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  • Writer's pictureNathaniel Keen

Waking to the sun

Musician: Nat Keen (guitar)

I was looking forward to seeing everybody after my Easter break. I'd been in Andalusia in the south of Spain where Easter (Semana Santa) takes on an entirely different level of significance. Endless colourful processions carrying 16th Century gold-plated floats slowly march along, weaving through the narrow, white-walled streets to the sound of trumpets and drum rolls. I had taken lots of videos and photos and today, the plan was to share a glimpse of the experience with the residents. As I was enduring my slightly painful lateral flow test, (I'm not a fan of the new chunky nasal sticks!) I played some of the videos to Zeeta (sister of resident C) and we got chatting about music, her Irish family had been full of musicians, 'it's just in the blood over there'. She went on to mention that upon clearing out C's house, she had found an auto-harp which, she then kindly offered to donate to BSL for residents to use. For some time I've been researching suitable instruments for residents to use and that one had slipped through the net until now. Auto harps are perfect instruments as they only require the push of a button and a gentle strum on the lap and a beautiful sound ensues.

After playing for C and various family members of residents, staff member and friend of the Spitz, Leyla passed through and mentioned that she would be leaving Bridgeside Lodge very soon to pursue new ventures. In my time here Leyla has been such a wonderful carer and we've especially been aware of her love and support for resident JG who we regularly play music for. Leyla has shared poetry, played piano and generally uplifted JG's experience with art and companionship so she will be sorely missed around the place. We wish her well.

I popped in to see JG's next door neighbour JC who had the snooker on tv but seemed utterly happy to switch it off in favour of music and conversation. She mentioned that she was still recovering from a fall which had left her with a bruise on her head. Nevertheless, as soon as the first chord was strummed, any suggestion of pain dissolved as her focus was drawn to those sweet, familiar sounds of her youth when, long after the last bombs had fallen, jazz orchestras and crooners would grace the stage at the Palladium.

Upstairs I tried to instigate some Friday feeling about the place. Sat with SW and JS, I kept some rhythmic strumming going and watched patiently as JS was gently coaxed from his deeply pensive state. The rhythm always calls out to JS from wherever his thoughts are and it's beautiful to watch his body gradually react, like a sunflower waking to the sun, finger by finger unfurling, limbs energising, until his eyes are bright and he's fully engaged in the moment, expertly drumming along. Inevitably, as the upbeat music continued, more staff members, hungry to release the tension of the week joined in with SW's request for Dusty Springfield songs. I witnessed some outrageous hip thrusting disco dance moves from the Filipino contingent as well as backing vocals from nurse Daniel, an extended drum solo from JS and a romantic proposal from SW. Everybody seemed suitably loosened up for the weekend and it was especially nice to see DB walk down from his room, sit down just out of my sight line but definitely within ear shot and moving his leg in time to the music.

On the next floor I saw saw GH sat in his usual throne opposite the lifts. The last time I'd seen him was on the Earth Day celebration where he'd boldly belted out Beatles songs along to the live band, impressing everybody in attendance. Today I thought I'd test him out on some more obscure songs, suffice to say he unsurprisingly came through with flying colours and we sang 'Don't Let Me Down', 'Across The Universe' and ‘Day Tripper', I promised we'd do 'Hey Jude’ (his favourite) next time.

I ended the day with DW, as usual we delved into all kinds of topics from politics, jazz, the war in Ukraine and propositions from Russian women in the 80's. I was keen to show him the videos of my trip to Andalusia and our conversations smoothly segued into Franco and distinctive characteristics of southern towns. The memory of Spain brought tears to his eyes as he recalled with fondness the last trip he had taken with his wife. They had driven 5,000 miles all across the Iberian peninsula from the hot, dry gypsy caves of Granada to the lush, green Celtic coastline of Galicia and by the sounds of it, they had a beautiful time. We talked about life and the importance of seizing adventure and experience whilst it's available to you, DW was keen to show me his photo albums but my time was up so we'll save that for next time.

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