St Cuthbert’s Church© 2016
St. Cuthbert’s Church Brunswick
Diocese of Newcastle
It's All a Matter of a Point of View
When Brunswick Dementia Centre first opened, I volunteered to play singalongs for
the members and found them withdrawn, as if they had given up all hope, and we're
just waiting in God's waiting room for the end of their days. As a Christian, I could
not let this continue, and started a saying, "Give me a smile and you get one back
for free". After a few sessions smiles appeared as a norm. I asked them for their
requests of music and these tunes seemed to unlock memories.
After the singalongs I set out to engage the members in discussion about their past lives, and found many had been in the forces
during the war. I told them of my wartime experiences in Heaton, as a 12 year old
War Service Boy Scout bicycle messenger. With my pal and complete with first aid
kit we were sent one night, during a large air raid, to the massively bombed Glasshouse
Street in Byker, returning during the bombing with an urgent message for ambulance
and fire engine help. Being brave never entered our young heads.
I encouraged the members to talk about their past lives and found that many of them had been in the forces during the war.
Two men discovered they had both been in the Chindits who fought behind enemy lines in North Burma. The theme continued,
and one lady said she had been on anti-air craft guns in the London Blitz and was renowned as a crack shot in bringing down
the German bombers and fighters. She was called 'One Shot Alice'. After much admiration by the listeners, a lady with a
quiet voice said "I couldn't do anything as brave as that". She explained that she had been a courier and was regularly
parachuted with messages to deliver to the French underground, returning by air the next night. She knew that if she had been
discovered she would have been shot as a spy, but said she did not think she was
brave, but only doing her duty.
As the title states, it's only a matter of a point of view and few would have guessed at the bravery of these elderly ladies and
Gentlemen. Nothing lasts forever and, now retired from the Centre, I do of course miss them all.
Alan C D Wales