Good Morning Everyone,
Here’s an unusual post for a blog – it’s a little peep into my past which I’d like to share with you. Long before Happy Days Dementia Workshop, and years after school days ended, I embarked on an English Literature & Language degree, followed by a Masters Creative Writing degree, where I studied language and power, speech and thought, memory and reminiscence. Prompting long term memory whether it be mine or another student’s thoughts and feelings became everyday practice and I have always assumed these studies were where the heart of Happy Days began to beat.
Prior to memory box mini-workshops, I encourage people to rummage through unvisited drawers and cupboards, under stair storage spaces, garden sheds, under beds and make a small collection of favourites and personal items to prompt memories about family, friends, places, events, special times.
Now, to digress for a moment, I must declare I have finally had to concede and purchase a new laptop. The process which followed involved transferring a mammoth amount of material from my old laptop to the new one. I was under pressure to delete unwanted material. Well, to be honest, it wasn’t unwanted material – it was that my daughter had insisted I do this to make more space for the new Happy Days projects I’m planning. So, for practical reasons I ploughed through dozens of files, deleted duplicates and trashed outdated material. That’s when I came across a file simply named ‘Poetry’ – scratchings from well before any degrees and when Happy Days wasn’t even a twinkle in my eye.
I’d like to share one of the poems with you: ‘Chasing Rainbows’, an easy-read collection of descriptions and actions from one person’s memory which tells the stories of siblings or young couple enjoying their idyllic childhood days. Vivid images, metaphors and similes present the busy-ness and beauty of everyday living and designed to prompt the reader’s own memories of childhood, relationships, enjoyable events – to remember and hold on to these feelings of happiness and re-enjoy those moments.
I’m often asked – Where did the idea for Happy Days Dementia Workshop begin? – I suppose finding this poem proves it has always been in my heart to help people recognise and express feelings, understand difficulties in order to manage situations or make changes, uplift mood and for people living with dementia, families and carers, to prompt long term memories to bring about stories to share and enjoy.
It’s wonderful to see the smile on face when a memory has been prompted, listen to the stories or see a person interact with an object recognised from earlier days.
Enjoy the poem – and maybe write your own – put it in a memory box to share with your grandchildren.
We used to hide beneath cotton covers, torches glinting, reading,
screen ourselves like twig-stuffed hedgerows, watching blue-tits feeding,
chase rabbits down bob-tailed burrows kneeling beside, feeling,
squelch and scurry along tractor’d furrows we’d scatter the farmer’s seedlings
and beneath glass frames, grumpy Joe’s marrows hauled out by our scheming,
our cargo, brimming over his barrow dispatched somehow, still wheeling,
crunching gravel, dust drops borrowed our last breath, now wheezing
down emerald-eyed hills and buttercup meadows me, on your crossbar, reeling,
trickling streams, fine fingered sunlit hollows coming, going, leaving
fresh breezes, pecking at my cheeks like sparrows, making feather bedding;
we’d guzzle golden lemonade, wallow in liquorice hoardings,
our endless escapades, chasing rainbows, you leading, me preening;
Now I see it in a shadow, trekking homeward to our willow;
Mum, beaming white flour, kneading, those times I feel like stealing
As I see our scarecrow, beaming.
by Gillian Hesketh