Working life

We found lots to say on this topic, at both the online and face-to-face sessions.  “Variety” was one of the words that came up at the beginning, as most of us, now retired, looked back at our experiences of paid and unpaid work we’d had at different times of our lives.  For some, it was easier to talk about short term, temporary jobs we’d had, at the beginning of our working lives, than about the jobs at which we’d worked over many years about which there’d be just too much to say!   Also, as one member of the group put it, we never really stop working as we carry on using the skills that we’ve acquired throughout our lives in new situations we face. 

The writing some of us have chosen to share in this blog post will give you a flavour of our discussions. Why not join us next time? You’d be very welcome.

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The power of language

“Wow! What an amazing, and interesting session with Stories of Our lives” said Pauline Omoboye. “It felt good to welcome some new members to the group, including Yaron Matras,  a retired professor of linguistics interested in people’s experiences of multilingualism.

We discussed the power of language and how it gives us an insight into our identity. There are many forms of communication and I believe all languages are equal. During the session in our breakout rooms we discussed what language meant to us. I chose to talk about ‘patois/creole’ also known as ‘broken English’. I spoke about my parents who are from Jamaica.”

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A Joyful Visual Arts Event!

As a follow-up to our last theme for discussion, Small Joys, local visual artist, Su Vosper, came along to share her skills and inspiration with the group. You can listen to the audio of that previous meeting, shown in two parts below.

Su and I brought along a selection of materials for the group to experiment with as we explored how to express what brings us happiness, contentment and gratitude.

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Small joys

It was so uplifting to spend time together sharing our thoughts on this topic.  We laughed, we remembered, we reflected together.  Our focus was on small things or moments that had brought us happiness. As you read the stories and poetry in this blog post, you’ll see how the topic led us on to deeper appreciation of our everyday lives and the ways in which we find happiness.  As one member said, at the end of our meetings it feels like “you’ve been given a lovely warm hug”.  We wish that for you too, as you read on, maybe enjoying a cup of tea or coffee as you do so.

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Reflections on Reading

The group shared two entertaining and meaningful sessions this month. The first was online where we enjoyed reflecting on then discussing our reading-related memories. Many laughs and coincidences emerged as well as some beautiful pieces of writing you can find below.

For the in-person session, which was part of the Chorlton Book Festival, we co-hosted with Professor Sophie Woodward. The event was sponsored by the NCRM (National Centre for Research Methods). As these beautiful photographs, taken by Rachel Bywater, show, it was a lovely, connecting afternoon, where guests and regular participants shared stories and thoughts on memories prompted by reading related objects. As one attendee said, “This is a place where stories can evolve, often in real-time. Where strangers can quickly become known to one another and find common ground by laughing and listening.”

Read on to see if any of your own memories of reading are evoked and to also see pictures of the objects on which our writing was based.

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Significant buildings

Jolene asked us to relax, close our eyes and picture a building which held a special meaning for us. “Step inside“, she said, “how does it feel? what can you see? how does it smell? what memories come back to you?” Such a variety of thoughts and emotions were stirred by this exercise! Listen to a recording of some of our responses.

Read on to discover the poetry and prose inspired by our online and in-person meetings.

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Trying New Things

Our first session this month involved a discussion about when we have experienced novel endeavours, whether on purpose or by necessity.  It was a beautiful, funny and connecting chat and you can listen to some of it here.

Our second meeting, in Chorlton Library this time, was led by a fantastic guest facilitator Steve Beal, who got us trying practical activities designed to boost creative thinking. He used a range of thinking prompts, objects and writing exercises to get us exploring new ways of seeing things. Read on to see the reflections that emerged from the sessions.

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Events that have shaped us

Both sessions this month were particularly enjoyable, as someone leading the session seeing the group and the relationships within it grow, but also as a participant, hearing other’s relatable, moving stories, and getting to share my own.  In the online session, there was a small group of us. Gathering in a cosy cluster lent itself to a wonderfully open, supportive and joyful conversation about the situations, people and moments which have shaped us.  One participant said that it felt “safe” and “like an extended family” to be in this group, connecting the way we do.  

In the other in-person session we did later that month on the same theme, there were lots more participants but just as much trust.  For me, the golden thread that united us during both sessions was that everyone has learned and grown from the often challenging things they have been through, which reminded me of this quote I shared with the group.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Read on to accompany the writers on their journeys of change, as shaped by key events in their lives.

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Community, what it means and when it helps us to thrive, is a source of fascination for me. So, during the past two sessions, I asked the in-person and then online gathering the same question, “What does community mean to you and when have you felt a sense of it in your lives?” 

Here are some voice clips I recorded during a meeting, followed by some written pieces we came up with on the topic.  We would love to read your thoughts too in the comments below.

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