Special Times Part One 

At the request of the group, today’s topic for our online meeting was “Red Letter” days and holidays.  Reflecting on special moments that were physically warmer or emotionally bright for us, turned out to be the perfect choice to lift all our spirits during this transition into darker nights and chillier mornings.  

I started by reading the beginning of a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: 

"The holiest of all holidays are those
kept by ourselves in silence and apart;
the secret anniversaries of the heart."

and then guided the group to think about the moments that have most stood out for them and why. 

The conversation afterwards was incredibly rich and moving, with lots of laughter and memories shared. As always, it was so lovely to notice how others’ memories had a contagious effect on mine like yawning or laughter do!

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“I had one of those!” A community-building event at Chorlton Library.

Do you have objects around your house that act as a portal to a place filled with memories and stories? Our participants certainly do! We had lots of fun sharing our old items and their associations during this session which we co-hosted with Sophie Woodward, Professor of Sociology at Manchester University. The event was supported by the ESRC Festival of Social Science, which is an annual, UK-wide, free celebration of the social sciences. 

Objects shared by local people as well as members of the group were displayed around the room as a way to explore a range of issues, including things like interview methods, memory work and building connection and community.  It was a great success, with lots of fabulous stories shared and several new connections sparked.

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Audio-biography recordings

Recently, we had a very friendly and talented guest in the form of Gillian Torres. Gillian is a writer who also helps people connect to their own voices and tell their own tales, through therapeutic writing and cathartic conversations. She also has her own website called http://audioautobio.com/ where she offers an audio memoir service that is very much in keeping with our values at The Stories of Our Lives. When I chatted to her about our group and this blog, she wanted to come along and offer her services to our members so we could get a taste of what she does.

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An Intergenerational Music Exchange

Photographs of the event by Rachel Bywater

On Monday 19th July, under the bright sky of an extraordinarily warm day, a group of excited people gathered at the West Didsbury and Chorlton Football Club.  We weren’t there to watch a match, though in its own way, it was a game of two sides.  One side was a collection of young people from Chorlton High School and the other local people who ranged in age.  Instead of football, we played music.  The results of the match were fantastic for both teams.  Read on to find out more!

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Summer Memories

Celebrating times gone by, as we simultaneously enjoy what is currently happening, is the fine balance that this group is often blessed to find during our discussions and reflections.  The current brighter, warmer days have admittedly helped create this balance as we ponder on past summer memories and associations!

I was certainly left feeling uplifted by hearing the sunny memories the group shared.  What stood out for me was the mention of adventures in mountains, laughter shared with friends and family, the rituals of regular holidays, cricket games, sunburn stories, ice creams under endless blue skies and simple but delicious picnics.  I hope you enjoy these stories too. Please comment below with memories of your own! 

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Intergenerational Penpals

Recently, our group has reached out to the wider community and formed new connections across the generations.  Part of this has involved a joyful exchange. We shared our blog post on our much-loved toys and games with a class of Year 5 pupils at Chorlton Primary School and then, after reading our memories, the children wrote back to thank us and tell us about their favourite toys and activities.  Read on to see what they shared.

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Getting Together Again

Recently, some brighter days inspired the group to meet outdoors at the Tea Hive in Chorlton. It was a real treat and we had a very lovely get together – the first in-person one since lockdown!  Many members had not met each other in person before and we laughed in surprise about the fact we had bodies below the shoulders and heads we had got so used to seeing on screen. 

We shared tea, coffee and some lovely cake whilst getting to know each other in 3D again.  We also spent some time reflecting on our experience of the group and ideas of what to do next.  Watch the video below to see the uplifting feedback.  Alternatively, read the quotes separately below if that works better for you.

“I enjoy the opportunity to speak and connect with others.”

“As we get older, it can often get treated as important or having worth but this group helps us participants feel valued and purposeful.”

“Listening to people as we do, shows that ordinary people have fascinating lives, even when they might think they don’t!  This also then reminds me to value myself too; realise that I have had an interesting life also.”

“The group is warm, inclusive, friendly, encouraging and HAPPY!”

“You can get as much or as little out of the group as you like.  You can use it as an opportunity to simply tell and hear stories or you can write something up inspired by the storytelling.”

“We are in unprecedented times.  The best way to break the cycle of uncertainty and worry is by connecting, creating community and sharing with others is good for everyone involved.”

“The group is a chance to meet people I wouldn’t have otherwise.  It is a diverse group, very intergenerational and we have great, often surprising, conversations. “

“I like having an incentive to write on a regular basis and I also enjoy the sharing of memories on a topic, how they are sometimes similar and sometimes so very different.”

“This is good place to improve writing and storytelling skills and also a good place to talk and manage mental health conditions like anxiety.”

“You could just come and listen first or read the story book to get a feel for the group.  Or jump straight in a share some memories with us all during a session!”

“We have more in common than we realise!”

Great Storytellers We Have Known

When I heard this topic suggested by Anne and Alberto, I was intrigued and also not sure how I might go about presenting it to the group.  Where to start?  Storytelling has come to mean such a lot of things!  

My first thoughts had me reflecting on the heritage of oral storytelling, particularly the variety of traditional stories we grow up with.  I also started thinking about people I know who are great at the skill of telling a spoken story.  Then my mind jumped to how all modern entertainment, including films, games, t.v. and adverts all use storytelling to deliver a message or way of seeing the world.  Finally, I found myself pondering the many ways that psychologically, spiritually and culturally, we tell ourselves stories all the time, about who we are, where we come from and what the meaning of this often confusing thing called life is.  

I had no clue how to weave these thoughts and more into a brief intro. Instead I chose to start the session with the beginning of a poem called The Storyteller by Mike Jones. I followed this with a couple of simple questions, trusting that the group would perform its usual magic and inspire each other and me into deeper reflections which we could then connect through. The following blog is a testament to the group’s magic which I was right to trust, what great storytellers they all are and how yes, I am truly grateful to know them.

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Toys and Games

Listening to the group this week as they recalled their tales of childhood toys and games, I was struck by how important and impactful play really is.  Amongst other things, it has brought us joy, connection, freedom, learning, imagination and many precious memories. 

I heard of stories of objects that are long lost, but still wistfully longed for, games where play became a serious business, the creation of quirky characters and whole inner worlds as well as daring deeds of daftness/ bravery (depending on how you look at it).

With every snippet of story shared, I found myself going back into my own past and reliving happy, exhilarating moments of learning and play.  I hope you have the same experience as you read this and can take some time to add some of your recollections in the comments below.

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Winter

This week’s winter and Christmas themed session, led by Lucy, revealed so many similarities between different people’s experience, despite any variations in geography or date of birth.

Other people’s recollections helped me recall many things I had entirely forgotten about.  Most of them were food related! Christmas “treats” I didn’t enjoy but didn’t want to miss out on, like Turkish delight.  The special hostess trolley that was wheeled out heavily laden with a Christmas tea in front of festive TV specials at my Nanna and Grandad’s house.  I also was reminded of some more recent winter holidays involving lots of snow, and in the breakout room during the meeting, had a lovely laugh with my friend Sue. We giggled about how, one winter 10 years ago, our tiny little cars managed to somehow get us to work up two separate, very icy hills.  We both remembered the surrealism of the moment, seeing much larger, newer cars abandoned roadside due to their ABS literally putting the breaks on their trip! Both of us ended up being sent home again once we got there, but it was worth it for the memories.

There are some rich and scrumptious pieces of writing in here for you to savour, suggested accompaniment – cup of tea (or even something mulled!). We hope you enjoy reading this lovely blog and it helps you remember times you have enjoyed and remember.  Let us know in the comments what memories came up for you!

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