The Fruit Tart

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Well, here it is.

Unlike your friendly mailman, I’m giving you a post on a Sunday! (I started writing on Sunday but now it’s Monday. However, I like this joke so I’m not changing it)

Before we get into any cakey-dementia talk I need to clear up one issue. My darling mother and sister wanted me to make everyone aware that, as well as me and my dad, they also have attended Tea and Cakes. I feel then, that its only fair to let you all know of all the other people who have been out for cakes with me, my dad and grandpa. These include:

All children of my grandpa

Almost all the grandchildren

Most of the great-grandchildren (maybe all, it’s too late in the evening to call and check)

My girlfriend

Cousins

The Pope

James Earl Jones

and Sandi Toksvig

(Those last three may have been people who my grandpa thinks he has had tea with or people I want to have tea with)

So I hope this makes everything better. I’m sure your reading experience will be heightened to a level not far off literacy nirvana knowing that my mum and my sister (as well as a plethora of others) have, at many times, joined me, my dad and good ol’grandpa Natie for cakes.

Right, now onto the important stuff that I haven’t been told to write.

So today (Sunday 17th), we arrived at grandpa’s care home to find him fast asleep in the lounge with all the other fogies (inmates, as my dad calls them). This is never a good sign. Grandpa can be really ‘bad’ when he’s tired or just woken up (to the extent that my sister wont go visit him in the evening as she knows he will not be at his best). My theory on this is that when he’s tired, things just begin to slow down in his head so he gets confused more easily and is far more forgetful. Also, I think when he wakes up he has the same problems but because his mind is starting to get going again rather than getting ready for bed. I see his mind as a classic car. It’s fantastic and a pleasure to be around, you just need to give it a few tries and a coupla whacks on the dashboard (not that we would even consider doing such a thing to grandpa!) before it gets going.

Anyways, I’m rambling. He wakes up and I could have sworn that he had been hitting the whisky. The man seemed completely and utterly smashed. His eyes were rolling about all over the place and he opened up conversation by putting his legs straight out in front of him and saying the great sentence, “If I put my legs like this… It means that I will go the other way (cue hysterical laughing)“. I don’t even think God knows what he was going on about.

“If I put my legs like this… It means that I will go the other way (cue hysterical laughing)

Things however, got better from that point on. Grandpa seemed to sober up and acknowledge us standing around him. My girlfriend was with me and she was the first person grandpa really addressed. Now, grandpa has only met her once and that was about 4 months ago and even though my dad and I had been telling him every weekend for a while that she was coming (he had to be on his best behaviour otherwise he wouldn’t be allowed to meet her, for her sake!), I had little hope that he would remember her name or even really recognise her. To his credit the big man looked at her, smiled and bestowed upon her a compliment of such great beauty that not even I, the veritable lothario that I am, could have ever dreamed of…

“My, what beautiful teeth you have.”

Now, although this compliment is incredibly odd, it was the exact same compliment he gave her 4 months ago. I’m not saying he’s wrong (I happen to think she has lovely teeth) but it is still an very bizarre first comment to make. Twice. I was really curious to find out if he remembered he’d said that the last time or if it was genuinely the first thing he noticed about her but I never got to question it further. He was a man on a mission and that mission was cake.

Grandpa Natie, adores cake. His love of cake is famous amongst the family and he lives up to his reputation of West Scotland’s premier cake connoisseur. Today, for some reason or another, was something special. He, for reasons only he knows (to be honest, he probably can’t remember them anyways), wanted cake more than I have ever known him to want cake. Doing his best Usain Bolt impression he was off like he was driving a rocket powered zimmer frame. However, for all his speed and determination, his grace and skill were comparable to a hippo on roller skates (I wanted to say someone famous but I fear defamation now that I’m a hit in the blogosphere, one can dream). He reached his first hurdle, the car. (in hindsight I should have picked an athlete that competes in the hurdles rather than a pure sprinter, it would have made my writing more impressive looking).

Grandpa struggles with the car. Not driving it, though that is something I would love to see, but getting in it. Dad and I think it’s because his dementia doesn’t just affect his memories, it also affects his skill set. We think his dementia infiltrates a part of his brain that makes him forget incredibly basic tasks that we don’t really think about now, such as how to get in and out of a car. This is always a pretty hard thing to watch. It can be quite frustrating because for me it’s so obvious and simple. Memories I can understand, but tasks that I don’t even think about can be very difficult to watching grandpa struggle with. It’s also one of the moments of genuine weakness from him, if he forgets a name or what he did yesterday he just laughs it off because he knows he forgets things. With the car however, he genuinely doesn’t know what to do and he really doesn’t like that. The one fun thing that comes out of all this is seeing the multitude of different ways he tries to tackle the everest that is the passenger seat of a Ford Escort. Today he tried the basic ‘head first with a quarter turn to sit’ move which ended up with him half in the car, not really sure what to do with his legs. After a complex game of what can only be called “Tetris: Natie Edition” we eventually get him plonked in the seat. Cake time beckons!

Joining us for cake today was his daughter, her husband, my girlfriend and my mum. His daughter (my aunt) lives in London and he doesn’t get to see her very often so he was beaming when he sat down. The cake choice was simple. Strawberry Fruit Tart.

Due to grandpa’s fine motor skills being not so fine, the tart was cut into more spoon-friendly (forks are a no-go!) pieces.

ImageThis picture is very slightly different from the one at the start so it’s ok to put it in!

His review of the cake will be at the end but I feel you should all have the pleasure of reading about the experience that was eating with him. As mentioned earlier, Grandpa loves cake. Not only does he love his cake, he also loves everyone else’s cake. When he sees someone else with a cake different from his, he will give them those puppy dog eyes and say to them in a voice that would make even the most solid of rock cakes melt, “Oh, that looks nice…”. The little trail at the end, the pleading eyes, the not-so-subtle tone of his voice always leads to him having a piece of everyone’s cake on his plate. This time he notched up 5 extra pieces. He was in heaven.

I am incredibly experienced in dealing with the situation. I get the same cake (almost) every week. This way, when he utters those magic four words, I can say to him “It’s the same cake I had last week and the week before, you’ve tried it multiple times now get back to your own cake you big glutton”. I have paraphrased for dramatic effect. This technique works flawlessly, so long as you don’t mind being the only one at the table, other than Grandpa, with an entire bit of cake to yourself. If you ever find yourself out for tea with him and you want all your cake just reply with something along these lines, wether or not it is true, he wont be able to remember one way or another.

ImageThe handsome man himself.

This best thing about this afternoon was the joy at the table. Grandpa was on form with the one liners and comedy actions. He devoured his cake. What he didn’t get on his trousers or face due to the speed he was throwing bits into his mouth, went down his gullet quicker than you could say “Oh Grandpa, that looks nice…”. He then literally started to lick things clean. He would have worn the spoon he used down to a needle if one of us hadn’t stopped him licking it and I wouldn’t be surprised to find out he had no fingerprints left after polishing them off.

He finished off this devouring by delivering one of the greatest lines I have ever had the pleasure to hear.

He looked at his empty, polished to a shine, spoon. Looked up at us slightly perplexed. Looked back at the spoon, brow furrowed and then back up to us incredibly confused. He then proclaimed his predicament to us mere mortals.

“Something’s wrong here. My spoon is empty”

Blown over by such impeccable comic timing, the entire table burt into laughter (much to the alarm of the table next to us). Of course, Natie is a man who lives for joy so a table full of his laughing relatives sent him into fits of laughter too.

The comedic stylings of Natie Barnes weren’t quite over.

A little bit later, mum noticed that his eyes were watering and he seemed to be tearing up. She asked him why he was crying and, to a rousing repeat of earlier laughter, he said, with such sorrow in his voice, that he was crying because,

“I have to wait a whole week until I can have cake again!”

At the end of the afternoon, with trays stacked with the debris from our feast, we had all laughed and smiled more than I think any of us could have hoped for. He may find it a bit tricky to walk and has yet to beat his full-recline, heated bottom, passenger side rival but he can make us all laugh and on times like today I’m glad that it’s his brilliance and Barnes humour that caused the laughter, not his nonsensical ramblings about how my hair is chuky (my dad asked him what chuky meant, grandpa told him to ask his father. We were all a little bit confused by that).

Now finally, onto his review.

Waitrose Strawberry Fruit Tart

Score: 10/10

Appearance: Looks good enough to eat

Time taken to eat (with tea drinking): ~12 mins

Recommend it: Yes (though he did make a wee comment about how that would mean less for him)

Any other comments:

  • It was good
  • It was very good
  • This cake is very good.

Pearls of wisdom: “I’ve had more cakes than I’ve had hot dinners”

So there we have it. The first review. As this blog continues I will try and add more categories. If you would like to find out any other things about a cake, leave a comment and I will try to ask him next time. Thank you all for the comments, great to hear it’s been met so well!

‘Till next week.

Alex

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So what on earth is this about?

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This dashing man (sporting a very flattering hair style I may add) is my Grandpa Natie. At the ripe old age of 91 he is the patriarch of my family and without doubt the nuttiest of all nuts in the family tree. With 4 children, 9 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren this numpty of a nonagenarian really is the figurehead of our family.

Unfortunately, with great age also comes a great chance of something going a little bit wrong with your body. In my grandpa’s case, the most prominent and also the hardest to deal with of these is his dementia. He has vascular dementia, this is the kind of dementia caused by clots in the tiny blood vessels in the brain. It’s main symptoms are memory loss, thinking speed and mobility.

It was approximately a year and a half ago that my grandpa started showing signs of dementia. Up until then he was the fittest and sharpest almost-90 year old I have ever met. He would walk twice a week round Pollok park for 40 mins with my dad and dog as well as walking to the shops etc. He was mentally sharp as a tac too. A keen Scrabble player his mind was always running at full speed.

It was around the time of his 90th birthday (a party that he flew down to on his own, something that I wouldn’t even think of allowing him to do now) that signs of age started to show. We’d have to keep reminding him of certain things and he would be far more reliant on his wee agenda book for finding out what his week had in store.

Now my grandpa lives in an amazing care home called Westacres and is a very different man to what he was just over a year ago. The dementia hit him like a train, it wasn’t a gradual change over an extended period of time, instead, in the space of 2 years by grandpa appears to have aged by 25. He now needs a zimmer frame to get about and his memory is all over the place. He has good days and bad days (thankfully, I have not seen many of them) but a good day still isn’t a great day.

However it is not all doom and gloom, I view my grandpas dementia as something that is unavoidable. He has gotten older and as a result things don’t quite work the way they used to. There’s nothing that I can really do that will reverse his dementia and it’s something that can only get worse as he gets older. As a result of this, I have realised that it’s pointless getting upset or downtrodden about it all. It is something that is just a product of getting old and is completely out of my hands so as a result I try and make the best of a not ideal situation. Something that helps this approach is the fact that my grandpa’s dementia makes him absolutely hysterical. He can come out with some completely unrelated and totally bizarre sentence that has everyone in stitches (including him, he knows he talks nonsense) or he makes totally inappropriate comments about people around him and can’t understand why everyone is telling him to shush and in turn laughs incredibly vocally.

Now, finally I can get to the purpose of this blog.

I have written this blog for two main purposes. Firstly, I think this can be a good way for me to express my emotions and feelings on the matter as well as a kind of record of the dementia’s ‘development’ (you’ll shortly find out how this record will be structured). Asides from everything else, I find the dementia fascinating, his memories seem to be influenced by things around him (he once was convinced me and my dad had come back from saving prisoners from a POW camp. There was a WWII movie on tv) and seems to have no problems remembering things that didn’t happen (he swears he has been on a cruise recently and has two rooms) but struggles remembering things such as people’s names. I want to use this blog to sort of collect all these different observations and see if anything interesting comes up.

Secondly (and more entertainingly), this blog is for cake reviews.

Every weekend, usually both Saturday and Sunday, me and my dad take grandpa for tea and cakes (I know the title of this blog is “Nae tea…” but I don’t have tea, he does) at the Newton Mearns Waitrose.

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Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum

My dad and I noticed very quickly that grandpa loved sharing his thoughts and feelings about his cakes so decided we should write them down, hence the blog you have before you. Hopefully every week I will be uploading one (maybe two) posts to share with you the review my grandpa gave his cake that week. There will be things such as an overall rating, comments on appearance and taste, comparison to last weeks (a wee memory test) and, if I remember, the speed taken to eat the cake.

This will also be used by me as a record of my grandpas memory. He can have the same cake weeks in a row and be utterly convinced it was the first time he’s had it. I’m interested to see a written progress of cake eating.

So, if anyone is still with me at this point, here you have it! The, as far as I’m aware, first blog that combines an outlook on dementia with reviews of a local supermarket’s cakes. I hope this will be a really fun project for me as well as brining to light some of the issues and hardships families have to face when dealing with dementia. Also, if Waitrose get wind of this and decide to give us free cakes to review, I won’t complain.

Alex