A SLEW of stories about dementia has appeared in the public prints this week. You say: “That’s not a subject for an incomprehensibly dim clown like you to be tackling. That’s for serious people, stuffed to the gunnels with gravitas.”

Yes, I guess so, though this news just in: I too have a brain. No, seriously. I keep it in the same place as the juice-maker, chest-expander and family pack of vindaloo-flavoured condoms: seldom if ever used, but comforting to know they’re there should I ever need them.

Besides, I suppose I can bring a bit of perspective to the subject, as my old mum died of dementia. Bit worrying, of course, particularly when I talk to my mate about football and he can recall scores and highlights from matches 10 years ago, while I struggle to remember which team I support.

But I don’t let occasional memory lapses worry me too much. The main reason we forget people’s names when introduced is simply that we don’t make an effort to remember them. We expect the information just to lodge in the brain by osmosis. But you’ve got to put in the work.

When we’re kids, we make an effort to remember football players’ names and, even in youth, we actively memorise song titles on albums. So we remember them all our lives. When we get older, we don’t put in the work.

As for my football team, for the sake of my mental health, I spend a lot of time actively trying to forget that I support Hibs. That’s the one: Hibs. I knew it had an “ibs” in it.

While I’m imparting sage advice here, and just to get it out of the way before looking at the news stories, let me implore thee thus: stay active in mind and body. That keeps the demented beastie at bay.

Right. Enough of me trying to sound like I know what I’m talking about. What’s been in the papers? Well, from my point of view, I must say the news has been mixed.

First, there was a report that wild swimming could help prevent dementia. It was an odd one, as the Cambridge Yooni scientist behind the finding immediately added that she wasn’t advocating regular dips in freezing lochs.

The finding seemed to be that elevating levels of a “cold shock” protein slowed the onset of dementia, and even repaired some of its damage. However, as was sagely pointed out, suddenly subjecting your body to extreme cold comes with a health risk of its own for some people.

As Professor Giovanna Mallucci perspicaciously put it: “We are the nutters that go cold water swimming. You wouldn’t catch an Eskimo doing that.”

Nutters is right. Even warm sea water is best avoided. I had a go at wild swimming earlier this year in temperate Scottish water and, after floundering about and repeatedly losing my footing on the sharp rocks and seaweed of the shallows, came out with both knees and the sole of my left foot bleeding. Also, you know that thing about never forgetting how to swim? Not true.

Finnish-style saunas followed by a cold dip also came into the discussion about dementia, and I have to say that, thanks to Covid, I really miss my weekly sauna followed by a seven-second cold shower.

It was a good place for a natter, as was volunteering at the local museum and attending a tai chi class. All gone now, which added a bitter taste to a report that joining clubs reduces the risk of age-related mental decline.

Worse still was the news that living in a noisy area raises the risk of dementia. Well, that’s me doomed.

But are we downhearted? Only slightly. On the plus side, I keep myself mentally active by delivering uplifting lectures to you every week; and the gym’s back, at least at the time of going to press.

By avoiding wild water, repeating the word “Hibs” to myself every 10 minutes, and, in the absence of a sauna, steaming my coupon over a bowl of hot water, I will keep my brain in tip-top condition – just in case I ever need to use it.


SAY you went for a job driving a nuclear submarine, and the man interviewing you said after 10 minutes: “I’ve heard enough – you’ve got the job.”

You’d probably go home thinking, ‘Right, I’d better take this seriously. No mucking about, like on my previous job cleaning windows.’

However, one devil-may-care fellow appears to have thought: ‘Right, this’ll be a blast – so to speak, ha-ha!’

Accordingly, he is now being investigated after turning up for a shift on HMS Vigilant while inebriated and carrying a bag of barbecued chicken.

Alas, HMS Vigilant appears to have earned a rather more louche name for itself, having been dubbed “HMS Sex and Cocaine”, following sundry earlier scandals.

Is it just me who is worried by this sort of thing? Wouldn’t it be rather sad if the world was blown to pieces by a blotto matelot clutching a bag of barbecued chicken? Perhaps not.


SOME of the few happiest seconds of my life have been spent on allotments, of which I have had two.

One was on a field of same, situated between a prison and a cemetery. It was such a peaceful place. Because folk were growing veg and not manicuring gardens, there were never any aural recreations of the Battle of Somme with mowers, strimmers, trimmers and suchlike ordnance.

Any such disturbance on a regular basis would have incurred the ire of … The Allotments Committee.

My other allotment was a solitary plot behind a church. Here, one day, I strewed the soil with foul-smelling seaweed, and a blackbird frolicked with delight at microscopic treats that he picked off the fronds.

When I was done digging and lay down to rest, and he was done noshing, he flew over and perched on my right boot, trilling a song of gratitude at me. Marvellous moment.

Today, I read that women are taking over allotments while men are doing more domestic chores. Some kind of long-term gender karma at work here, I guess. Good luck to them. I recommend smelly seaweed to cultivate avian pals.


THE usual hullabaloo has been taking place in preparation for the clocks going back tomorrow.

As this ostensibly benefits the more northerly parts of the UK, we’ve had to endure the usual Jock-bating of the sort that would never be tolerated the other way in uber-PC Scotia.

The Daily Telegraph discussed the issue under the heading “Scottish mean time?” Then they wonder why folk are fed up with the Union.

Mind you, one contributor interestingly raised the idea of making the matter devolved, pointing out that this happens in Canada and Australia. Would that work? Vive la difference, ken? I suppose there’d be all sorts of business objections.

Another contributor declared she loved the evening cosiness that darkness brought on when one was safely snuggled indoors with a hearty meal bubbling on the hob. I know what she means.

Mind you, one thing I’ve come to dread is driving on country roads in the darkness. I used to be fine with it, but the old eyelobes seem to have gone wonky somewhere along the line, and I now stay in at night and ask myself: “Is that the time already?”

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