Jolene began by inviting us to reflect, with gratitude, on our current home. She reminded us of what Alberto had said, the first week we met under lockdown, about our relative comfort compared to other places in the world. With closed eyes, she asked us to be thankful as we pictured the room in which we were sitting, and to focus on something within it that was special to us. Then, if we wished, to travel to another part of the house and do the same.
I joined the Zoom feeling a little apprehensive and wondering what the hour would bring. As I closed my eyes and took my first deep breath, my anxiety disappeared.
Jolene led us into thinking about how blessed we are to have a home, to notice the things that surrounded us, offering us comfort, convenience, function and beauty. The object most prominent in my mind’s eye was the word LOVE that sits upon my mantlepiece. I love this word and it brings me great joy every single day. Picturing it, and resting, evoked many memories and deep feelings for all the people who have shared my space over the years.
I had been feeling a little sad lately that all my “elders” and significant others have transitioned from my life, leaving me the present “elder” and finding this a bit scary, to say the least.
As Jolene continued to lead us, I pictured many happy occasions that have taken place over the many years in my current home. I could clearly see the faces of the many departed members and friends, alongside all my family and friends still sharing my life… I saw all the birthday tea parties, Christmas dinners, Sunday roasts, afternoon teas and general get togethers we have shared. (Funny how they all involved eating!)
I found myself in my hall, opening my front door and reliving so many, many people coming into my home.
I cannot really find words to express the deep gratitude and joy this brought to me. Thank you so much Jolene for this unexpected gift.
In the breakout room, I was able to connect with the lovely Lucy. We shared a very speedy 20 minutes chatting about being present and living in the now and learning deeply from each other. Lucy has written most eloquently about this and I thank her very much for that.
Following the visualisation, both Babs and I shared a strong feeling that we are embracing the present moment far more nowadays and are noticing things round us more. For example, Babs said that she had only really noticed just how green and wonderful her friend’s tree is recently.
We also discussed perspective. Babs said that one of her favourite things in her living room is the word ‘LOVE’ in capital letters which reminded her of more sociable times, when she welcomed friends and family into her home and the joy she felt with them. She mentioned that when her sofa broke and she was unable to sit in ‘her spot’, she noticed the LOVE from a different perspective and it evoked even more recollections of happy times at home.
As many of us are doing now, I am also seeing my home through fresh eyes and have repurposed it. For example, my lounge was generally just for winding down after a long day at work and for having friends round, but I have now renamed it the “BBC News Arena and Yoga Studio”. I am currently involved with the Create to Connect challenge and the other day I mapped the new reworked version of my flat.
I was also reminded about times of joy and laughter here with friends and family. In another creative challenge last week, I had to create a monster who I christened Mr Pupsie Cushions and he is still with me a week on as it has been nice to have some “company”. I can’t wait until the day the BBC News Arena and Yoga Studio can welcome back friends and these four walls are filled with the sound of actual, not virtual, conversation and laughter. Although Mr Cushions will have to make way for my friends soon, one thing won’t change, and that is the repurposing of my flat, that’s here to stay.
What a strange and unplanned journey our imagination and memory takes us on!
Travelling round my “too big now for one” home, I thought not for the first time how very fortunate I was to have such a pleasant space that I can call my own. In my life and work I have met so many people who do not have this luxury.
Paired again with Joe, we talked first of all of the attraction of having an attic and the danger of storing things there that were never to be used again! Gradually in our conversation, I focused on the room I was in at the time and where I spend most of my day. I told Joe of a special object in this room. A picture drawn by my grandfather in the trenches in World War One.
Sadly he died in 1916 when my father was only 5, leaving my grandmother with a very young family. It’s the story of my family, but also of so many families.
Thanks to a second cousin, who had some family papers, I found out that his grave was in a small town called Mazingarbe on the borders of Belgium. In 2018, at the centenary of the end of World War One, I thought it was time I went to find his grave. I did eventually find it after initially being taken to the wrong cemetery in the wrong town by a taxi driver. “Lost in France” is another story for another time! It was almost unbelievable standing by the grave of my grandfather that I had only heard about for many years.
So many memories from that initial guided tour around my house and one special thing.
Apologies to Joe who didn’t get much of a chance to describe his home and favourite room and object. I look forward to hearing his story another time! Thank you for listening Joe.
I’m in the room where we Zoom. It was a study, where I hid away to mark essays or write lectures, sometimes late at night, sometimes stressed and overstretched. Now I’m grateful that from here, I go “out” for Stories of our Lives, for catch ups with friends, family birthday parties, history talks, online quizzes, and more. We keep the holiday guides and OS maps in here now, so many happy memories of holidays we’ve shared.
With my eyes closed, I picture myself leaving the room and walking round the house. Accustomed to it now, we’ve literally been living “upside down” since the lockdown. In early March, we’d moved downstairs, into our visitors’ bedroom whilst the decorator could re-plaster & paint our bedroom upstairs. The bedroom furniture was crowded into other rooms and the old carpet went to the tip. A new curtain rail and carpet were still to be fitted when lockdown began, so our bedroom, which gets the afternoon sun, became a greenhouse for the seedlings (now planted in the vegetable beds in our garden), and a drying room when clothes couldn’t be pegged outside. Useful, but won’t it be lovely when these topsy-turvy times are over!
Downstairs, it is my grandma’s hall stand I choose as my treasured object. I remember it from childhood visits to my grandparents two-up, two-down terraced house in Blackburn. It was on the left-hand side when you opened the door from the street into the parlour used during the day for my granddad’s tailoring business. How many glanced in the hall stand’s mirror, to adjust their hats before they left? My grandma loved her hats, boxes of them arrived when she moved to live with my family in Nelson when I was eleven, along with that hall stand.
In my mind’s eye, I glance in the mirror now, as I usually do, to check my appearance before I go out. I feel grateful for all the loving faces in my life who will have done the same. I picture them smiling back at me now. “Thank you” I whisper.
A conversation with Alberto Velázquez Yébenes by Margaret Williams
It was very interesting for me to be paired with Alberto, since he is so very much younger than myself and has not lived all his life in Britain.
We talked about the room we had each chosen to think about during the collective exercises of thinking of a room in our houses or flats, where perhaps we kept important things, or liked to be. It turned out that both Alberto and I had picked our “second bedroom” to fill this role. We both live in apartments with two bedrooms, where the second bedroom has multiple uses and where we can accommodate friends or family when necessary. Although we also have different uses for the rooms, it seemed a good point of contact.
Interestingly, during our chat, we discovered that we are almost neighbours! We both live very close to the vegetarian shop Unicorn, which we both use, just on opposite sides of the road.
I was pleased to hear how much Alberto likes living in Chorlton, after living in “town” (i.e. the centre of Manchester), and hope that will continue.
Again, a very thought-provoking session. In my conversation, two themes evolved.
Firstly, how the last couple of months have altered my perspective of what I most valued in my home. Three months ago I would most likely have cited my season card for Manchester City, which not only gave me access to great entertainment (mostly!) but also provided a “gateway” for regular meetings with friends.
Now, my laptop has been the way I am increasingly keeping in contact with friends and as a consequence it has become my “most valued possession.” In the previous week these two possessions were substantively linked when I received an email from City advising me that they were now going to refund me for the cost of the games which I wouldn’t now be able to attend. Although my friends would most likely have received a similar communication I used the news as a catalyst to connect with them in any case.
It was interesting for me to recollect an important room from my past. It was a very tiny one and I remembered it quite well. I realised both why this was so, and why this was the room which came first into my mind. It was a room in which I was very happy and content. I had come through a dark period in my life and I was experiencing a fresh start. There are echoes here of the current situation, perhaps.
One funny aspect of this memory was the fact that in this tiny room I started on a marathon task of completing a 4,000 piece jigsaw of John Constable’s Flatford Mill. It took so long I had moved to a new place, thankfully with a larger room, before it was completed!
I don’t really subscribe to star signs but this description of mine is spot on nevertheless, “Cancer is the sign of home and family life. They seek out relationships and are happiest when with those they love because it gives them a sense of security.”
My home is a retreat from the world, it’s a place where I cultivate calm, order and rest so I can switch off and decompress from the challenges of life. Because of my attachment to and gratitude for my living space, I have absolutely loved the increased time spent inside it since lockdown began. I am blessed to feel very safe and loved here and if I could, I would carry this protected feeling around with me like a crab carries its shelter.
These meetings now being held from the comfort of my home have given me licence to be more fully myself during them. Within these walls, I allow myself to be very authentic and relaxed and that then allows me to be present to and take in everything everyone is saying in a deeper way than when I am out of my shell.
What I’m realising whilst writing this is, this sense of security is state of mind really isn’t it? It comes from within me. And that means that, just maybe, going forwards (or sideways), I can take the experience and memory of this group with me in order to make even more of the world my home.