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On The Table Read, “The Best Book Reader Magazine in the UK“, author Deb Bunt writes about her friendship with Peter Berry, and writing Slow Puncture following his diagnosis with early onset dementia.

Deb Bunt, author of Slow Puncture, on The Table Read
Deb Bunt

Written by Deb Bunt

https://peterberrylwa.wixsite.com/peterberry/the-book

This is the story of friendship and of fulfilling ambitions.  This is the story of a chance meeting between two people from different worlds. 

My ambition in life had been to be a published author but this had never come to fruition.  Instead, I lived and worked in London for years, working with families and young people involved in the criminal justice system. The work was tough and I was jaded. 

Peter Berry, Slow Puncture, dementia and Alzheimer's, The Table Read
Peter Berry

My husband and I made an impulsive decision to take early retirement and we left London for a small town in Suffolk.  We had no plans as to what we would do in our retirement and we had no links in Suffolk.  But my world was changed when I met Peter Berry.

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Peter Berry

Suffolk born Peter (57) had been diagnosed with early onset dementia, aged 50 and had been given a life expectancy of eight to ten years. He had lost his thriving timber business, his driving licence and much of his autonomy.   He and his wife, Teresa, were struggling to make sense of it all.

A chance meeting in our local cycle shop was the catalyst to change both our worlds.  Peter, a keen cyclist, ignited a passion for cycling in me.  We began to cycle together and a friendship formed.  Peter’s attitude to his dementia was bullish and, after a period of depression and two suicide attempts, he’d vowed to make the most of his time.  He used his passion for cycling to raise funds for, and awareness of, young onset dementia.  Peter’s activities included cycling 360 miles across the country and cycling 300 miles in a week on his penny farthing. 

Friendship

It’s fair to say that Peter and I are great friends; it’s also fair to say that Peter cannot remember much about me but yet he feels the emotional bond in his heart.  I know so much about Peter and yet this is not a one-sided friendship.  There is a mutual reciprocity in our relationship.  And our friendship has not only enabled me to achieve my ambition, but has given me so much more.  I now appreciate the key things in life, I try to live and enjoy the moment, I have found a new perspective and I will be forever grateful for this. 

It became apparent that, although Peter had been involved in a number of fundraising and awareness raising activities, he quite simply could not remember anything that he had done in any detail.  His words, “written in the sand, needed to be set in stone” (as Peter said.) 

Deb Bunt and Peter Berry, Slow Puncture, The Table Read
Deb Bunt and Peter Berry

So, it was left to me to do just this and the result, “Slow Puncture, Living Well with Dementia” was published in September 2020 by The Book Guild and has just been reprinted. 

Reading Never Goes Out of Style

Slow Puncture, Living With With Dementia

Although this is a book about Peter, it is one he will never read due to his severe memory loss: as soon as he reads one line and moves to the next, he has forgotten the previous line. 

The themes in the book include friendship, shifting perspectives and renewed hope, not just for Peter but for others. 

Slow Puncture by Deb Bunt and Peter Berry
Slow Puncture

I decided that Peter’s story would best be told as a ‘year in the life of…’ format and that I would write about the events in both Peter’s voice and my own.  As well as demonstrating my own enlightenment about how Peter lived with the condition, it would also enable me to share Peter’s thoughts to a wider audience.

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Getting Published

The process from conception of the idea to its publication was arduous but exciting.  After several rejections from agents/publishers, I found a publisher who felt – and these were her words, etched in my mind – she “could place the book…”  The high when I received that email almost matched the elation of giving birth, although there was probably marginally less grunting and shouting with the former. There then followed several emails where she told me whom she had contacted, soon followed by emails saying they weren’t interested.

Peter’s clock ticks quicker than most and I was keen that he should see the finished product and so I decided to self-publish. When I contacted Troubadour to find out a price, I received an email offering me a favourable deal from their partner agency, The Book Guild.  This seemed a great option: it would be much more professionally done than self-publishing and they would copy edit and help publicise the book.

Walk With Me: Musings Through the Dementia Fog

Buoyed with the thrill of the unexpected ensuing publicity following the publication of “Slow Puncture” (podcasts, magazine interviews and radio interviews), I decided to put together a compilation of Peter’s poetry and musings. 

Walk With Me, poetry book by Deb Bunt and Pete Berry, on The Table Read
Walk With Me

In the evenings, when Peter was tired and the dementia monster sat more heavily on his shoulders, he had been texting me his thoughts.  I knew I had to keep these words because as soon as they left Peter’s phone, they were gone from his mind. 

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We discussed the idea of putting them together to form a short book of poetry to show people what it was like for Peter to live with dementia and the impact it has on him physically and emotionally. 

When we met a local photographer, Daniel Ruffles, and saw his photos of coastal Suffolk, an area which is so familiar to Peter and re-awakens memories of his working life, we knew we wanted to use the photos to illustrate the book.  All that was left was for me to write an introduction focusing on what my friendship with Peter had taught me and then we were ready to publish.  We opted to go with Amazon ‘print on demand’ as we were mindful of incurring costs and that way we avoided having to pack and post books or to collect money.

We are glad we did: it’s an easy way to publish and we were able to link the new book with “Slow Puncture” and we have found sales of both books steady and consistent since December.

Find more from Deb Bunt and Peter Berry:

Interview about Slow Puncture: https://thetableread.co.uk/author-interview-deb-bunt-slow-puncture/

Interview about Walk With Me: https://thetableread.co.uk/poet-interview-deb-bunt-walk-with-me/

On-line retailers of the books can be found by clicking the book covers on the following page:

https://peterberrylwa.wixsite.com/peterberry/the-book

Peter’s website can be found at (and this also contains links to my other social media sites):

https://peterberrylwa.wixsite.com/peterberry

My author Facebook page at

https://www.facebook.com/DebBuntAuthor

Twitter

@debbunt

@PeterBe1130

Instagram

https://www.instagram.com/deb.bunt/

LinkedIn

https://www.linkedin.com/in/deb-bunt-ab247524

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