Two more preview trips to the Museum and Lovely Myra

I met Myra Lamont today, who volunteers for Life Changes Trust and is a volunteer member of  NDCAN

She was in the area to support carers and I was lucky enough to spend some time with her today, when she came along to the Museum trip with Solas and stayed to have a lunch meeting with me at An Lanntair.

I learned so much from Myra, her information was invaluable and I’ll be working on one of her ideas in the immediate future.

Meanwhile, the group from Solas loved the Museum preview trip. There were ten people with dementia, 5 staff plus volunteers and myself plus Myra.

The next group came from Blar Buidhe care Centre (having heard about how much people enjoyed it last week, another group wanted to come). Margaret Anne took great pride in being able to read Gaelic and another lady was so high in her standard of Gaelic, that she was able to correct some Museum resources! It was a beautiful day, too.

Podcasts

Check out our Podcasts page – there are Gaelic language lessons there (Gaelic Without Trying series to enable carers to learn Gaelic without having to commit to lesson time) PLUS our Gaelic Culture Podcast series of beautiful songs, stories and poetry in English and Gaelic.

Please share it widely. It is intended for sharing with people in the community living with dementia, so please highlight this to anybody you know who works with, cares for, is related to or knows anybody across the islands who might enjoy them.

I will have some headphones and splitters next week for any care centres or hospitals who would like to share these with residents/patients/clients.

Opera Highlights at Harris House

I’ve just returned (over the icy Clisham and through a snowstorm!) from Harris House, Tarbert, where Scottish Opera brought their Opera Highlights tour for a mini preview before the main show in the evening.

They sang four songs for our captivated audience of fifteen residents and 6 staff.
Beginning with a rousing English version of Brindisi from La Traviata, finishing with the hilarious Flanders & Swann ‘Song of the Weather’. In between, we enjoyed the Barber of Seville and the Mikado in bite-sized form.

Afterwards, the cast/singers had a chat with the residents, talking about island life as well as their own influences. Conversation flowed about memories, music, wartime, all kinds of thoughts and emotions were opened up by the music and everyone commented on the quality of the programme, the power of the voices and the entertainment value of something so different.

Thank you so much, Scottish Opera. That was an unforgettable afternoon!

 

Scottish Opera 1Scottish Opera 7Scottish Opera 2Scottish Opera 5Scottish Opera 3

 

Spinning session with Mary Smith

Maggie Smith and Mary Smith held spinning sessions at Blar Buidhe and Dun Eisdean Care Centres today.

Memories flowed of carding and setting up weaving machinery and how the carding process was boring but machinery was available to do it.

We spoke about natural dyes, onion skins and flowers, different uses for urine(!) and that the spinning wheel was made in the 1980s in Carloway. Each area has a particular kind of drop spindle but the ones Mary brought were mostly used for plying the wool.

It was wonderful to work with Mary Smith after hearing about her work a few times…..and Maggie brought beautiful Gaelic flavour and a traditional weaving song to the sessions….but the cat totally stole the show!

 

Stornoway Rotary Club presentation today

Many grateful thanks to Stornoway Rotarians for their warm welcome and attentive reception for our project presentation at lunchtime today.

I was immensely honoured to be invited to present the project to Stornoway Rotary Club today and to be treated to an excellent lunch at the Caladh Hotel. The project was very well received and the technical equipment worked together perfectly.

I found it quite incredible to look back at the past year in the project and how much has been achieved and commenced already. I’m also immensely humbled by the generous and warm reception that the project is receiving across the islands.

The entire team loves the work that we feel privileged to be doing and we are grateful for the tremendous support that the community has offered so generously and that was so abundantly echoed by the Rotary Club members at today’s meeting.

Isle of Harris Distillers

 

It’s not every day that someone gets to visit a distillery for work and I was thrilled to be invited to see and smell the aromatics and botanicals that are used in the Isle of Harris Distillery for their drinks in connection with reminiscence through this project.

Shona Macleod met with me and showed me around the sensory area of the building, filled with jars of incredible aromas and boxes of tactile, hand-plunging grains, peats and touchy-feely tweeds. This is an experience area as part of the Distillery Tour.

Shona explained that the Sugar Kelp is hand dived and carefully prepared and dried at Hebridean Seaweed to create an expensive but stable, dried ingredient, which will make it suitable for our project to be shared in our reminiscence boxes.

I also came away with a rose based hand cream, created from local machair-gathered wild flowers (for hand massages and aromatic effect combined) and the Harris Distillery blend tea from Hebridean Tea Store, a blend of Assam teas with smokey Lapsang Souchong, evocative of peat fires, for aromatic qualities as much as reminiscing over leaf tea and drinkability!

The shop is stocked with a beautiful display of Harris Gin bottles, twisting in spirals along the shelves as well as local apothecary blends crafted into soaps, cologne, balms and creams. There are some gorgeous leather bound notebooks, jellybeans and books adding bursts of colour.

The cafe offers tremendous attention to detail with warm scones, soft butter and recycled tables and cutlery jars.

I think that everyone receiving the trial sensory box for reminiscence will love the local focus on wild flowers and kelp, local fragrances that will hopefully evoke deep memories for people to share with their loved ones.

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.

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

Twilling Tweeds workshops

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.

Twilling Tweeds