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.
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.
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.
Maggie and I are looking forward to attending the Twilling Tweeds workshops to learn skills that we can hopefully share across project participants. We are also funding places through the project for practitioners working with people living with dementia, so that they can share their newly-acquired skill with the people they work with across the islands.
I Don’t Know You ..
I don’t know you
But a Siarach by the blàs
My mother was from Carloway
We had cousins over your way in Keose.
They would come to the communions over the moor
Twice a year, rain hail or shine.
And stayed the entire week.
We gave them room and lay in the barn.
My father went to Uig to buy a cow once
He walked all the way to Valtos and back in one day
Oatmeal when the sun was at its highest point
And water from the moorland stream.
My father, he was in the war with a man from Lochs
Crossbost -Alasdair Mor a big man
He became one of the Oatmeal Monuments
Then the Clyde Trust -The Skye Navy.
I prefer the land and the sky myself
The moor between Tolsta and Ness
I was a herder when I left school at 14
2 shillings a ewe we got to keep
Then from treacherous bogs and cliffs
I can still walk that moor today
Know it like the back of my hand
Oh well it so lovely that you came to see me
I hope it is kippers or salt herring tonight
No fresh fish nowadays
We were brought up on fish.
See and bring me some haddies the next time
Don’t be long till you call again
I just knew I knew you when you came in.
The Nicolson Institute Gaelic Choir have kindly rescheduled their event that we had to postpone due to high winds a few weeks ago.
They are now very helpfully undertaking a mini tour of Stornoway care centres in the New Year, so that people don’t have to travel in winter weather and so that everyone has something to look forward to in the New Year. How thoughtful and much appreciated!
We will be enjoying songs from the National Mod.
I took some Christmassy ingredients and recipes to Dun Eisdean today.
We produced some mini Christmas Puddings, mini Christmas cakes, mince pies and some chocolate chip cookies. We iced the cakes with a thick icing and a cherry. You can find the recipes on our recipes page.
We went for the mini versions of puddings and cakes to save on cooking time but we definitely packed in the flavour with ingredients such as orange zest, ginger wine, brandy, prunes, raisins and grated apple.
We talked about Christmas cooking smells, memories, recipes and what we remember our Mothers and Grandmothers cooking for us.
I laid the Christmas lights out along the table and we enjoyed Christmassy music on the radio as we worked. The hardest part was softening the butter…and waiting for the oven to cook it all!
I took the colour changing lights to Clisham Ward this afternoon – there wasn’t really opportunity to dance with them but the people there really enjoyed untangling them, holding them, lining them up, watching them change colour and playing games like trying to catch only the red ones, which turned into a popular game as the red ones are always fading away and popping up elsewhere.
I’ve left a list of possible activities with the ward, so that the staff can choose relevant sessions and let me know when they would work well.