As promised This is Dawn's Article.
What’s it like for members elsewhere in the country? . . . Where’s Betty Blue? By Dawn May Do you ever explore the Parkinson’s U.K. website? Have you ever been on the “forum?” Must say, it’s a bit . . lively. And it feels very raw, with desperate pleas from fellow People with Parkinson’s and other PwPs trying to advise them. There is one voice which rings out above the rest.That of Betty Blue. She is compassionate, comforting and . . . well . . . cool.
I first met her when I was in Lincoln visiting my sick father and I had earlier contacted the Lincoln branch of PUK, offering to come and talk about my children’s books. Rather scarily, they accepted straight away. So now I found myself standing in front of a large audience of expectant PwPs, with a pile of books on the table beside me and very wobbly legs.
At that time, I was very emotional about my diagnosis, about how I was going to fight back and about my grandson Luca, who definitely wasn’t going to see me as a fragile and sick old lady, but as a normal, energetic Granny. So, inevitably, as I began my talk, those waves of emotion swept over me and all I could do was swallow hard and let the tears flow until I could compose myself again.
Karen, her real name, was sitting at the front. She came up out of her chair, stick in hand, touched my arm and stood beside me for the rest of the talk. Just that little act of kindness and solidarity made it all seem less daunting. And so it has been since.
Karen organised school visits for me every time I went to Lincoln, where we both went to talk about Parkinson’s to junior school children. Their interest and enthusiasm were overwhelming. Often pupils said to us “People knew about it 200 years ago and still there isn’t a cure? Don’t worry, Miss. I will find a cure for you”. Oh, the optimism of youth!
Karen is only 50. She is a wild child, changing her hair colour every time I see her, mad about her nails, making crazy jewellery to sell in aid of PUK *- jewellery more muted and discreet for me, respectful of the 13 years I have over her - oh, and she is also “a biker chick”. She and her husband ride a Triumph Bonneville T100 bike, attend rallies all over the country and, most recently, participated in a “Santa Run” raising funds for underprivileged children in the Lincoln area and delivering presents. http://www.lincolnshireecho.co.uk/pictures/Halfway-Heroes-M-C-C-Christmas-ToyRun-Gallery/pictures-28397429-detail/pictures.html
I missed the Bristol branch Christmas lunch, because of another visit to Lincoln hospital, but guess who came to my rescue? No lunch? No problem! A spare ticket for the Lincoln branch lunch, which happened to be on the following Monday, appeared without fuss.
We don’t talk politics. I don’t do disco. I have never sat pillion on a motorbike, let alone on a vintage bike like hers. My nails are short and stubby, my make-up … “natural”. My hair colour stays more or less the same . . . . But do these differences matter? What is a “friend?” Karen, you are a gem and I am so grateful to you for your kindness and your friendship.
Oh, and by the way, the Christmas lunch at The Bentley was a magnificent affair, chandeliers, beautifully decorated tables, many guests dressed in evening dress - well, Karen was! In a home made “pashmina” she called it, but more of a full length robe really, in Parkinson’s UK cyan blue, with hair dyed blue to match! No one took photos, it would seem. What a pity. But you will get a taste of who Betty Blue is from these photos. So a very big thank you to you, Karen, and to the Lincoln branch for making me feel so welcome. I sincerely hope 2016 goes well, for all of us. * for Karen’s jewellery, please visit her Facebook page “Exclusive Hand Made Jewellery.”