My Dad’s a Goldfish – Wishing I’d listened


I’ve been sifting through a box of the Goldfish’s old photos wishing I’d paid more attention to the things he told me: about his childhood, his school days, his army days, his life as an adult on Islay (as opposed to my life as a child on Islay).   

I know he was in the Lovat Scouts. I think he joined up in 1944, which is when he turned 18. I think he may have done his initial training near Aberdeen. He was at some point stationed at a prisoner-of-war camp but I’m not sure where – possibly what’s now the Barony Agricultural College – though he told me of wonderful models the prisoners made of water wheels and bridges. He went to Greece, via Italy and when he talked about being in the army it was usually about that time in Greece he talked. He was stationed in Athens, billeted with a family there. Image200714143218-000

I know he loved it there – the people, the sunshine, the historical sites. I remember him talking about the fun of bargaining for things in the markets until the Americans arrived. They had so much money in their pockets and everything was, in their eyes, already so cheap they saw no need to bargain. Prices shot up making it harder for the British soldiers and taking away much of the cultural exchanges enjoyed before.

Anyone he served with still alive will be in their nineties. Maybe, though, their sons and daughters are, like me, now wishing they had paid more attention to the stories they were told. Maybe they have some old snapshots with faded names scribbled on a couple of them and are wondering about the pals their fathers had in Greece.

Here are some of the photos the Goldfish kept all those years. I’d be pleased if you could share far and wide just in case one of them rings a bell with someone whose father was in the Lovat Scouts from 1944. Some if not most of these photos seem to be taken in Salerno on their way to Greece. He also took many in Greece but mainly of the sites he visited rather than people. However, many photos remain to be sorted out.

On the left is someone called Trevor. Possibly in Salerno.



John Dunlop on the left


John Dunlop second from the right – others unknown


John Dunlop in the centre


Tea time outside the tents. John Dunlop on left. I’m assuming this is the camp at Salerno before they went to Greece.


In Greece? Unknown person on the left.



Man on left called Bob



On the back of this photo is written: Taken at the camp in Salerno Thursday 28/12/45. Dad was 19.



Dad is not in this photo of what I take is a football team.


Unknown soldier but must have been a friend of dad’s for him to have kept it.


Dad on right on second row.


John Dunlop on left, front row.


RMS Otranto. This is not the HMS Otranto from WW1. RMS – Royal Mail Ship – became a troop ship and I think John Dunlop sailed to Italy in it or from Italy to Greece.


My Dad’s a Goldfish – Hospital (part 2)

I managed to alienate the nurse (rank undetermined as I’m still trying to work out the colour coded uniforms) who said she was ‘happy’ to discuss any concerns I had. That is, until she realised she couldn’t answer my questions. She shuts down – telling me to ring the consultant’s secretary. Why do I do it? Why can’t I keep the edge of sarcasm out of my voice?

I should learn not to ask questions they can’t answer but the Goldfish had been in hospital for over a week. As he was admitted on a Saturday not much happened other than quantities of blood taken and sent to the lab. They all came back ‘clear’. Next they stopped the Alzheimer medication in case it had caused a change to the heart rhythms and asked a cardiologist to see him – a day, maybe two, after they stopped the medication. Would 48 hours without one med make a difference?

The Goldfish was being kept in hospital for no apparent reason. They weren’t treating him for anything, he had no infection and they don’t know what caused the episode when he became unconscious. The scan was never done. Did he trip and fall and knock himself out? Doctors think it may have been a TIA (transient ischemic attack) – quite usual in patients with vascular dementia. There’s nothing to be done. So why not discharge him?

Three days later I’m beyond caring who I alienate. The Goldfish is becoming increasingly agitated about being kept, against his will as he sees it, in hospital. He’s determined to come home – packs his belongings in his bag and sets off down the corridor. They usually catch him before he leaves through the swing doors. They solved the bag-packing problem by hiding his bag behind his locker. This is the ward where they have had special training to look after dementia patients! Now, a patient who has dementia, is distressed about not being allowed to go home is becoming ever more anxious because his bag has disappeared – possibly stolen. Still, it means they don’t have to keep escorting him back to bed.

Every day they put a specimen collecting jar on his bedside table. “He’s supposed to give them a urine sample,” the patient in the next bed, helpfully told me. The nurse tells him when he goes to have a pee he should put some in the jar. He has dementia! He can’t remember that he’s been told to do this. Half the time he can’t remember where the toilet is. This has, predictably, resulted in ‘accidents’ so they make him wear an incontinence pad. This is what special training in care of dementia patients means. Maybe I got it wrong and they haven’t been given special training.

Every so often the Goldfish asks where he is and I explain he’s in hospital. Then he asks, “Did you come in the car?”

“Yes, I drove over.”

“Well,” he says, “I’ll just come home with you, then.”

I explain again he has to stay in hospital for another day until the doctor has seen him. Then he asks why he is there and we go round it all again until the tea trolley arrives to give us a wee break, much to the relief of the other patients who must feel they’re listening to a stuck record.

Nurse said he can’t go home until an assessment has been done and his care package increased. I ask her by how many hours the package would need to be increased to prevent a TIA occurring. She really hates me now.

Next day and still no assessment then it’s the weekend. Manage to speak to an OT who says she’ll call on Monday. When she doesn’t, I ring her. At least I try to ring her – turns out it’s a local holiday so she’s not at work. Begin to think my dad will die in there. Phone local social services, explain the situation to duty social worker and ask if she can’t get dad out and we can look at care package once he’s home. She agrees this sounds like a good plan, tells me she’ll call me back. Twenty minutes later, she phones – all sorted. We can collect him tomorrow and bring him home.

I don’t know what has happened on this ward. Last time he was in the care was good. The nurses took his ‘This is Me’ bag with notes on his life – childhood, school, work, likes, dislikes, hobbies. They kept it with his notes and they read it and talked to him about the things they had read. This time the bag is left on top of his locker, the notes unread. No one knows anything about the Goldfish – other than he has two daughters, one of whom is perfectly nice, one of whom is stroppy and given to making sarcastic remarks.

As for the step-monster’s role during this time – well, she buggered off to have a couple of weeks ‘respite’ at her sister’s. Didn’t even say goodbye to the Goldfish. She says he won’t remember. But I will!