Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Through the kitchen window . . .

May I tell you a story that features a friend of mine?  She shared it with me last week.
It's an incident that she'd watched unfolding through her kitchen window, and it's such a heart-warming story that I'm sure you won't mind hearing it second-hand.

My friend lives in London.  Her flat overlooks a busy pavement, a noisy road, and the entrance to an underground station.
Each morning, sitting by her kitchen window, she enjoys her breakfast whilst watching the world hurry past.

There are many people going by . . .  some of whom, over time, she's come to recognise.
There are the pupils, often late for school, who rush by the window clasping their homework.
There are the office workers waiting at the bus stop, looking for a bus to transport them to work.
And there are the cars that draw up by the pavement, disgorging passengers who then rush into the station to catch the next tube into town.

My friend had grown familiar with one such car which stopped briefly outside her flat each weekday morning.
From the passenger seat would emerge a young man.  Invariably, he would reach back inside the car for his briefcase, accept a lidded paper cup of coffee from the driver and then, clasping briefcase and coffee, dash into the melee at the station entrance.

However, last Friday, as my friend munched her toast, she was in for a surprise.

The accustomed car drew up . . . the passenger got out . . . but what was this?
Instead of reaching back inside the car for his briefcase or accepting the proffered coffee, he was fumbling with his jacket. Out of the pocket he drew what appeared to be a small box and . . . my friend peered forward in excitement, what was going on?

The young man had dropped to one knee on the pavement and . . . no, she thought, surely not!
Putting down her half-eaten slice of toast, my friend moved closer to the window . . . the young man was opening the box and removing a small object that gleamed in the morning sun.

My friend screwed up here eyes to look . . . was it a ring?
She had never seen the driver of the car, but the normal pattern of events was rapidly changing.
A young woman emerged from the driver's door and, clearly flushed, came to stand by the kneeling young man.

Yes, my friend decided, peering excitedly through the window, it was definitely a ring.
The young man held it out . . . the young woman looked down at  him . . .

At this critical juncture, a large bus drew up outside the flat and everything else was blocked from view.

When the bus had discharged its departing passengers, absorbed its new ones, and finally continued on its journey, the parked car had gone.
Of the young man there was nothing to be seen.
My poor friend, who had been wholly absorbed in the gripping story, was left wondering . . . had they?  Hadn't they . . . ?

On Monday, as she watched intently from her window, it was clear that the usual pattern of behaviour had reasserted itself.
But my friend is quite convinced of one thing.  As the driver's hand reached out to give the young man his coffee there was something new and sparkling on her fourth finger!

In an unsettled world, how good to share an indisputably happy story.

Monday, September 14, 2015

The View

"We'll take you up to see the view," they said.
And so we journeyed through the Autumn rain,
The children wishing they had played instead;
Their weary parents trying to explain,
With fraying patience, how they ought to show
Their aunt the countryside. Five people, set
Apart by irritation, huddled low
Within the car. We got out on the wet
Sweet grass a very fractious cavalcade;
'Til, over-awed by space, dissension died,
And clouded eyes awoke to see displayed
The patient glory of the countryside.
As mortals changed, we stood in silence there;
And five were one, and one was everywhere.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Something magical going on . . .

I can hardly wait to share this unexpected treat!
A good friend of mine in Ohio sent me a report from her local news-station.  The theme is dementia and, believe it or not, it's positively uplifting.

The fear of dementia would seem to haunt the future like a spectre.  We cannot avoid old age, but what does it hold in store?
According to recent records, the life-span of those living in the western world has increased by a decade over the past century.
But what does this extended life-span have to offer?
Without our memories  . . . without our dreams . . . who are we . . . ?

According to this report, which includes a moving video, if we're to be successful in combating dementia one of the answers lies with sound.  It's sound, not words, that's all-powerful.

This resonates with my own experience.  Each week I take my cat, Chloe, to visit patients at our local nursing home, one of whom suffers from severe dementia.

Chloe, who always rises to the occasion, greets each patient with a polite, "Miaow!".  It's deeply touching for me, and any staff on duty, to witness the dementia sufferer's reaction to this greeting.
Her eyes open and focus, a smile of pure delight spreads over her face, and a frail hand is lifted up in an effort to touch Chloe's fur.

It's the sound of the "Miaow!" that works the magic, not any words of mine.

You may well be more knowledgeable than me.  You may already know of the extraordinary power that sound, specifically music, holds in firing parts of the brain undamaged by dementia.
Whether or not you're familiar with the science, you cannot fail to be moved by the video in this report.

I would love to think that it will be circulated widely in care homes and nursing homes.  I would love to believe that, in consequence, musical instruments will be made available to those who, at the moment, do little more than spend their days gazing unseeingly at the unceasing flow of images on their television screens.

I would also like to hope that it might be shown in schools and colleges.  Nothing could demonstrate more powerfully the need for music in childhood . . . the need for children to experience the joy of making music for themselves.   Whilst schools urge their students to write, calculate and debate, the demands of an over-crowded time-table sometimes means that music is pushed to the side-lines.

Words can illustrate our individuality and ability, but they can also bring discord and division.
It's music that brings us together . . . and it's the music of our youth that stays with us throughout our lives.

Let me end by quoting the words of a participant in this video,  "I think," she says, "we've got something rather magical going on . . . "
It is magic . . . deeply moving magic.
Click here to experience the magic for yourself: