Town and Country

Posted: October 3, 2013By: Briony Cooke

Moving day was memorable for the remarkable amount of stuff we had to cram into two removal vans, the docile cooperation of our many pets and how my Parkinson’s did not interfere.

It was inevitable that I would be involved in shifting and lifting, but to help with this and avoid back strain I used my faithful forklift. I stayed well clear of the 47 stairs down which the large items of furniture were manoeuvred. My main job was making the tea and preparing the pets for transit. The two cats had been taken reluctantly at the cattery the day before the move and were out of the way, but the three adult tortoises still had to be transported in separate boxes to avoid shell butting and romantic advances en route. This is two weeks ago now and we have adapted to our new surroundings and unpacked a mountain of cardboard boxes. I have reflected upon the lunacy of accumulating and moving mountains of possessions, most of which we will never use; and many of them now sit on the shelves of my local charity shops.

Our new location is a Thameside village, which is adapted to commuters and the retired. It is very scenic and popular with tourists too. From the Parkinson’s perspective, life here is much easier for me than in the town. I have all the essential services – grocery, pharmacy, doctor, vet and station within 4 minutes’ walk from home. Although our previous house was also close to the town centre, it involved crossing several busy main roads and a steep climb up the hill on return. More often than not I used to take the bus home when I was too tired to walk.

This new village location has the benefit of a railway link back to Reading, which takes only 13 minutes and has excellent bus connections over town. This means I can still attend my hydrotherapy classes and singing group, and also visit friends. In this village there are many local societies to suit my interests, for example singing, gardening and photography. It is also very convenient living next door to a Pilates teacher, and I have restarted classes. Unlike my previous classes they are not exclusively for PwP (people with Parkinson’s), but nevertheless highly effective in loosening my muscles and improving my balance.

One concern I had prior to moving here was that I would become isolated, but the neighbours are very friendly and helpful. I decided on arrival to tell them that I had Parkinson’s just in case they ever thought that my unsteadiness was related to excessive alcohol consumption!

Moving house inevitably induces stress, both physical and psychological, and this has aggravated my Parkinson’s symptoms during the last couple of weeks. The energy and adrenaline required by the move saw me through the event itself but afterwards left me very tired and dopamine-deficient, resulting in more prolonged off periods and poor sleep. However, I am confident that if I minimise my stress from now on, I can expect to return to normal soon.

Looking at the big picture, the move has been a success and has created new interests and a new safer home environment for us, where my needs can be accommodated more easily. For example, there is only one staircase and it is much safer than the old rickety flight of four with its lethal well down to the ground floor. The new house is versatile in its design with plenty of space on the ground floor that can be adapted to my needs in the future. A chair lift or an elevator could easily be installed if required later on.

Moving house is a monumental task which has both short- and long-term impacts, but for us it promises to bring a significant improvement in life-style. It has also given us access to an impressive stretch of countryside with new attractions and amenities. I thrive on change and these new interests provide an excellent distraction from Parkinson’s.

Briony Cooke

Briony Cooke

I experienced the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (PD) during my 40s and was diagnosed in 2000 at the age of 47. At the time I worked as a lecturer in a further education college where I was in charge of geography and environmental sciences, and was Senior Tutor to 250 students. I also held the post of Deputy Chief Examiner in geography for the International Baccalaureate and ran training courses for teachers in Africa, the Middle East and Europe. I worked with PD for 6 years and finally retired in 2006. Since retiring, I have setup a support group for those with young onset Parkinson’s in the Reading area. I write in my spare time and have published three geography textbooks.

I have three grown-up children who have all left home and I live with my husband, two fat cats and five tortoises. My hobbies are photography, gardening and breeding tortoises and my philosophy is: “there’s no time like the present”.

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