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.

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.

Cultural Learning

I was very inspired by meeting Michelle Miller recently, who is working for the Scottish Government project Focus on Dementia. She won the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship last year and went to Japan to look at the ways people deal with dementia. I heard some energising stories of how car dealerships and other companies listed the jobs they had available each day for volunteers and a group of younger people living with dementia went off to undertake these tasks, sharing the workload as colleagues, taking pride in doing a great job and then coming back around the table in a resource centre for tea and food, talking about what they had done during the day. I find so much community and personal value attached to this approach.

Of course, many people volunteer in the Western Isles. More so than Shetland, from what I could gather on my recent visit for Up Helly Aa. However, Shetland has some interesting supported living models and some fantastic nurse led dementia diagnosing is happening there. The two lead nurses for dementia were handing out quiche and cake and having long and meaningful conversations with people attending the fortnightly dementia cafe at a church hall alongside Alzheimer Scotland staff and volunteers, while I was there. A bus filled with people from a day centre arrived, everyone eager to catch up with each other and talk about the recent Up Helly Aa, where the Guizer Jarl and his squad of burly Vikings had taken care to visit each and every care facility during the day, which had given everyone a purpose for baking and preparing treats for them all, in advance of the evening torchlit parade and ceremonial burning of the Galley. How many other cultures take such care in sharing festivals and activities across care settings? We do at An Lanntair, through Life Changes Trust but I think we are quite innovative in that respect.

Looking at the Ceilidh culture across the Western Isles, I was excited to see something very similar on a ferry from Cape Town to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was famously held. Not only held, actually, but that’s another story. A group of women of all ages were sitting together in a circle and singing local songs, some prayer songs, including a rousing chorus of ‘Thank you Jesus, Amen!’ when we safely reached the shore after a wallowy crossing! They entertained the entire group on board and it was incredible to see the similarity between a ceilidh here on Lewis, a gathering….people can’t help but chat, tell stories and maybe sing a few songs. It’s part of life here. And gathering places might have been the Post Office, the Scrapyard, the most popular guy on the street’s front room – not particularly a pub or bar. Alcoholic drinks venues were illegal within living memory – a lovely gentleman at the dementia cafe was telling me a story about his time as a Police Officer on Lewis, where an illegal drinking den was trying to get a license as a hotel/bar. Thousands of beer can pulls were collected from the floor of the building, carefully laced onto a string and presented in court as ‘evidence’, which made the court room bustle with stifled laughter at the time. Because of the cultural significance and the fact that a gathering is so beneficial to people, I have commenced plans to support hospital patients to hold a weekly ceilidh. I hope this works out.

Back to Cape Town, I noticed horrifying differences between people’s status – some cruising around in stretch limos, others taking their entire families to eat out daily, some living in Hollywood Hills style mansions….and some living rough in car parks and eating out of bins. Many people try to eke a living from helping tourists with luggage and as guides, as artists or selling souvenirs (all politely and non confrontationally, I have to add)  but there is little in the way of social support. The benefit system there is based on what has been paid in to the scheme and when it runs out, it is over.

Years ago, I went to Seoul in South Korea – the city and country life was very different. In the country, women largely stayed and raised children on the funds that the men earned by working themselves incredibly hard in the city. All night, I would see people having meetings and it wasn’t uncommon to see small groups of men sharing a bowl of kimchi soup with tofu at 11pm in a small cafe bar. With obligatory Souju. Older people in the country rarely stopped farming and growing and caring for little family members unless they were very unwell. Several generations lived together, which in that culture and many others gave rise to ‘Love Hotels’ to give married couples a break and some privacy! I digress because I have seen these on hotel booking sites in Brazil too.

I’m heading to Brazil for my son’s wedding in March – I’m already wondering how people support each other in Favelas and in general. What provision is there for social security and care? What about health care for poorer people? How is dementia perceived there? What about older people – are they generally valued and respected? I’m looking forward to finding out.

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

Word Collage Poem

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.

Maggie Smith

Nicolson Institute Gaelic Choir

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.

 

Christmas Baking at Dun Eisdean

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!

Dementia Friends sessions at An Lanntair today

The An Lanntair team was the very first in the Western Isles to benefit from a Dementia Friends session today.

Fiona Macleod is the brand new Dementia Advisor for Alzheimer Scotland and she delivered our morning and afternoon awareness sessions with Geraldine Ditta, who flew over from Inverness (despite high winds and heavy rain) for us today.

The sessions involved a lot of myth-busting, information, discussion, practical work and plenty of tea/coffee and cake.

We learned about living well with dementia, how important community is and what we can do as a team in our work environment to support people living in our community with dementia.

 

Photos : Fiona Macleod & Paula Brown