Memory should never be forgotten.

I have worked in the care sector for the last seventeen years. In this time i have worked with just about every conceivable disability you could think of ranging from child to centurion; physical to mental to learning disability. For the last nine years i have concentrated on adults with learning disabilities although, sadly, this can also include Alzheimers and Dementia as these diseases tend to affect the learning disability cohort at a much earlier age than in the rest of the population.

What i have found most is that it is nigh on impossible to find resources to help with memory recognition and retention within this particular client group. Believe me, i tried! In my failure to find anything suitable i therefore starting writing memory poems and devising quizzes that were achievable for those with cognitive impairments and also fun for them to do.

The guys that i work with love them. They continually ask for them and they never tire of them. I have now decided to put them together into themed session plans for use in care homes, day care centres and memory cafes as well as for general home use. They can be dipped in and out of, they are suitable for both group and individual work and they even have photocopiable dot to dot pictures to enhance the learning environment.

An example of the memory poems are as follows:

I’m big to see and my boyfriend is scary,
He uses his horns when he sees red.
I eat hay and grass and go to the Dairy,
To give you the butter to spread on your bread.
A. Cow

  As you can see, achievable and simple. Worded simply to encourage the client to get the answer. Failure isn’t an option here. We want them to feel positive and happy. We want them to win.

On the farm cover

 

The book (and its successors as they become available) can be purchased direct from either my ETSY shop – Baby Dreams Stitchery

https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/525938594/on-the-farm-memory-sessions-book-for?ref=shop_home_active_1

Or my Facebook page – Anita Hunt Writer

https://www.facebook.com/anitadhunt1/

Take a look, you won’t be disappointed.

And make today a happy day.

Anita x

 

 

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The Importance of ‘Stuff’

We are all surrounded by ‘Stuff.’ Stuff we think is important and that we cannot possibly live without. We spend our lives pushing ourselves forward in our acquisition of stuff. Stuff that we discard shortly after as we lust after bigger and better stuff. A bigger house in a better area, a posher car…or two, expensive holidays in the sun.

What do we do to get our stuff? We work…around the clock. We go to our offices/shops/factories. Make polite conversation with people whom, sometimes, we would rather not and stress over issues that are quite often taking far more brain power than they deserve.

With the recent London, Sweden and Syria atrocities I feel this has been brought even more to the fore. In London, a dedicated policeman was doing his job, laughing with tourists and having a selfie taken with them. Minutes later, in the call of duty and astonishing bravery, he was callously stabbed to death. A woman on her way to collect her children was mown down by a speeding car while another was thrown over the side of the bridge into the cold, unforgiving water below. I think that in their last moments, their possessions were the last things on their mind.

I have worked in the care sector for the last seventeen years and within that time I have been tasked with clearing out the rooms of those that have departed. There is little to compare with the sadness of that clearing process. The throwing away of a person’s treasured possessions because they mean nothing to those who are left behind. Clearing out my parents house was even harder. In the top drawer of my mother’s dressing table I found a cross stitched card that I had made her for Mother’s Day many years before. Inside i had written ‘Cheer’s Ma, I don’t know what I would do without you.’ If that didn’t hit me hard enough there was then one solitary, unlit cigarette. Her emergency stash that she kept just incase she needed to have a fag one day. It is testament to her strength that in five years of cancer treatment, she never smoked that cigarette. Finding it broke me.

So what have I taken from all of this? That the acquisition of stuff shouldn’t be the driving force of our life. It is the memories that matter most, the people that we choose to share our lives with and the little things they do that make us feel secure, loved and wanted. The random hug, the handmade gift, the memories they leave that last long after they have gone.

Carlyon Bay-29

I know it is a cliche, but hold onto those people and tell them you love them because, like those brave people on Westminster Bridge, you don’t know when you get up if you are going to get back into your own bed again tonight.

Most of all, make today a Happy Day.

Love, Anita. x

Letting my characters tell their story

I do have a novel in progress. Actually, i have two. Now i know that sounds greedy but they are both nanowrimo starters and they all are trying to tell me their story. It would be churlish of me to deny them their outlets, but i do wish they would not all shout at once sometimes.

Today, i have mostly been procrastinating. Assignment dates are approaching fast and i really should be studying, but a blackberry and pear crumble for tea was begging to be made, and the dishes needed doing…and the washing…well, i’m guessing you know the blurb…

Blackberry and pear crumble

I did however, get a little bit of module work done. The activity was to take one of my characters and write their introduction in the first person. My next assignment i have planned to use Madeleine. She is going to be a secondary protagonist and is a major character in my main novel. I’m not going to give too much away, where would be the fun in that? But i am going to let Maddy tell you what she just told me…

Madeleine

I couldn’t believe it when I first found out. I mean, how could I have been so gullible? He hoodwinked me from the start and now I feel betrayed and broken.

I’m not too bad when I’m at work. The estate agency is run by a brother and sister, Darren and Claire and they keep me busy typing all the sales details and stuff for them. I can forget everything when I’m there and Darren’s corny sense of humour as he jibes at his sister makes me laugh. A bit anyway.

That’s until I come home to the empty flat. There’s no laughter there anymore. I used to come home and start cooking his favourite meals, starting from scratch, only the best for me and my Steve. I would lay the table and put candles out, soft music on in the background. I used to think he was worth it. Not any more. It’s a meal for one from the freezer. I’m not bothering with all that just for me. No, I sit in my armchair, the one that used to be his, and eat in front of the telly now, Emmerdale keeps me company.

I used to have hobbies too. Sewing. That was what I loved to do. I would feel the fabric running through my fingers and the time would just fly. Maybe that is where I went wrong? Maybe I shouldn’t have done so much sewing? I didn’t think so at the time, he built my sewing room after all. We’d nicknamed it ‘Maddy’s made in heaven room’. I thought he loved me being so creative. He used to tell me to go in there because he would have to work late anyway. I haven’t sewn anything since he went. I’ve not gone into the room. I don’t have the energy to lift a needle any more. It must be all my fault. If I hadn’t spent so much time in there, he wouldn’t have spent so much time with his floozy assistant. He wouldn’t be with her now, instead of me.

Bastard.

Making Dreams a Reality

They say that if you want to be a writer then you need a blog to showcase your writing skills. Well, i thought about starting up a new blog, just for that and then i thought, hey! Wait a minute! I already have one, quite a nice one actually with funky flowers and calming colours. Why not resurrect that one from the dying ethers in which it currently lies?

So here we are, a third of the way through my first year of a Masters of Arts in Creative Writing course with the Open University and i have never written so much in so short a time. I have also never received so much critique about my writing ability in so short a time either, but i am happy to report that it has largely been good and, strangely, people seem to like what i write and the way in which i write it. Maybe i am onto a winner here? Ha, only time can really tell on this one, but i’m willing to keep on trying.

I’m not saying that everything i have written is good, some of them are imminently forgettable as the exercises they are planned to be. Just an exercise in writing to a specific prompt or using a specific technique, some of which gel with the writer and some of which are, frankly, just not my cup of tea.

One that has stuck in my memory though is the following exercise where the brief was to write around 500 words using colloquialisms and language of your home town or Country. Now, i am Cornish, and very proud to be so. I absolutely loved coming up with this one, i hope you enjoy it too.

Bleddy Emmets!

‘Tis no good,’ Jess said as she slammed the pastry down onto the floured board, ‘I’m gettin’ sum teasy with these bleddy emmets down ‘ere all the time with their bleddy upcountry ways.’ She pointed towards the bowlful of peeled potatoes that were sat on the table, ‘Pass us them teddy’s over will ‘e maid?’

Amy did as she was bid, ‘here you go Gran. You really shouldn’t let them get to you, you know.’

‘Aye, I naw’s that, but they really get me goat and they ain’t gotta bleddy clue wasson ‘alf the time.’

Jess had finished rolling out the pastry and was deftly turning a large potato in one hand whilst chipping small bitesize chunks off with a knife in the other and placing them in a line in the middle of the pastry.

‘I don’t know how you do that without cutting yourself. ‘Amy said, trying to deflect her Grandmothers temper.

‘Tis easy tis, jus’ like drivin’ down the bleddy lane is. I thought she were gonna start squallin’ when she had to reverse up the ‘ill. Turmits next me ‘ansome.’

‘It’s swede Gran, turnips are white and these are yellow,’ Amy smiled.

‘I’ll give e swede! They’m all turmits to me. Beef and onion from that bowl there next.’

Amy watched as her gran flipped the outside of the pastry over the filling and quickly crimped the edges together in a fingers over thumb movement before placing it onto an opened butter wrapper and putting it into the oven.

‘You know, we do have greaseproof paper these days. You don’t have to save all your butter wrappers anymore,’ Amy chided.

‘I’ll give e bleddy greaseproof paper an all! When you’ve bin makin’ pasty’s longer’un me then you ken tell us about bleddy greaseproof paper! Aye, you’m a booty you are.’ She laughed, shaking her head at her grand daughter.

‘Fancy a cuppa tea Gran?’

‘Aye, me cups over there. Jus’ top’un up. When this pasty comes out, I’ll wrap’un up an e can take un to work for yer crib later.’

‘Thanks Gran, You’re the best. My mates are well jealous of my pasties on my break.’

50 things to do before I hit 50!

May 31st 2016. 83 weeks to go.

intersting 2

With the realisation that my 50th birthday is only 83 weeks away, or 19 months, or 1 year and 7 months. Whichever way you look at it, it still sounds scary, I have decided to take this blog on a slightly different route. It is still about being happy, achieving positive results, but it is also about my own journey into my 50th decade by embarking on a 50 things to do before I’m 50 challenge.

I have numerous foibles and anxieties which I really should have grown out of by now and I think that by doing some of the challenges that I have set myself then I may, just a bit, take a step on the road of eradicating them.

I have set myself quite realistic goals taking into account that I do not have a bottomless pit of money – one does still have the mortgage to pay on just my wage at the end of the day – and I am the proud owner of a slightly dodgy back which rules out things like bungee jumping and skydiving. I would rather like to get to the age of 51 both walking and alive…

I have also based a few of them around some current life goals such as doing a Master’s degree (which won’t be completed by the time of my 50th birthday, but it will be started as I am enrolled on the Open University’s Masters in Creative Writing starting October 2016).

I am quite embarrassed to admit that although I live in the beautiful county of Cornwall, I have visited so little of the places beyond my local area. It is time to change this, St Michaels Mount is sitting quite high on my list of 10 places to go that I have never gone to before (number 3). It may be surprising to note that I have only put that I want to have a short story published? This would be because I have already had poetry published and I regularly have non-fiction in the form of theatre reviews placed into the public domain. Whilst it is always an ego boost to see them, it would be churlish of me to set a challenge for something I have already achieved…same goes for ‘have a tattoo…’

As for number 33….I have to put one totally unlikely thing to do in there don’t I? We all know that that one will never happen!

So, below is my list.

Some are already set in motion but none are achieved. If any of my friends or family wish to accompany me on any of them, then please get in touch. For my family? There may even be a few ideas for Christmas presents in here…you are always saying that I am a nightmare to buy something for….

  1. Make stuff from my fabric stash – use the good stuff!
  2. Go to the Zoo.
  3. Visit 10 places in Cornwall that I have never been to before.
  4. Finish writing one of the novels I have started.
  5. Do a Master’s degree.
  6. Take a holiday.
  7. Go to an opera.
  8. Catch up with old friends.
  9. Make 50 items for charity.
  10. Clear out the workshop.
  11. Drive somewhere far away – and don’t freak out!
  12. Go on a zipline.
  13. Do 50 random acts of kindness.
  14. Write down regrets – burn them.
  15. Try 50 new recipes.
  16. Have a picnic in the park.
  17. Go to a yoga or meditation class.
  18. Have professional photos done.
  19. Write my will.
  20. Have a professional massage.
  21. Do something I’m scared of.
  22. Go geocaching.
  23. Have a short story published.
  24. Be a tourist at home.
  25. Spend a day watching movies and eating my favourite foods – sod the diet!
  26. Have a caricature of myself done.
  27. Spend a day at the beach.
  28. Learn a musical instrument.
  29. Put together a family cookbook.
  30. Make and give out some happy pebbles to strangers.
  31. Take a boat ride.
  32. Write a gratitude list.
  33. Go on a date.
  34. Keep my blog up to date.
  35. Finish my UFP’s!
  36. Dress up for the day with no reason.
  37. Make a posh dress.
  38. Visit 5 childhood haunts.
  39. Go on a rollercoaster.
  40. Visit a museum.
  41. Visit an art gallery.
  42. Take a class in something new.
  43. Research family tree.
  44. Do something spontaneous.
  45. Go to a craft show.
  46. Go on a writing retreat.
  47. Go glamping.
  48. Eat something I’ve never tried before.
  49. Handwrite a letter to someone that is unexpected.
  50. Stop worrying about the future and live in the now.

And of course,

Most of all,

Be happy, today is always awesome. x

Facing our own mortality

prince-purple-rain

 

Today has seen the death of yet another Superstar music Icon. Prince was only 57 and as the news broke this afternoon I felt myself transported back to my teenage years of the 80’s, dancing to When Doves Cry, Raspberry Beret and, of course, Purple Rain in our own iconic beachside Discotheque ‘Gossips.’ However, he is not the only one to have passed away recently, yesterday we also lost Victoria Wood, a comedienne in an absolute league of her own and one who never failed to have you rolling in the aisles with her quirky music and unique, comedic take on the average human with their own quirks and foibles. More icons from my 80’s life that have also passed are Glenn Frey, Natalie Cole, Paul Daniels, Percy Sledge, Maurice White, Sir Terry Wogan and of course, David Bowie. In fact, I have just read a list of 35 celebrities of the stage and screen who have lost their lives in the first few months of this year.

I am struck with wondering just why does the news of their passing hit us so hard? After all, it is not as if we ever met them. It is not as if we ever will. They are never likely to sit at our dining tables, regaling us all with their tales of life on the road. They are never going to relieve you of your parental taxi duties so that you can relax in a nice warm bath with a chilled glass of Prosecco – yeah, i’ve no idea what that is like either – and they are never going to be there when you are down and need a hug. Or are they?

Don’t we always revert to somewhere we find comfort when we are feeling sad? When we need a hug and need to feel safe and secure? Don’t we look for the music of our youth, when life wasn’t complicated and when we were happy and free to do what we pleased? Isn’t it just those unreachable icons who sustained our youthful dreams and were always there for us when we needed them? They never told us off, they never screamed or shouted, slammed doors as they walked away. They were our saviours. And they were immortal. They didn’t die.

Also, they didn’t grow old. When did David Bowie get to be 69? There’s no way he’s 69 we all cried as his news broke. In our minds, he is still Ziggy Stardust, singing about floating around the sky in a tin can. And Paul Daniels? He was 77! We are all still angry at him shacking up with that starlet, hussy assistant of his, despite them being together with her never leaving his side and defying all of us doubters for the last 28 years. 28 years? No way! The thing we all find when we hear of any of our favourite, or not so favourite but equally as known, celebrities passing over is that it brings us up sharp to the realisation that if they can suddenly grow old and die, then so can we. Suddenly, we think back to those happy, carefree nights dancing to our heroes at the disco on the beach, the cold, rainy evenings watching sketch shows on tv and we realise that they were quite a long time ago. Our stars have moved on and if it can happen to them, it will also happen to us.

With that in mind we need to learn to let go more and enjoy the hand we are dealt. Nothing is given to us, all of it is worked for. Those celebrities didn’t just wake up one morning and miraculously find themselves as front page news with salaries to match. They saw an opportunity, worked to perfect their skills and fought their way to the top of their chosen profession. Ok, so Prince and David Bowie were born with those phenomenal voices, but they still had to work to get themselves into the position that the public could hear them. They still had to work to control those voices, learn how to pitch them so that they could alternately make us either soar to the highest plane or crash into floods of tears. We need to use our own gifts, hone and perfect them, take the criticism and shape our talents into a form that gives us pleasure. We need to stop living on planet dreamland and realise that we are only here for a finite amount of time and in that time we should be happy, with whatever it throws at us.

As Prince has told us:

I never meant to cause you any sorrow

I never meant to cause you any pain

I only wanted one time to see you laughing

I only want to see you laughing in the purple rain.

 

Today I am alive. Today I am grabbing my bucket list and delving inside to see what I can tick off.

Despite the sadness pouring from my Facebook page, that makes today an awesome day.

Make sure yours is too.

Anita.x

Behind the Mask

mask

I guess we all wear several masks, we all have multiple personalities that we reveal to others at various times in our lives. Whether it is our professional work persona; our happy-go-lucky family persona or our hide away in the back of a really dark cupboard when our heart is breaking persona, we have all seen them, and we all hide them away.

I consider myself to be quite shy and an introvert. I am more than happy in my own company and can usually be found hiding away in my little part of Cornwall creating something. This can be through the written word, playing with pieces of fabric or wool or messing about in the kitchen or the garden. The art of creation makes me happy, the giving away of those creations also has this effect, even more so when I am allowed to witness the pleasure one of my creations has given to its recipient. For instance, we have just finished our evening meal and on biting into his first mouthful of roast potatoes, my youngest son said,

‘Mum, these spuds are awesome, how did you do them?’

My reply?

‘That would be my secret.’

One has to keep a little bit of mystery, if I told him how to cook them then they wouldn’t be Mum’s special spuds anymore would they!

So our evening meal was a success – the slow cooked lamb steaks in my special gravy was also devoured with relish – but I can be quite big-headed here and say that I am actually, quite a good cook. At other times though, for us creative types, when our creations are put out to general approval you can quite often find our hearts in our mouths and our breathing short and rapid as we wait to hear the final verdict.

‘Is it good? Or is it bad?’ We think to ourselves. ‘Oh it’s bad isn’t it.They hate it. It has to be the most rubbish bit of utter tripe I have ever done. Why on earth did I decide to do that?’

And these thoughts continue to whirl around inside our heads until we are finally told what we need to hear. Approval. The all encompassing human need to be liked and loved by those around us. The feeling that we are needed and that without us, then we would be missed. I guess that would explain my secret recipe for the spuds…..

For the introverted creative this need can be excruciating. We know that we can do this stuff, but to get a knock back can be taken to heart so much more and can be instrumental in us holding back and not pushing open the doors that others appear to fling open with outright glee. This week however, I stuck a toe through a little gap and sent a tentative email to see if I could, possibly, if they didn’t mind too much, apply for a Masters in creative/professional writing at two universities. I quoted my qualifications and writing achievements to date and was delighted to receive back, within 24 hours, a request for my portfolio and my application from my first choice course. That initial exhilaration has now passed though, as the realisation has dawned that THEY WANT TO SEE MY WORK! Oh my goodness, they want to see my work! What on earth have I done that is anywhere near good enough for them to like anything that I write?

But then I take a step back, I remember passing two (yes two) degrees through the Open University whilst raising three sons single handed, caring for sick and disabled parents and working at the same time to keep a roof over our heads. I remember that I am one of only six theatre reviewers for the biggest theatre in Cornwall and within this role I have had a one-to-one critique session with The Guardian’s theatre critic Mark Fisher…and he liked my work….I remember that I have as much right to do what I wish with my life as does the loudest person who refuses to have their words silenced.

Therefore, with a deep breath, my head held high and the doubting Thomas monsters that live in my mind at least muffled for a while, I have been reviewing and rewriting some of my past work to put into a portfolio. I have also put together one piece for submission to a magazine and I will post it off tomorrow, who knows, I might even be brave enough to submit to a second….

Today I am wearing my professional, I can do this persona. Today I am a confident, fully put together, functioning individual. Who knows what I will be tomorrow, but I like living in today mode.

Today I am doing what makes me happy.

Oh, and the magic spud recipe?

Baby new potatoes, parboiled and then oven roasted in oil and liberally drenched in supermarket own brand roast potato seasoning and a few garlic granules. Quite simple, really tasty…and see how brave I can be to share it with you?

Make sure that your today is a happy day too.

Anita x

Please feel free to comment on anything that has touched you in this piece, and also to share it to others.