To celebrate Dementia Awareness Week, BBC Radio 5Live mounted a special programme focussing on the positive role sport can play in the lives of people affected by dementia. It was a terrific listen – here’s a link if you missed it: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07d4cmv
The programme featured the work of the Sporting Memories Network – http://www.sportingmemoriesnetwork.com/ – which, as it suggests, uses memories to connect with people living with dementia. It was a timely reminder that the emotional connection with sport, as with music, can pay rich dividends.
Inspired by what I’d heard, I talked to Mum today about test cricket. It was Mum who took me to my first test match – 41 years ago, we watched Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson bowl Australia to an innings victory in the first test of an Ashes summer. I remember it – that sense of wonder – like it was yesterday. Mum, sadly, doesn’t. Her love of cricket had started when she was still at school. She would call in at the County Ground at Edgbaston on her way home. As an alternative to homework, it has so much going for it, though knowing Mum, she’d have done her homework as well. I mentioned the names of the players she watched in those long-off days – Tom Dollery, Eric Hollies, great names of Warwickshire and England cricket.
No reaction. I talked a little more but I don’t think this particular sporting memory worked.
Another tack. A small rubber ball (with a smiley face) and a game of catch. This proved much more successful. Mum’s catching wasn’t international standard but her throwing was pretty accurate and she seemed to love the activity. Music and now sport, of a sort. Two ways in which I can reach Mum.
Though whom Mum is reaching back to is uncertain. I showed her a photograph of me.
“Oh,” she laughed.
“Who’s that Mum?”
“That’s you.” What a silly question.
A few moments later. Another photo of me.
“Oh,” she laughed, “it’s that silly bugger.”
That’ll be me then. Talking of cricketers long-deceased, playing catch with a yellow ball and singing out of tune. Maybe she’s right after all.