DEEP Gathering



We had a fantastic time at the Inverness DEEP gathering this week.

We were so well looked after and the event was planned so well that it was easy to navigate and orientate ourselves around the hotel.

I think a very clear comment from the session was ‘I don’t feel so alone now’ and another was ‘My dementia family’ so it is clear to see the value of the bonds and connections made during the event. The food was incredible, the beds enormous and the evening ceilidh was hilarious and filled with fantastically obscure songs and beautifully performed poetry.

Paul and Philly facilitated the event to ensure that everybody had the opportunity to talk about what is important to them and that the issues were whittled down to two, which were discussed in depth and genuine action is now happening to tackle them.

If you weren’t able to attend this gathering but would like to attend the next one in Edinburgh late May/early June, then please consider it.  Paula will be on hand to help as your assistant and you may bring someone to help you if you prefer. It is completely free and you will be in the company of some really lovely people who help each other and work together to support each other and people across the UK.

Friday Ceilidh

It is impossible to capture the spirit of the 6.30-9pm Stornoway Friday Ceilidh at the Retirement Centre, Bayhead so I’ll leave it to Catherine.

‘I haven’t had so much fun in ages, I’m usually in watching the telly. This is on every Friday? Wow, I’ll walk down. It’s very homely isn’t it? Great craic!’

I love catching up with people and familiar faces here. I know at least half of the people by sight or better. Maggie Smith organises the session and it’s only £3 including gorgeous home baking and tea/coffee. It’s a lovely treat to round off the week.

The music is a selection of traditional English and usually Gaelic songs and some Scottish piping and accordion tunes. There are usually some traditional instruments there and some great voices. It depends on who comes, who is able to come on the night but that is part of the fun, never knowing whether you will see a certain singer or enjoy fiddles or something different.

Some people dress up……we had disco hair Santa today….some dance, some chat and catch up with neighbours and some get up and sing. Some serve teas and coffees, cakes and wash up, some just come to enjoy the warm, neighbourly atmosphere.

And occasionally it is a birthday party – today, gorgeous 5 year old Jasmine had her birthday with us and she had the most beautiful cake with a guitar on it. Happy birthday Jasmine!


Had a lovely afternoon in Trianaid getting to know some of the residents and carers. I took along a range of local books and photos. Many of these were based around the theme of planting and feannagan (lazy beds). These included photos of cutting the seaweed for fertilizer and the tools used in the process. Someone had been told that the cas-chrom (foot plough) was invented in Grimsay by the boat builders who could turn their hands to anything. Other areas in Uist such as Baleshare didn’t need the foot plough because the ground was soft so they just used a sliobhag (dibble). There were lots of nods and agreement about who the man in the photo was with the sgùird (canvas bag).


I took along a badag (home made feather brush). This was recognized immediately and the sweeping gestures demonstrated along with some detailed explanations of how they were used in their homes. Dusting flour, on the griddle pan while making scones, sweeping the top of the stove and some even used it for sweeping ashes away. The feathers were kept very clean because they were used for cooking. People mainly used hens feathers, or any feathers they had access to, bunched them together and tie them up with string. Voila! A great use of local materials and easy to make, I might start a campaign to ‘Bring back the Badag’!

Other things I learned today;
The daffodils I brought along with the orange centre are actually Narcissus – a cousin of the daffodil.
A skinned otter would get you enough money for a night out at the dance.
Herbs are the best remedies for everything and it’s a gift to know how to use them.
Gannets will only eat fish they catch themselves.
Wild roses are the best.

Best offer of the day:
I’ll teach you how to make a creel we just need some bamboo and something to knit with.

The daffodils were hugely admired; ‘oh it’s daffodil time’, mmmm, lots of smelling and happy smiles ‘oh you’re the daffodil lady’, ‘are you going to leave them here?’


Recommended by our First Minister

For #WorldPoetryDay (with half an hour to go) how about a recommendation from our First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon? During her Q&A session after launching An Lanntair’s International Women’s (Day) Month, somebody asked for book recommendations for her daughter and one of them was Maya Angelou. I chose ‘Alone’ because nobody can make it out here alone.

by Maya Angelou


Lying, thinking
Last night
How to find my soul a home
Where water is not thirsty
And bread loaf is not stone
I came up with one thing
And I don’t believe I’m wrong
That nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

There are some millionaires
With money they can’t use
Their wives run round like banshees
Their children sing the blues
They’ve got expensive doctors
To cure their hearts of stone.
But nobody
No, nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Now if you listen closely I’ll tell you what I know
Storm clouds are gathering
The wind is gonna blow
The race of man is suffering
And I can hear the moan,
‘Cause nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone
Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Tuesday Ceilidh with Tonkan!

Today, we were treated to a wonderful medley of traditional music from Tonkan as well as brilliant resources from Alzheimer Scotland,  lovely volunteers and lots of staff coming in and out. A few visitors came and stayed for the hour, which created a lovely buzz to the afternoon.

There was even some dancing! Plenty of singing along too. We were playing ‘Name That Tune’ at one point – Yellow Rose of Texas, Lovely Stornoway, Knees Up Mother Brown, Roll Out The Barrel, lots of Gaelic songs like Chi Mi’n Tir  (did I spell that correctly?).

Cakes included home baked orange curd and rose iced sponge, cupcakes and scones with crowdie and cream.

Six people came from the wards, three visitors, Tonkan, Helen from Chaplaincy, myself (Paula from Arora), eight hospital staff came and went as they had time to support people and two fantastic volunteers.

Immense thanks to everyone. You are all stars.

Clisham garden sensory feedback session

Continuing on from the meeting on the ward last week, where the Interact Club of local young people is partnering up with the NHS Western Isles and Alzheimer Scotland as well as ourselves to revamp the Clisham garden area in time for summer, I was tasked with supporting people staying on the ward to offer their preferences and ideas for planting choices and potential colours of paint for the exterior.

To assist with including people with higher support needs in the selection of planting and growing items for the next phase of the ward garden, after clearing and weeding, I held a short session today. I took along various items with strong fragrance, colours, tactile items, seed packets, flowers, edible items and we had a sensory selection session this afternoon. We will do something similar with potential paint colours shortly.

The results were:

lettuce – no interest so far
onions – only the slightest flicker of interest. Memories of growing them out of necessity, mostly.
apples – nobody seemed remotely interested
rosemary – strong aroma, interesting and thinking of roast lamb dinners and potatoes
thyme – strong aroma, no real reference point but interesting to smell
blackberries – gone in a flash! Yes please, lots of eager interest, Autumn, pies with apples, smell, taste, touch, have grown them before, prickly, going picking with family and friends
strawberries – gone in a flash, smell, taste, touch, colour, growing them at home, summer, cakes, juice down our chins (request for raspberries too)
potatoes – these are small, we grew big ones, the bigger the better. Definitely potatoes but big ones.
round carrot seeds – interesting, curious, round carrots? Yes grow carrots – plus these will be interesting to see what they taste like
chard – no idea. No interest.
marigold seeds – shrug
sunflower seeds – definitely yes! Big ones, really really tall ones.
tomatoes – yes, if we keep them warm. They smell good.
primroses – Mothers Day, Spring, seasonal. Colours. Yes.
tulips – they look nice but don’t last long inside or out
daffodils – yes. Colour in early Spring. And the little ones, narcissi
Hyacinth – yes, colour and the fragrance. Lilac and blue, interesting colours. touch, they are a nice shape.


Clisham Ward garden project

The Interact Club has been working hard to raise funds to revamp the Clisham Ward garden to support patients there to enjoy outdoor activity and growing.

Offering support to the project, I went along today to meet with Alasdair Montgomery, Marion MacInnes and Rebekah Macdonald – other members of the wider team gave apologies.

We had a look at the space and made a plan for 1st April to be the clearing and weeding day, followed by many sessions and events to raise further funds and to completely involve patients and visitors/relatives with the work.

Please look out for updates on opportunities to get involved through Alzheimer Scotland and the Interact Club.

In the meantime, here are some ‘before images’ just a few 🙂

Islands & spring flowers

On Wednesday, I was working with the brilliant Chris Hammacott at Bethesda, which is where a lady was staying on respite. 

This is part of Alzheimer Scotland’s community outreach extension of our original Quilter in Residence project with Chris to support people living at home.

We had a wonderful afternoon chatting with a lady who has led an incredible life shaped and inspired by the sea and several islands including Iona and St. Kilda.

A cushion will come from this session shortly and I can’t wait to see how that looks!

On the way out, I spotted a familiar face from community sessions and although I was dashing to a meeting, I asked if I could come back and I returned yesterday with some spring flowers. We spent a lovely hour arranging them and chatting, while snow and hail battered the windows.