The Blog

In Memory Of Those Who Are No Longer With Us, But Sadly Still Here.

Yes, it's the very end of the year; a time when we inevitably look back on those - all of the above and numerous others besides - who have regrettably passed away.

They'll never again wade through the Trevi Fountain in a strapless black ball gown (Anita Ekberg). They'll never again write: 'Levi's so tight, the outline of his schlong is like a frigging beacon' (Jackie Collins or was it Gunter Grass, author of the Tim Drum? Difficult to tell, their prose styles were often so similar). They'll never again make us scream in complete and terrified horror (Wes Craven - although for lots of folk in the 1970s, Val Doonican in those jumpers had a similar effect). They'll never again stick their hand up the backside of a inanimate nappy-wearing fluffy green duck (Keith Harris). And they'll never again speak the following words: "Live long and prosper" (Leonard Nimoy. Actually, I think that might have been Dennis Healey when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer).

As we welcome in the new and say goodbye to the old, we inevitably look back on those - all of the above and numerous others besides - who in the last 12 months regrettably passed away.

While we may not have known them personally or quite as intimately as Orville knew the notable ventriloquist, we remember them with affection and for the ways in which they indirectly touched our lives, whether it was with their music (Cilla Black and Demis Rousssos - obviously Forever and Ever wasn't an indicator as to his biological immortality), their politics (Charles Kennedy), their screen presence (Maureen O'Hara and Omar Sharif), their punditry (Jimmy Hill), their comedic talent (George Cole) and in the case of Anne Kirkbride, their ability to take a humble pair of NHS spectacles and imbue them with the same sense of style as a certain Mrs Onassis once did with a pair of sunglasses. What an amazing legacy to leave behind. Deirdre's as we should probably call them are no doubt bound to become as commonplace on the red carpet as Dior.

However, uppermost in the thoughts of many aren't the famous and celebrated, it's the ordinary men and women; the husbands and wives, the parents, the grandparents and the friends who are mourned and missed. Not because they're deceased - that might be a blessing - but because they're living with advanced dementia.

These are the unfortunate souls who have no recollection of their nearest and dearest - now complete strangers - sitting in front of them. They have no remembrance of who they formerly were and the kind of existence they used to lead. (Did they do good? Did they achieve all they wanted? Were they faithful? Were they liked or loathed)? Perhaps worst of all though, they have no mental capacity to enjoy the things they previously took for granted, be it books, movies, art galleries or terrible TV. Hold on, no mention of music?

Weirdly, the remembrance of a tune is one of the last things that goes and even in the final stages of this tragically sad degenerative disease, sufferers frequently continue to recall with unerring accuracy and sing all the words to their favourite songs.

Who'd have guessed that Ace of Spades by Motorhead was so close to my mother's heart? Definitely not me. Lemmy, who suddenly and unexpectedly shifted off this mortal coil only a few days ago, would have been delighted. So in memory of the great headbanger, let's for a brief moment pretend it was true.

With 2016 upon us, millions herald its arrival, full of hopeful anticipation of what it may have in store for them. At the same time, there are hundreds of thousands of others (according to the Alzheimer's Society, the number is presently a staggering 850,000 in the UK, with that figure due to exceed a million by 2025) who up and down the country have nothing to relish the prospect of. Joylessly, they remain in their beds staring into space, imprisoned by their own minds with no possible chance of parole.

On each occasion I visit Mum, as I did over the festive period - Christmas and care homes aren't the best of bed fellows - I'm reminded how similar to correctional facilities nursing establishments are.

The locks on the main doors to prevent inmates (sorry, patients) escaping. The screaming, shouting and anguished cries. The rooms little more than the size of cells which run the length of a corridor that for all intents and purposes could best be described as dementia death row. Those inside waiting for an end destined to be neither dignified or compassionate, but instead cruel and inhumane.

Any change to the laws on assisted dying are now dead for God only knows how long, so to anyone, like me, with a loved one who really shouldn't still be here, I send you my deepest sympathy.

After all, If Uggi, the canine star of The Artist can end his earthly days with a modicum of decency (he was put to sleep on August 15, 2015), why can't a human being?

On that cheery note, Happy New Year!