On the 22nd of April, 4 members of the Stories of Our Lives group and I led a session at Withington Library for their regular over 50s club. It was really lovely to widen our reach to more people, connect with them and hear their memories. This blog post is a record of what was shared, both for them and for you, the reader, to get a better idea of the shape of our sessions.
After choosing a topic that everyone was happy with, (meeting a friend or significant person) I led the group through a guided visualisation, encouraging them to think about memories of meeting a friend or significant person. We started the discussion by sharing words which we associate with this topic. One participant pointed out this in itself looked like the beginning of a poem, another said it might be an invitation to write one!
I then asked the group to chat in small groups about what they remembered before we gathered back together to share our thoughts. What emerged was very interesting!
The shares began with one woman talking about visiting America, where her aunt lived between 1958 and 1964. She recalled strong memories of bright clothes and making friends with other bridesmaids.
This prompted another participant to describe the memorably short, Jean Shrimpton style, wedding dress of her very tall cousin which caused a stir at her wedding in the 1960s.
Another participant shared memories of her grandmother Linda who influenced her to become a nurse from the early age of 8. For some reason, this led to a few stories of outside toilets. We agreed that this could be a topic all of its own!
The next share returned to the topic of clothes. The participant’s mother had always made her clothes, which she was very grateful for, despite the efforts of her friend Rosemary to control what she wore. “You can come round, but you can’t wear that!”
The next contributor to the discussion told of sad memories of feeling isolated at school in Wales, but then one good friend who haled from Yorkshire “kept me out of trouble.”
Another woman shared that she remembered a lovely moment when she met a new friend as an adult. “Are you Dutch?” she asked with a level of observation and awareness, that this participant had not experienced before and appreciated. Usually, she was asked, “Where are you from?” Or “Are you Polish or German?” This share reminded another participant of a lodger her mum used to rent out a room to in the years after the 2nd World War. It was a German woman who pretended to be Dutch (for perhaps obvious reasons at the time).
Our next group member said that his thoughts had immediately gone to recalling when he met his partner and how she had rescued him from a drunken state he was in and taken him home. They were together for 30 years after that, until she died not long ago. He spoke about how much she would have loved this group as she was so articulate.
Another participant spoke about his memories of meeting a good friend whilst volunteering, and the embarrassment of having to ask her whether she was pregnant as part of a health and safety questionnaire. He recalled how open and honest she was and how refreshing he found that.
Next came a share about a beautiful friendship now several decades-long. The participant met this friend during a poetry reading she did. She shared recollections of the floaty clothes this new friend wore and how she encouraged the participant with her writing – a fan turned friend!
We ended the session with one word each about the qualities we were drawn to in the friends that had come to mind during the session. Here they are. As you read them, maybe you could think about who comes to mind for you in relation to these words. We would love to read your memories too.
- Brilliant mind