Monday, 23 May 2011

come ere, I know yer Dad!

Thursday afternoon in Four Acre.  The risk of isolation for 'housebound' older people is increasing. Changing family structures, geographical mobility and living longer all contribute to greater levels of loneliness in hidden segments of society. For a while Phil and I have wanted to work again with older 'housebound' people, and this project in St Helens has given us an opportunity. And what an opportunity - the most fantastically funny, warm-welcoming group of people.

Joan Ellam

Our first hosts were Joe and Joan, who regaled us with childhood adventures. Joe recounted with glee: There were bridges across two old slag heaps and we hung swing ropes, 20 feet up - how nobody got killed I don’t know. The mine was shut but the shaft was still left open, we used to climb down the rope to a big tied knot and swing across the shaft - 600 feet deep..
Joe Ellam

I met up next with Mr and Mrs Clarke, who continued the thread of childhood adventures and mischief outdoors. I only got into trouble once - I was just a good runner they never caught me!  Mrs Clarke

At the Hotties, you’d strip and dive into the water, Pilks Police would call ‘come ere, I know your dad’ no towels or anything, just pick the clothes and start running…Get chased down the street with all me clothes tucked under me arm. Mr Clarke

Mr Tommy Clarke

As with the morning there was talk about poverty. Mum said: ‘If I don’t come back in half an hour come and look for me’. It was gone three quarters of an hour, and we found her, she was sat on the train sleepers laughing in hysterics, ‘They’ve took me bag of coal off me, the bleedin little monkeys.’ She was took to court and fined 7&6. She said in court: ‘Before I give you the money, can I have the bag of coal back?'  When you’ve got 5 kids and your cold- what your going to do? ‘Who’d of fed you if I had gone to jail?’ Mrs Clarke.

Mrs Margaret Clarke

The one-to-one sessions let us open dialogue with people who get missed, not just the immobile, or ill - but people who're shy, those whose experiences put them outside the norm, people with over-protective relatives; there are many reasons why voices don't get heard. These unheard, possibly isolated, people often have been desperately starved of human connection. To tell their stories and to be acknowledged is an opportunity to stand outside their own life narrative and think about the shape of it, perhaps even rewrite it.

In the course of today, we talked with a woman who told us she's so short of company she rides the bus to town everyday simply to be among people. Another person was overwhelmed by their (very vocal) partner. Another was piecing together confidence after a nervous breakdown and marriage split. As he talked, we heard him tentatively shift from a depressive cast to celebratory. It was, as they say, the sun coming out.

A big thanks must go to Val Guard from Helena Partnerships and Pat and Les Andrew for their hard work helping to set up these sessions. Without these people to make introductions, there would have been no sessions.

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