Newsflash: Riot At Poetry Gig

24 Jun

You may remember I told you I was invited to give a poetry recital at a retirement home for mainly dementia patients.  It happened yesterday.  I accepted the invitation for two reasons: to do something out of my comfort zone (dreadful cliché but brilliantly expressive); and to do something nice for old people.  The events organiser, Janis, told me that many of the residents would have enjoyed poetry, music and so on in their former lives, and she didn’t see why that had to stop just because they were in a different life stage.  I liked Janis very much.  In the photo below, you can see residents holding on to Janis; most of them were clearly attached to her, and one gentleman gave her a chaste kiss.

I wasn’t as nervous as I would usually be because I knew many of the patients wouldn’t follow what was happening, and I would never meet them again so, if I screwed up, no one except my readers would know.  However, I did prepare as if it was my big break; if you’re going to do something, you should do it properly.

I did some research and learned that dementia patients are stimulated by rhyme, so I trawled through my poems and picked what I felt were the funniest and most interesting poems that rhymed.  I had about forty, because I know how nervous I get and there was a possibility that I would race through them so fast that my thirty minutes of fame would be reduced to ten. 

The venue was Salford and I had intended to go by bus but, when the Hub heard it would take two hours each way, he insisted on driving me.  He’s a nice guy, if I’m honest; but don’t tell him I said so.  It took about twenty-five minutes to get there by car.  I love my husband.

For those who don’t know, Salford, not Manchester, is the home city of Manchester United.  The Hub wore a Manchester City shirt (the Hub always wears a Manchester City shirt; usually a t-shirt with the club crest and/or a slogan mocking the enemy).  When I complained he might cause trouble (Newsflash: Riot At Poetry Gig), he said not a chance: all the United fans live in London and Ireland.  He has a point.  Are you still with me, Tinman?

We were greeted at the door by the care home manager: a life-long City fan.

The residents were grouped in a circle around the room; I was on.  It went well.  At first.  Half the residents were asleep; some were elsewhere in their minds.  Janis moved quietly about, holding hands with some, gently prodding others awake.  I slowed down after the first few poems and began to enjoy myself.  So did a lady who thought I was singing, and began to dance to me, inviting her friend to join in.

There was a gentleman who objected to, well, everything, it seemed, and said so, loudly.  Another lady laughed in all the right places and some of the wrong ones.  I was grateful, until she told me her husband was working abroad and she was afraid of losing one of the children on the way home from school, because he wouldn’t like it.  I think she flitted in and out of awareness.

And what was the Hub doing?  Taking photos and having raspberries blown at him by a lady who complained that the resident he was standing next to got all the men, and she didn’t because of her nose, raspberry.

By this time, I was shouting poems over the combined noise of dancing, chatting, heckling people and, if I’m honest, having a blast.  The residents might not have been stimulated by my words, but they were certainly stimulated, so that had to be a good thing.  Janis said I might have found a kindergarten easier.  She also told me that, although it might not seem like it, I did get through to some residents.

One gentleman was uninterested in the poems (I didn’t take it personally; my family’s not much interested, either) and sat slumped in a corner, but perked up at the mention of South Africa.  He approached the Hub once I was done and had a long chat with him about Port Elizabeth.  Mr B had visited P.E. in 1941 with the Merchant Navy, collecting grain for the folks back home.  His talk with the Hub clearly brightened his day.

I was given a gorgeous bouquet as a thank you but, to be honest, I had such a good time that I felt I ought to have given them the flowers.

The staff seemed kind and the residents cared for, and the lady who gave me the flowers told me she was happy there. 

I haven’t included photos of the residents who were in later stages of dementia; they are just too sad.  The Hub and I left feeling glad to have brought a little cheer into their lives, however inadvertent, but also with a sense of There but for the Grace of God

I’m grateful for this blog and the gift of writing: if my turn comes, at least my family will have proof that I used to be a person, instead of a state of mind.  Make the most of what you have, dear readers, while you still have it.



47 Responses to “Newsflash: Riot At Poetry Gig”

  1. Michelle June 24, 2011 at 11:06 #

    Lovely, this really brightened up my Friday !!!! Old people are great.


    • Tilly Bud June 24, 2011 at 11:08 #

      Hiya! So glad to hear from you. I was sitting on the loo using the hand cream you left and I was thinking of you, you’ll be appalled to hear. 🙂


  2. vivinfrance June 24, 2011 at 11:22 #

    Tilly, what a wonderful experience, so well recounted here. Just think, without Hub to take you, we would only have half the story, no pictures and ManU/City digressions.
    I’m sure you did it beautifully – fore-runner of other such triumphs, perhaps?


    • Tilly Bud June 24, 2011 at 11:38 #

      It was a wonderful experience, and I am glad the Hub shared it with me 🙂


  3. Paula Tohline Calhoun June 24, 2011 at 13:01 #

    Tilly, this was wonderful. It had your wonderful humor in it, plus it had your innate sense of compassion for others that you shared with us, and I was delighted. My Mom died from Alzheimer’s spent her last 7 years in a care facility – both of the ones where she lived were wonderful places – with many activities and stimulae – and several people like Janis, wo gave their hearts to their work. Hope you take the opportunity to do more of this type of thing. You always leave with more than you came in with.

    Thanks so much for sharing!


    • Tilly Bud June 25, 2011 at 20:37 #

      Thanks for that, Paula. I tried to be sensitive when writing this, but there was humour in the afternoon and I think it’s okay to say that, as long as it’s not nasty.

      I’m glad your Mum was in a nice place; so many people aren’t.


  4. earlybird June 24, 2011 at 13:09 #

    Hey! WELL DONE! Lovely lovely post. (Can I click the ‘like’ button twice?) I was really joining in. Beautifully recounted. Sad too. But sensitively told (as I would expect) But congratulations on your fist solo gig! Bless the Hub for taking you and being there too.

    I loved the idea of the lady(ies) dancing. Perhaps you should read some of your poems to music…


    • Tilly Bud June 25, 2011 at 20:38 #

      Someone once suggested I should write songs 🙂


  5. 2summers June 24, 2011 at 13:14 #

    This was really fun to read and I love the pictures. Well done on all counts!


  6. Traci B June 24, 2011 at 14:40 #

    Wonderful, sad, poignant, funny post, Tilly. I’m glad the Hub chauffeured you and took all those great photos. Congrats on your first solo gig; may it be one of many. 🙂


  7. nrhatch June 24, 2011 at 14:58 #

    Way to step out of your comfort zone, Tilly . . . and put all those poems you’ve been writing to good use. 😀


  8. gigihawaii June 24, 2011 at 16:13 #

    Thank you to the hub for taking the excellent photos, and thank you, Tilly, for the interesting commentary! You should submit this post to your local newspaper. It is human interest, after all.


  9. slpmartin June 24, 2011 at 17:44 #

    Congrats on you first formal reading…and the hub did do a nice job of capturing the events.


    • Tilly Bud June 25, 2011 at 20:46 #

      He did, didn’t he? Though he complained his flash wasn’t good enough.


  10. ebbtide June 24, 2011 at 21:06 #

    What a wonderful thing to do! Totally brightened my day! 🙂


    • Tilly Bud June 25, 2011 at 20:47 #

      Thank you 🙂 I think I got more out of it, though 🙂


  11. barb19 June 24, 2011 at 22:57 #

    Glad to hear it was a success – in spite of the Man United/City conflict!
    You have a thoughtful hubby insisting on driving you there and a bonus for us because without him being there, there would be no photos and we would have missed out on such a lot! Photos speak for themselves, don’t they?
    I think after an experience like that, you must feel a richer person for it.


  12. Pseu June 24, 2011 at 23:09 #

    Lovely post. Have you visited Isobel and her posts about her mother with dementia and her love of poetry? I’ll look for a suitable link for you.


  13. Flo June 24, 2011 at 23:13 #

    Lovely and uplifting Tilly! And loving your LONG hair. Last time I saw you it was blonde and bobbed!


    • Tilly Bud June 25, 2011 at 20:50 #

      Four years of being unable to visit the hairdresser and a cheap box of dye and bob’s not your uncle any more 🙂


  14. Patti June 25, 2011 at 02:12 #

    Thanks for sharing this – you made me feel like I was there – I love that they danced to your poems.


    • Tilly Bud June 25, 2011 at 20:52 #

      I think that was my favourite moment, too 🙂


  15. siggiofmaine June 25, 2011 at 02:49 #

    This is a marvelous story to tell. I am a nurse that for 35 years worked with aging patients, some with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. They are a a delightful group of people. I like the suggestion of reading to music, but it may be too confusing for them…or they may love it…Your first reading is certainly a success.

    What I like about the section of the population you read to is that they don’t mince words !
    I am an artist and at first would show the residents where I worked my art…great responses. And th.en 3 of us had a small gallery on the walls of a long hallway and before I put the paintings up, I would show them to the Alzheimers and related illnesses group and they had such open and honest remarks.

    You are to be admired for your courage…you can face any group now !
    Thank you for sharing your experience and thank you to your husband for the lovely photos.
    ☮. Siggi in Downeast Maine


    • Tilly Bud June 25, 2011 at 20:53 #

      Thanks Siggi. Especially for the work you do 🙂


  16. Perfecting Motherhood June 25, 2011 at 06:51 #

    So, sooooo cool, what you did!


  17. sarsm June 25, 2011 at 08:22 #

    Fantastic Tilly! Congratulations!

    Many years ago I worked in an old peoples home and I know they really enjoy this kind of thing. I love that you had people dancing to your poems!

    An all-round success story (and beautifully told!)


  18. Madeleine Begun Kane June 26, 2011 at 07:25 #

    What a lovely post and a wonderful thing to do! You’re a brave soul to pull off a poetry reading in such an environment … and to make a success of it — very impressive. Congratulations!


  19. eof737 June 27, 2011 at 09:44 #

    Aye! Great job… I am proud of you too! 🙂


  20. wordsandthoughtspjs June 28, 2011 at 05:09 #

    How absolutely delightful, Tilly.



  21. Mary June 28, 2011 at 14:19 #

    I enjoyed reading this very much. Clearly you brightened the day This is a population so often neglected, and you did a good thing. I am glad you ended up enjoying the experience, and I hope now that you have done one reading you will seek out more. The pictures were great too.


    • Tilly Bud June 30, 2011 at 09:57 #

      Thanks Mary. It really was a great experience.


  22. Hattie July 12, 2011 at 17:36 #

    Wonderful. I am so glad I found your blog.


    • Tilly Bud July 13, 2011 at 11:56 #

      Thank you, Hattie. That’s a lovely thing to say 🙂


  23. robincoyle December 7, 2012 at 09:55 #

    This was almost too hard for me to read. I can’t see my keyboard for the tears. Here I was all strong and “Let’s get this done” today. You have thrown me into a tosspot of emotions. What a wonderful and kind girl you were for reading your poetry to the old souls. I knew I loved you for good reason.



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