It was the time when there were major reorganisations of the National Health Service and I was not prepared to give up the lab I worked in. I was part/time in this lab where I specialised in EEG and involved in research.
When I reached my 60 years I resigned. My daughters had left home and with my husband still very involved in his writing and singing I looked for some activities to pass the time. I joined a group that was forming a local u3a , bought binoculars and joined the Bird Watching world .
It is in this organisation that I met a woman my age, a trained nurse who came from South Africa. We immediately became close friends as we understood each other’s home sickness.
On one of our tours I noticed that she stayed behind the group and kept looking into the tree where a bird was hiding. We all saw it but she stayed behind and when she caught up with us declared: it took me a long time but I saw it in the end. I did not realise that this might have been the first indication of some problem…. A month? more? I cannot remember. We were walking along a path in the outskirts of London. She stopped and showed me the wall of a destroyed building and asked me : Look can you see the beautiful painting on the wall ? I looked and looked and all I saw was a wall with climbing vegetation.
It is around this time that our paths diverged.
She went on holiday to some friends in Canada. Out of the blue she wrote to me that she was worried again as looking through her binoculars she saw in the distance a huge brown animal when there was nothing there. When she walked in the early night she saw figures in empty squares. But she wrote ‘I do not understand. They did not find anything wrong with my vision.’
She must have had other symptoms that she did not discuss with me but I got a phone call telling me that she had finally consulted with her GP, who had sent a specialist nurse with a series of psychological tests to her house. She performed with no mistakes. She must have failed on different tests that I did not know about. A few weeks later she phoned me to say that she would like me to come with her to a consultation at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery. She was referred by the local hospital and her husband was away.
The consultation was long and even involved an EEG. (I remember I did not think much of their equipment). I heard her say that she found difficulty in reading – something she had not told me before and that she was depressed, home sick, and prone to bouts of anger. Weeks later she told me that the consultant found nothing wrong but advised the GP to keep an eye on her.
We started to have very separate lives. She was still working making new friends and interests. I decided to carry on my academic studies. Ageism was my field of study. My preferred subject was the representation of of old women in feature films. It took me a few years to get my Masters. We stopped seeing each other and the few encounters were awkward. I was excited by my new interest while she was mostly silent.
A few years later during the lockdowns I received an invitation to join a Zoom dedicated to my friend who had died of Alzheimers .