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A time that never was?

Our first Desert Island Discs at Dementia Conversations Bowdon Vale featured ‘The White Cliffs of Dover’ by Vera Lynn. The mood was set for the afternoon – dreamy memories of love, hope, determination against what seemed like impossible odds. A belief that was shared by ordinary people. A belief which prevailed.

Music is established as a most powerful resource in communicating with and by people affected by dementia – as in people who do not have dementia.

Vera Lynn was active and important through the war – and continued to be active and a reference point throughout her long life – still performing and cutting hits into her nineties. Her death and the dignified celebrations if her life, which have followed mark another punctuation to the flow of our lives associated with these extraordinary and stressful times of lockdown and excess deaths.

In her Guardian appreciation, Joan Bakewell reflects that the warm glow associated with these songs of hope are not true to the reality or generality of those times. There was much suffering, separation, anguish, deprivation, pain and losses by deaths. There were crooks who exploited the situation for their personal gain and to the detriment of others. There were indeed – but memories of the hopes and togetherness shared by many have lived on

Joan Bakewells ‘ We who are old mourn, in losing her, the vision she gave us of our younger, happier selves yearning for love and peace – as we still do.’ is poetry and romance in itself and will move many, as it does me.

The metaphor of war does not feel appropriate to the international efforts being made to control COVID-19, nor to the encouragement of people to rally together in our efforts, which have been tinged with the notion of British exceptionalism. Yet the perceptions of people visiting or working in care homes most severely affected by the virus: ‘It was like going to war’ are raw and heartfelt and accurate

The loss of life in the UK has been great and the story is not finished yet 22 days in April: the darkest hours of the UK coronavirus crisis

There are wonderful things being done to support people and raise spirits during this crisis. None quite as evocative and enduring as Vera Lynn and her songs.

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