Session 4

4. Friday 9.12.16 Water and Birds

Another morning session – 10.00 (the art group has folded).

We sit in the dining room every week now; it works better with direct eye contact possible – Phil sits between me and Janet, it wasn’t planned that way, it just happened. There were photos of Hannah and John already on the table and Janet took the one of Nye from off the wall.

Phil talks very easily – I wonder if he knows when I’ve lost track of his meaning? I tend to smile and nod a lot and when I’m not sure what he means I tend to say, ’Ok’ quite a lot – it’s a positive and enthusiastic ‘ok’. I’ll ask questions if I think I’ve got the gist – Phil understands what I’ve asked and if it’s the wrong story he’ll say. Janet knows most of the stories, but today there were times when she didn’t recognise the story he was telling; maybe our conversation and songs were bringing other memories to mind?

I noted to Phil that the photos were already on the table and asked him their names. He really struggled with ‘Hannah’ again, although he tells me she is his daughter across the water (she lives in Bristol). We sang ‘Hannah put the kettle on’ from last week but it didn’t really help. This song isn’t brilliant as a memory jogger because the name comes right at the beginning. He could repeat the word, ‘Hannah’ when Janet and I said it first and throughout the session he was able to say it once unprompted. We also had another go at MIT, and he was able to repeat, ‘Daughter Hannah’. He still remembers ‘John’ better and was able to join in with ‘Diddle diddle dumpling, my son John’. This is a better rhyme as the word ‘John’ comes at the end.

We sang the Welcome Song from SftB and included Hannah, John and Nye. Phil also struggled with ‘Nye’ but knows who he is. We sang the phrase, ‘Nye Nye Nye, Delilah’ to prompt him – I’m not sure that it works but he finds it amusing!

I had a thought about trying to get him to remember his children’s names; to me, as I am now, in full health with full faculties, it seems tragic that he can’t remember his children’s names. However, I began to wonder how important it was to him; whether my projection of what it would be like for me if I couldn’t remember my daughter’s name is actually accurate for him. He appears to get joy from talking about his weekly visits to Bristol to see Hannah and Nye and his face lit up when he was telling me about Nye getting into everything now that he’s a toddler and walking.

We were talking about the seaside and water and we sang, Oh I do Like to be Beside the Seaside’ by ear – he knew most of the words; Janet and I were struggling with some of them! Janet suggested we sang ‘Row Row Row Your Boat’ as he sings it with Nye. In the middle of the crocodile verse, Phil suddenly became distracted and interrupted the singing by a though, a memory, which turned out to be about a visit to Orkney. It was only on listening back to the recording of the session that I realised the crux of this story might have been to tell me about the seals that were in the sea and following them. Was that the connection from the verse about the crocodile in the water? How frustrating this condition must be!

This led into ‘White Swans’ – Phil struggled with the words – again, I think he was trying to explain a story to me rather than sing a song! I think he was trying to communicate that he was talking about migration. Again, listening back, I realised the point at which Phil started trying to talk about birds migrating and Janet and I didn’t understand and it was quite a while before I thought it was.

*The singing of songs seems to encourage conversation and brings back memories. Would these memories have been triggered in the same way if we had simply said the words of the songs, or is there something in the music that is stronger than the words alone?

The Leaving of Liverpool’ –I got Phil to read through the words and there were a lot of mistakes, fewer when he sang it.

You Are My Sunshine’ – the phone rang as Phil was reading and Janet left the room. Again, there were quite a few mistakes when he read it and many fewer when he sang. He remembered the tune perfectly.

Delilah’ – Phil remembered the tune perfectly and was completely in tune. I’ve noticed that he has a high tenor voice and have to sing things quite high so that they are comfortable for him. Although many of the words were wrong, the key ones, (possibly the ones he was doing from memory?) were correct. He admitted he’d not sung this song for a long time.

Oh What a Beautiful Morning’ – The chorus was fine when he was reading but he really struggled with the verses – it might have been that he lost his place; Janet was still out of the room and I had my hands full with the guitar. He didn’t manage the 2nd chorus because the way it was laid out on the sheet meant that he had to go back to the top of the page. I clocked this by the time we were on the 2nd verse and was able to point it out for the next chorus.

Conclusions / Suggestions

  • Can Phil remember the words without the book in front of him?

  • When he reads the words, are they making sense?

  • When he knows a song, is it the words, the act of singing or a combination of the two which leads to him getting it right?

Experiment – Sing well known song with and without words