When memory goes, and it is often gradually and sometimes spasmodically, words can become a jumble. But music retains its appeal, touching somewhere inside old memories and, it would appear, bringing great comfort.
Way back when I was Home Secretary, more than 15 years ago, I agreed to take part in a fundraiser for another charity using music to stimulate and engage with people who have dementia. Lost Chord arranged for celebrities in Sheffield and South Yorkshire to agree to be arrested. Yes, actually formally arrested.
With the co-operation of the South Yorkshire Police and members of the judiciary, and of course with the help of the court service, the Crown Court was opened up on a Saturday and those of us taking part had to plead our case as to why we shouldn’t be held in custody!
The objective was to get sponsorship both from those who wanted us to be held for more than just a couple of hours, and those who were prepared to try and bail us out – literally. All funds would of course go to the charity but it would also get extra publicity out of the event.
I got more than I bargained for. On this particular Saturday morning, I was doing my normal advice surgery in my then constituency in the north of the city. The arrangement was that the police would arrive at the end of the surgery, put me in handcuffs and take me away. Unfortunately, things didn’t quite work out as expected.
Firstly, as the Assistant Chief Constable, ably assisted by a volunteer Special Constable arrived, a real incident occurred just down the shopping arcade. They had to rush off to intervene, and out of touch as the senior officer was, the Special then had to explain to him how to conduct a real arrest!
Once they sorted out the real incident they came back and handcuffed me. As I was led out, a whole horde of youngsters emerged from nowhere, armed with their mobile phones. In ways that were both endearing and amusing the youngsters were shouting: “Ay up David, why are they arresting you? What have you been up to?”
When I arrived in the courtroom, I was very pleased to be able to persuade the judge that that afternoon, I really needed to be at the Hillsborough football ground to enjoy, for want of a better term, my beloved Sheffield Wednesday playing at home. Because he was also a supporter, I got off lightly and was allowed on my way in time for kick-off!
Anecdotally, and with increasing research evidence, it is now clear that very many more people have found the onset of signs of Alzheimer’s affecting their lives and those of their loved ones during the last eight months of the Covid pandemic. Not surprisingly, loneliness and isolation, anxiety and lack of stimulation all add to the danger of the more rapid onset of this disabling condition.
That is why I hope that many people will, in the days ahead, download Four Notes – Paul’s Tune and make a difference to other people’s lives, while perhaps shedding a tear with me.
Four Notes – Paul’s Tune is available from all streaming platforms.