Thursday, 24 May 2012

Knives forks and spoons

This poem arose from a conversation in the Buddy Cafe at Salford. Apparently Open Air Schools were well-known. As the poem says, the poorly (and poor) kids were exposed to the open air as much as possible, with the expectation that it'd do them good. It transpired that three people at the Cafe had attended Open Air Schools, of which they had fond memories for the most part. But these schools also carried a certain stigma, much as dementia does now. The little comment at the end of the poem - which was whispered to me - speaks to me not just about this piece of reminiscence writing, but also about perceptions of dementia. That little remark spins the whole thing around and makes me question why it is that dementia is such a taboo - is it because of fear, or ignorance, or intolerance? 


Open Air School
kids went if there was summat wrong with em
a bus would come to collect
arrive, wash your hands
knife, fork and spoon
eat and have a sleep

a crack round the back of the
in the Open Air School
art teacher, tall fella
he was like a back door

open air
we’d do the gardens
while the others was writing
rheumatism, fever

(I’d spit out my iron pills)
it was sickly children
chest infection, polio
leg braces, hand braces
slept on iron camp beds in a room
with no front wall

Open Air School
walk in, wash your hands
knife, fork and spoon
then a sleep for
all the children

with ailments
bronchitis, cerebral palsy
the fresh air of England
weather permitting
lessons on the grass
tending the vegetables at the back

oil the spade to stop it rusting
a spoonful of olive oil
a proper meal
nit nurse, the doctor
drop your pants and cough

in those days referred to as a
backwards school
you was seen as impaired
tending the vegetables at the back
looking over the railway
over the hill

I forget a lot now
but I still remember knives forks and spoons
wash your hands say your prayers
have a sleep
never use the word stupid
in this place

Harry, Ray and Keiran
17 May 2012

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