Monday, 16 June 2014

Someone who stops and says hello

On Friday, Alfreton Library hosted a fantastic Wellbeing day which was open to all but was attended by a lot of people who use the Home Library service and struggle to leave their houses much of the time. At Alfreton, they could try free aromatherapy hand massage, take part in a craft workshop and get information and support about everything from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder to Books on Prescription. As the latter implies, the focus of the day was on how reading and writing can improve mental and physical health, so I went along to run a poetry workshop and book cafe in the library too.

A Brocken Spectre at Litton, Christmas 2013
The theme of my workshop was things that make you happy, so I shared some objects and memories that always make me smile (from a wooden carving of a sailor that belonged to my granddad to a pebble from the beach in Suffolk) and read out a poem of mine called 'Brocken Spectre' which describes some features of Derbyshire landscape that always lift my spirits. That led to a discussion of the time I saw a Brocken Spectre with my dad on Boxing Day this year, and prompted one woman to remember a day many years ago when she walked the edge of a rainbow in Scotland, above Pitlochry.

Memories bubbled to the surface fast, with people talking about holidays they'd been on, food they'd eaten and walks they'd take with their dogs. But I was overwhelmed by how many times everyone mentioned the Home Library service as something that made them happy, giving them contact with the outside world when they otherwise might feel quite isolated and cut off. "A book can take you out of yourself," said one member of the group, "even if it isn't a happy story, it makes you think differently about things." Soon, we were busy celebrating the small, everyday things that make life better. Someone who stops and says hello to you in the park. Someone who asks you how you are and listens while you answer, whether you're being honest or just putting on a brave face and saying "I'm fine".

We wrote a group poem (with different people coming up with different lines) but I hope it reflects some of the many things - large and small - that make these particular readers happy. We called it 'in and out' because everyone was particularly happy that they'd been able to get out for the day, so they wanted to mention that.

In and Out
a group poem written at Alfreton Library on June 13th, 2014

The memory of holding my first grandchild
with the chubby thighs and endless smile.
The time I walked the edge of a rainbow
with the Scottish hills spread out below.
A salad I ate on honeymoon in France,
or going up north for a Motown dance.
The birds outside and what they tell…

But it’s the little things I love as well –
breathing, the fact that you’re taking in life,
how pets take away your troubles and strife,
how a book can take you somewhere else,
the whole world held in a single shelf.
Or just someone who stops and says hello,
the way Spring makes the landscape glow.

The colours of Spring are loud and proud
and today we can all get in and out!