Stitching the Wars at Caroline Court Day Service, Hope
Our day in Hope was exactly that. A delightful encounter with the Day Service group that's run by Age UK, out in the Derbyshire countryside in the very old village of Hope.
We are working on the Stitching the Wars quilting project, which distils people's war memories onto a pair of embroidered patchwork quilts. This year, we are onto the second quilt, which has the title Fresh Air and Poverty. A theme like that can bring up very difficult memories. However, today's workshop was a particularly happy one.
While Lois oversaw the quilting, our student shadow Jen Campbell and I worked on poem collaborations with the group. We made poems that gave some formal shape to people's memories, loosely structured around the sonnet. The oldest person in the room was born in 1923, so we had the great luck to be with people who could vividly remember back to the 1930s. Such far-flung memories are rare now; it's a little like time travelling to meet someone who can describe their early life evocatively - and going back to the early 20th Century was an extraordinary feeling.
Although some of the experiences were difficult - hard, hard work, little money - they were suffused with affection, when recounted today. Among dark clouds there was, as previously reported, hopefulness. Particularly joyous were two portraits of fathers, as sonnets. Leslie described his father, the local butcher and grocer in his village, making surreptitious journeys to give food parcels to people who were hungry. Mary remembered herding sheep with her dad - she had the sheepdog role, chasing the animals, because they couldn't afford a real dog. Both these stories are of a social injustice, but both were told with pleasure.