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Real as Yesterday

ue Mayfield was Writer-in Residence at Delancey Hospital, Cheltenham, from October 2006 until March 2007 as part of Generations, a music and story collaboration with elderly patients facilitated by Willis Newson. During that time she visited Delancey once a month with Jaye Woodfield, an accordion player and Marie France Riboulet, a harpist, talking with patients while they played and listening to stories evoked by the music. A collection of stories and poems, Real as Yesterday, was created from patients’ words.

These words are from the Introduction:


‘The music had a powerful effect which I’ve tried to describe in the poem Real as Yesterday. Wonderful stories emerged - stories of ordinary and extraordinary things, stories of love and loss, of travel and discovery, of joy and sadness. I felt enormously privileged to be party to the telling of such stories’


Willis Newson Case study

Real as Yesterday


slips in

like sunshine through the curtains

pierces the stale air

with its silver arrowtips

spools towards me

like a silken thread

catches me by the heart-strings

tugging and tangling

so that I cannot keep

my head from nodding

my toes from tapping

my soul from twirling.


Now this bed dissolves away

and I cut free from creaking bones

to dance



Time concertinas itself

so I am six again

or seventeen

or twenty one –

lover, soldier, skipping child –

and distance shrinks

till I am somewhere else –

Austrian mountainside

Fijian shore

Welsh marketplace

Saharan watering hole

London in the Blitz.


You play me aching love songs

wailing laments

whispered lullabies

loud hallelujahs

and all at once

faded colours

lost fragrances

forgotten faces

distant voices

quickstep before me

like figures in a pageant

sharp as noon day shadows

and real as yesterday.


© Sue Mayfield/Willis Newson 2007