in Somerset. She rang to confirm that they're going to pick Mum up on the 23rd October this year. She's never felt the need to ring me before, but she told me that she was VERY concerned about Mum's memory. We discussed some of Mum's various slip-ups of late - it was some comfort to have someone else notice these things.

These same friends stayed with Mum for a night last month on their way to an event in London - Mum greeted them at the door with her bags packed, thinking that she was going away despite having spoken to them on the phone just that morning to arrange their over-nighter. P said it was deeply upsetting to witness her humiliation.

Still, I don't feel so alone in this anymore.

Saturday 16 September 2006


Mum is wreaking more havoc - I swear she's getting worse every day. Today she:

1) Was unable to write my address out consistently (she can't read her own writing)
2) Overlooked vital post when she's meant to be telling me about each item that arrives
3) Told everyone that she was suddenly going away for 2 weeks from Wednesday after a conversation she obviously made up in her head to cover over a blank in her memory - the trip is (and always was) in October...

It would have been nice for her to acknowledge the "remote control" guide that I spent a whole day designing/printing/laminating for her, but it was just another item of post she neglected to inform me had arrived. Try as I might, I can't get her to even thank me for making the effort - why do I bother?

Wednesday 30 August 2006


I've just returned from a two week stay with Mum. As anticipated, it was somewhat stressful for both of us, as Mum seemed to hit a new painful low every day. It became evident that she cannot do even simple maths ( of the 3-2=1 variety) or recognise important mail. This might explain why she'd kept covering letters as if they were important and mislaid her car insurance documents and MOT... Anyway, I've restructured her accounts in such a way that there is a "managing account" into which both her pensions are paid and from which all her Direct Debits go out. The remainder is paid by standing order into a new "spending account", which will be the only one that she deals with from now on. I've worked out that she really shouldn't be spending more than £1,160 a month. It may be a struggle for her at first, since she's habitually been spending closer to £3,000 (£300 on food and the rest on catalogue clothes, herbal miracle cures and charities). She's leaning quite heavily on me at the moment, as I think she's finally accepting that she needs some help.

Saturday 29 July 2006


We're having the same conversation over and over again, and each time I think I've won her over, she comes back the next day feeling just as bad and I have to start over. This started the day after my brother-in-law and my nieces left after a week's visit. She rang me and said immediately: "I've decided that I'm going to write J out of my will". [J is one of her grand-daughters]

I was stunned. When I questioned her, she told me that J had treated her badly during the stay. I asked what she meant by this and after much probing it came down to a look J gave Mum on the last day when Mum was trying to wake them up in time to leave. I was pretty scared by this - that something so trivial could now be the trigger to be written out of her will (after all, Mum and I have huge arguments every time I'm down there). I asked her what was it about this "look" that upset her and she started saying "I think that she thinks that I'm old and useless" and stuff like that. I stopped her there and said that it was dangerous to start putting words in people's mouths (or heads) and the look could have been anything - after all J was just waking up. After many attempts, the winning argument was for me to say, "well, if you took any one week of my childhood at age 10, I'm sure I'd have behaved much worse", which seemed to calm her down and amuse her. I thought we'd resolved it there but, like I say, she keeps coming back the next day with the idea fresh in her head. I'm also worried because it's not a good sign at all that she's using her will like that, vindictively. While I still oppose her writing my Sister out of the will, I can understand that she based THAT decision on M's adult behaviour. I CANNOT, however, support her judging a 10-year-old on the same adult basis. I'm genuinely worried for J - who is now going to be scrutinised next year before Mum makes her decision (that's all I seem to have achieved by my arguments). Well, hopefully by then she'll have forgotten all about the whole idea.

We had another ding-dong row this morning after we'd dealt with the above once again. This time it was over the following - amusing on it's own but SO indicative of how messed up Mum's thinking is:

"I've been looking at this Barnardo's thing that came through my door today"
"Mum, PLEASE don't send any more money off to charity"
"I'm NOT going to!"
"Good. Anyway, Dad gave to Barnardo's every month for years. I think they've had enough out of us."
"Did he? I never knew that!"
"Yes, it was one of the two charities he sent off to regularly."
"Anyway, it's all right if I leave some money in my will to them, isn't it?"
"How much were you thinking?"
"About £400"
"Well that's okay, I suppose, but remember that each time you change your will it costs you a couple of hundred"
"I'm not changing my will!"
"Er...I'm confused. You did say you were going to put the £400 in your will."
"Well it won't have to go in the will if I give it to them now, will it?"
"If I give them the £400 now then I don't have to put it in my will."
"So what you're saying is that you want to send £400 off to charity."
"Mum........." (and start again from the top)

It's very hard to argue with someone who forgets themselves so soon!

The above led to me reminding her of so many previous occasions where I've had to argue her out of making such large donations. She got very upset by the implication that she'd forgotten these previous conversations and did what she always does, which is to try and end the conversation there. This is how we end up never resolving anything - Mum has never lost an argument in her life because she's never there to hear the end of one.

I can see myself putting in another 10 or 20 years worrying about and looking after this woman only to find that she's written me out of her will for a sour look I gave her one day in 1986. I'm going to have a talk with her when I'm down South where I'll point out to her that if she continues in this way she'll have no-one that remembers her kindly when she's gone. I also wonder if there's some point at which we can "freeze" the will as being the last point where she was of sound mind. I've already written to Mum's Solicitor today with this in mind - she is more than sympathetic, having witness first-hand Mum's failing mental state.

Tuesday 21 March 2006

letter to Mum's Solicitor

Dear S

Thanks for replying to what I'm sure was a rather tedious and incoherent list of problems that I'm experiencing with my Mum. It helps just to know that you understand and are taking it seriously.

Only this morning, I had Mum on the phone anxious that she didn't have enough in her account to pay her service charge bill. She had just spoken to her Bank Manager to get her balance, and it turned out that she believed the £1000 bill was greater than her £3400 balance - her maths is that poor - and this despite the fact that we had discussed this same bill last week and gone to some lengths to ensure that her balance was sufficient to pay it.

In your reply, you recommend that we set up the Power of Attorney and that I take control of Mum's financial affairs. I'm grateful that you offer to explain to Mother how this would help her, as she is liable to be a bit prickly at times and easily jumps to the conclusion that it's part of a process to send her off to a home! However, I believe she is more receptive to the idea now than she was a year ago, and I have been heartened by her reliance on me in the last few months.

I am, however, a little nervous myself about this step and would appreciate it if you could perhaps help outline for me a scenario of how I could manage my Mum's affairs from a distance. Perhaps if I describe how I imagine it would work, you could correct me or suggest ideas I have not considered?

Firstly, I believe my Mother is still capable of, and enjoys, managing her own affairs to the extent of shopping for herself, arranging her hair and chiropody appointments and grooming for her dog. I would like her to continue dealing with these items as she does now, out of a 'Daily' account, but I would like to be able to go online to see what's been going on in this account and question her about any anomalous cheques or repeated payments. Much as I'd LOVE to take away Mum's chequebook, I don't want her to keep having to walk to the bank to get cash. For now, I hope that oversight of her account by internet will help me spot any problem cheques as soon as possible. Another advantage of my having internet oversight would be that I could provide Mum with her balance at any time - she tends to ring her bank manager a couple of times a week for this.

Secondly, as I think you suggested once, I think that I'd like to have Mum's 'Daily' account be paid out of a 'Managing' account that I would look after on her behalf - this would pay Mum's more regular running expenses (council tax, service charge, direct debits) before paying her the remainder as an allowance. This would mean that she doesn't have to worry about these charges, and would allow me to budget for semi-annual and annual charges, rather than drawing on her savings to pay for them, as has been Mum's practice. I have already arranged with the managing company of her apartments that they send their bills and statements to me rather than to confuse Mum - I would hope that it's simply a matter of asking the same of the council, the electricity board and so on as well.

I apologise if that was a bit specific. I was trying to work through my ideas on the page. Please could you let me know if the above is possible, recommended, or indeed if you have a better or simpler solution. Please also let me know if I need to come to see you at any part of the process. I expect I shall need to meet Mum's bank manager again in any case.

I look forward to your response on this issue. I don't wish to proceed until I understand how the thing works myself.

Thank you again

Tuesday 7 March 2006


Mum's asked me the same question about her grand-daughter for 3 days running now: "I know J was born in March, but what day is her birthday?"

Each day I've gently coaxed her to remember whose birthday really is in March (her Daughter) and she eventually remembers that it's M's. I give her the girls' birthdays again, only for us to have the same conversation the next morning when her head goes into re-set mode.

Thursday 2 March 2006

letter to Mum's Solicitor

Dear S

Thank you for enquiring after my Mother.

I visited her at Christmas, as you know, and was very concerned by what I found while I was there. Indeed the only reason I hadn't yet contacted you was that I am still wading through some of the more difficult issues I encountered there, to do with her finances, and haven't yet come up for air. I am myself suffering from some chronic fatigue problems, which have slowed me down somewhat. In fact there's many a day where dealing with a telephone conversation from Mum alone sends me back to bed for a few hours.

At Christmas, I found the following:
1) She had not shopped for herself and had to share my veggie Christmas dinner
2) She was unable to tell what day it was on several occasions, constantly reading out TV programmes days later or days before
3) I found a vase that she had accused my Sister of stealing on display on her mantelpiece. I was myself accused of never saying or doing anything nice for her within memory.
4) I found many food items in her fridge that were well-past their sell-by date, some dated to be eaten by as early as August 05
5) Numerically, she's was very unsound: unable to tell which number is bigger out of two, or which should be next

Ultimately, of course, it's her finances that caused me the most concern when I finally came to look at them. Last Summer, as you may remember, I discovered that she'd been over-spending for some considerable time and that her out-goings were often as much as triple her in-comings. At that time, I gave her a severe warning about her spending and took her to her banks and had her cancel some of her standing orders and direct debits to charities and to defunct or duplicate insurance policies. Well, despite constant protestations over the phone to me since, it seems that her behaviour didn't change and, if anything, she gave MORE away to charity than before - this time in cheques. At Christmas, I confronted Mum again over this and she was momentarily horrified, but I believe she simply doesn't understand what she has to spend and what she HAS spent. Since my return she has INSISTED that she tears up every charity letter and doesn't respond any more, but then in mid-anecdote I'll catch her saying that she asked the Warden to post some envelopes for her which will turn out to be another slew of donations (minimum £50 each). The last time we spoke on the issue it just happened that there were some donations on her table, ready to go, totalling another £250.

Mum has the dangerous illusion that she can cope with her finances. When I've had to go through her position again after some mistake, she'll often ring me back later having "sorted it all out" with her bank manager. The fact is she can't remember what it is that I was talking to her about or, indeed, what she discussed with the man from the bank, so what she's done is usually wrong or difficult to undo. There was one day when she announced that she'd dealt with her problems because the 'excess' in her current account was now in an ISA. I had to investigate to find out that the 'excess' she referred to was her balance and that she was about to go into the red again. "How CAN I be spending more than I have coming in?" she asked me, triumphantly, "How CAN I spend money I don't have?" The reason, of course, is that she tops up her current account from her savings continually (£15,000 in the last year at least). Recently, she found a statement from 2 years ago that told her that one savings account had £65,000 remaining in it, and she read it out to me gleefully. I had to tell her that the account she was talking about has only £170 left in it now, and had to make her think about what year we are in and what year it said on the statement.

I've found repeated identical payments in Mum's accounts. Mum is unable to tell bills apart from other documents and I think she's responded to many of her Direct Debit account notices as bills and thus paid by cheque the amounts that were subsequently withdrawn electronically. The last one of these that I had to clear up turned out to be for the company that provides the Warden service at Mum's flat. They cheerfully acknowledged that they had been aware of the double-payment in September and I had them refund Mum in February. I wonder how long they were intending to hold onto it - it may be that there have been more in the past!

I could go on and on about the financial problems, but I think you can see some of what I've been slowly sifting through. In a nutshell, my problem is as follows. Mum has a monthly income of around £1,600. After Council Tax, heating costs and a few direct debits, she has around £1,200 per month to do with as she wishes. She spends about £350 in the local supermarket and £100 in the chemist. She then tends to write about £2,000 of cheques. It's as simple as that, really. I'd rather she spent more on food, if anything.

I include the following only as an example of Mum's memory problems:
I took a week's holiday at the end of January to visit a friend in the South of France. Mum had been well-aware of my preparations for the trip, but when I mentioned it a week before my departure (and reminded Mum of the dates I'd be away), I found that my phone stopped ringing for a few days. When I called after 3 days, she was incredulous - "I didn't think you'd be back so soon!"
On the eve of my departure, while discussing one of her recent mistakes with her account, she got a bit peeved with me and obviously wanted to end the conversation. She said:
"Oh well, I'd better let you go so that you can get back to settling in after your holiday"
"Mum, I haven't been anywhere yet"
"Oh yes, you cancelled it , didn't you? I was awfully sorry you did that!"
"No, Mum. I haven't cancelled anything."
"Oh, I thought... I thought you were going on a Wednesday"
"That's right, Mum, and today is Tuesday, isn't it? I'm going tomorrow"
"And when are you back?"
"In a week's time"
"Oh, I'm sorry, I thought you were away for 3 weeks"
I sent Mum a letter detailing the dates I'd be away and giving her contact phone numbers. On my return, she didn't seem too surprised to be hearing from me, which was encouraging. Then, Mum rang me that evening for me to help her with her remote control - It took about an hour to sort out what she was doing wrong and by the end she was obviously embarrassed, because she tried to change the subject with:
"....anyway, I'll let you get back to settling in after your 3 weeks away."
"Mum, I wasn't away for 3 weeks"
"Oh, that's right, you didn't go anywhere in the end, did you?"
"No, Mum, that's not right"
"Oh yes, you just went for one day - how was it?"
"Mum, I was away for a week. Didn't you get my letter telling you about the dates I'd be away"
"Oh yes, I DID so much enjoy reading it - it was so beautifully written, I thought".

I apologise for the length of this email, and if some of it strikes you as irrelevant. I just wanted you to have a flavour of what's going on and some of the difficulties I'm facing with Mum, who doesn't seem to appreciate the danger she's in, or retain very long any concern that I try and instil in her. I hate coming across as a bully with her, but she terrifies me sometimes. She is incredibly naive about the world out there, about the marketing companies employed by charities to boost donations, about the dangers of blurting out your PIN number.... She leaves her handbag hanging from her supermarket trolley and walks home, she leaves her shopping at the checkout... the list is very long.

I would very much like to discuss with you any ways that you think we can make Mum's life less complicated (and thus my own!), and any ways we can restrict her spending, or make it more obvious to her what she's doing. She's living a blissful life in her head as a gracious and generous lady, but all I can see is that she'll have to sell her home in a few years and come to live with me. I understand that 'Power of Attorney' would help me talk on Mum's behalf to some organisations, but would it be possible for me to get online access to my Mum's accounts so that I can periodically check that she's behaving and question her about cheques? Can we take away her chequebooks (she can use her chip & pin for transactions but won't be able to write £100 cheques)? Are there any other ways we can simplify things, from your experience?

I am considering writing to her Doctor, as well, to ask about home helps and whatever other support she might be entitled to. I am aware that she pays a cleaning lady to come in each week, but I was not impressed with the standard of cleaning at Christmas and would prefer someone who went through her fridge frequently, or maybe helped her shop. I've noticed my Mum's 'panicked' look when we've shopped together - when we're together she'll often mirror what I'm buying as if she doesn't recognise what things are.

I believe that on some level Mum is aware of her own mental decline but she's INCREDIBLY prickly about it, and has on occasion mentioned her fear that giving up any sort of control might see her "put in a home". I try and reassure her that I don't think she's in that position and may never be. I try and tell her that some memory problems are natural for her age (she's always been terrified of Alzheimer's). I do need to do something, soon, though, just to try and stabilise her over-spending. If she can prove to me that she can go through a month and spend less than she has coming in, I might relax enough to start worrying about my own problems!

Yours gratefully

Sunday 26 February 2006


I have to read between the lines these days and I'm sure that, to an extent, she was really just crying out for attention. However, the 3 hospitals she eventually visited were all "horrible places" where she was always made to wait 5 hours in the cold, and then the ambulance crews treated her at home a couple of times. Someone at the last hospital used some sort of big hook on her nose which was apparently very painful. My interpretation of this is that the services saw right through to her loneliness and were trying to discourage her from wasting their time. After all, at the end of each event all they'd done is what she could have done for herself. There's something about the way she talks about the nosebleeds now that suggests to me that it's a strategy she won't be trying again. I had begun to refer to her nosebleeds as her "hobby" - god knows she needs one!

I'm sorry she didn't find a hospital she approved of, though. It would be good to know where she'd like to be looked after next time, as I'm sure she'd have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the one where Dad died. The whole thing has focussed Mum's attention on the dog, as well. She now realises that there's nowhere for the little mop-head to go if she needs to go to hospital (she's unwilling to use kennels) - I expect that I will be asked to drive down and look after her. Great. Well, maybe that will keep Mum healthy....

Wednesday 22 February 2006

doctors and nurses

Well, we had a couple more nights of ambulances being called out for Mum, but they've started treating her at home now when she calls. All they do is stick cotton wool up her nose and wait with her until she accepts that it has stopped the flow. When I ask her why she doesn't try this herself, she says she doesn't know why she doesn't think of it.

She's very unclear about the events, but I've been keeping notes from daily conversations and I try and correct her when the district nurse suddenly morphs into the doctor in mid-anecdote. She's pretty angry with me when I do this, of course.

She's also started to worry excessively about what's going to become of her dog if she's taken into hospital to deal with the nosebleed problem. This is despite the fact that she has been told that surgery is not an option and that all she needs is a cream and nasal spray. Now I get calls at all hours with her ideas on who will take the dog. I think she's found a hobby at last.

Saturday 18 February 2006


At about 11:40 last night, I was rung by Careline, the company that provides the virtual-Warden service for Mum. They told me that Mum was having a nosebleed and was en-route to a hospital, though they couldn't tell me where that might be. I rang the apartment and found Mum was still there, loving all the attention she was getting and thrilled that she was going to be looked after for a night. It hadn't occurred to her to try and put cotton wool up her nose to stem the flow, even though she remembered that we used to do that for me as a kid when I had frequent bleeds. She told me she was being taken to the local hospital.

At 8:45 this morning, Mum rang to say that she was back. I asked her what they'd done to stop her bleed, but she was too excited telling me all about the ambulance, the coldness of the ward, the kindness of the nurses, the slowness of the taxi-ride home that it took me about 20 minutes to establish that all they'd done was....pack her nose with cotton wool.

Since then I've had a call every 5 minutes or so, as she remembers things. About half an hour ago she told me that the hospital had left something in her arm, which I established was one of those things that allows them to inject multiple times in one site. I told her that I thought it was a mistake that they'd not removed this before releasing her and told her to ring her Doctor about this. I got a call back to say that she'd done so and that someone might be out to see her at some point. As we were talking further about it I expressed surprise again that the hospital hadn't removed it and she said, "Oh, well, they said that they'd leave it in as I was likely to be back soon and it would save time". This put a completely different spin on things and I was worried that I was messing things up by arranging to have the thing removed. I asked her to ring the local hospital about it. At this point she exploded at me, telling me that I was stupid to think she'd been at that hospital, where they don't have accident emergency. She told me that she'd been to [another one] instead. I didn't bother arguing back. She rang me later to say that the hospital confirmed that it was an error to leave the thing in her arm, so I think her memory of why they left it there was one of her "explaining lies" that make dealing with her so difficult - she just doesn't know what's true and what's made up any more.

Just had another call (why??) to tell me that she's asked her neighbour to let the dog out on her lead in the garden "as I'm not decently dressed". I daren't pursue this one as she'll think I'm getting at her, but if she's decent enough to see her neighbour, why isn't she decent enough to open the french-windows and let the dog out on the lead herself? I really worry that she treats her neighbour's husband like her own too often.

Wednesday 8 February 2006


"I want to pick your brains about something: there's this film I want to see, called 'Geisha Girl' "
"Do you mean 'Memoirs of a Geisha', Mum?"
"That's it. Now what does it mean by 'BBC4 on BBC2'?"
"That's when the BBC shows digital programmes on BBC2 for those of us who haven't got digital TV. What channel are you looking at?"
"Well, that's all you need to know, isn't it?"
"Oh, well it's on tonight"
"I'm sure the movie isn't on TV tonight, Mum. It's only just got into the cinemas. Maybe it's a documentary. Shall I look for you?"
"Yes, please"
"Mum, there's nothing on tonight with that name, no BBC4 programmes. What day are you looking at?"
"That's strange. Tuesday 7th February"
"Mum, it's Wednesday the 8th now. You're looking at last night's television"
"Maybe I can leave the tape running to record it"
"No, Mum, it was shown last night. You can't see it. It was shown yesterday"
"Oh, I suppose I'll have to wait for it to come out on video, then. I was just too tired to watch it last night."

Mum doesn't know what day of the week it is. She doesn't know that Wednesday is after Tuesday.

Thursday 2 February 2006


Mum rang me this evening for me to help her with her remote control - It took about an hour to sort out what she was doing wrong and by the end she was obviously embarrassed, because she tried to change the subject with:

"....anyway, I'll let you get back to settling in after your 3 weeks away."
"Mum, I wasn't away for 3 weeks"
"Oh, that's right, you didn't go anywhere in the end, did you?"
"No, Mum, that's not right"
"Oh yes, you just went for one day - how was it?"
"Mum, I was away for a week"

This is all despite the fact that I sent her a letter tersely listing where I was going and between which dates. I mention this letter to her and she says "I DID so much enjoy reading it - it was so beautifully written, I thought".

I'm convinced that when she encounters a gap in her memory, she 'invents' an explanation or bridge, and she's not quite aware that she's doing this. She often talks to me about conversations we've never had, about things we've never done.