An extract from the book ‘Slow Puncture’

Deb Bunt and Peter Berry have kindly allowed TheBoldAge to feature an extract from their brilliant and inspirational book ‘Slow Puncture’

Published by Deb Bunt on Feb 17, 2021

A big thank you to Deb Bunt and Peter Berry the co-authors of ‘Slow Puncture’ for allowing TheBoldAge to print an extract from their book. For anybody that has yet to read it, all I can say is that as much as I wonder at everything Peter is achieveing and his infectious lust for life, I cannot do it, Peter or Deb true justice. This I leave it to Hugh Bonneville and David Bradford.

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“Here’s a thing,” he says. “I look like a shop front with all sorts of gleaming, wonderful things in the window. Outside my shop, there’s planters with colourful flowers, and a well-maintained pathway leading to the shop. The windows are clean and shiny, and the paintwork freshly applied. It looks like the sort of shop you would want to visit. It’s a great shop full of exciting things to buy and look at.”

Like a surgeon examining his patient, Peter studies his gingerbread man for a moment and then, with great precision, extracts a button from its midriff and pops it into his mouth. His enjoyment is apparent and crystallised for a transient moment, before it is gone forever.

“But in reality,” he continues, “once you go into my mind and start to rummage around, what you get is the rubbish in the back of the store, untidy and messy, full of cobwebs. It really needs someone to sort through it. It’s unusable goods, you see.”

Peter isn’t looking for sympathy; he eschews pity. He is merely trying to explain to me what it is like to be him and to live with dementia. He has no expectation that I tell him it will be all right because, clearly, it will not be and I will not belittle him by meaningless epithets or reassurances.

And so, on this unremarkable day, we sit, Peter and I, two friends in a comfortable bubble of companionship, just being, just living in the moment as he has taught me to do. Apart from thinking about our training for the challenge and discussing where we might cycle to, there is nothing particular to say and it doesn’t really matter. I feel held, contained, knowing Peter will devise a route for the training and that he will look after me and my bike (preferably, but knowing Peter’s love of bikes, not necessarily in that order). I feel safe in Peter’s company.

This moment of serenity is broken when the man at the next table leans over and taps Peter’s arm.

“Peter! Great to see you again.”

“You too, my friend,” replies Peter. His face instantly breaks

into a huge beam.

“It’s been a long while!”

“Too long,” agrees Peter.

“How are you?”

“Wonderful, perfect. As ever.”

There then follows a lengthy conversation in which Peter participates fully and enthusiastically.

“Who was that?” I ask when the man leaves.

“Do you know what?” says Peter solemnly. “I have absolutely no idea whatsoever.” And, suddenly, even as we both laugh, I see it, there it is, that embryonic moment of sadness, gone before it has time to form fully, hidden away from his audience, to be replaced by a broad grin: Peter the Showman at his best.