After my time

I regularly take my poetry and songs to dementia cafés organised by the Alzheimers Society. We chat about a whole range of subjects – gloves, cooking, vinegar, hair – you name it! And often I go away and write something inspired by what we talked about. Sometimes the poems are humorous and sometimes serious. Here is a serious poem I wrote last week based on words spoken. It started to form in my head as I walked round a park near where the sessions are held:


After my time

No more buzzing of bees
No more rainforest trees
Ah, that was after my time

We can’t see the sun
And the ice has all gone
Ah, that was after my time

No more footprints, no more sand
No more green and pleasant land
Well, that was after my time

We traded earth for speed
We didn’t see the need
Well, that was after my time

No fish or polar bears
but I ask you, who cares?
I don’t know, that was after my time

No more rivers, only flood
We would stop this if we could
But you see, that was after my time

No more us and no more them
Though we know that they’re to blame
No more time

© Heather Wastie
October 2017


The Astronomy of Herbs

Tomorrow I’m taking poems and songs to an Alzheimer’s Society group, something I do on a regular basis across the region. This one’s in Warwick. I’ve decided to have Spring flowers and gardening as a rough theme, and came across this poem I wrote in 2002. It was published by Poems In The Waiting Room an Arts in Health charity, registered in the U.K.. They “supply short collections of poems as cards for patients to read while waiting to see their doctor and to take away with them” and are open for submissions.

The Astronomy of Herbs
A found poem, after Nicholas Culpeper

Crowfoot and Pepper-wort,
Dodder of Thyme,
All-heal, Anemone,
Lesser Celandine,

Brooklime and Briony,
Wormwood, Butcher’s Broom
and Dove’s Foot are Martial plants.
Stone Crop, under Moon.

Walnut and Marigold,
governed by the Sun.
Mercury has Calamint,
Dill and Sauce-alone.

Amaranthus, Comfrey,
Heart’s-ease, Saturnine.
Dog’s Grass, under Jupiter.
Venus owns the Vine,

Self-heal and Sickle-wort,
Tansy and Thyme,
Foxglove and Featherfew,
Coltsfoot, Columbine.

© Heather Wastie

Culpeper’s best known and loved work is his herbal, called A Complete Herbal.  It gives the astrological indications of every herb in terms of planets and signs of the zodiac.  According to Culpeper, plants were able to channel and embody the subtle life energies of the planets, which were then consumed as food and medicine.  Through an elaborate system of planetary sympathies and antipathies, he found the right herb or formula to treat the patient’s illness.

I oughta drink water

At a recent Alzheimer’s Society cafe performance in Coventry we talked about drinks and collected thoughts. Here are the 2 poems I wrote for them afterwards.

I oughta drink water

I oughta drank water,
and fresh lemonade
is very refreshing,
but it has been said
that Guinness is good for you,
whisky is healthy
and wine helps the heart
but you have to be wealthy
to keep to the target
two litres a day
to stop dehydration,
well, that’s what they say.

I’m partial to lager,
I’d settle for shandy
or beer with some oomph
though it can make me frisky
and talking of whisky
there’s Chivas Regal,
it worked for James Bond
in Casino Royale,
but I oughta drink water,
the experts advise
if I want to be sober
and wealthy and wise.

© Heather Wastie
September 2014

Tea with the vicar

“A cup of tea, it seems to me,
is only half of what it could be
if beneath the cup there is no saucer.
More tea, vicar? Strong and sweet, sir?”

From china cup with delicate handle
a crinoline sleeve and pale fingers dangle,
a pure white doyley in each saucer.
“More tea, vicar? Sweet and strong, sir?”

The vicar smiles and tilts his cup
and watches his doyley soaking up
the liquid rising in his saucer.
“Dear, dear vicar, is something wrong, sir?”

“Not at all!” the vicar winks
then, waiting till his doyley sinks,
he slurps the beverage from his saucer.
“Such ignorance I can’t ignore, sir!
I’ve never seen the like before, sir!
And I won’t be pouring any more, sir!!”

© Heather Wastie
September 2014

Interviews on air plus Black Country Night on Saturday

My Alzheimer’s Army song was aired on BBC Hereford & Worcester last Friday and I had a chat with presenter Tammy Gooding. You never know what’s going to happen in a radio interview. We had planned to record this one in advance but it ended up being live and I thought it went really well. You can hear it by following the link, but be quick as I think there’s only a day or so left to listen. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p025b7hg

I also did an interview for The Milk Bar which is a podcast, which means you should be able to listen to it any time. Again, I thought it went well. People are interested in finding out more about dementia, and that’s what why I recorded the CD; as well as entertaining, the songs inform, using words and thoughts from people I’ve met at Alzheimer’s Society memory cafes. The song is played here too http://themilkbar.podbean.com/e/jason-and-zoe-in-the-milk-bar-episode-272/

Black Country Night
On Saturday night I’ll be performing as Black Country Pat at the Black Country Living Museum. Pat is a long-suffering Black Country wench who hates poetry but writes it any road, whose voice is like a glede under a door and who gets really narked if you call her a Brummie. Here she is plus a link for further info:

Black Country Pat (photo by Geoff Cox) performing in Worcester High Street for Clik Clik Collective Worcester Music Festival 2014

http://www.bclm.co.uk/events/black-country-night/1118.htm#.VBGEqGMXPTr

Lyrics for dementia and a poem for autism

Here are the song lyrics I mentioned in the post I wrote yesterday, the ones which are included in the ‘autobiography’ of a man I met at an Alzheimer’s Society memory cafe. The song is one of 3 on a CD I have recorded to raise awareness of dementia as well as funds for the Alzheimer’s Society.

I have also included a poem I wrote for publication in The Mortal Man, a book of poetry inspired by a young autistic man who lost his life at the age of 19. Details of the book, being sold in aid of the National Autistic Society, are here http://www.lulu.com/gb/en/shop/jae-alexander-linsey/the-mortal-man/paperback/product-21004984.html  The poem was written with the help of disabled adults in the Skills for Life Performing Arts Group, Wolverhampton which I used to run until we lost our funding.

Thanks for reading.


I hope you’ll listen to me

I want to tell you what I’ve lost
I hope you’ll listen to me
I want to help you understand
why I cannot be free

I struggle to do the simplest thing
I’ve done a thousand times before
like opening a can of beans!
I feel confused and insecure.

I’ve lost the skills I used to have,
I lose my way, forget my name,
lack independence, confidence,
I feel embarrassed and ashamed

I want to tell you how it feels
I hope you’ll listen to me
I want to help you understand
why I cannot be free

I’m isolated, agitated,
muddled and exasperated,
scared to speak in case I’m wrong,
stigmatised, humiliated

All because of this disease
which any one of us could get,
a tangling up which kills the brain
slowly, surely, bit by bit.

I want to tell you how to help
I hope you’ll listen to me
I want to help you understand
why I cannot be free

Please don’t treat me like a child
or tell me what to do and say,
I’m not stupid, I do my best,
dementia doesn’t go away.

Please have patience, please be friendly,
show me that you understand,
treat me as you would be treated,
if I falter, hold my hand.

I want to tell you about the people
who help me to feel free,
friends and family, those I meet
who empathise with me

Those who help me every day,
welcome me and care for me,
cope with me without complaining,
help me to live normally

or near to normal as I can,
who talk to me and make me smile,
people living with dementia,
my dementia, all the while.

Those who listen with affection
as I struggle with my words
try to understand my message,
making sure that I am heard.

© Heather Wastie
April 2014


Autistic Spectrum

Draw an imaginary line
from the North Star
to the ground

Walk along the line
your routine
never changing
cut and dried

The star is fixed
the straight line
your boundary
a spectrum of blocks

Only the strongest
defy the magnetic pull
turn the line by 90 degrees
so it becomes

a bar to be raised
a barrier to be opened
a frontier to be crossed

© Heather Wastie
January 2013

The arts make a difference – how do I know?

Recently I’ve been performing and running workshops with older people in care homes, people with dementia and young people with disabilities. In these settings it can be difficult to know what the impact has been. So how do I evaluate what I have done?

Working for other organisations usually means there’s an evaluation procedure at the end and this is always valuable. There’s a lot to be learned from evaluating, from everyone’s perspective, and people who do the kind of work I do need also to be reassured that they are on the whole getting it right. A recent project in a care home, commissioned by Wychavon District Council, ended with these wonderful words which boosted my confidence. (You’d think by now I wouldn’t need that, but I do!)

“The poetry with Heather was a big success. Heather has set a spark amongst our residents and inspired us all to have a go at poetry. Everyone who attended these session has asked me to re book Heather for more groups. She had everyone in the room hanging off her every word, we had funny moments and thought provoking moments …. She talked with the residents and everyone warmed to her straight away. What a wonderful woman she is. I hope she will be coming here for many years to come.”

When working with people who aren’t able to express themselves in words, it can be more difficult to assess the impact. This week, 2 people in particular have demonstrated very positive reactions. During a session yesterday, a young woman with severe autism who had stayed in her chair for all of the previous sessions, came up and danced with me then later stole my tambourine and sang Yellow Submarine whilst tapping a rhythm in perfect time. She thought it was hilarious, the rest of the group joined in and I was so pleased that we had made such a connection. This session was part of a project run by Creative Health http://www.creativehealthcic.co.uk/ who commission arts and health work in the West Midlands.

This morning a man with dementia danced, hummed and whistled as I played my song Alzheimer’s Army which –  ahem – is available on CD with 2 others songs to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Society. You can listen to the song here https://soundcloud.com/heatherwastie/alzheimers-army-by-heather-wastie. Contact me for details or come to one of my performances; I always have CDs with me. Here’s a link to my performance diary http://www.wastiesspace.co.uk/Wasties_Space/DIARY.html.

Another man this morning (at an Alzheimer’s Society memory cafe) thanked me for the lyrics to one of my other dementia songs, written especially for his group. He keeps it in a folder which he described as his ‘autobiography’.

All of this shows how much difference the arts can make and I’m so lucky to be able to use my skills to be one of the many people out there making that difference.

 

Kidderminster Arts Festival

The annual two-week Kidderminster Arts Festival begins on Saturday. I’ve just counted them up and realise that I will be performing at 5 different events! The first is the launch on Friday night, which is a private affair, but the other 4 events are public so I’d better tell you about them!

Tuesday 12th August  MOUTH AND MUSIC Boars Head 8.00-11.00pm  http://www.mouthandmusic.co.uk
I run this monthly acoustic event with poet Sarah Tamar and we take it in turns to MC. It’s Sarah’s turn for our festival special, but I’ll be doing a 5 minute spot including a brand new humorous song which I finished this morning. All I will say is that is was inspired by a woman I met in a care home at one of my recent workshops. She made me howl with laughter and I have done my best to translate what she told me into song.
It will be a great evening with poet, Matt Windle, Scandinavian influenced folk music from Sirkel plus spoken word and music open mic.

.Mouth & Music Poster aug14

Saturday 16th August  ATTENTION SEEKERS’ STAGE Outside Town Hall, Kidderminster 2.30-2.45
I will be singing 3 songs which I recently recorded and put onto CD. The songs quote the many people I have met at performances and workshops for the Alzheimer’s Society and CDs are being sold to raise awareness as well as funds for this excellent dementia charity.

Alzheimer's Army CDs

Thursday 21st August  HOW DO WARS START?  Kidderminster Library 11.15am plus other venues tba
After being awarded a festival commission, I have teamed up with Worcestershire Poet Laureate, Fergus McGonigal to create a humorous and entertaining 20 minute piece of interactive performance poetry. If you would like to get involved see https://www.facebook.com/how.do.wars.start. We’re busy working on it right now!

KAF14 spoken word Events Poster

Thursday 21st August  Kidderminster Creatives SPOKEN WORD NIGHT Boars Head 7.00-9.30pm  http://kidderminster-creatives.org.uk/
Short sets of spoken word with plenty of time to browse the art in between. Not sure what I’ll be performing that night, but if you would like to book a performance slot, email info@kidderminster-creatives.org.uk.

To find out more about KAF14 see http://www.kidderminsterartsfestival.org.uk/