Sunday, 30 April 2017


When our local vet described a cat in need of a home as ‘middle-aged, grumpy and likes her food’ I knew at once she was the one for us because she sounded so like Professor Gloom. So Clementina moved in and brought joy and beauty into our lives - despite the fact that she’s an unusually manipulative and demanding creature, even for a cat. Lately though, her behaviour, which was always slightly odd, has been getting odder.

She wanders from room to room, wailing like a soul in torment, then leaps onto my lap in a frenzy of affectionate purring. And 2 seconds later she bites me because I’ve answered the phone or shifted my leg. Our ankles are scarred from her mistaking our passing slippers for dangerous foes, but in calmer moments she follows me about the house like a little dog.
This reminded me so much of my mother in her final years (the following-about, not the purring or biting) that I looked up dementia in cats, and what do you know, it’s quite common. There’s nothing much to be done about Clementina, other than be kind and patient; anyway, quite apart from the fact that we love her, for better or worse, I’m hoping someone will be kind to us when our last marbles go rattling down the drain.

It’s different with people; there are things you can do, and 3 in particular that I wish I’d known earlier in my own mother’s decline:
1)   Don’t argue. When the person suffering from dementia says someone cut up all their underwear, or the DUP stole their pension, just say ‘Oh dear, what a nuisance!’ Or ‘Oh well, what can you expect from the DUP?’
2)   Don’t ask questions – give information. You don’t say ‘Do you remember Betty?’ You say, ‘Here is Betty, your sister/daughter/friend/whatever.’
3)   Give comforting answers. ‘Where is my husband?’ should not elicit the response ‘He died 5 years ago’ but rather ‘He’s at work/just gone out to walk the dog’ even if the dog also died a long time ago.
I’m sure there’s a lot more advice to be had but that’s mine for what it’s worth, and if anyone’s got any about cats, I’d be glad to hear it.

Professor Gloom, being an astro-physicist, is naturally a little strange himself, but he has an extremely kind heart and is easily persuaded to accompany me on what are often wild-goose chases. The last was a trip to Portadown to track down an item said to be only available at the local branch of Dunnes. We got on the train in Holywood, got off at Portadown an hour and 10 minutes later, and found the item was no longer in the store. So we armed ourselves with coffee and chocolate, got back on the train, and read peacefully all the way home. It's the sort of thing you can do when you're a pensioner, and it was quite a soothing way to spend the morning, even though the 
book I was reading was Days Without End by Sebastian
Barry. This is not soothing. It is extraordinary, heart-
breaking, sometimes unbearably beautiful, and at times 
just plain unbearable.

A bit like Clementina.

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