Of Jammie Dodgers and Distant Ophir
I have come to learn that sharing a little something from my own life and experience can be an opportunity to spark conversation without any pressure for someone who is living with dementia to remember and articulate things that they enjoy.
I had the idea that I would share some of my own treasures with David: a little music box that plays “Here Comes the Sun”, some lavender bags, my first book, and some smooth wooden spoons that I love but have never used, thinking I would then invite David to have a root around the house for items that he loves.
But we never got that far, because we came across Biscuit Book, a little accordion book made up of tiny biscuits, with a list of biscuits written at one end. I asked David if he could read the list of biscuits, and genuinely wasn’t sure if he was able to, as the text is quite small, but he could read the list, and read it beautifully like it was the shipping forecast, or a short poem. In fact, he read the list so well and in such a jaunty rhythm it reminded me of the poem “Cargoes” by John Masefield. So we dug out a poetry anthology, and David read “Cargoes” a few times. He read with great confidence, and knew a lot of the poem by heart.
Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine, With a cargo of ivory, And apes and peacocks, Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine. Stately Spanish galleon coming from the Isthmus, Dipping through the Tropics by the palm-green shores, With a cargo of diamonds, Emeralds, amethysts, Topazes, and cinnamon, and gold moidores. Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke stack Butting through the Channel in the mad March days, With a cargo of Tyne coal, Road-rail, pig-lead, Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays.
After reading the poem, we then spent a while looking up some of the trickier words that we weren’t sure about the meaning of, even though we knew the poem pretty well already.
Once again, our time together was shaped by David’s curiosity, interests and strengths, rather than deciding in advance what might happen based on what he may not be able to do. Good quality ingredients, celebrating the strengths of person and in-the-moment inspiration win over a firm plan any day of the week.
If you are interested in volunteering as a Creative Befriender with Resonate Arts, do drop them a line to find out more. And do take a look at the beautiful books made by Micro Library Books. You may like to add one to your tin of treasures.
(Reflection written in February 2018)