Peter Berry Who Lives with Dementia Shares His Poetry in: Walk With Me, Compiled by Deb Bunt

About Peter Berry/Deb Bunt - Walk With Me

Walk With Me - Deb BuntBy Deb Bunt, England, United Kingdom

In September 2020, Slow Puncture was published. Along with the elation which accompanied publication, there was also another, more visceral, emotion. Fear! What if people hate it? What if no one reads it? What if I have misrepresented Peter or made some faux pas about dementia? As it turned out, the book was well-received and this gave me the confidence to put another book together on Peter’s behalf.

Over the last two years, Peter has been texting me his thoughts, generally when he was weary and when the dementia was snuggling up next to him for the evening. When Peter sent his thoughts, he did not refine or polish his words, they came from his heart, through his fingers, into the phone, traversed the three miles from his village to my town and landed in my lap. As they vanished for him (as they did the instant they left his fingers), they become my responsibility. I jotted them down for him, acting as his “plug in and save device,” which is one of the many terms by which he refers to me (the others are unprintable!). Occasionally I would post a poem onto Peter’s Facebook page and the response was overwhelming. I could tell that people were genuinely moved by Peter’s words. There was a general clamour for me to put these thoughts together into a book and so I have! Peter’s poetry and thoughts sit at the very core of our new book.

Ours is a friendly town where people chat randomly to strangers and during the last year, we met Daniel Ruffles. Dan is a talented photographer, taking pictures of the Suffolk landscape and coastal areas. When I saw his photos, I knew that they would provide a perfect accompaniment to Peter’s words. We selected some of Dan’s photos and he put them together in this collection of Peter’s writings.

And the story behind the front cover? Some time ago, Peter was involved in the award-winning UK Channel Four documentary, “The Restaurant That Makes Mistakes.” During that time, he met Sue Strachan and her partner, Sheila Marsh. Emerging, phoenix-like from the burned embers of the restaurant (joke: it didn’t burn), a friendship was born and has been sustained despite the geographical distances between the friends. Artist, Sheila, offered to create and draw the front cover of this book: you can see the shadowy figure of Peter, clutching a butterfly net, trying to capture those elusive words. And, of course, given his years of work in the timber trade, the forest environment is particularly significant for Peter. I believe that the cover represents more than just a book cover: it shows the importance of Peter’s working life, the enduring impact of friendships and, perhaps more poignantly of all, that light can still shine through the darkness that is dementia.

Although Peter’s words are personal and poignant, he is keen for me to share them. His words give a privileged insight into his experiences of living with dementia. When I showed Peter the finished book and he started to read some of his poems, it was so apparent that he had never seen any of these words before and a look of strange melancholy crossed his brow; he looked up and said “There’s some good sh*t here, isn’t there?” And that is the quintessential essence of the man: the ability to fuse pathos and humour to such good effect and to leave you laughing rather than crying.

There is so much stigma attached to those living with dementia. Walk With Me will help others to stand in Peter’s shoes and see that Peter is still Peter: he is still the man who cycles hundreds of miles and now he is the man who can put together words in a way that are profoundly moving. His thoughts and experiences are valid for him and, I hope, they will give inspiration to others living with dementia/Alzheimer’s and offer some explanation to family/carers what this might be like when those living with the condition no longer have the voice to share their own thoughts.

Peter - and - Teresa - BerryPeter Berry

I’m married to Teresa and have one daughter, Kate. I owned a successful timber business which I was forced to give up after my diagnosis of early onset dementia but I can still identify any tree at a glance. I’m passionate about all types of bikes and own a 1950’s Claud Butler, a single speed bike, a 1945 F C Parks touring cycle, a mountain bike and, of course, a penny farthing affectionately referred to as “Penny.” Eight years into my diagnosis, I am still locked in combat with my dementia monster and I am determined to continue to fight him.

Deb Bunt, Slow Puncture: Living Wellith DementiaDeb Bunt

I am married with two sons and two grandchildren. I’m retired and moved from London to live in glorious Suffolk, where my days are spent with friends and family, cycling, drinking coffee, eating cake, writing, trying to play Beethoven on the piano, still trying to loosen the shackles which have bound me to Arsenal Football Club for over fifty years and, above all, trying to perfect the skill of “living in the moment.”






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