Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Pleased as a punch

Our new project Spaghetti Maze began last Friday at the Pinfold Centre in Whitefield, working with people who have a dementia diagnosis. We're helping them to develop written life stories, which they'll take with them on the 'dementia journey'. The conversation below is given as a whole here, but it'll also be atomised into parts for each participant's collection. These words written so easily below don't do justice to the effort made in reaching for them by the tellers, nor the kindness and gentleness of the staff who sat in on the conversation.

The memories were punctuated by laughter, though they contained much toughness and a good few punches. The Whit Walks that are mentioned were the great social event of the year ('Bigger than Christmas') when churches and youth organisations marched with banners through the city. 

This project has been funded by Bury MBC and Arts Council England, it is an outreach element of the international Text Festival at Bury.

Pinfold Centre. Day 1, 27 July 2012. Morning

Kathleen, Paula, Doreen, Gordon, Gladys


I went to St John’s Cathedral, on Chapel Street in Salford. Sister Winifred, Sister Augustin, Miss Whittle – we called her Miss Pickle, Miss Pimpernel. I hated her. She got on the tram in the morning from Irlam of th Heights – “Morning Miss!” Posh but poor, I was taught by nuns. We all had uniforms, silly buggers. Smart for Whit Walks. The C of E walked on Monday, Roman Catholics like me walked on Friday.


On the Whit Week Walks you’re showing your religion off. I was at St Joseph’s. Then there was Proddie-Dogs to give them their right name. I remember the teachers, but not their names. Rap across the knuckles with a short ruler.


You only held the banner if you were a goodun. The uniforms were chosen by nuns. New pair of shoes and your feet were killing you by the time you got home. Walk from Salford Cathedral to Albert Square.


I’m from Oldham, went with all the Oldham lot. Freehold School, Hollingwood. A Protestant school. Wearing their best. D’you know what, they’d be pleased as punch. It were bigger than Christmas.


A boy’s jersey, green with navy stripes and a grey kilt. The uniform was picked by the nuns. On the Whit Walks, jumper, tie, kilt - the heat! When I got back I said: ‘I’m very hot!’ My mum said: ‘I’m not surprised.’


We had to stick to the uniform in summer, it was unbearable sometimes. Hot as hot. Thick and heavy, it were more jumper-ified. Navy blue with a white shirt, skirt navy with pleats. Put your white socks on. Knickers? They’d bury you, they were that big. Passed on from child to child in a family. Hold up your socks with a piece of elastic tied round the top.


Played football, that’s all I did. I was a good player. They said to me: “A good little player, but you’re not big enough.” It was everything to me. Streets, fields, we played everywhere. Took the bag off your back and used it for goals.


Tied skipping ropes to people’s doors, knocked and ran away, they couldn’t open them. Knock and run like hell! Playing hopscotch, jumping. Cleaning the street of all the chalk numbers. I must have cleaned a hundred paving stones.


Come on outside and we’ll have a game of skipping. The things we got up to...

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