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Limbo dancing through dementia...


Registered User
Jul 3, 2010
One of my proudest achievements (sadly a very short list indeed) was some 26 years ago when I created a game for the Visitor Information Centre of the power station where I worked.

It consisted of a control panel, display screen and a wall-mounted map of the country, complete with spotlights, on which were three 'power stations'. Each station was made from an aluminium disc with black and silver segments which would spin around whenever that particular station was generating. Each station was controlled by a section of the control panel below and included a pumped-storage hydroelectric station (Dinorwig), a coal-powered station (Drax, from memory) and a nuclear station (whose name eludes me). Buried deep in the heart of the unit was a good old BBC computer, linked to the controls, the display screen and the spinning discs on the map, which ran the programme that I wrote over a number of months with the willing but, probably, oft bewildered help, of our sons Matthew and Daniel. But it did mean that we had the long term 'loan' of a BBC computer at home so I could work on the programme in my own time.

The idea behind the game was that the computer would run the nuclear station and then, as electricity demand rose and fell, the visitor could push the various buttons to instruct the stations to get ready to generate, come online, produce the appropriate amount of power and shut down when no longer required - all in a single day compressed into a few minutes of game time.

Just as in the real world (but on a much smaller and simpler scale) if insufficient power was being produced to satisfy demand, the system frequency would begin to fall below the 50Hz mark and all the mains powered clocks would begin to run slow. When too much power was being produced, the frequency would rise above 50Hz and clocks would go faster. If the player allowed the frequency to go too high or too low, or the clocks get too off the correct time then the system would 'shut down' in a very dramatic fashion with the screen flickering and the spotlights flashing on and off until, finally, the whole unit would appear to go dead. We had no end of players who really thought they had crashed the local electricity grid and were quite upset until we explained that it was only a game...

The key point was that the game was DESIGNED to be unwinnable.

No matter how cleverly the played controlled the various parameters (and some of them became VERY good at it!), while they might last through a complete 'day' indicated by the clock on the screen, ultimately the computer would simply increase the demand on the system until there was simply not enough power available from all the stations combined and the inevitable crash would occur. However, in those cases, the 'dead' unit would resurrect itself within a few seconds and display a congratulatory "Well done!" message, instructing and the player to call one of the guides over to witness their success and reward them with a certificate on which was written their name. Visitors LOVED it - and I was very proud of it!

To repeat my previous comment, and to explain the title for this piece, it was a "no win" situation. I have spent a lot of time lately contemplating our situation and Brenda's continuing deterioration in particular and it occurred to me that our lives over the past few years have felt like being forced to limbo dance under a remorselessly descending bar. We have often had to make repeated attempts to clear a new obstacle without bringing it crashing to the ground but, eventually, and with a short-lived sense of achievement, we have managed it at last - only to find that the whole apparatus had been reset to an even lower setting and a new challenge has appeared. The entire soul-destroying and macabre dance would then begin all over again.

Just like the computer game. Unwinnable.

Hopefully, the parallels between that silly game and the reality of living with dementia for any couple are clear.

What can we do about it? Precious little; just grit our teeth and do whatever needs to be done. Again and again and again and again...

What can you do about it? If you are reading this then you are probably one of the sturdy friends who is standing with us and shouting words of encouragement and providing practical support as we battle through each and every day. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your help and encourage you to keep going with us. We - and, I am sure, all dementia sufferers - appreciate everything you do no matter how trivial it may seem to you. We cannot win the war, but - with your help - we can certainly win a few battles along the way!

Thank you!


Registered User
Oct 13, 2013
North Somerset
Thank you your interesting post, Laurence, this is a
truly heartbreaking disease. With very best wishes.
Sent from my GT-N5110

Lilac Blossom

Registered User
Oct 6, 2014
As a retired power station worker my hubby would have been very interested in your post - except that, like your wife, he has dementia.

Kindest regards Laurence

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