My Last Summer. Channel 4 addressing the taboo topic of dying.

Andy, Jayne, Ben, Lou and Junior. My Last Summer.
Picture: Channel 4.

Newest Channel 4 documentary follows five terminally ill people who come together to talk about, sometimes frankly, about their impending deaths. They laugh, cry, joke, talk – but crucially, their dying.

Sobfest 2014. That's what sprung to mind when My Last Summer was advertised recently. In reality, over an hour of viewing and there's fewer sob stories than an episode of X Factor. Don't get me wrong, there's a tear or two for their heartache and families, but these people know that discussing death is a taboo. It's a subject no-one wants to think about, let alone voice. Executive Producer, Kieran Smith hopes that people “…gain strength from it, and learn from it. And for there to be an openness that this will one day happen to all of us, so we have to talk about it.” Although true, the fact remains that some people must prepare sooner than others.

Diagnosed in 2007, Lou has motor neurone disease. She talks with her eldest of “chocolate-ing” rather than dying but has been open with her four children about her condition. Junior, an ex-DJ, suffers with prostate cancer. His relationship with girlfriend Sonja is genuine and moving yet unsettling and broken. She admits they wouldn’t still be together without the cancer. Jayne had breast cancer that metastasised. Although she comes across strong and bold, her marriage is facing separation due to her husband’s disconnection with her diagnosis. After being cleared of leukaemia, Andy is now faced with lung complications that are terminal and there’s Ben, who has made a conscious decision to distance himself from family and friends. He is also dying of leukaemia.

Through the drama and situations of the programme, Jayne is seen crying after opening up about her marriage and Junior has a serious argument with Sonja that felt slightly awkward to watch. Yet it was Ben who caught the eye – even if from the corner of the camera. He was, aesthetically, the most affected by his disease, deciding to face his illness alone, still carrying his cigarettes wherever he goes. When we first meet him he sarcastically remarks that it would make for a better show if someone were to die during filming. And that may be true but in heart, Ben’s story is the saddest of the group.

This new Channel 4 documentary was certainly upsetting but there was an intriguing strength to it. Instead of squeezing you of sympathy it showed you how some people can see the world when their facing the scariest moment of life. The end. In the first of four parts there was a good introduction to the stronger personalities of the group, some of which voting in favour of euthanasia. But, hopefully we’ll see a deeper insight into the more thoughtful and quieter characters next time around.

One things for sure. Don’t take anything for granted.

Imagine if you couldn't remember reading this.

This looks like waffle, but it's not. It's my story.
I don't think it will bore you but let me know if I'm wrong.

You think there’s all the time in the world.
My grandma was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and it’s not that I was too young or innocent but I didn’t know much about it then. I couldn’t even tell you the year it happened. That I feel awful about (but this isn’t about me). In 2012 she passed away, in a lovely home but not alone. Somehow, the inner strength she no longer knew had outlived the hero that was my grandad. My story is for both of them. Grandma Gwen and Grandad Jack Scowen. A slightly unhinged but gentle woman, and an inspirational, wholehearted man who together share one half of our family, our beginnings as Scowens.
We went to visit them in Salisbury, Wiltshire. There was always a sign to Nomansland which we would giggle every time we saw it, knowing we were closer to the grandparents. We said our ‘hellos’ and wondered to the living room, awaiting some tea and biscuits. In came grandma, and looked to her right, straight at me sitting on the sofa. “What’s your name?” she asked me.
My insides honestly crumbled. I had that sick heart beat right in your stomach – kind of like how I do now writing this. “Kelly” I mumbled back and as she turned her attention elsewhere I got up and headed straight for the toilet for a right old sob (not uncommon for those who know me, but maybe warranted in this instance). It’s a sinking-ship feeling and one I’m sure so many of us understand. Funnily enough, the rest of that visit is a bit of a blur.
Anyway, I’m not heading for a sob story or sympathy. Because from there my grandad dedicated his life to caring for her, trying to make everything okay – help to remember things, assist in everyday things we don’t give two thoughts about. It saddens me that there wasn’t immediate help or unfunded support available to professionally take care of my grandma. Support that might have extended my grandad’s life a few more years, to love her through everything. Because even though she didn’t know who she was, she knew him. And I’m so happy I knew them. They gave me my dad; who is a bit of a legend! So if there’s anything, at all, to learn. Be thankful. Make sure the people you love, know it. There’s nothing much more important than that because one day, it might not be there.
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease develop gradually; it is a progressive condition. Today, nearly 800,000 people in the UK suffer from Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia. Although the cause is relatively unknown and we can sometimes try and make it a softer subject by saying “it’s because we’re all living longer”, it doesn’t make it any easier. I’ve come across many people who have experienced Alzheimer’s in their lives – and often it’s a common ground in conversation but it’s not a comforting thing. It’s actually a little unnerving.
Alzheimer’s Society is a membership organisation which works to improve the quality of life of people affected by dementia in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. They work to support and research for people with dementia, the families and carers. There are over 20,000 members offering 2,000 services. Staff and volunteers offer day care and home care for families and partners to cope with the demands of the disease. I’m only running 10k, but I’m doing it to help Alzheimer’s research and support. Thank you if you choose to donate a few pennies, it means so much. It gives an extra spur of motivation to feel like you’re making a difference. As Tesco’s would say, “Every Little Helps”.
Kelly xo

p.p.s. for those interested, watch this space for a Mixed Netball Tournament. It’s going to happen! All for a great cause.


i was introduced to 'SEND IT' yesterday, first encountered when my friend tim decided to eat a mini pork pie in one mouthful.
"SEND IT" someone shouted.

"can you flick my cigarette over the fence?"

"okay i'm going to do a flip on the trampoline."

"i dunno what to do about this chick."

"but what if...?"
"just SEND IT."

by the end of the day we'd decided that 'send it' was to be our new phrase, basically meaning whatever you want it to but ultimately describing the action of doing something you want done. being active, sorting yourself out, taking a chance or just being a fool (in the fun sense).
we were 'sending' stuff here, there and everywhere.

perhaps this is why yesterday became a day to remember in more ways than one.
a formal occasion in the morning didn't put us in the best frame of mind but quickly time became a celebration, attitudes towards the 23rd june began to change and it didn't take long for our silly chattings and antics to plaster big smiles over our faces.

i turned up to the trampoline garden, everyone now out of their suited and booted attire and jumping like maniacs on the squeaky toy. I undid my boot laces and was adamant to get involved immediately.
"do a flip kel, send it."
aaaaaaaah, my mind was so on it. had to practice with my hands, then gained some confidence and started bouncing a little higher. the feeling when you're absolutely prepared to flip yourself over and you wimp out is so overwhelming. i started to get angry. i could definitely do this!
"SEND IT!!!"
fuck it. jumped, neck tucked, body curled in the air and i landed 360 degrees later, still in tact!
it felt amazing.
(obviously tim had to 'send' the flip after a girl had; he is now better than me but at least his motivation came from somewhere!)

it was then time to take the rubber dinghy to haversham river so that the boys could 'send it' and row themselves along. well it worked and i couldn't help feeling pretty proud of them, must have been going for about an hour, definitely until it was dark.
i did some more of my own 'send its' last night but a blog doesn't mean you have to go into every minor detail, i'll keep some bits to meself. i started to think that 'SEND IT' was more about spontaneity and getting a thrill out of something.

so whatever, these are all little things as the consequence of our 'sending it' but they make all the difference. just don't think twice. get excited.
as i'm writing this it all sounds pretty youthful; i have absolutely no problem with this.
excitement is wonderful.
yes there are levels of it; over-excitement is a pain in the ass but that's besides the point.
give a shit, even 'send it' to people.
but they aren't excited about you, then find someone that is.
you totes deserve it.

i fully encourage everyone to SEND IT and see what happens.

peas & carrots. xx


this amazing word defines:
"A look shared by two people with each wishing that the other will initiate something that both desire but which neither one wants to start."

looks like relationships are cryptic for a reason. bloody words :)