Full lives

 Zoe Aldrich is in the midst of her second training residency with Living Words.  Zoe’s integrity and embrace of the Living Words’ ethos is exceptional.  In this blog, we find her being a bit hard on herself.  This can occur when we are in the centre of residency and know the impact our work can have, and feel frustrated about whether we will ‘get there’ with the participants. It shows the high standards Zoe is holding herself to.  Zoe and I have reflected on this during our rehearsal room reflection session at Folkestone library.  Susanna Howard

Full Lives

Last week I spent half an hour with Shirley at the care home, writing down her words. Two minutes after we’d finished our session together, Shirley stopped to greet me – “Hello darlin’, good to see you, haven’t seen you in ages”. She is innately social and warm, and great company. Her conversation flows, so fast sometimes that I can’t catch it all in my notebook – I feel flooded with her words, overwhelmed and not up to the job. Many words are lost to her now, and her brain is busy using the words that are still at her disposal, combined with gestures and sounds, to express what she is impelled to express. A picture is built from her words of a full life, living with and close to family, part of a community – and of being a woman that people turned to for comfort and reassurance and advice:

I do

I do like to help

I do

I’ve got a family

And I have to go

And I have to do it

Got one, right near us

One’s next door

And one’s across the road

I don’t see to people

I love people

I do

I’d do anyone for anyone wanted me

I’d go running

I think women can do it better than men

I’m also working with Terry, who is bed-bound, and whose words remain inside his mouth, barely on the breath. I find it very hard to hear what he is saying – I don’t want to write what I thinkI hear, I want to catch his actualwords. So far, all I have is fragments.  Three weeks in, I apologize (again)for not getting all his words down. He whispers “Not there yet. That’s alright.” His eyes twinkle, and he smiles. I thank him for his patience. He is innately playful company, and I enjoy spending time with him, even though much of that time is spent simply making eye contact and holding his hand.  Contact. It’s all contact. While I’m in Terry’ room, Shirley comes in, greets him warmly, strokes his forehead, holds his hand, “You warm enough, darlin’?” She adjusts his blanket and pats it.  She nurtures.

The essence of both these people is so vivid, even as parts of their brain and body function drop away. I want to honour that essence in writing down their words, I want to do a good job, and I am frustrated that, for now, I can’t keep up (Shirley), and I can’t hear (Terry).

I’ll try again next week.

Zoe Aldrich. Zoe is an actor based in Folkestone, whose work has been seen at venues including Folkestone Quarterhouse, National Theatre, Wilton’s Music Hall, Hampstead Theatre, Barbican, Tobacco Factory & Birmingham Rep.