Take one: June 2016
University open day, a room in Portland Building that I do not think exists anymore, tote bags everywhere. Adam Rounce is giving a talk about something and the only thing I will remember is my maths-degree father laughing at a very literature-degree joke about Tess D’Urberville while I mentally add Hardy to an ever growing ‘To Read’ list. He (Adam Rounce, not my dad, that would be weird) ushered on a quiet student in a loud blue t-shirt to the stage (stage? I am really not sure what building this memory is taking place in) to talk to us about some volunteering opportunities here at Nottingham. Tasty. I remember: poetry, reading, old people, dementia, help. I wanted in.
“I turn to my friend, we’re going to apply, this is it. Now it is the right time.”
Take Two: October 2017
University, halls, desk, I know what room I am in now. I have an email from Dr Kevin Harvey about the Reading Aloud Scheme – an opportunity to help people with dementia by reading poetry to them. I realise this was what the bright blue tee-shirt must have done. I tell my flatmate. That is so you. It was so me. I reread the email and don’t respond. The application deadline passes; I learn to rock-climb instead.
Take Three: October 2018
Physics building (why, English department, why?), lecture, puns, it’s Kevin and he’s telling us about this volunteering placement that he runs where groups of students go to care homes and the QMC and read poetry aloud to people experiencing dementia. I turn to my friend, we’re going to apply, this is it. Now it is the right time. I rewrote my CV, talked a lot about my grandma in the application questions, and, on my birthday, I went for an interview.
“I have never had the kindness of my eyes complimented so much, nor been thanked so profusely for doing so little.”
Every Wednesday since November, Meghan and I have walked to the maze that is the Queen’s Medical Centre, found an Enid or Julie or Margaret or Francis, and shared some stories. I saw a not-so-merry Christmas, a lonely Valentines Day, and a mourning Mother’s Day, but I also saw patient husbands, waiting daughters, and loving wives. I heard about how Anne fell in love when she heard him playing the piano, how Mabel used to be a poet herself, and how Jane use to sing with her choir at the local hospital when she was my age.
I have shared Haribo’s, poems, and tears; I have never had the kindness of my eyes complimented so much, nor been thanked so profusely for doing so little. It was only a fifteen-minute walk to the hospital, and I only brought a few sheets of paper with me, but I gave ‘The Listeners’ and ‘Hope is The Thing With Feathers’ and ‘The Road Not Taken’ and we walked through decades of history together.
I still have not read Tess of the D’Urbervilles, but I can recite all of Wordsworth’s ‘The Daffodils’ by heart. Lots of the patients might not remember my visits, but I will remember them.
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