Tell her that we love you
Musician: Nat Keen (guitar & vocals)
Editor's note - in writing these blogs, we always anonymise residents' names, using their initials instead. Several 'pairs' of residents at Bridgeside Lodge have the same initials so in these cases we've added a title (Mr or Ms) to differentiate our protagonists.
My day started out sitting down with Resident Ms JC who was having a hard time with her surroundings and the inevitable challenges of a diminishing sense of independence and control. Aware that she often found solace and great relief in music, I began to pick out the chords to some old jazz songs that I knew she loved, 'Body and Soul', 'Somewhere Over The Rainbow' etc...The invisible medicine was effective instantly and I noticed her shoulders soften and the tension in her face melt away as she became immersed in a sound that resonated with her memories and drowned out the chaotic yelps and beeps of a busy and chaotic care home dining room.
“Thank you so much for coming to see us,
it makes a massive difference in our lives.”
I asked her if she minded me taking an idiomatic hard left turn into the world of Appalachian folk, I got the green light and proceeded to get my Doc Watson charts primed for action. As I began to strum, pick and yodel (I didn't yodel but let's imagine I yodelled) I realised that I had, in my presence two big country fans. Staff member Bilal was looking over at me with a cheeky grin whilst sugaring some particularly milky tea, and directly behind me I could sense the restless excitement of IG who began to let out some woops of appreciation. JC got involved too, I reassured her that the simple chorus could be learned in 5 seconds and that it repeated frequently (like many a folk song). So, there we were, a merry bunch from very different walks of life, brought together by a 200 year old Appalachian folk song that likely travelled one or two hundred years before that across the pond to America from the British Isles.
Next up I saw Mr JC, following the recent success of JR's songwriting and recording, I'd felt encouraged to cast the net a bit further and record some other willing participants. 'Guitar J' and I had been spontaneously composing impromptu Wild West stories for a few years now and I'd consistently found him an endless source of creativity and inspiration. My plan had been to capture some of JC's stories, or at least words and add them to an atmospheric soundtrack that I'd planned to write, thus creating some kind of John Wayne/Tom Waits 1950's pastiche. When I found JC, he seemed very keen to get involved and I did manage to capture some of his words, however there was a slight snag in the plan. At some point in the previous few days, his trusty guitar had been misplaced. For anyone who knows JC, his guitar is a huge part of his identity and without it he seemed a little lost and under-confident. To understand how close he felt to his instrument, my mind cast back to one afternoon last year when he'd proudly whispered to me;
'That guitar has been a good friend to me'
So, with a slightly discombobulated JC air strumming along to my playing, we had a short but sweet session, making up a brief story and finishing on familiar territory with 'No Particular Place To Go' (his favourite song).
The day rolled on and after being summoned by a visiting daughter to play for a resident I'm less familiar with, I parked myself in a position that I often find myself in, by the lifts on the second floor next to Mr. GH. Soon I was joined by Ms GH (are you keeping up?) her son and ML. The repertoire was heavily Beatles-influenced and Ms GH's loud, at times discordant and unapologetic vocal style wasn't appreciated by everybody including Mr GH, who appeared to be frowning and cursing under his breath. ML, whose family members were chatting down the hall was clearly feeling a little fragile and emotional but to the surprise of everyone joined in with Ms GH's rendition of 'Hark the Herald Angels Sing’. Mr GH however wasn't impressed. When it came time for me to leave, I mentioned that I was off to see my Mum down in Dorset. ML who was now being supported by her daughters and still quite teary leaned over to me and said “will you tell her that we love you?”.