Tag Archives: cognitive

Getting lost in a good book…


Book with pages opening

I don’t remember not being able to read, or finding it anything other than fun.  I was a lucky child, always happy with a book.

So it is annoying – I mean really annoying – that I struggle to read books for pleasure now. Reaching out for a book has lost its appeal.

I can’t follow a line of text automatically. I see the whole line, the whole right hand side of the page even, all in one slippy jumble (as with many MS symptoms, this is tricky to explain). Bigger writing is better because there are fewer words to focus on, not because I can’t read small print. (I’ve got glasses, but only for screen work).

It is a loss of discrimination, I suppose. I don’t know if the problem was caused by a bout of optic neuritis or damage to some scrap of neurons responsible for following text (it will be the size of a pea, under my left ear, no doubt).

Some days are better than others and, luckily, reading on a screen is much easier;  there is a stronger contrast and I can make the text bigger. And we scan, rather than read, words on our desktops, phones and iPads.

It’s been sneaking up on me, subtle, nasty symptom that it is. Before my diagnosis, I didn’t understand why I was failing to finish book after book, because I wasn’t ‘enjoying’ them. I felt a bit dim to be honest.

So now I’ve worked it out, I’m trying some solutions.

Don’t get me a book token – get me an Audible voucher! I’ve been devouring audio books. With a good narrator, it can be wonderful story-telling and I imagine the  characters and scenes with a vividness I don’t when reading. I can get lost again.

And, to be more prosaic, I’m trying out a bar magnifier from the RNIB shop. It is a slinky perspex rod, with a built-in guide line, and it’s helped me read newspapers comfortably for the first time in ages. It is most effective on the flat, so not ideal for books – but it’s a start. I going to ask  for a low vision assessment too, to get some expert advice on what could help.

I feel more empathy now for people who find reading ‘hard’, in a way I never experienced as a kid. Reading meant a good story, rather than a confusing effort. At least I don’t have grown-ups telling me to make an effort.

Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.

P.J. O’Rourke

There are perhaps no days of our childhood we lived so fully as those we spent with a favorite book.

Marcel Proust


Walk training: Though I’ve been on the back foot with this for a week, we managed about 5k on Saturday, and have big plans for next weekend.


A vegetable beginning with ‘A’


Asparagus, avocado, artichoke… and that one with the fabulous purple skin. You know, it’s the  shape of teardrop, glossy and  smooth, and needs to be cooked properly.

‘Aubergine’ keeps eluding me. I can picture one easily – I’ve got some growing in the greenhouse – but when I come to say the word, it isn’t there. There’s just a little space in my thinking, which causes a pause in my speech.

Everyone forgets words, some people more than others and it changes with age. I knew my place on that scale and it has shifted. It isn’t a problem with recognition or ‘knowing’ – it’s a problem with how quickly my brain can transport words to the areas that control speech, due to damage caused by MS.

‘Sorry mate, I’ll try a back route,’  says the brain as we hit another axonal traffic jam, where a backlog of nerve impulses are waiting, beeping their horns and winding down the window to see what’s causing the delay. Some give  up and do a U-turn – ‘Sorry mate, this is going nowhere, you’ll have to drop that cup of coffee I’m afraid. Can’t get the signal these days…’ Others persevere but turn up late, ‘Sorry mate, it was aubergine you were after but I think the conversation’s moved on to deadheading marigolds. Want to throw it in as a random afterthought? That’ll be £5’

In addition to these fleeting losses,  the wrong words slip in too.  I now see how people get ‘their’, ‘there’ and ‘they’re’ mixed up, because I’ve started doing it, for the first time since I was about eight. And with the correct route snarled up, my brain will take the quickest route it can find , missing out the odd verb or conjunction on the way.

It used to be ‘easy’ for me to get words right. It’s less easy now, and that’s a disappointment that I need to overcome.

It is fascinating how the brain works. To labour the taxi analogy, it will drop me off at the corner because there’s a lorry parked in the way – ‘Have this word, it’ll do. Sounds about the same, no one will notice the difference. That’ll be £5 please.’

And there are the malapropisms of course. I’ve always found these funny, so it’s not so bad to be generating more of them myself. Sometimes I’ll confidently and unwittingly replace the correct word with one of roughly the same length and cadence – ‘I’ll check the colander and see what what we’re doing’ or ‘That new Hobbit farm is a bit long’.

My best recent effort? When tired at the end of the week,  I tried to join a conversation about the cost of ‘noise counselling headlines…’