Wednesday, 25 December 2013


Dementia is a terrible curse on the elderly and those who care for them, and this blog is not in any way intended as a slight on anyone who has the condition. It is clearly a bewildering and frightening world to inhabit. A lovely old lady near us suffers. We have been neighbours for over twenty years, and the other day she tottered past our drive as I was getting into the car, and said, "I do hope you are settling in well. It's lovely to have new neighbours. You'll find we are a friendly lot round here." Weird, slightly wonderful, but very sad.

My post concerns a much loved elderly relative. Someone who has been in part of our family since earliest memory. She was known as 'Auntie', not just by us, but by countless others across the country. I am referring to the BBC. I can vividly remember being in our kitchen on a July day in 1953 when the austere voice of a lunchtime newsreader announced that an armistice had been declared, bringing the Korean War to an end. My mother had a little weep and got on with the cooking. That was typical of the way in which the BBC was an authoritative lifeline and conduit of information for all families, rich or poor.

Now Auntie is seriously ill. Her delusions are sometimes laughable, frequently embarrassing, but increasingly dangerous to herself and those around her. She totters about the place, and her regular falls seem ever more likely to cause her lasting, even terminal, damage. We support her, loyally, of course. Only the other day I stumped up nearly £150 as my small part of the multi million pound care package which pays for her care during her sad decline.

Auntie's bizarre behaviour is happening more and more often. She has developed a worryingly peculiar way of responding to world events, where, when something happens which she considers 'relevant', she will send a team of alleged journalists to the scene of the event, where the dutiful stooge will stand around in the crowd of onlookers/mourners/innocent passers-by, shove a microphone under a random nose, and ask such penetrating questions as, "Well, what's the feeling in your village now that Nelson Mandela has died?" Every mundane reply is then transmitted back to an adoring audience, no-doubt glued to their radio or TV set. The whole Mandella farrago was a disgrace, and I have only just felt that it was safe to turn on Radio Five Live again.

Only the other day, there was a terrible and heartbreaking murder of a young girl in Didcot. She was last seen at the railway station, late on a winter's afternoon. So what did Auntie do? She sent a reporter to the scene, and announced with breathless excitement, "And we can now speak to (anonymous hack) who is STANDING OUTSIDE THE STATION WHERE THE MISSING GIRL WAS LAST SEEN!" Wow. Amazing. Bear in mind, this is radio. What were we to expect? Would the latter day John Pilger might stumble upon a vital clue to the girl's disappearance? Would the perpetrator of the crime suddenly appear, and confess on air?

My small but loyal readership will have gathered by now that my views, in political terms, are some way right of centre, but not, as one critic has alleged, some way to the right of Eugene Terreblanche. 

 Auntie used to pick her way slowly, but safely and surely along the ridge above the political divide. Now she has lost her footing, and although she occasionally tries to grab a protruding bush or a rock ledge to break her fall, her momentum gathers force as she plunges into the left-wing abyss.

Take Auntie's pride and joy, BBC Question Time. The format is simple. Ship in a rent-a-mob audience of students, malcontents, entitlement freaks, Guardianistas and beards. Choose any three from Auntie's centrally-contracted cast of stars - Owen Jones, Baroness Toynbee of Tuscany, George Monbiot, Mehdi Hasan, Chuka Umunna, Kevin Maguire, Diane Abbott…(need I go on?) 

Then drop into this toxic mix a random right-winger, and let the death of a thousand verbal cuts commence. I am also reliably informed that Anjem Choudary, after his star turn on The Today Programme, is being lined up for a regular spot on Thought For The Day.

While we try to persuade Auntie to take a holiday, and to come with us to a lovely health resort in Zurich (DIGNITAS, P.O. Box 17 8127 Forch), she seems content to sit in her dusty old home, surrounded by memories of old boyfriends from the ANC, Hamas, Al Qeda, The Provisionals, Stonewall, Greenpeace and the RMT union. Maybe we will all be sad when the first Christmas comes when she is no longer with us, but I, for, one will look back on a long life, largely well led, and raise a thankful glass to her her