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Another Well by Colin Angwin

A few years ago, some sparky copywriter came up with use of the word “silver” as a euphonious euphemism for “elderly”, which is itself a euphemism for “aged”.   The usage has become widespread and a week ago last Sunday I attended a session on Creative Writing given as part of a series of events for oldies grouped under the title of “Silver Sunday”.

 

The tutor, Robert, mentioned a piece by one of his students who came from Eastern Europe, I think, and who recalled that in her childhood she had had to break the ice on the well in order to draw water.   Others from warmer climates had indeed had to use wells for water supplies, but not through the ice.

 

This reminded me of a well I came across as a child.   I must have been about 7 or 8 and I was with my parents in some remote part of India.   One day, as I wandered about the countryside, I saw a magnificent well-head.   It consisted of a huge horizontal wheel linked by a system of large cogs to an equally huge vertical wheel.   This type of irrigation apparatus was and probably still is widespread in Asia and the Middle East and I imagine it has been for centuries.

 

My eye was caught by the third component of the structure, a rope festooned with earthenware pots at regular intervals and looped loosely round the vertical wheel so that part of it trailed down into the well beneath.   An ox was lashed to the horizontal wheel and rotated it by plodding round in a never-ending circle.   This made the vertical wheel rotate in its turn, so that the pots came up out of the well filled with water which, as they passed the apex of their circuit, was tipped into a channel leading to the fields to be irrigated.

 

I picked up a stone and threw it at one of the pots which shattered satisfyingly, shedding its contents onto the dry earth.   I repeated the act with another stone, another pot.   My memory is that I hit a pot with every stone I threw, but my later experience on the cricket field showed that my hand and eye coordination is very shaky so that is unlikely.   It is, however, true that by the time I had finished my little game every pot was broken, and I headed for home well pleased with myself.

 

I dawdled on the way, so that the owner of the well got there well before me and was pouring out the story to my father, who took decisive action.   He paid the man for the damage done, more than generously I have no doubt, and he took a slipper to me, also quite generously.   This is the only beating that I remember his giving me.   I also remember his clear explanation of what the beating was for.   It was not for breaking the pots.   It was for not considering the effects of my action on the farmer, whose whole livelihood depended on the irrigation system I had destroyed.

 

Looking back on the episode many decades later, I also draw two other possibly unfashionable conclusions.   First, corporal punishment can be good – this slippering certainly impressed the desired lesson on me and did not in the least diminish my love and respect for my father.   Secondly, you could be one of the colonial rulers and still behave thoughtfully and fairly to the ruled.

 

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Long Lost Lady to Inspire International Art Project

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Open Age art & photography tutor and coordinator of Creative Writing Phone Groups for the housebound – Hester Jones (me!) – is organising an art event Handkind at Olive House, London, to celebrate Rebirth-Day! An international event to help create responsible social transformation – in short, a better world.

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Our collective action is to encourage arts participation for people living with dementia globally as studies and practice demonstrate the arts help improve wellbeing for older people, and with dementia in particular.  Handkind is related to an artist residency I did in October 2014 in Italy at the Michaelangelo Pistoletto foundation UNIDEE Cittadellarte.

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The Rebirth-Day event takes place on the 21st December each year – founded by Pistoletto. In 2015 I will organise a dementia art exchange between older people in Italy and UK. The project will incorporate Creative Writing & Storytelling, Photography, Film, Painting, Music and much more! We will be incorporating Kate Simpson’s wonderful piece of writing Long Lost Lady about ageing, reflecting and looking in the mirror – into the project. Pistoletto is famous for his ‘mirror’ works to which Handkind is also inspired by as well as Arte Povera – the Italian art movement.

Check out all the other Rebirth-Day events taking part across the world – Open Age is on the map!

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If you know anyone with dementia (a friend, family, OA member, neighbour, etc.) spend time with them to read a poem, a story, look at a photo, paint a picture, listen to their favourite music, visit a gallery together… even if this person is not able to verbally communicate, or seems like they are not responding, you will have much more impact than a lot of us realize. It has been demonstrated that by participating in the arts, there is also relief from confusion and anxiety. Above all, be patient, kind and become a Dementia Friend too if you live in the UK.

Museums such as the Royal Academy in London support people with dementia and the arts in events such as Coffee and Conversation. In the USA Meet Me at Moma is a similar initiative run by the Museum of Modern Art New York – making art accessible to people with dementia.

You can follow the event and updates on the Rebirth-Day Event Facebook page and the Open Age Facebook page.

 

 

 

 

Silent Night by Kate Simpson

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Thank you to Kate Simpson – one of our Open Age Creative Writing members – for sharing this delightful piece of writing about a fond memory. It conjures up all the senses so beautifully: touch, smell, taste, sight and sound. What an inspiring piece!

We hope it will incite you to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboards, to write about a precious memory of your own!

Silent Night

One of the sights I most liked looking at in the world was watching babies asleep in their cots,  fingers curled. Whilst a certain scent of baby powder wrapped round their tiny bodies seemed to be the sweetest smell.

What were their dreams I wondered. Their breathing quiet – innocent of the worries of adulthood. Insomnia only came when colic or hunger struck.

Then I would pick them up and cuddle their warm bodies stroking away their pain lulling back to sleep.  With reluctance laying them gently back in their cot. I would stay and once again marvel at their innocence.

This breath-taking sight has never left me and is etched on my memory forever. It is more precious than pearls, more gorgeous than gold, more sensuous than silver.

© Kate Simpson

 

 

 

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