Andrew Society Trip to London

By Michaela H, Ellie D and Mr Quinlan

On Thursday of last week the L6 members of the Andrew Society travelled to London for an afternoon of activities to stretch and challenge our members beyond the classroom. The trip began with a visit to the British Museum where we pondered the issues at the heart of the Elgin Marbles debate, as well as having a chance to explore the wider museum, finding links between artefacts of interest and also completing AJQ's cryptic scavenger hunt. 

We then attended a lecture at Gresham College entitled: "Dementia: A cultural history", about which Michaela H and Ellie D have written their reflections. 


Michaela H:

On Thursday the Andrew Society attended a lecture on the History of Dementia by Professor Joanna Bourke at Gresham College. After explaining the root of the word (‘de’ meaning ‘out of’, ‘mens’ meaning ‘mind’ and ‘ia’ meaning ‘state of’), she spoke about the evolution of the perception and stigma towards dementia, describing how in the 19th century it was seen as a condition similar to ‘female hysteria’. She then went on to discuss the shift to it being seen as more of a medical issue in the 1950s and 1960s, leading to studies into the brain and the causes of dementia, as well as a new portrayal within media and film. This medical attitude has continued into modern day, leading to a neglect or isolation of those with dementia symptoms and Alzheimer’s, despite their growing numbers.

What was interesting about the talk was the differentiation between dementia, which was described as a set of symptoms as a result of old age, whereas Alzheimer’s is the disease itself. It was also fascinating to hear about the changes in how people perceive the disease, as due to an ageing population, the disease has become much more prominent, which could be a factor as to why it was begun to be investigated more thoroughly. Personally, what impacted me the most was the isolation of people with dementia, and the way they are being deemed as less capable members of society and no longer as affected patients. This fact has highlighted the importance of not neglecting people who suffer with dementia and the importance of taking into consideration the emotional aspects, not purely the scientific or medical aspect.

Ellie D:

I found this lecture to be extremely insightful and made me see the condition in a whole new light, so much so that I went onto the Alzheimer’s Society website to see if I could extend my knowledge further. I found that the charity is currently running a poetry writing competition on the theme of dementia, which, as an English Literature student, I thought I should enter as I felt inspired and moved by what was said in the lecture. The poem I wrote and have entered for this competition is called ‘Bathtime’ and I chose to focus on how dementia somewhat infantilises those who suffer from it. 



I fetched the vanilla soap.

Her favourite,

Even if she couldn’t say it herself.

I doubt she even knew what scent it was,

Or how much it meant to me,

This whiff of nostalgia


It was hers

Whether she understood or not,

To me it was hers.


I sat by her as she scooped the water

Into her fragile little hands.

Watching the ripples

With her misty eyes,

Eyes like the bathroom

Now clouded by the pirouetting steam,

Or her mind,

The one dimmed by those lonely, lovely powers.


She curled her lips into a toothy smile

Full of wonder,

One that spoke,

That she,

Quite blissfully,

Was unaware of anything beyond the tub.


I smiled meekly,

The only way I could, 

Running my fingers

Through the sparse, downy hair on her delicate head

As she babbled something under her breath


To the bubbles that danced around her.

I envied those bubbles, how they made her laugh,

How she cherished them,

I wish they were me.

Because they were me once,

The centre of her world.


But my mother’s world has shrunk,

To only this small tub

Since she entered this state out of mind.