Vascular dementia is the second most common cause of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease. It occurs when blood vessels in the brain are damaged. This reduces blood flow to brain cells, which affects how they work. Sometimes this blood vessel damage can cause memory and thinking problems.
Mary is based on three different ladies I met when my mother-in-law was living in a care home. The first was Francis, the Irish lady with the beads, the second was actually called Mary, she was also Irish.
Mary had been living in the care home for some time before my mother-in law arrived. When we first met her we thought she was a member of staff. She wanted to take our coats, show us where to make a cup of tea and generally busy herself around us. When we sat down in the communal lounge she sat with us. She took great interest in my son who was five at the time.
“Now young man,” she said. “Who have we here?“
“Charlie,” he replied, looking to us for reassurance.
“Well don’t you go forgetting to say your pleases and thank yous!” she said, sternly, and walked off.
Charlie was mortified, thinking he’d done something wrong. We just about had time to explain that Mary wasn’t cross, just interested in him when Mary came to sit with us again.
“Now young man,” she said again. “Who have we here? Now don’t you go forgetting to say your pleases and thank yous!” It was a sequence that would be repeated every time we went to visit.
Charlie learnt to answer, “Thank you Mary, my name is Charlie please,” and only then would he receive Mary’s nod of approval.
Mary was a cheerful character, but I'm almost certain she didn't realise she lived in the care home.
"We'll it's been lovely meeting you, but I really must be going." she said regularly.
The doors all had codes on them (fortunately) so Mary had to carefully plan her exit. She would sit on a chair near the front door, and whenever it opened she would jump up, “Would you just hold the door a moment?” Whoever was on duty must have had a headache trying to keep an eye on Mary, but she gave me plenty of material for my book.
Mary became an expert convincer. One day Beryl’s granddaughter had been visiting and let Mary through the door. Apparently Mary managed to get right outside without anyone noticing, and she asked Beryl’s granddaughter to get her a taxi. Luckily, she also asked the granddaughter why she had cut off the three blind mice’s tails with a carving knife, so the granddaughter brought her back upstairs.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 7 March 2021
This is an incredibly good debut novel, aimed at children and teenagers aged between 10 and 15 years old. We are gripped by two contrasting stories which cleverly culminate at the end. Dementia is a serious topic sensitively portrayed in a refreshing and uplifting way. Fantastic read!
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