Monday, August 25, 2014

Filming the Mail Porter

A familiar sight as you come into the Hospital is mail being sorted behind the reception desk. The porter, John, then circulates the Hospital at high speed (he gets fit by hill-walking and marathon-running too!), delivering and collecting mail as he goes. His job, perhaps more than anyone else's demands a thorough knowledge of the maze-like site, its linking passages and quirky corners. Having shadowed him on his rounds, I wrote a poem about his journey, using the rhythms of WH Auden's 'Night Mail'. 

Instead of starting with: 
This is the Night Mail crossing the border,
Bringing the cheque and the postal order,
Letters for the rich, letters for the poor,
The shop at the corner and the girl next door.

my poem begins:
This is the mail carried by the porter
bringing get well cards to son and daughter
letters for a doctor, letters for a nurse
letters that are long, letters that are terse.

Auden's poem was written for the film ‘Night Mail’ (1936), and so we decided we should make one ourselves! The purpose is to help create a celebration of the current Hospital site in a creative way, capturing something of the character just before it moves to a contemporary purpose-built site in 2017.
He leaves a pile, collects a pile, goes on his way,
bag dangling by his knees, gathering weight.                                       
Like a black-cab driver or a blinkered horse
distractions and chat cannot turn his course.
His route’s set in stone through secret doors,
banisters that coil between Victorian wards.

Earlier this month, film-maker Sandie Jamieson began filming and taking audio recordings. We're very excited that as she starts to put the footage together, we have Derek Williams to compose and record a score for it and a wonderful reader for the poem with a highly distinctive Edinburgh voice!

See more here

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Posting our memories

Twice a month Cate and I offer a workshop in the medical library for anyone in the hospital community. Typically it's patients, parents and volunteers who come along, but in July we ran one specifically for staff. It's not an easy proposition in a busy working day, but we were delighted to have a small number to work with.

Many adults will say they 'can't' write a poem or draw a picture because they haven't done it since they were at school. However, given the opportunity to 'play' with paper, pens, words, imagination, and given a structured task, it becomes less intimidating and self-consciousness can disappear.

Capturing memories of the Sciennes site before we move to a purpose built hospital is a current priority and staff feelings about it can be quite strong; recollections poignant. 

So how do you put those feelings into a poem? The vehicle we decided to use as a kind of template was, 'The Magic Box' by Kit Wright. We've used it before in the hospital, most notably collecting ideas from different children of their favourite things at Christmas in 2012. The idea is that you imagine a box, give it some kind of purpose, and make verses out of lists of things to put in it. 

In Kit Wright's version, there is a lot of sensory detail, lovely sounds together like 'the swish of a silk sari on a summer night,' and slightly magical images such as 'a snowman with a rumbling belly' adding up to a wonderfully vivid picture. So in the workshop we packed our boxes with outstanding memories of the hospital. 

Here is a lovely example created from our workshop from long-standing speech and language therapist Marysia Nash --- in it she clearly communicates her affection and regard for the Hospital without ever needing to mention those abstract terms. It is the detail that communicates the feeling. We are proud to make her poem our July scribble of the month.

And here is the 'posting box' Marysia refers to - used with children during therapy to allow them to post their attempts at new learning.