This is the full story of a wonderful afternoon with residents, from the winner of our Out & About competition, activity co-ordinator Leigh Jones from Reuben Manor in Stockton-on-Tees. Leigh's beautifully written, perfectly person-centred entry was proof that it’s often the simple things that can be the most effective. Leigh took three of her residents to a performance at a bandstand in the local park, and what unfolded was a happy afternoon of reminiscence and friendship. She summed it up well when she said: "Two hours, two miles, and half a gallon of petrol. A small price to pay for three very satisfied customers."
"Eileen, Beryl and John comprised our party for the trip. The youngest was 83 and the eldest 92. We boarded the bus and began the two-mile drive to the park. We arrived in good time and took our places at the bandstand.
Beryl was the first to recognise the park. ‘I used to come here, I used to live close by. What do you call this park?’ ‘Ropner Park,’ I said. ‘Yes, that’s it. Father plays bowls here, you know, and I play tennis over there.’ ‘Really,’ I answered. ‘How nice.’ ‘Yes, not today though,’ Beryl replied. ‘My knees are bad.’
John pointed over to the bowling green. ‘I used to play there,’ he said. Presently, two elderly gentlemen approached. ‘Hello John!’ John had indeed played bowls here, and there followed a long chat between the old friends. Not long after they left, another bowling club member spotted him and they embarked on another lengthy catch-up chat.
Eileen spoke of when she first came to live in Stockton. Her son attended the local Grammar School. ‘They’re knocking it down, you know,’ I said. ‘They’ve built a new one next door and they’re knocking down the old one.’ ‘I’d like to see it before it goes,’ she replied. ‘It’s not far,’ I said. ‘We can pass it on the way home, if you like.’
The band began to play. It was a local brass band, playing tunes that everybody knew and sang along to. There were hundreds of people in the park; walking dogs, cycling, eating barbecues. Children were racing about and having fun and the priest from the local church was mingling and chatting with everyone. It was like a picture postcard from the 1900s, and my three companions sat with beaming faces, reminiscing on times past.
The concert finished and it was time to make our way home. Beryl was last to board the bus and reminded us: ‘My Father plays bowls here, and I play tennis. Sometimes my brother plays as well. I wonder if he’s here today?’ ‘Time to get back for tea now,’ I said. She agreed: ‘Oh yes. He’d be cross if we were late.’ John had an idea: ‘I used to live up that way. Do you think we could drive through Hartburn on the way home?’
We drove the long way home, taking in Grangefield Grammar School and Hartburn Village, with John giving us a running commentary all the way, telling us where he'd worked, who he knew and what they did. We arrived back at Reuben Manor and disembarked. The travellers thanked us for a lovely trip, and, in case I had forgotten, Beryl said: ‘Thank you. My Father plays bowls there, you know.’
Not bad, I thought. Two hours, two miles, and half a gallon of petrol. A small price to pay for three very satisfied customers. The following week I came in to find six residents waiting to go to the bandstand.