By Hannah Peel
“Positive, negative and even ephemeral memories are vital. They shape who we are and help us make decisions. We build upon them and fold them deep inside. As we continue to grow older, they become the very fabric of who we are and inform, educate and remind us to live better. They are the simple things we talk about over cups of tea, as we think about one and other, family, friends, love, loss, journeys, mistakes, achievements and milestones.
Imagine that safe, linear world starting to gradually lose structure because its foundations are simply jumbled up. Your entire perspective, a sense of time, is lost along with your memories, precious or not. The confusion, like a child on a road, deep in fog must be blinding and utterly frightening, until it overwhelms you completely and you can no longer perceive whether you are awake or dreaming. Every day the act of waking to the light would be blurred with the surrender to the dark.
Getting old isn’t just becoming ‘endearingly forgetful’ or ‘sweetly doddery’. The statistics for those of us who will develop dementia are staggering and the impact for loved ones is beyond painful. 1 in 3 of us will fall into the disease and 2 of 3 will be women. Scientists still have no full picture as to why and are still trying to work on a cure. Over several years I made a record of two halves to try and understand where my grandmother had gone as she fell deeper into dementia. She would slip away from us to another world, sometimes painfully confusing and sometimes childlike and gentle, where the stroke of a hand would help, but it was always extremely difficult to cope with, let alone understand. Strife is dark and often much needed subject matter for inspiration but it was hope and innocence that really inspired me to complete my album because when I watched the effect of music sung or played in my Granny’s company, it changed my perspective and helped me find a peace and a simple truthful comfort.
I was completely overwhelmed to discover that when she heard music she knew as a child, she would wake up. When it drifted to her ears, she would start to sing, remembering lyrics and she would come back into ‘our’ daytime world. She even recited the full WB Yeat’s poem Inishfree, as well as the lyrics to several other songs. It reminded me that art, particularly poetry and music, has the utter power to last so much longer than anything else. I’ll forever shine a spotlight on those incredible people at Alzheimer’s research but my mix tape is quite simply, a tape to my older self.
It’s a tape for my hopeful children or grandchildren or even their children, from me to them. This letter will accompany it and if I ever fall deep into a world I cannot seemingly come back from, I hope that the atmospheres, textures, songs and lyrics created in this simple collection of music, lift me back, even briefly, into their real world or at the very least provides an interesting backdrop and atmosphere to live out my remaining days with joy. I hope it brings a flutter of hope to any loved ones that surround me and helps say simply, everything is going to be ok, be as happy as you can be, share as much as you can and enjoy your time together. Without saying so, my granny did this for me. Thank you Joyce Peel.
So, I’m dusting off my Sony TC133, hitting record and even doing an introduction to my future self…
“Hello Hannah Peel, how are you, thought you might like to listen to some music, together”
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