Lancaster author’s poignant tales about dad’s dementia

Gill Belchetz. Picture by Tony North.
Gill Belchetz. Picture by Tony North.

A Lancaster author is releasing a heartfelt collection of short stories which include tales relating to dementia.

‘A Game of Consequences’ is a new collection of compelling short stories written by Gill Belchetz.

Gill’s father suffered with dementia at the end of his life and the stories draw on Gill’s observations of him, and of her mother Audrey’s loving care for her husband.

For many Lancastrians the stories will also have a certain poignancy for they, along with hundreds of others, will have fond memories of Gill’s father.

He was Norman Ellis, schoolmaster, sportsman, a mentor, a friend and an inspiring figure to generations of schoolchildren.

Most of his teaching career was spent at Ripley School in Lancaster where he was deputy head.

Others will recall his love and devotion to Lancaster Cricket Club where at various times he was captain, chairman and president. It was a similar tale at the Vale of Lune where Norman helped found the club’s Colts.

The two stories about dementia are largely based around the author’s observations of her beloved father.

Gill said: “He was a wonderful dad and to others, a wonderful teacher and mentor. I watched as my mum cared for him at home and then in the care home where she visited him every day. She was magnificent and he was so dignified.”

She readily admits her father was her own personal inspiration throughout her education and career as a nurse at Leeds General Infirmary.

Gill worked for the National Health Service for 30-years, switching four years ago to Spire Hospital in Leeds where she currently works two days a week. That role has allowed her to concentrate on her new love of writing, a love born while studying English as a mature student at Leeds University.

One of the study modules was in creative writing and from the start Gill admits she was ‘hooked’.

“It really was a joy to discover how much I enjoyed writing and when I followed up with an MA in Writing for Performance and Publication, I knew I wanted to spend more time composing stories,” said Gill.

And she met with some success, winning a number of short story competitions. That success was sufficient to convince Gill to spend more time developing her writing ability and it was a chance conversation with a work colleague that provided the opportunity for her next story.

That colleague’s husband was a train driver who had witnessed a death of the track and he agreed to be interviewed. The resulting story ‘Out of Holbeck’ came second in a new writer’s competition and at the same time also formed the basis of Gill’s collection of stories.

All are linked to that terrible incident, but as Gill is quick to point out, her book is not all sad.

Gill approached Kevin Roberts, the Lancaster-born executive chairman of world renowned advertising agency Saatchi and Saatchi, a man who fondly remembers Norman Ellis as an inspiring teacher and mentor.

He read the stories, liked them, and arranged for a designer colleague, Derek Lockwood, to format the pages.

All Gill’s profits from the book are going to three charities fighting dementia: The Alzheimer’s Society, Alzheimer’s Research UK and Dementia UK. Gill has already raised money through involvement in a triathlon and now her aim is to sell as many copies of her book as she can.

‘A Game of Consequences’, published by Fisher King Publishing, Pool in Wharfedale, costs £8.99 from Amazon.