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  • Writer's pictureNathaniel Keen

Arm in arm with Old Blue Eyes

Musician: Nat Keen (guitar)

Entering Bridgeside Lodge I was greeted by a hive of activity and hubbub, there was a life-sized cardboard cut-out of the Queen, royally waving at me whilst volunteers were sprawled out on the floor attaching colourful shiny things to colourful papery things. I batted away balloons and waded through the confetti to reach the tranquillity of the garden though in truth, it wasn't that tranquil, more like a village fete.

As I sat there laterally flowing myself, I joined everybody in drinking up the sun's delicious rays and thawing out as the birds chirped and the water lapped against the brick walls of the canal. At one point a baby appeared, three or four generations of family sat together and the other residents seemed energised at the sight of this little bundle of life. It seemed fitting to augment this summery scene with some suitable music so I reached for the guitar and played some Baden Powell (The Brazilian guitarist, not the scout leader!). Several family members/visitors inquisitively approached me, maybe they thought I was a fellow visitor who happened to be lugging a guitar around? I let them know about our charity and the continuous plans to serenade Bridgeside Lodge residents in the garden and with our usual room visits, they looked forward to hearing more and returned to recline in the sun.

Upstairs, JS seemed very sombre, I hoped that he might have the chance to spend a bit of time in the garden where everybody seemed rejuvenated. I played for him for a while, trying to engage and to hopefully temporarily draw him away from his worry. He didn't seem receptive to the music so I mentioned that I was soon to go to Cornwall hoping that he might like to chat but it just wasn't the time.

In the dining area I noticed DB, who has a form of dementia, which includes symptoms of social anxiety. His wife had previously informed me of this but was keen to share with me DB's love for music. After many months of seeing DB, I've gradually learned to avoid directly approaching him with the offer of music, rather allowing him to come to me in his own time and enjoy the music where he feels comfortable. On this occasion I noticed him sitting there alone so I gave him a wide berth and went to sit by the window to play, eventually slowly turning to face him. He sat there quietly enjoying and tapping his legs along to the music.

I spent a long time with Mr GH* today. It's lovely to see his confidence building. He is a vocalist. Fact. People are noticing his talent and are either shocked by it or helping to encourage it, and with that assurance, I've seen his self-belief grow. Today the boss herself (manager Fatma) happened to be passing through whilst he was mid song, she couldn't believe it! As a backdrop to this, we had JR making a swift transition from agitated and frustrated to chirpy and excitable. The music seemed to alter his mood and before long the familiar yelps of 'LOVELY!' and 'DELIGHTFUL' filled the air. His mood was elevated even further when a carer offered him a dance, they swayed for a while until she needed to put the brakes on when he leaned in for a kiss.

Amongst this commotion I met a new resident who is a big music fan and described her memories of living near the Savoy where she once bumped into Frank Sinatra and ended up walking arm in arm with him on his way to his concert. She talked of wild parties in her flat and being well positioned to experience all of the delights of the swinging 60's in central London. We got on to singing Joni Mitchell together (which Mr GH led) and then she requested 'Girl from Ipanema' and joined in on vocal duties. Towards the end of our mini concert, Ms GH and her son entered in matching hats, she held court in the middle of the group and suddenly let out one of her characteristically long, low operatic and steady notes....suddenly Mr GH shouted 'HALT!'..... then Ms GH's son chimed in 'hold on, that's German' and Mr GH proceeded to reply to him in German...

A man of many talents!

*There are two residents at Bridgeside Lodge with the initials GH, hence the Mr & Ms!

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