Well, it’s ten to five and I'm in my room at The Home. I’ve been here for about 90 minutes.
I suspend belief at the theatre all the time, so can imagining that I am having a taster weekend in a residential care home be so difficult?
This is a 48-hour immersive experience and I am resolved to go with it, though being asked to do a urine sample and report back was oddly uncomfortable—I guess this is a sign of things to come, and I can’t say I haven’t been warned.
I intend to just be me. For one thing, the more you lie the more you have to remember of what you said and I am going to have enough trouble remembering the way back to my room.
If care homes are for doddery old farts, I am getting into the part already that’s for sure. I have unpacked to discover I have left one of my washbags at home and don’t have any toothpaste, I don’t remember anyone’s name and one of the care workers has come by to say I need to redo the urine sample because I did the first one incorrectly. Christ! 58 years old and I can’t wee into a cup and put a stick in it?
But this weekend is about understanding something about care homes and learning something about myself will happen whether I want it to or not.
Anyway, not much is going to happen if I stay in my room, so I am going to The Orangery, the name given to the residents' lounge where I might find one of those friendly PRRs (Permanent Resident Reps).
As I write, up in my en-suite room, the singing continues in The Orangery. Currently "Any Dream Will Do" from Joseph.
I had lovely chats with several of the residents—TRs as we are known (Taster Residents or Temporary Residents, I'm not sure). Some are surprisingly young but, as one of the PRRs said, it pays to start saving early for your care and the place is littered with leaflets about The Home private insurance policy.
The food at dinner was nicely un-institutionalised. The oily chap from head office, Mr Green (Christopher Green), is officiating over everything whilst also saying he is invisible and not really here.
The atmosphere is incredibly good-natured but there is a sense of everyone being on best behaviour. I am guessing / hoping that will diminish as the weekend progresses.
This evening’s entertainment started with a safety talk from two community police officers then we had Sing-Along-A-John.
What a fantastic pianist. And he’s still going. They are now on "New York, New York" having done (or is that 'done in') songs from Grease, Mary Poppins, My Fair Lady...
Earlier, when it became apparent that there would be a singalong, there was the tiniest fidgeting and then we all duly obeyed.
After about ten minutes, my neighbour, H, pointed out that the lyrics booklet was full of TRs' funeral songs. H’s was in there and so was R’s and V’s.
E’s was not but "Dido’s Lament" doesn’t lend itself to community singing.
Undaunted, we duly proceeded to kill "Mr Blue Sky", "Alleluja" and several other classics. The Verve's "Bitter Sweet Symphony" got a real lashing.
(Anyway, now we know how they will use the data from the probing questionnaires we've completed.)
Afterwards, John set up an impromptu choir. They are currently killing "Don’t Stop Me Now" and it is completely brilliant to think that a group of people who didn’t know each other six hours ago have let their inhibitions fall away and are belting out hits from across the decades.
It sounds like great fun but I am happy to be in my room.
So far, it’s been a bit like Butlins but with rumours. Apparently, members of the public are coming in tomorrow to watch our talent contest—what a horrifying thought.
Joking aside, it is peculiar just how willingly and how quickly we seem to have collectively relinquished our right to choose.
More importantly, we have gone from being responsible adults to not quite knowing what is going on. I was thinking it but R hinted at it and H said it so I know I am not alone.
We know all the staff are actors, but are all the residents what they seem to be? I haven’t told a single lie since I walked in, but will they?
I don’t feel I've been patronised or condescended to in any way, and yet I feel, I don't know, 'infantilised' seems a bit strong but no other word seems to fit.
Is it being served dinner, being told when to drink water and when to be where? Or could it be, as theatre maker Green suggests, a liberation?
Would it be fun day in day out? I doubt it. Does knowing Green’s experiment ends on Sunday help? For sure!