I tend to have three books on the go at any one time (not including the Bible): one Christian book, one serious more academic book and one novel. The first two are read early in the day and the last just before I go to sleep at night to help me nod off. I once tried reading the ‘Constitutional Practices and Disciplines of the Methodist Church’ at night, which did help me to go to sleep but gave me nightmares! I like that last book of the day to be light, funny or slightly boring; anything too exciting and I just want to keep on reading which defeats the object.
Recently I came across a book with an intriguing title ‘The Hundred-Year-Old man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared’. The blurb about the book tells us that it all starts on the 100th birthday of Allan Karlsson. Sitting quietly in his room in an old people’s home, he is waiting for the party, that he didn’t want anyway, to begin. The Mayor is going to be there, the press is going to be there. But, as it turns out, Allan is not… Slowly but surely, Allan climbs out of the window and into the flowerbed (in his slippers) and makes his getaway. And so his unlikely journey begins. The book is really quite funny but it wasn’t very good at sending me to sleep because I was enjoying it too much, it was fun and not at all serious.
I was reminded of this book last month when I thought that there could be a new book called: ‘The Eighty-Nine Year Old Man Who Told His Wife He Was Popping Out For A While And Went To The D-Day Celebrations In Normandy’. Bernard Jordan, otherwise known as ‘The Great Escaper’ sneaked out of his care home in Hove, told his wife he would going out for a while (she knew his plans really but kept them to herself), put on his medals under his raincoat and joined other veterans on a coach on its way to Normandy. Evidently he was worried that if he told anyone about his intentions they would try to stop him and he was determined to go; it was something he needed to do. Fortunately some people on the ferry realized that he was posted as missing and phoned home assuring everyone that he was fine and they would look after him. He returned home to a hero’s welcome and declared that he “would do it again tomorrow.”
This story inspired the nation. It was as if the spirit of D-Day was alive and well, embodied in this man. It was important to him and he loved every moment. For me it spoke of determination and that sometimes others can’t understand the need we have to do something and that we should never underestimate the more mature among us.
At the end of July we will be celebrating the work of MHA (Methodist Homes for the Aged as it used to be called) and thinking about the work that it does on our behalf caring for the elderly and the frail. I remember with great fondness my two years as Chaplain of Hall Grange, a Methodist Home in Shirley. It was a time when I was able to listen to the stories of people’s long lives and hear of their incredible achievements.
I wonder how many of us look at an older person and forget that they were young once and have a wealth of experience to share with us as well as memories of a world that has change beyond recognition in their lifetimes. I hope none of the residents of Hall Grange ever wanted to climb out of the window and escape… although thinking about it I was often on ‘Dolly duty’, which meant driving round the neighbourhood looking for 90 year old Dolly who sometimes wanted to go back to her parents home and live with them again. She had had a very happy childhood and a very full life but when I gently brought her back she quickly settled again and told me tales of her life and her travels. Spending time listening to people not only values them but enriches our experience of the world.
I hope that you all have a great summer and that perhaps you may have the opportunity to do something a little unexpected.