Janet read by Alison Steadman

Janet read by Alison Steadman – 13.24 minutes. For thirty years Janet worked as a housekeeper for a large hotel in Great Yarmouth. She moved to a modern, purpose built care home three months before we met. I’ve always thought the differences between the stories in the Trebus Project were more important than the merits of any individual story. It’s great to have historically important stories such as Sid’s and Leonard’s, and dramatic, challenging pieces such as Jessie’s, but the meat of the project was provided by the housewives and odd-job men – stories about doing the washing and going to work in dull jobs. Stories that would have been lost to history. However, every now and again, we record a piece that feels like we’re pushing the envelope. Janet’s story isn’t dramatic or surreal, nor is it filled with surprising historical details or poetic twists of language. It’s an anomaly; not dramatic enough for radio or theatre, too straight for a gallery. It’s not a piece of art therapy nor is it social history. A lot of the storytellers talk more about the past than the present – indeed many of the pieces correspond to a so-called reminiscence bump between the ages of 14 and 28 - however, Janet’s story shows her trying to make sense of the present and the experience of moving into care. It’s the kind of story I heard every day in care homes and yet it’s very different from dementia as we see it on TV and represented in newspapers. It really is dementia and dementia care presented bluntly and without censorship from the perspective of the patient. Alison Steadman gives a wonderful performance filled with hesitancy, humour and frustration. Janet comes across as a real person; someone who might be part of our own family or group of friends. Someone who we can all understand and empathise with. Someone who might be us.