Silver linings

Was I deceived or did a sable cloud turn forth her silver lining on the night?


John Milton, Comus, 1634

Gently, Jolene posed a series of questions for us to consider privately, in silence, before we split into smaller groups to discuss our responses.

 “How are you being challenged or stretched by your current circumstances?  What moments of hope and joy do they nevertheless contain?  What silver linings can you see?  What about any past circumstances that you have been through? What silver linings were there? How can you bring self-compassion and kindness to your current experience of the challenges we collectively, and you individually, are facing?”

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Getting around

Joe led us in a second great session on journeys and transport, this time concentrating on the ways in which we regularly got around, whether on foot, by bike, train or in the cars we owned.  There was so much to talk about!   We shared stories of travelling to school, holiday outings, regular commutes to and from work, some within Manchester and some far away.  As well as vividly re-living those frequent journeys, the people we were with, or were on our way to, featured strongly in our fond memories.   

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Memorable journeys

Our topic of journeys was such a hit that we could have chatted all day!  We decided that we would meet again to carry on the conversation, so this blog post is the first of two on the same theme.  In this one, our stories centre around journeys that especially stand out in our memories, including those in which we felt exhilaration when travelling that way for the first time, or under our own steam. 

Come on our journeys with us, hear our laughter as we recall those adventures and thrills, and listen to our reflections on the past, and regrets about what might have been.  If our stories trigger memories of your own, we’d love to hear them too.  

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Autumn

Most of us said “leaves” when Lucy asked us to say one word we associated with Autumn.  We talked of their vibrant colours on crisp yet sunny autumn days, the feel of them underfoot, watching them fall and their distinctive Autumn smell.   Despite some wistfulness at leaving Summer behind, we shared memories of poetry, new starts at school, college or university, walks in parks, bonfires, days out, holidays and excitement at the start of the football season.  

Our recent experiences of Autumn included the joy of seeing a much-loved toddler pick up a leaf from the pavement and gaze at it in wonder, and the happy sound of children twittering like birds as they returned to school, after such a long time. 

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Reading

“Close your eyes, listen to this recording of the sound of rain on a window.  Imagine yourself, warm and dry inside a library.  What libraries do you remember being in?  Where would you like to be now?  Imagine that in this library, on the shelves, are all the books, magazines and DVDs that you’ve read during your life.  What has reading meant to you at different stages in your life?  You might want to go to a shelf and pick a book you remember enjoying.  Where were you?  What was happening at that time?” 

What a powerful opener Jolene gave to us, leading to us having so much to say to each other!  Just as the people reading in a library may, in their minds, be travelling in many different directions, those of us on the Zoom call had a variety of experiences to relate, and much to think about afterwards as we wrote up our individual pieces for this week’s post.

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Entertainment

Our spirits were so lifted, after we’d discussed entertainment, past and present, in the Zoom break-out rooms.  Nury, originally from Iran, explained how much he appreciates British humour, especially the old situation comedies he’s been watching on TV, such as Porridge and Only Fools and Horses.  It was lovely to hear his chuckles.   Thank goodness for television, social media and online arts, helping us now through the challenges of social isolation: a sentiment we all shared!

Family and friends featured strongly in our memories from our younger days, with or without television, playing games both outdoors and in.   Read on for our recollections of those simpler, more carefree times.  

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Celebrations

There was lots of laughter, and many smiles, as we shared our stories of a variety of celebrations and special occasions.  Some of us shared treasured memories of birthday celebrations in the past, as well as our experiences of the recent inventive ways in which we’d been able to celebrate birthdays in spite of the lockdown.   

We also described special gatherings of family and friends to celebrate retirement, weddings, anniversaries and Christmas, as well as bigger public celebrations, including jubilant crowds following a football triumph and even a traditional village celebration to mark the end of the bubonic plague, over 350 years ago!

Food (especially cake!), drinks, music and games played important roles in many of our festivities, as you’ll see in the stories which follow.  

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Our treasured keepsakes

Jolene had asked us to choose an object from our homes to bring with us to the Zoom meeting, maybe something we hadn’t thought about recently, but which had a particular meaning for us. As each of the items was held up to the screen for everyone else to see, we heard fascinating stories behind the chosen objects. They had stirred powerful memories: of our childhoods, of the special people who gave them to us, the people and places we associated with them, the love, the music and the magic in our lives.

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Food for thought

The theme of food from past and present proved to be a powerful memory trigger this week. With our eyes closed, Jolene invited us to not only picture but to smell food from the past. Our subsequent conversations included many memories from childhood of food being grown, shopped for, cooked and of course, eaten! Our reflections went far beyond the meals themselves, being intertwined with memories of our parents or grandparents, their skills and the efforts they made to provide for us.

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Rooms and the memories they hold

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.

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