• Nathaniel Keen

Cooking on gas!

Updated: Apr 6

Musician: Nat Keen (guitar)

Today I reconnected with my old friend, resident JS. I'd been wandering around the eerily-quiet corridors with countless closed doors reading 'self-isolation' and was hoping to find a willing listener. It was a stark reminder of just how rapidly this virus spreads, luckily with much less severe outcomes this time around. Most of Bridgeside Lodge was isolating this afternoon and it felt even more pertinent than ever that music and conversation should provide some vital connection, escapism and fun for those feeling well enough.

I found percussion JS in the communal hallway and he made a point of warmly greeting me; 'You are so welcome, I'm so pleased to see you, please make yourself at home'. I asked him if he'd like to move through to the dining room where we could hear each other more clearly. JS's hearing has been deteriorating and often, with the cacophony of beeps, shouts and machine rumbles it can be hard for him to hear, so it was nice to find a quiet spot where we could catch up and make music together. I've always been so impressed by JS's natural ability with music. In previous sessions he's displayed such intuitive musicality that it's baffling to me when his wife mentions that music wasn't really a part of his life. He has metronomic rhythm, a great sensitivity to dynamics, phrase lengths and really listens and converses musically with whomever he is playing.

I played some rhythmic music for JS and he slowly came alive, gradually lifting himself from his chair and limbering up in time to the music. After about five minutes he was really cooking on gas! We saw the jive and a hint of the twist which acted as an infectious call to arms for some of the care workers who rushed towards JS and the promise of a quick, impromptu boogie! We were joined by SW who was instantly invited into the disco and for a few minutes and you got the sense that all lingering thoughts of covid, old age and groggy weather were tossed into the canal.

After the excitement had died down, JS took a seat by the window and enjoyed a well-earned rest. He closed his eyes and I tried to mirror this direction by gently plucking a peaceful and repetitive drone close enough so he could hear. After a while, he seemed fully immersed, eyes closed, with a looseness in his shoulders. He began to unfold his long arms and let them hang by his side and they gently began to sway in time with the music. His eyes were clenched tight, deep inside his imagination and escaping somewhere in the sounds. For the next 10 minutes, his arms, wrists and fingers ebbed and flowed like undulating waves to the musical meandering and it was inspiring to see how incredibly full of expression he was. One staff member suddenly felt the need to loudly interrupt the tranquillity by notifying everybody how naughty JS was and how he just wanted to escape whenever possible but personally I was full of admiration and respect for him as he continued his dance, transcending the clattering and the comments, completely oblivious to the distraction as if he'd already escaped.

After this, I asked a carer what she thought of JS's love of music and expression?

'He never listens to music when he's in his room, when we put

the radio on he just can't seem to connect to it. It's only live

music that stimulates him in this way'

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