Hand Memory – by Jon Macleod

Hand memory pdf

net mending blurredScreen Shot 2016-01-26 at 09.30.28Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 09.30.38Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 09.30.47Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 09.31.06Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 09.31.12

images: Net mending session at Blar Buidhe, Carding wool at Harris house, Knitting pattern, Anne Campbell (Garenin) Milking – using fuigheagan (waste wool from tweed weaving) to tie the tail out of the way …., Setting nets off Gallan Head, Ciosan.

Hand Memory

Building on earlier sessions with people living with dementia that explored traditional skills and the role of ‘hand memory’ we have created further sessions for eliciting memories as well as creating opportunities for haptic stimulation, that may link to life knowledge of work tools, craft skills and techniques such as creel and basket making, knitting, carding and spinning wool, net mending fishing and tweed weaving. To explore this in greater depth we have collaborated on a joint funding proposal with Dr.Stephanie Bunn, Senior lecturer in Anthropology (specializing in Material Culture) at St. Andrews University. This new project looks at ‘eliciting oral histories and ‘hand-memories’ as a means of co-designing supportive, inclusive and locally distinct communities for people living with dementia as well as providing research that will feed into developing new innovative design tools.

Another objective is to exchange knowledge of basketry practice in memory work with An Lanntair’s experience of placing oral traditions at the centre of our approach to local history-making and recording. We will draw on local familiarity with basketry to elicit both oral and embodied memories from community elders, who are often the only members of communities now to retain such skills. An Lanntair’s experience with orality and dementia will in turn enhance the work with other communities in the project, along with providing oral material which will enrich the collection at Lewis’s Museum nan Eilean. 

Dr.Bunn’s previous project ‘Woven Communities’ looked at basketry, memory, and embodied thinking and grew out of an initiative and collaboration between a group of Scottish basketmakers, the Scottish Basketmakers Circle whose aim was to collect together and document all the diverse research conducted about Scottish vernacular basketry, learning skills from regional practitioners, researching in their local communities, surveying basket-related plant ecology and visiting museum collections and archives;

“There is a wealth of information which comes forth when people see you making baskets – often they are eager to correct you just to start with and let you know you are doing something wrong. Then many memories come flooding back.”- Liz Balfour, (Woven Communities Project Partner).

One focus of the new project will look at re-discovering local skills and knowledge by hosting practical reminiscence events and hand memory exercises. We will follow a basket making process all the way through, from gathering weaving materials, processing them and then weaving a specific vessel such as a ‘Ciosan’. This was ‘a coiled basket made from sea-bent (marram grass), or sometimes straw. The coils are stitched together using twine made from rush, marram, even split willow or bramble, or bought twine’. Its function was to hold oat or barley meal.

Shetland

I’m on Shetland for Up Helly Aa this week, checking out project-related teams, projects and organisations.

I checked out the Mareel Cafe before my meetings, for my first Matcha tea. I felt healthier just looking at it!

I loved the Alzheimer Scotland Dementia Resource centre. It has a lovely kitchen for meetings around the table. I met Alan Murdoch, Dementia Services Nurse Manager, Ann Williamson and the community activities organiser. We had a brilliant discussion about Faro and the differences and similarities between island dementia services. I presented the project and we discussed developing the ideas more widely.

In the afternoon, I met Camille from the Scottish Health Council and we discussed the project and Health Improvement, we also shared ideas about how to use the voices of the people involved in our project to inform policymakers.

Podcast Recording today

Maggie and I had fun recording our first ‘Gaelic without trying’ podcast today at the Wee Studio.

The idea behind this is to offer a podcast to care centres, so that staff may learn Gaelic without having to commit time to lessons.

The thought is to play this on a loop in the toilet, much like Frankies & Benny’s in England, where they teach Italian in the bathrooms, or Heston Blumenthal’s motivational speeches in bathrooms. It’s something that can be absorbed in little chunks across the day. And of course it is vital in this culture for carers to understand basic Gaelic in order to be able to understand people who revert to Gaelic through dementia.

It will also work as little bite-sized lessons to listen to in the car, for example.

We were also thinking about offering short little podcasts of songs, stories and interviews for people living with dementia, in Gaelic. This will be the next step, along with a couple more ‘Gaelic without trying’ lessons.

These will be freely available to anyone who wants them.

Download podcast here

The Language of the Hearth

MS-07The language of the hearth

Working on this project I am the privileged recipient of all kinds of personal stories and cultural treasures, which spill out instantly between the handshake and island Gaelic burr.
The challenge, of relaying in English, the instant connectedness of speaking Gaelic, the language learned at “mother’s knee” is mine to define.
The sharing encompasses: the marks of the repetitive graft of crofting chores, knowing it was necessary for the family’s bread and ambitions. The stoic independence of wives and children of men at sea for long periods and the interdependence of the ‘village’ which rallied at times of need.
The cultural conventions, the retrieved and gleaming vocabulary, the island ingenuity which we now thirst to re-learn.
Yarns ‘brought home’ by roving shepherds and soldiers which ‘tied in’ an interest in far off places, how those people lived and what they lived by.
The genealogy of the indigenous families, that Global Positioning System of old that ties us to the hill, shoreline and earth and the innate need, to pin a bearing and connect the two.

Maggie Smith