Edinburgh Reads: Sally Magnusson

This is my story, but it could be anybody’s

Sally Magnusson ‘s ‘Where memories go’ , her account of her mother Mamie’s long struggle with dementia, was one of the most-borrowed books from Edinburgh Libraries last year.

So it was no surprise that the Reference Library was packed for last night’s talk by the author.

DSC_5587 - CopySally talked about how as a journalist she was used to flitting in and out of other people’s lives, rarely digging deeper before moving on.

But then, in the late nineties, her mother ‘started to ‘go off the boil’. As Sally put it, she ‘mislaid her curiosity’.

And so began the biggest story of Sally’s life. A story she had to share. Because by sharing something, we encourage people to talk about it. And talking about something drives away stigma.

Sally spoke lovingly of her mother Mamie’s life story and character, before going on to describe the effect that dementia had on her.

Sally was keen to stress some of the positives of her experience. Mamie was still able to enjoy times of great in-the-moment happiness, and this was something that Sally came to treasure, learning that living for the moment and experiencing ‘the best day of your life’ over and over can be something to celebrate.

Sally also spoke about the lessons she learned. She spoke about the value of community, and how keenly she felt a lack of guidance and reassurance. This goes back to what she had said earlier about the need to talk and share our experiences, and this has been the legacy of the book.

There are other reasons for optimism as well. Sally argued that we are slowly getting better at understanding dementia.

She spoke about the positive effect music can have, and her work with Playlist for Life, which seeks to create a personal playlist for anyone with dementia to help unlock who they are. This is similar in idea to the work libraries do in care homes with Read Aloud.

We are extremely grateful to Sally for taking the time to come and talk so eloquently – gratitude which will be shared by every member of last night’s audience.DSC_5575 - Copy

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