Just couldn’t help myself…..

Walking along Hastings Street, very near the waterfront and rather poshy side of town, I stumbled upon a Tea Shop, selling tea, and tea pots, and it seemed to me to be a sign….. so I bought one of these filter tea jug things (like they have in Tyneside Cinema Cafe) which I have wanted for ages. It was on offer and came with 4oz English Breakfast leaves mixed with Earl Grey leaves and I felt I deserved it after a long, sweaty bus ride from my meeting with an organisation that works with people with dementia on the other side of town. Aaaaaaah.

….and the answer to the quiz-  Art A and Art B were paintings and collages done by older people with dementia, the other three were all Douglas Coupland- including the  Legoland which is the right way up. (nothing by children- trick question) Thanks to those who replied.  I might just have to go back for another look because it was so packed when I went (free admission) and I really want another look at the framed Penquin Book covers with collage /words like Love Will Tear Us Apart.

Tonight I’m off to Fox Cabaret where there is an Indian Summer Festival called 5×15 which is five ‘brilliant thinkers’ talking for fifteen minutes.  including

  • Iranian – America author Reza Aslan
  • Haida Nation Visual Artist Michael Yahgulanaas
  • author Zarga Nawaz
  • storyteller Ivan Coyote
  • playwright and dancer Anita Majumdar.

I suppose I’ll have had enough city culture by the time I go from here to Vancouver Island on Sunday, but right now I’m making the most of it.

How's about a nice cuppa tea?

How’s about a nice cuppa tea?

 

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High Art, Low Art, Legoland – The Quiz.

Art  A

Art A

Art C

Art C

Art D.

Art D.

Art E.

Art E.

 

Art B

Art B

 

Canadian writer/visual artist Douglas Coupland has an exhibition of works at the Vancouver Art Gallery based on his thoughts about what it might be like to be inside the 21st Century Brain. its actually quite interesting but has the rather irritating title ‘everywhere, is anywhere, is anything, is everything.’ I’ve attached a range of pictures for those of you with a bored moment. The Quiz Question- – identify which has been produced by Douglas Coupland, which has been produced by people with dementia, and which has been produced by children??

By the way, I’m not just swanning about looking at pictures. Today I went to UBC (University of British Columbia) and delivered a rather rambling presentation on ‘Creative writing with people with dementia’ to a small group at the Centre for Research into Personhood in Dementia and heard about their research projects. On the way back, the bus got taken off to the garage and I ended up in trendy Gastown where the streets were all barricaded for a big cycle race around the old streets of Vancouver, with lots of onlookers ringing bells and shouting. And quite a few ambulances.

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Two galleries, ten Himalayan dumplings.

Vancouver Art Gallery

Vancouver Art Gallery

Another packed day of the study visit with second session at the Ferry Buildings Gallery. Dalia Gottlieb-Tanaka, who has spent years and a PhD working on creative expression with people with dementia, gave a thought-provoking presentation which encapsulated latest scientific research and evidence from experience of using creative activities with older people. In short, creative activity can delay the onset of dementia; furthermore artistic activities with people with dementia can be as useful as pharmacological treatment in maintaining quality of life. In spite of the evidence, programmes involving music, art, creative writing, dance for older people and those with dementia is not seen as a priority – or even a possibility. Dalia spoke a bit about the stigma attached to dementia which will effect one in four of us, might be a normal part of the ‘fourth stage of life’ that will never have a ‘cure’. It was quite an intense session with further discussion about the way funding works for older people’s care and support in Canada. You can see more of Dalia and the Society for Arts in Dementia Care on the facebook link from http://www.cecd-society.org

It’s been quite warm all day so I was relieved that my final meeting was by the water with Judith Marcuse, Founder of the International Centre of Art for Social Change, who kindly agreed to meet for an hour even though she is on leave. We had an interesting conversation about her Chataqua Agewell Project and recent exhibition of over 100 artistic creations submitted by older people on the topic of ageing. Sadly I just missed it but I’ll be looking out for the on-line summary. http://www.icasc.ca

After all that, I was ready for something completely different and took the bus through huge Stanley Park back to central Vancouver. Just in time for the free post-5pm Tuesday only session at Vancouver Art Gallery (more about that later) which made me very grateful for the UKs commitment to free art gallery admission. Stayed awake long enough for Himalayan Veggie Dumplings with spicy dips at the Ghurkha Village Restaurant opposite my hotel. Yum.

Ferry Building Gallery

Ferry Building Gallery

Celebration of Creativity- CECD artwork by people with dementia

Celebration of Creativity- CECD artwork by people with dementia

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Romi’s Rules for Eating in Vancouver

1. Get over the English obsession with tea- just because it says ‘leaf tea’ and costs double the normal price, don’t expect a cute little China tea pot with two spoons of English Breakfast leaves mixed with Earl Grey
2. Avoid all the multi national fast food chains ( there are FIVE Starbucks in Davie Street alone)
3. When invited to someone’s home for lunch, make sure they know you are vegetarian before they start cooking extra sausages for you
4. Avoid any restaurant that feels the need to put tacky photos of each dish on the wall outside
5. Stick to your budgetary and calorific limits
6. Try something new- even if the Himalayan Mountain café signage suggests its only cooking goat- look for the veggie options
7. Don’t forget to eat in Chinatown- Vancouver has a one of the oldest Chinese communities outside China
8. No need to have another carbohydrate overload at that popular Greek restaurant that served rice AND roast potatoes AND pitta bread all on one plate.
9. Make the most of the lush food markets and locally grown blueberries and green beans but avoid those huge red American imported apples that look as if someone gave them a good polish with Pledge
10. Those blueberry and lemon scones are very small, still warm from Cobb’s oven bakery, but you only need one a day.

'Leaf Tea'

‘Leaf Tea’

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Sunday markets, swimming and dancing balloons

View from Granville Island

View from Granville Island

Sunday treat- took the tiny, five minute ferry from False Creek across to Granville Island which is some sort of consumer extravaganza market selling huge variety of treats, like what we don’t get in Alnwick. It was all a bit much for me, although I did buy a small carton of ‘dukkah’ to sprinkle on  my salad.  I had some idea of Granville Island being just that- an island- from reading something in a novel by Michael Ondaatje’s  (my favourite author who is Canadian). It was packed with people and food outlets and I was relieved to get back quick, then in for a speedy swim in the outdoor roof pool, yes, really, then out for another cultural feast.

This week is ‘Dancing on the Edge’ contemporary dance festival here. Went to see an amazing piece called ‘what belongs to us’ which opened with five dancers covered in white balloons (yes, balloons) on a black stage. Very clever choreography (on themes of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need) which involved the balloons being blown around the stage, collected up in a huge plastic sheet, dancers doing various solos which looked as if they might suffocate at any moment. All very striking- even though the dancing was not very adventurous and the costumes were trendy jeans, socks and floaty blouses. There was a talk with the choreographer at the end which was good as she explained the pyramid of Maslows theory of basic needs of :- food, shelter and security before any of us can move on to love or self esteem and self actualization. That is the reason I had chosen that performance as I wondered how that might reflect my work using creative writing with people with dementia to enable them to express their sense of self. This week I am meeting academics and health professionals at the Centre for Research into Personhood in Dementia, where I am contributing to a colloquium at the university. So I’m hoping that some sparkling synapses in my tired old brain will make some kind of connections between my work, the play last night, the dancing balloons and daily life for people with dementia. No pressure but preferably before Wednesday.

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High art, low art and Saturday night frolics

A-maze-ing laughter

A-maze-ing laughter

Now that I’ve walked from one end of Davie Street to the other, I’ve seen the water at both ends. False Creek to the south, which I can just see from my hotel room, and English Bay to the north which is a proper beach with huge Canadian Pine logs for seats. (I half expected to see Michael Palin singing ‘I’m a lumberjack…’) Beside the water is (this pic) an art installation ‘A-maze-ing Laughter’ by Beijing artist Yue Minjun. It was a good place to sit with a frozen yoghurt berry smoothie and watch the children and adults smiling in reply to the huge laughing faces of the sculpted pieces. Some of the art work produced by people with dementia, many in their eighties who’ve never painted before, might be trivialised as ‘not real art’. But I thought yesterday’s pic ‘Lady in the Hat’ could have been an early Picasso? Interesting comparison between ‘high’ and ‘low’ art products
‘Creativity is a social and psychological need; something we all need.’ I’ve been thinking about that statement which I heard at yesterday’s talk about using art with people with dementia. Scientists have found that the part of the brain responsible for creativity is still active in people with dementia- even if their short term memory has disappeared, their inhibitions have often disappeared as well which helps creativity.
So I thought I’d better lose a few inhibitions myself as the study visit continues (thanks again to http://www.wcmt.org)  by following the words of Winston Churchill himself-For the betterment of world peace and understanding, people in all countries should be able to get to know one another and trust one another.’
I take that as a good excuse for more coffee and cake and  went along this morning to a creative writing group, one I’d found on line in my preparation for this visit. It was good to be involved in something local and I was made very welcome by the twelve people who meet every couple of weeks in a lovely coffee shop. As well as writing and reading, there was good conversation and a lot of interest in my study visit, with several suggestions of places for me to go. One was the final performance of a play tonight-The Other Place- about a woman with early onset of dementia. It was the most moving play that I have seen on the subject with all the audience in tears by the end.
Felt quite a trendy night person as I walked back along Robson Street, one of the main shopping streets with twinkly lights in the tree lined pavements and crowds of people out on the town for Saturday night frolics.

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Writing, listening and eating.

 

Lady with Hat.-and other paintings

Lady with Hat.-and other paintings

Feeling like a proper city person now, got my book of travel tickets (£1.10p for one hour and a half on sky train, sea bus or city bus) and last night I went  out to The Bistro Café where the Writers Studio had an evening of readings, which I enjoyed very much as I ate my way through spicy tofu with jasmine rice. Listened to  mix of fiction, poetry and memoir,  it was interesting to hear what themes local writers  exploring in their writing – ranging from  migration, love, loss, family, history, death- but all in new and imaginative ways.  Especially liked prose poems about the Industrial Revolution and its links to slave trade in Africa, cotton in India and mills in Manchester- not what I expected in Vancouver.  Scary late night bus ride back to the hotel through an area of high police presence- every city has one- but I was sensible and safe.

Today,  took the sea bus to West Vancouver and the opening of the exhibition celebrating ten years of the Society for Art  in Dementia Care – some amazing art work and two presentations from artists working in the most interesting ways with older people with dementia using paint, fibre, animation, tablecloths, bags, paper. I’ll be going back for more presentations next week  but here is one picture of some of the art. the event if held in the Ferry Buildings Gallery on the waterfront where I had a little wander for sea air and beach and saw three little creatures that might have been baby otters?  Back in time for spinach and feta croissant from Cobbs Bakery, next to the hotel, which has the most divine blueberry and lemon scones.

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