Funky Fred and Dave the Cat

Last week at Newholme and Walton hospitals, we looked at modern art, with a virtual stroll around Yorkshire Sculpture park, looking at the textures and shapes of the sculptures there.

Then we got creative, using scrap materials to make collages. The participants loved making the collages. At Walton, we created Funky Fred, with staff and patients working together and sharing ideas. When we’d finished Funky Fred, we came up with a description for him.

Funky Fred was created by patients and staff at Walton Hospital

Funky Fred was created by patients and staff at Walton Hospital

Funky Fred

Funky Fred is mysterious in his mask
On his way to a fancy dress ball
With a great big smile on his face
He must be dreaming about something.

He comes from Notty Ash and looks like a punk rocker
He looks like a gypsy with his gold earring and lace cuffs
He’s quite young, and he’s having lots of fun
He’s a bit of a practical joker.

He’s not scared to wear pink –
It’s not a girly colour.
He’s wearing leather trousers but he has flat feet!


In the Riverside Ward at Newholme Hospital, I worked with a patient and his son, who said they weren’t creative at all. The nurse we were working with also said she wasn’t creative, but look at the result! Choosing the subject of a cat led to lots of chat about pets and families, and we had a really lovely time.

The result is Dave the cat, a lovely black and white cat!

Dave the cat!

Dave the cat!

Pancake Day…flippin’ brilliant!

On Monday, and yesterday, on Shrove Tuesday itself, we made pancakes and looked at the traditions of pancake day. The patients talked about their favourite pancake fillings as they whisked eggs and made the batter. When it was made, we heated up the oil in a frying pan (we used my special non-stick pancake pan with shallow sides), poured in the batter so that it covered the base – nice and thin, and waited until the batter was cooked and we could gently turn the pancake over. I like to flip my pancakes carefully, rather than toss them up in the air! I don’t like the thought of all that hard work making the batter going to waste.

At home, I prefer dairy-free pancakes made with almond milk and garam flour, but at Walton and Newholme hospital, we made the real thing! It was a lovely day yesterday, so we also talked about spring being just around the corner.

We also talked about Derbyshire traditions such as the Winster Pancake race, and the Ashbourne mass football game that involves most of the people in the village.

I’m revising my poetic metre (rhythm) skills at the moment, and my pancake poem is (mostly) in iambic tetrameter. That means that the lines each have eight-syllables.

Shrove Tuesday

The season slowly starts to turn –
The time of spring is coming round.
For warmth and daylight we all yearn;
A spread of snowdrops on the ground.

As Easter still feels far away,
We mark the start of growth and change
A tradition on this fine day
That some might think is very strange.

We beat the eggs and weigh the flour;
A pinch of salt in a large basin
And whisk them up with elbow power
And pour in milk, and then we hasten –

To stove-top – heat the pan with oil,
And when it’s hot, pour batter in.
Don’t wait too long, or it’ll spoil
The cooking pancake, like a skin.

To flip or toss, it’s yours to choose:
Use your spatula with great skill
Once the pancake’s cooked, you can’t lose;
The pancakes pile up: get your fill!

The toppings create much debate
Golden syrup, Lemon, sugar?
Those pancakes, won’t lose you much weight
Lent starts soon – let’s have another!

The things we love…

This week, the theme for my sessions at Walton, Cavendish and Newholme hospital has been “the things we love”. Using the theme of Valentine’s Day, patients and staff cut out heart shapes and filled them with the things that they loved. People soon found the things they had in common. Maybe it’s because we’re in Derbyshire, but lots of people said that they enjoyed walking in the countryside, and fish and chips, cups of tea and various alcoholic drinks were very popular! There were also some unusual or unexpected things that people loved – one patient had flown planes in the RAF, which was an experience he’d loved. One lady and a physiotherapist discovered a shared love of skiing and travelling in Europe. Other favourite hobbies included woodwork, car maintenance, theatre, tennis and watching old movies.

The exercise really got people talking and thinking about their loves in life. Family members and friends were very important, as were places where people felt rooted or had spent favourite holidays. Some people loved animals, and put their pets as their “loves”. Everyone was looking forward to warmer weather!

The things we love

The smell of a cake baking
Playing bingo
Spending time with my friends
Good food
Watching a good film on TV
Flying a plane
Nice weather – red hot
Crown green bowls
Going on holiday
Going to the pub
Going to school
Fish and Chips
Rambling over the fields
Walking my dog
Climbing mountains
Bubble bath
Birds in the garden
Holding hands
Freedom and independence
To give love and be loved in return

Thinking about gardens

Last week, we explored gardens. I brought in sprigs of sage, rosemary and lavender; hazel catkins, twigs with willow buds, a fir tree branch snapped off by the snow in the park, bamboo, holly and pots of bulbs which are now starting to bloom on my window sill. Patients felt the textures of the plants – the sage was velvety, like a baby rabbit’s ear, and the catkins were like caterpillars. We smelled the fresh rosemary and the ghost of last year’s lavender. We asked each other questions pulled out of a flowerpot, and looked at pictures of gardens to find our favourites.

Goldfinches on hazel catkins

Goldfinches on hazel catkins

A Garden Conversation

Hazel Catkins – lamb’s tails shake,
Velvety buds of pussy willow
Last year’s lavender smells sweet
Flowers sewn into little sacks
To keep the wardrobe fresh.

At school, budding twigs in vases
Collecting armfuls of bluebells
Climbing up trees in the woods
Coming home from adventures.

Our budgie Henry flew around the yard
Blue and green feathers – he said “hello –
What do you think you’re doing?”
To the robins and house sparrows.

There’s a heron that sits on the fence,
Looking at our neighbour’s pond.
He looks enormous, with his tall legs
And long, sharp, fish-catching beak.

Salt gets rid of slugs; a sharp steel pole
Get them drunk in a beer trap
Wait until they gather in the damp
Under half a grapefruit, then
Chuck them in next door’s garden.

Colourful flowers in an old chimney pot.

Colourful flowers in an old chimney pot.

The ideal garden

Lots of nice smells,
A nice scenic view,
Pretty pink Flowers,
Moss growing on the shed roof.
Butterflies and bees on buddleia,
A pond with frogs,
Lily pads; a peaceful stream.
A table and two chairs.
Spring flowers; bluebells,
A wheelbarrow, old sinks and chimney pots
Full of blooms.
A bench to sit on
A bird house.

Snowdrops mark the start of spring

Snowdrops mark the start of spring

Garden Thoughts

The frost looks beautiful on tree branches,
But the first signs of spring are coming.
Snowdrops and crocuses;
Daffodils pushing through the earth
Catkins like caterpillars.
Magnolia in bud.
A scent of pine needles.
The robin digs the ground.
Nuthatches and tree-creepers on the bird table.
Chaffinches eat from your hand.
The magpie and the colourful jay scold;
House sparrows and bluetits squabble
Badgers eat scraps in the garden
Muntjack deer peep through from the woods
Squirrels steal from the bird table.
White roses against a background of green
Delphiniums, lupins and bleeding hearts
Topiary – faces and number.
Somewhere to sit in the summer
Down a winding garden path.
Tea and scones on the lawn.
Lots of bright colours in mid-summer
Butterflies love the sedum in September
Bees get drunk on it.

A cheeky squirrel enjoying a whole fat ball!

A cheeky squirrel enjoying a whole fat ball!

The Winter Garden

The garden looks good all year round,
When it’s neat and tidy.
In the winter, icicles form:
Frost on the leaves.
The birds are hungry:
The thrushes, robins, blackbirds
Feed on strings of nuts and fat balls.
Cheeky squirrels steal it all.
We look forward to the time of
Butterflies, and drowsy, buzzing bees.

Raised beds are great for disabled gardeners

Raised beds are great for disabled gardeners

Clay Cross Day Centre’s Perfect Garden

I brought the gardens theme to the Clay Cross day centre for a special Dales Tales session. They are about to move to a new centre, so this session had a more practical purpose – to plan what the day centre users actually want in their brand-new garden. The Day Centre is also getting an allotment where people using the day centre will be able to grow vegetables. It all sounds very exciting, and I look forward to visiting the centre again when everything is up and running.

A garden shopping list

Herbs and onions
Barbecues with hotdogs
A greenhouse to grow tomatoes.
A wild meadow for butterflies
Buddleia and lots of flowers
In pink, lemon, blue, red:
A cottage-garden mixture of colour.
Annuals and bedding plants.
Roses, hollyhocks, lupins.
Containers and raised beds,
Drystone walls. A compost heap.
A rockery with bulbs planted:
Snowdrops, crocuses and daffs.
Plants with different heights.
Colour all through the year.
Fuchsias in containers.
Paths, leading to a comfy seat.
Shade from the hot sun.
A small pond for frogs and nature;
Water feature: a big round pebble
Bird tables and an insect hotel
A cherry tree and a silver birch.