Hello grief, my old friend, I’ve come to talk with you again.

I wish I could say it gets easier, but it doesn’t. In fact, a little like too much time in a dentist’s chair leading me to have a lower threshold of dental pain, repetitive experience of losing a family member feels like it’s decreasing my tolerance of grief. I  know what’s coming.

During the last eight years, I’ve lost a father to Lewy Body disease (a combination of Parkinson’s and Alzheimers), a grandfather to old age, two uncles to cancer and while my grandmother is still alive, I’ve lost her to advanced Alzheimer’s. Now, I am losing a mother to dementia.

I have deliberated at considerable length about whether to publish a post on this. Mum is still alive and I don’t want to betray her trust or sense of dignity in any way, but there are so many people in my position. And particularly for those of us who are only children, this can feel very lonely. So whoever you are, wherever you are, if you are losing a parent to dementia, I want you to know I am sending you love and light. I really am.

This is where is gets, well, kind of blurred around the edges. My mother has alcohol induced dementia. My mama has consumed a considerable amount of wine over the years to self-medicate severe anxiety. The medical fraternity have always referred to her first and foremost as an alcoholic, sufferer of anxiety, second. But as someone who knows her almost better than anyone, I know, without a shadow of a doubt that she used it to self-medicate. High anxiety first, next step, bottle of wine. And god knows, I get it. While I lost a grandfather and a father 6 weeks apart, she lost a beloved father and her husband who she’d seen deteriorate from a proud, immensely self-disciplined surgeon into a little old man, hunched in a chair, unable to walk or talk, hallucinating. And all the while, aware of her own mother losing her marbles.

How do we cope?

Sometimes we don’t.

Sometimes you feel a calm sense of acceptance.

Sometimes you put on a brave face when you feel anything but brave.

Sometimes, when you hear that your mother has slipped on knee-high pantyhose instead of a glove, you feel your stomach sink.

Sometimes, you want to find a quiet space, curl up in a corner and howl.

And frequently, you wish that someone would invent a miracle cream to magic away the puffy eyes. If you’re reading this and know of something (and it’s not full of chemical ingredients you can’t pronounce) I’d be extremely grateful if you’d let me know.

To be perfectly honest, right now, I don’t know how I’m going to deal with this. But what I do know, as I become aware of how quickly my mother is deteriorating, is that the time I have left with her, while she still recognises me and we can enjoy each other’s company, is hugely precious.

I do know that it’s high time I left go of any residual sense of resentment about the mother I ‘should have had’ or simply wished I’d had.

I do know that the most healthy way I can respond to this, is with grace and compassion. Not just for Mum but for me.

And tonight, just for a little while, that means that I welcome my old friend grief back into the room and together, tissues in hand, we sit and talk for a little while.




A little turmeric each day keeps the doctor away

Let me preface this by saying I not a medical professional. Or a health practitioner of any sort. Or, for that matter, an old wife. However, I do follow the health and living pages on the New York Times, the Guardian and The Huffington Post websites, amongst others. And due to a family history of Alzheimer’s and Parkinsons, I keep a particular eye out for articles relating to brain health.

Recently, I came across one entitled Neurogenesis: How to Change Your Brain by neurologist David Permutter, M.D. Obviously, you can read the full article yourself, but let me summarise it.

Up until fairly recently (the late 90s) it was believed that once we’re past early childhood, our brains don’t regenerate. But apparently they do. Not surprisingly, this process of neurogenesis is controlled by our DNA and a specific gene codes the production of a protein (BNDF), which plays a key role in creating new neurons.

Recent studies have revealed that patients with Alzheimer’s (and a number of other neurological conditions) have decreased levels of BNDF. Fortunately, as Permutter goes on to say “many of the factors that influence our DNA to produce BDNF factors are under our direct control.” That’s excellent news, but it begs the obvious question: how?

Back to you Dr Perlmutter. He continues, “The gene that turns on BDNF is activated by a variety of factors including physical exercise, caloric restriction, curcumin and the omega-3 fat, DHA.”

I can’t say I’m hugely surprised by physical exercise, calorie restriction (note to self, must eat only 2/3 of that block of Green & Black chocolate) and omega-3. But what’s the deal with curcumin? Well,  it turns out that curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric. Apparently Alzheimer’s is not nearly as common in Indian villages.

So what’s all of this got to do with the photograph of a bowl of pumpkin soup below? Basically this is post is an introduction to a series of recipes which will follow. 101 (or possibly closer to 11) recipes with turmeric. They’ll be easy, I promise. I love cooking, but this is not about making curry from scratch.

Recipe with Turmeric No. 1

Particularly useful when you have a lurgy and don’t really feel up to cooking.


1 packet of ready made organic pumpkin soup, 1/2 an onion, 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric, a pinch of chilli powder and half a lemon.


Finely (or roughly – whatever works for you) chop half an onion. Sauté gently in a saucepan, along with the half teaspoon of turmeric and a pinch of chilli powder. Cook the onion as long as your like, until soft if that’s the way you like it, or a little longer if you like it crispy. Add the soup. Bring to the boil. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.

If you care about presentation, feel free to swirl some yoghurt or cream through the soup and sprinkle some finely chopped flat leaf parsley or coriander. Otherwise, you’re done.

I hope you enjoy it and that maybe it helps create a neuron or two…