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Live and learn blog

An Olympics sceptic recants

My tendency towards grumpiness has increased with age. Mondays are, perhaps not unsurprisingly, pinnacles of irritability. Not that I am aware of outward signs of this, more that it dwells inside me and often comes out as intolerant thoughts. I am a silent Basil Fawlty, if you will.

In recent months, a frequent vent for my spleen has been the Olympics. News stories about the costs, security staffing problems, traffic congestion, and so on, have only added fuel to my Scrooge-like bitterness. To be honest, the whole thing started after the seemingly personal injustice of acquiring no tickets in the first two rounds of application.

Dementia is a horrible illness, and pre-senile dementia even worse. The course is rapid, and the personality changes often extreme. Edward is only 58 years old, and his great pre-morbid intellect has deserted him. Once a judge, he was never a man for trifles.

His partner recalls Edward’s love of books, his drive to succeed, and — above all — his pursuit of justice and fairness. Edward was deliberate, thoughtful and measured in every response. Now he is impulsive, rude and often hurtful to those who love him most. But just when all hope seems lost and his story too sad to recall, there is a release. For Edward is playful. He finds great joy in the simplest of things.

Edward will stand in the rain and light up with happiness. He will instantly smile to music, and sit holding his partner’s hand for long periods, appearing content and at peace.

He will ask people for a hug, and give great embraces with the genuineness of a child. If he meets an overweight stranger, Edward will instantly call them ‘fat’. He has few inhibitions, and his family are often apologising for his bluntness.

I usually see Edward on Mondays, our respective timetables converging at a day hospital. On one such occasion in July, he heard me chuntering about the wasteful excesses of London 2012, and came over to investigate. Edward looked me up and down, and called me a ‘cross fool’, then walked off to join the art group.

Well, the Olympics have finished and I was wrong; they were worth every penny. They seem to have unified our nation, a brief happy respite from the melancholy of a double-dip recession.

Edward is failing rapidly, he’s forgotten how to dress or use the toilet now. But his words will stay with me, and I hope I can retain something of his childlike lightness of spirit in the face of what are often only minor irritations.

In-depth: Olympic and Paralympic Games 2012

See how doctors are contributing to the Games - as athletes, as torchbearers and, of course, as doctors

Read our In-depth on the Games