Monthly Archives: September 2017


The GROUP met early on a Sunday evening to discuss ‘Elizabeth is Missing’ by Emma Healey. We met at this time because the autumn term started the next day and we always have a couple of children coming with their parents.

‘Elizabeth is Missing’ is a mystery novel about a lovely old lady called Maud who was in her seventies, living on her own with the help of family and paid ‘carers’ who came in every day. Maud had dementia. Her daughter, Helen, lived nearby with her granddaughter, Katey. All tried to make Maud’s life as happy as possible. This was very difficult because Maud was obsessed by the fact that her best friend, Elizabeth, was missing. She could not find her anywhere. She enquired about Elizabeth’s whereabouts of everyone she met, including Elizabeth’s son, and at frequent visits to the police station. No one gave her a believable answer, instead becoming annoyed by the continual questioning and the searching of Elizabeth’s house and garden.

When Maud was young she had a beautiful older sister called Sukey who was married to a small time criminal. One day she mysteriously disappeared, never to be seen or heard of again. I will not spoil the book by revealing the story but I will tell you that during Maud’s search for Elizabeth, she finds the truth about Sukey’.

The Group discussed the book long and hard. We talked about the plot but, most of all, we discussed the subject of dementia. All of us knew of a friend or relative who had suffered or was still suffering from this terribly frightening disease. The book describes very well the feelings of Maud, her relatives and the ‘carers’ who are paid to keep her safe. This is not easy, because Maud continually escapes to look for Elizabeth. This worries everyone. It is not all bad. All do their best to make the situation bearable. This is particularly true of Sukey who seemed to handle the situation better than anyone. I thought that this book was written from experience, not research alone, as it described the situation so well.

When discussing with the Group how dementia changes the sufferers and the lives of those around them, I became quite emotional, remembering my friend who was a victim. I had never been a patient person so the experience of living with a sufferer taught me a big lesson. My friend had been part of my family for many years when this horrible disease crept very slowly up on her without any one noticing. As in the book we had to answer the same questions time after time. We also had to supervise her whereabouts, otherwise she could get lost and have no idea of her location.

My friend was not ill in any other way. She was strong and active. The saddest part to bear was that I lost my friend, as her character completely changed. Having been a quiet person, she gradually lost all inhibitions and behaved as if she did not particularly like me.  There was nothing I could do to change the situation, which was upsetting.

The family looked after her for many years until she needed the nursing care that we could not provide. The day she left was a sad day, as I had promised to look after her in my home forever (a promise that should never have been made, because it simply could not be kept). We visited her often in different nursing homes. Because she was so active, she was difficult to place. Eventually she lived in a special mental hospital where she could walk up and down the long corridors day and night. It was not long before she did not recognise any of the family. She lived until she was well into her nineties.

I recommend this book, ‘Elizabeth is Missing’, as did most of the Book Group. We always score the books out of ten. We gave it 9 –  one of the highest scores ever.

The evening ended with tea and wonderful cakes.




The Old Bat recalls the 1948 Olympics and her father’s international show jumping career with his horse NIGHTBIRD

During the summer holiday of 1948, having spent my first year at senior school, I was looking forward to attending a very special event, the Olympics at Wembley.
I had spent most of the holiday in the world of horses, riding every day and competing in junior show jumping events. My father, a farmer, was also a well known horseman who competed in show jumping events all over the U.K. 1948 was the year of the first Olympic Games after the war. It was held at Wembley Stadium in London. My father had lent our only horse, Nightbird, to the British team for this global event. He was a thorough bred brown gelding, who could gallop fast and jump very high and wide. They had won many point-to-point races in 1946. My father, an excellent equestrian, was getting too old for that dangerous sport so they turned to show jumping. The pair was extremely successful, winning many first prizes at premier agricultural shows held all over England and Wales.

The world’s champion show jumpers were coming to compete against each other at the Olympics in August. The riders in the British Team were all Army cavalry officers. Nightbird’s chosen rider was Col. Scott. Our horse spent the whole summer of 1948 being trained for the Games, so was not available to compete with my father to earn some extra money for the farm – an unselfish and patriotic gesture. At that time all events at the Games were amateur, as were all international events for years to come.

The show jumping, the Prix Des Nations, was held on Saturday August 14th, the last day of the Games. Because Nightbird was in the British Team, our family had tickets for that day. It was very exciting. Mexico won the gold medal, Spain won the silver medal, the British Team won the bronze. Nightbird came back home at last. Not long after the Olympics, the Great British International Show was held at the White City Stadium in London. The champion international horses stayed on after the Games to compete. The Grand Prix, the Daily Mail Cup, was the last event and championship of the show. Only winners at the other events at the show could compete. Nightbird had already won the Selby Cup, so qualified to compete against the very best in the world at that time. The Daily Mail Cup was won by the Olympic gold medallist from Mexico, H.Mariles Cortes riding Arrete; second came Chevalier J.F.M. d’Orgeix, riding Sucre de Pomme; Nightbird was third, having jumped three clear rounds over massively high fences, the audience roaring him on. The winner and the second horses jumped the rounds just seconds faster. I now think that this was his best ever performance. International teams, including the Swedish one, tried to buy him, offering large sums of money. He was not for sale.

For the next 5 years, my father and his horse competed all over Europe as members of the now civilian British Team, winning in Holland, Belgium, Switzerland and Dublin. Later, the horse was again lent to a younger British team winning in both the USA and Canada. One of the very many high points of this trip was a prestigious first prize at the famous Madison Square Gardens in New York, Nightbird having been ridden by Peter Robeson.

As I became older I was able to ride our now famous horse at local shows, sometimes just cantering around the show ring to show him off. We had to do this because he would not try over smaller jumps, he would knock them down, not good for a famous horse. The truth was that he only performed well when the fences were large, the event prestigious with a great atmosphere. He was a bit of a ‘diva’. He lived in retirement until he was 30 years old, and was buried at his home farm, a wonderful horse. He enabled my father, an ordinary, but talented Pembrokeshire farmer, to see and enjoy many parts of Europe. This was unheard of in the 1950s.