Bashful Bladder and Sticky Willy

A group of men were sitting round, talking in a cave and one of them said, ‘Do you know what Ramblers do for a pee?’ The others shook their heads. ‘The women find the netherside of a wall and pee in a row, out of sight. The men walk on a bit till they come to a bush or tree. It’s a lot easier for men,’ he added. ‘Not so,’ said said one of the others, a nurse, as it happened. ‘There is a well known condition, Bashful Bladder, it’s called, which affects a lot of men.’ Not everyone can pee, standing up next to their brothers, it seems.

The next day, a few of the men were busy working in the forest, tying leaves and branches onto a fallen tree. One of them said, ‘It looks like a dragon to me.’ Someone else said, ‘I think it looks like someone diving into the sea, disappearing under the waves.’ Still another said, ‘These leaves keep falling off. We need to find some sticky willy to tie it all on.

And is that so? Funny what you hear from men sitting around in caves.

What I don’t know about dementia could fill a universal shopping basket…

What I don’t know about dementia could fill a universal shopping basket. But I do find talking with mum reasonably ok, even now. I’d say she’s even improved slightly over the last few weeks. What I find more difficult are those moments when she can be quite aggressive – swearing and the like.

But I managed ok today. It is a bit like being with a large child using diversions to distract them. And we discovered Dobbie’s Garden Centre restaurant where we shared a terrific chocolate cake over tea and coffee. It was only after we’d left the restaurant that mum pulled out two packets of biscuits (only 2 in a pack). How had she got those?! I had kept my eye on her the whole time. Or so I thought. Anyway, I didn’t hand them back in.

When we got ‘home’, I gave them to Lill, the unit manager, from mum. Mum has been really hard work to manage and they wanted to change her medication. We’re resisting as upping med seems to be a first response. That is slightly unfair when you hear mum has smashed a glass vase across the floor, punched a member of staff, ran the taps and flooded her room (twice in one day – I think she may have wanted to put a line of washing out!). But changing her medication in the past has left mum unable to take in food and drink unaided until she became severely dehydrated. It is a matter of trust and medication ought to be a last resort.

But I don’t think anyone is against mum. We’re all trying to make this work as best we can. She is on ‘behaviour watch’ and her next ‘home’ could be one for violent octogenarians. I use the term ‘violent’ relatively, almost proudly. If she hits you, for all her frailty, you will feel it. She’s pretty solid. Still, I look into her eyes and I feel her love for me. We hold hands like sweethearts or like a parent and child.

Let me tell you this story. I drove her to Hale village, just past Liverpool airport. You can walk down to a lighthouse, takes about 20 mins there and back. It was a bit blowy, though dry and mum was in her slippers. Her shoes were still damp. When we got there, mum would not get out of the car. So, we went back to Dobbie’s cafe for tea and cake. She had no problem getting out of the car there. She may have severe dementia but she’s not soft.

Creative facilitation training for social purpose

Some time ago, I delivered with the help of a colleague a series of workshops on creative facilitation at a tutor conference. If you weren’t there, the approaches enable tutors and students to explore themes and topics, often serious, in a way which uses head-heart-and hand language and actions. It gets students moving and feeling outside of their head, and so, can feel liberating.

I’ve now been asked to help draw up a training plan for WEA tutors which can fit this alongside our Social Purpose aims. By this I mean we are not only about providing a learning experience for our students in the classroom, which is hugely beneficial in itself, but also aiming to connect individuals and groups together through action within their local community and society in general. I hope this doesn’t come as something new to you.

But I would like to ask you to share with me questions you have about using these methods in practice with your groups. Or do you do much of this already? If so, what do you do and how does it go down with your students? Can you share? It will help us greatly in putting the training offer together to know what some of you at least need from this.

Over the past year, I have begun to think that the model we use of a typical 20 hour course followed by another, while having its merits, is also limiting where I would like us to grow. How would it be if you were able to plan a course which could be delivered over one or two years, one which leads your students towards level 2 or even 3 provision?

I see connections here between courses and outside events taking place with, for example, students attending meetings on local issues or contributing to online discussions and compaigns. And this would include our own WEA events programme for members and volunteers, offering opportunities to explore the arts and cultural scenes, critical thinking matters and contemporary issues in a creative way. We could even see the re-emergence of the WEA summer residential, so loved by students in the past! Who knows..?

Some tutors I’ve talked to about this have seemed excited by the prospect of a two year planning cycle, working with a group which is part of their local community, rooted in the world. But they have also raised issues around drop-out and recruitment over an extended period. Courses or modules would have to be flexible enough to offer progression to the core group as well as allow new students to join and ‘older’ ones to move on. This approach might not work in every subject area, particularly one which has a linear, sequential thread. But it will be fine in others which take a wider look at the themes within their courses; ones which require practice or discussion or making things…

Now, is that doable? What do you think..?