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Live webchat with Phyllida Law - Wednesday 13 March 1-2pm

(69 Posts)
CariGransnet (GNHQ) Wed 27-Feb-13 13:33:41

We are absolutely delighted that actress and writer Phyllida Law will be joining us at GNHQ for a live webchat.

Following the acclaimed Notes to my Mother-in-Law (which documented her relationship with her husband’s mother who lived with the family for 17 years) comes her new book - How Many Camels Are There In Holland? - a chronicle of Phyllida’s relationship with her own mother who suffered from dementia.

Recently widowed, bringing up her own two daughters (actresses Emma and Sophie Thompson) and working as a successful actress herself, Phyllida went up and down to Scotland to spend as much time with her ailing mother as she could manage. During the period she kept a lively and frank journal noting many of the sad yet funny examples of her mother’s faltering grip on reality. The journal includes reminiscences of her own childhood and the tragic death of her only brother.

Do add your questions for Phyllida here (and we have a signed copy of the book to give away to one lucky poster on the thread)

Pollyanna Thu 28-Feb-13 13:10:57

Hi, Has the knowledge of your mothers illness made you think twice about things or do you just plunge in anyway? I have missed seeing your performances in recent times but now I understand where you have been and hope to see you on the screen again soon.

animallover Thu 28-Feb-13 14:14:37

I think its good to share experineces through a book so many people are afraid of this illness and yet people with dementia have so much to give

nancy22 Thu 28-Feb-13 15:20:56

Hello. I think its great that you have done your book and it is a way for people to pick up relate to. I hope you were also able to talk to friends about what you were going through yourself as it is hard to see the person you love slip away and not reconize you. Much more needs to be done to help the people with dementia and also there families too.

cupcake1 Thu 28-Feb-13 15:39:57

I have a MIL suffering with dementia and mostly, however hard I try, find it frustrating and overwhelming. I do manage to keep my calm when I have repeated the same thing about 30 times but the worse she gets I fear I'm losing my grip! The hardest thing for me to cope with is the nasty and vindictive comments aimed at family and friends and making up stories about them that I know to be untrue. How did you cope with that situation??

annemac101 Thu 28-Feb-13 16:33:24

My mother in law had dementia and often drove me crazy,but when we think back it started years before we thought it did and we put things down to her just being a bit weird. I'd like to ask if you think back did your mothers dementia start long before you realised it?

inishowen Thu 28-Feb-13 17:00:36

I think my aunt was suffering from dementia for a few years before her death. She became disinterested in what was happening to her family. Also when she fell and broke her arm, her neighbour was so kind, but my aunt hadn't a good word to say about her. I dread getting this illness which robs the personality.

preety18 Thu 28-Feb-13 17:14:56

Dementia is a scary illness as if you imagine that those people who suffers from them forget most of the things which dearest to them. It's hard for me to imagine that one day either somebody close to us or may be ourselves might suffer from it and kind of saddens me. What's was the saddest part of this of your story and why?

Gally Fri 01-Mar-13 11:27:19

Hello Phyllida. Thankfully, I have little knowledge of anyone with dementia or Alzheimer's apart from an acquaintance in our village who has suffered this terrible infliction For some few years, she is now mid- sixties, recognises no one, cannot enjoy her soon to be 5 very young gc's, has no quality of life left and has to be locked in the house for her own safety when left alone when her husband works on the farm. Thankfully there is very little she would be able to do to injure herself or the property. Friends have rallied round for years trying to make life 'normal' for her but now it seems a pointless task as she is just a shell of her former self and takes and give no enjoyment. It seems such a terribly cruel way to end an active, productive life.
Sorry to be repetitive, but when Emma was on GN recently I had to tell her how much I enjoyed the Winter Guest, just loved it to bits as not only was it poignant and funny but close to home both geographically and literally. Thank you so much for bringing so much pleasure to we viewing public smile

POGS Mon 04-Mar-13 22:00:57

How nice to be able to engage with you Phyllida.

I was charmed by the 'emotional ties' objects you chose for the Daily Mail mag. recently. I especially loved your teapot, very special.

You also said you have several pairs of two- toned shoes 'Perhaps I'm trying to be Katherine Hepburn'. My question would be is there a particular actress/actresses you admire. Also I am surprised so many talented and gifted actresses say there are too few roles for older women these days, do you agree with them?. I was particularly thrilled to see the wonderful Liz Smith returning to the television soon, at the young age of 90.

By the way my favourite was the dear Thora Hurd, especially in 'The Cracker' and 'Wide eyed and legless'.

Enjoy your day at GNHQ.

Grannygee Wed 06-Mar-13 10:38:01

Hello Phyllida, Dementia seems to crop up all over the place nowadays and I'm glad (not that dementia is around of course) because my dad has developed it and once one is affected by something one suddenly develops a huge interest! That's life. Anyway, I have a big worry with my dad and that is my mum! she too is frail at 83 and gets confused herself, but I think she can be quite hard on my dad and blames him for any domestic issue that goes wrong. I do love mum and she has many fine qualities but we all think she has always taken my dad for granted. He drives still (passed his test again this year) and has been her taxi all their married life. I just wish she could find some tenderness again towards dad whose short term memory has gone, hence she gets so very frustrated with him. It must be so waring to live with it and although we are only 15 minutes away we are not actually living with dad so who are we to judge mum really. I wish that I could persuade her to lighten up a bit becasue these are their last few years together now. It'll be their diamond wedding in June (for which I'm planning a surprise party) and that's no mean feat these days! I wanted to ask you, should I address dad about his dementia to him about how he feels about it as he doesn't say anything but I wonder, Phyllida, did you talk to your mum about it before she became too ill and what advice from your experience could you impart? Any would be gratefully received. Thank you. By the way my cousin in Scotland met Emma walking her dog whilst up in the highlands and they exchanged a few words smile

louella Wed 06-Mar-13 16:48:14

Hello Phyllida

I wondered - as an actress yourself - whether you were happy to see both your daughters follow in your footsteps and end up on the stage?

milliesmum Wed 06-Mar-13 16:49:41

I haven't read your first book but i have just ordered it - but in the meantime can I ask about your thoughts on multi generational living? Something oft discussed in our house - so I would love to hear about your experiences.

milliesmum Wed 06-Mar-13 16:50:24

Also (can I have two questions?) do you think it's easier/harder to have your mother in law living with you rather than your own mother?

pickledlily Wed 06-Mar-13 16:52:36

How did you find your mother's illness from the point of view of living hundreds of miles away? I ask because my own elderly parents live several hours' drive away and I worry enormously about the practicalities if something does happen

Enviousamerican Wed 06-Mar-13 17:25:09

I have a neighbor I say hi to in passing.I have found out she works from home and lives with her mother who is now bedridden with the disease. It's just the two of them but she has a nursing aid that helps her.Is there something that comes to your mind you wouldnt of minded a stranger offering to do?Thanks.

wisewoman Thu 07-Mar-13 20:28:16


Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed your first book. My daughter in law bought it for me as a gift and said that despite searching for a long time it was the ONLY book she could find which talked about good and happy mother in law / daughter in law relationships. Thank you for saying nice things about your mother in law! We usually get a bad press.

fruitloop Tue 12-Mar-13 11:57:22

I read your book about your mother in law and now will read the one about your mother too. What sort of mother in law are you???

floribunda Tue 12-Mar-13 11:58:14

and most importantly what sort of GRANNY are you?!

eddiesgran Tue 12-Mar-13 12:01:11

Has writing about your family helped you through difficult times? And (if I am allowed a second question - please! - are your family happy to be written about?

threesugars Tue 12-Mar-13 12:21:07

Hi Phyllida,
So lovely to have you on Gransnet. I haven't yet read your book - is it very sad?What I wanted to ask is how much help or support you received from local authorities, as well as friends and relatives over this incredibly stressful time? Sometimes it's hard to know how to be helpful to someone who is in need of a hand. Do have any tips on things other people could have done for you (or did do for you) that made your life a bit easier?

iMac Tue 12-Mar-13 12:51:56

Hi Phyllida - Did you have a good Mother's Day? What did you do?

ticktock Tue 12-Mar-13 12:55:59

Following on from floribunda - What type of granny are you from the Gransnet 'different types of grandmothers' list?!

wisewoman Tue 12-Mar-13 19:08:15

Just finished reading "How many camels". Like you first book, it is written with such love and affection. How difficult is it to write such a happy and loving book about such a sad subject?

Gally Wed 13-Mar-13 04:21:49

Another question, if I may. You were widowed in your early fifties. How did you cope? I am one year into sudden widowhood and think I am doing well, most of the time, but I can't quite get over the disbelief, the complete change in my life, and the what-is-going-to-happen-to-me-in-the-future scenario. Everyone says it gets better with time - how long did it take you to come to terms with your 'new' life?

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