There was no real topic for this week, as it was unclear who was going to be there and whether, indeed, the meeting would go ahead.
Outside there were just the first signs of autumn a few horse chestnuts leaves were settling in the courtyard and it was the first time that everyone felt that summer was over and Autumn was beginning.
The chat turned to Autumn and the poem we wrote last year, so we decided to try to write another, but this time comparing now and them. A really interesting discussion began and some of the members painted a really vivid picture of Autumn and winter of their youth.
Autumn now brings earlier nights and colder days.
Leaves are falling,
but as the heating system starts to rumble, my mind turns to earlier ways.
Mr Irons selling candles and paraffin from his cart.
And if he was missed then off to the shop –
the blue or pink smelly liquid decanted into a can. Trimming the wick was an art.
Anthracite, compressed coal Ovites, logs and coke all provided me with warmth,
and my room with a glow.
First footing and Tom the pie-eyed milkman at Christmas time. Memories that make me smile as I turn up my central heating dial.
This poem centres on street games. The discussion started by drawing up a list of games that were played as children. The list itself was rather functional and seems to give very little in the way of establishing a “feel” of the times. More effective was encouraging the group to paint a verbal picture of the streets that they played in. This was much more successful and as the discussion continued, so did the imagery and vocabulary. For them (and I include my own memories in this), the streets were empty except for the children. No cars, few adults and just the imagination of children turning plain asphalt into seas, castles or deserts. Indeed, a playground for every child.
Rounders, cricket, tic-tac-toe.
Children on the street!
Whipping top and blind man’s bluff.
Hand-me-down clothes always too big.
Holes in my trousers, shoes and hats,
I looked like Granny Green.
Conkers, marbles, running free.
Front doors open, tea and cakes.
Knock-down ginger, rolling in the grass.
Happy then, but not so now!
Apple scrumping, playing until dark.
Policemen on the street, if we were naughty,
God help you.
At a previous meeting, we had talked a little about music and so returned to it for this session. The conversation picked out various performers and examples of tunes were played. To do this a streaming music service was used (e.g. Apple Music or Spotify), which meant that suggestions could be selected, downloaded and played as they were requested.
Not only “What music?” was asked, but also “Where was it heard?”, “What was it played on?”, “What was the context?”, “Why do you like music?”, “What does it do for you”. These questions were used just to challenge, encourage and probe. They were not used sequentially but used to open-up the conversation when appropriate.
There was no music on a Sunday,
Believe me, the day it dragged –
just like the torn-up newspaper, hanging in the loo.
Silence was never golden.
With music, we are not alone.
We did not need a “ghetto blaster”
Just a wireless and a gramophone.
Louis Armstrong, Joe Loss and Alfie Bowlly
carried us, our lives, our hopes,
our dreams and all our loves along.
We enjoyed a live performance.
Goodness me, the Town Hall rocked
But now: I love Daniel O’Donnell
He gives my heart a shock.
So thank you!
All you artists – you provide a backbeat to my life
Shirley Bassey, you are gorgeous.
I wish you were my wife.
The stimulus for this session was the words of advice written by Mary Schmich in 1997.
“Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young“, commonly known by the title “Wear Sunscreen“, is an essay written as a hypothetical commencement speech by columnist Mary Schmich, originally published in June 1997 in the Chicago Tribune.“
It was set to music by Baz Luhrmann in 1998 on his album Something for Everybody YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4reHCjPoUnA&index=6&list=RDdQwmt18QgUA
The words were printed out and handed out to the group and the YouTube clip was played. The context was “advice to be given to the young”; the question was “what advice do you wish that you had been given?”.
This led to an interesting discussion – the main points of which were added to a flip chart and then these points were reordered into the poem below.
On reflection, although it worked well, the clip was rather too long and I had to take back the printed lyrics early on since the group members were looking for answers in them, rather than from their own experience. Indeed, once this happened the conversation was much more personalised and open.
I would not dare to give you advice
Get to know your friends,
you get back the love you give.
Look after people,
you can only do this if you look after yourself,
Make sure your hearing aid works (even if you have a sore ear), get the doctor on to it.
You can’t start something then walk away:
Don’t “but” just do.
Even if you are not always on the same wavelength it does not matter,
Listen to what they say.
Do your homework and don’t go to bed in a temper.
One thing always leads to another.
This session was introduced by reading I Remember it Well as sung by Maurice Chevalier and Hermione Gingold from the film Gigi. In the duet Maurice list a series of memories and Hermione corrects him (rather impatiently) throughout; that is until the last verse.
“Am I getting old?”
Her answer is tender and caring and full of love,
“Oh no, not you
How strong you were
How young and gay
A prince of love
In every way”
As befits his character he answers
“Ah, yes, I remember it well”.
This was the start of our discussion, but soon the poem took a life of its own. The first line was spoken as a joke, but it made a brilliant start. The next line was in the same vein. The rest just flowed.
The poem is quite short, but the memories and discussions which arose were very honest and open. Everyone reflected on life and experience.
There were seven members in the group today and each one took part either through contributing lines or stimulating others by their conversation.
The final poem is very different from what I thought would be created. As usual, the group surprised and delighted me and themselves.
I remember it well, but then Dearie, you are so much older than me.
I still love you and you are getting ugly, but I remember you well.
So many partners, I don’t remember them all, except you – I remember you so well.
Montego Bay, I remember it well. The car trip, the journey – so long.
My joy at finding you’re queer. I remember it well
No, I am not sleeping or dreaming, I was there and I remember it well.
I travelled for love, a love which remains. Oh, how I love you – I remember you well.
This poem arose when I gave the group the words “because I want to” and that led to a discussion about the difference between want, need and must all of which are illustrated in the poem.
I go to book group because I can,
I look after Arnold because I want to and can,
I look after myself because I want to and can,
I eat vegetarian food because I want to.
I got up because I had to and went to the hospital because I needed to.
I visit the day centre because I want to and can,
I read books because I want to and can,
I like eating chocolate, I’m not supposed to, but I can.
They group was very pleased with this short poem since all the lines were decided by them. The idea of the Present Sense poem came out of a discussion we had about the giving and receiving of presents and how that can sometimes go wrong. The first line was a question that was actually asked (Is it alright to give money”) as a genuine query and the last line (“telephone call”) was the last line to be given and the whole group thought that it was a superb punchline to finish with.
I give money for presents – so that they can buy what they want.
Please don’t buy me – handkerchiefs, socks or aftershave.
I would like a slide rule – I want something that will last,
I don’t like smelly things – I want Armani perfume, not something that smells like fly spray.
Club together and buy me what I want – a coat or something useful.
I don’t want ornaments – I would just like a telephone call.
A cheque for Christmas – I am now prepared!
The price will be right, the price correct.
4:00 am and the queue has started.
My sturdy 50cc steed has delivered me safely.
Oxford Street you are mine.
Marks and Spencer; C & A;
Webbers, Capes, Elliston and Carell;
Sainsburys; Littlewoods; BHS;
Dorathy Perkins, Harrods and ETAMS
YES Everything To Attract Men
I have you all in my sights,
You are all on my list
I will take each of you in turn
And turn you around,
I am strong only buying what I need
Underwear, stockings, sheets and blankets.
I think “How boring”
I can be persuaded to change my mind
What candour, what wit, what knowledge – the bookgroup and I
Together with Helen, the memories fly.
Christmas is coming and reminiscences abound – from here to Barbados they all come around.
From Salvationists singing and the midnight mass – to Christmas kisses for a boy and his lass.
Creeping with parcels to children, but please – don’t make a noise, don’t even sneeze.
When we wake in the morning the turkey is cooking.
The smell is mouth-watering, but our presents are calling – so bacon and eggs, for now, will suffice.
My stocking is full – of chocolates and spice and so many other things that are all quite nice.
Now to church to gaze at the crib in its scene – while others have taken a bus to new places.
But we all return in time for the Queen.
First was the feast and our bellies are bursting – and while we doze we remember our blessings
We didn’t have much money, but whatever we did – there was laughter and smiles each evening
Our day had been lovely, but for many, maybe these memories are mixed.
Forget the bad ones – the good ones are fixed.
So, can I say “thank you” and wish you the best, perhaps next year we can all be blessed.
Wool on wool on wool.
Mittens made from my father’s socks; holes cut out for thumbs.
Pixie hats made from old jumpers- so so embarrassing!
Scarves tightly wound round neck and waist,
Everything we wore was wool, and so so itchy.
Cold on cold on cold.
Frost on the windows behind thick curtains,
Waiting for pictures to be made.
Coats over blankets and eiderdowns abound.
Hot rag- wrapped bricks to take to bed- anything to keep us warm!
Fire on fire on fire.
Cleaning the grate and laying the fire- jobs to be done that we hate,
But stoking and poking the fire makes the flames come up,
Toasting our bread and our knees
Huddle and cuddle round the fire, hot drinks in our hands
Cocoa is all we desire.