Category Archives: Alzheimer’s and the author

The Seven Ages of Gramps, Part 1

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.


At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.

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Pegasus Falling on ManOfLaBook.com

Today, Zohar from the excellent ManOfLaBook.com featured a guest post written by Mike telling the story of how Pegasus Falling came to be published.

Grandfather’s Book Published – A Tragedy

The story of how Pega­sus Falling came to be pub­lished is pos­si­bly as tragic as the story within its pages.
William Thomas, my grand­fa­ther, was born in 1925. He started work as a mes­sen­ger at theBBC at the age of 14. When war broke out, he went to work with his father at a fac­tory in Har­row. While still a teenager, William joined the army and was soon recruited in to the Para­chute Reg­i­ment. By May 1945, he had been “dropped” in to a num­ber of key bat­tles and become a much dec­o­rated sol­dier. He was still only 19 years old. Fol­low­ing the war, he served in Pales­tine until 1948.
William has six chil­dren. As they were grow­ing up, he was work­ing and study­ing in shifts as a mer­chant sea­man and an engi­neer. He was one of the first stu­dents to enrol at The Open Uni­ver­sity and in his mid fifties, he decided to work there full time as a lab tech­ni­cian, remain­ing there until his retire­ment in 1990.
Hav­ing become quickly bored of the life of a pen­sioner, he looked around for some­thing to keep him occu­pied. A lover of the arts, in par­tic­u­lar music and lit­er­a­ture, he bought him­self an elec­tronic key­board (he is an excel­lent jazz pianist) and a word proces­sor, hav­ing decided to sit down and write a book…

To continue reading the guest post on ManOfLaBook.com, and be in with a chance of winning an eCopy of the book, click here.

To read Zohar’s 5* review of Pegasus Falling, click here.

1776 and all that

This date always reminds me of a story Gramps told me once of his travels in the US of A.

William spent time as a merchant seaman and an engineer, and both careers saw him travelling around the world and visiting many far flung places. The US became a favourite stop, and one year he found himself there just as the July 4th holiday was approaching.

I can’t remember exactly where he was – but Chicago always springs to mind, because he was riding the subway alone, enjoying a moment to himself. As he tells it, a woman sat down opposite him and, because the car was virtually empty, decided to strike up a conversation.

“So,” the woman asks. “What are your plans for the fourth of July?”

“Oh,” replies William, “I don’t have any plans.”

“Really?” replies the woman, surprised. “Why not?”

“I’m British. We don’t celebrate the fourth of July.”

“What?!” the woman protests, indignantly. “You guys don’t celebrate the fourth of July?! Why not?”

“Well…we lost.”

It seems that in celebrating the birth of her nation, the woman had forgotten exactly how that nation had been born, of the difficult circumstances under which the declaration of independence had been signed, and the bloody battles which had ensued to ensure the United States could shake off the “tyranny” of British rule.

I’m no expert on the American Revolution, but I do know that it was not the best of times for the British. Their attitude was almost entirely that of keeping hold of what they saw as legitimately theirs at any cost. And in their acts, they became pariahs, not only to the Americans, but also to other European nations, who soon took the opportunity to declare war themselves.

The history of the American revolution is fascinating, and a subject I’d love to delve in to more. Perhaps I will one day. After all, it’s an event which affected our history almost as much as it did the American colonists.

I’d like to wish all of my American friends, and our American readers, a very happy fourth of July. I’ll raise a toast to your independence. But I hope that you guys can understand why we Brits don’t take the day quite so much to heart as you do. After all, we were the losing side on that particular occasion, and instead of fireworks and celebrations, a moment of quiet reflection, much like the one Gramps was having that day, is more in order this side of the pond.

Alzheimer’s and the author: The long goodbye

As many of you will know, William has Alzheimer’s. He began showing signs of dementia shortly after finishing writing the Cypress Branches 15 years ago. Since then, his health has deteriorated steadily and he is now cared for in a home in Milton Keynes in the UK.

It has been a struggle for the family to see a man so vibrant and intelligent in life slowly slip away from us.

Browsing through some old photos a few days ago, I found three photos of William with his wife Sheila, each taken 3 years apart covering the last six years. It is both remarkable and heartbreaking to see the difference in each photo.

The first was taken in April 2006 on a holiday in Somerset.

Author and Alzheimer's sufferer William & wife Sheila on holiday 2006

The next was taken three years later, at the launch of the hardback book in July 2009.

Author and Alzheimer's sufferer William & wife Sheila at book launch 2009

And most recently, this one, taken in March 2012, at the launch of Pegasus Falling.

Author and Alzheimer's sufferer William & wife Sheila in 2012

Alzheimer’s is called “the long goodbye” for a reason. I was asked recently during a radio interview whether the family had said goodbye and the question floored me for a second. Although William’s personality and vitality has diminished rapidly in the last six years, there are still glimmers of him that come through. On most occasions, he won’t talk and rarely recognises members of his own family. We’re all prepared for the inevitable. He’s not going to get any better. And we’ve all been saying goodbye for a while now, but it’s so hard to do.

When, all of a sudden, he’ll fix you with a knowing stare and say, “hello mate”, instead of saying goodbye, you want to reach into that mind of his and say hello back, start a conversation, ask him what he’s been up to and share a joke or two. It would be wonderful to be able to claw back the man who wrote such incredible books, and to ask him the many questions I have about them.

Instead, the moment passes all too quickly and the understanding is gone again.