Oceans and coastlines

On Dover Beach

“The sea is calm tonight.

The tide is full, the moon lies fair

Upon the straits; on the French coast the light

Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,

Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.

Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!…”

This famous poem by Matthew Arnold, read out to us by Jolene at the start of the session, really got us all thinking and sharing our thoughts and experiences of oceans and coastlines. Our responses were varied, as shown by the poems, memories and reflections which follow. We hope you enjoy reading them.

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Rainy Days

Sometimes though I have no clue where the theme for discussion will lead, I just know that it will be wonderful.  This month the group’s suggestion of Rainy Days was one of those occasions.  

We found that rain has so many associations that the conversation became an ever-deepening reservoir of ideas as they poured down from every direction. (Sorry, couldn’t help it).   

We talked about our personal and cultural relationship to rain, how it is a carrier of meaning and history, the literary and musical symbolism of it and we even created a playlist for you to share some of that richness of meaning

Read on to see some of the variety of thoughts that emerged….

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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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