Jonathon has been part of the cross generation project in Stroud since its inception and has taken part in all the activities. Despite sometimes appearing nonchalant at first, he has probably had a deeper involvement than any other participant.
On the first walk, John seemed to love getting out into the countryside; we went to where Stacey walks her dog to get away from the stresses of life. During and after the walk John talked about some of his life experiences, including severely disrupted family relationships. Clearly they had had a deep effect on him. The next walk was to an area that is special to Johnathon, where he and Joe walked and chatted with Chris and Emma. John talked about the things he enjoys doing, but also about his troubled family life and how he thinks it has affected him.
Next we went horse riding, a new experience for Johnathon that he seemed to really enjoy. The instructor mentioned how well he performed. But it was his relationship with Rose that seemed to be a turning point in the project for John.
They first met on the day of the group meal (near Christmas time), Rose met Johnathon at his candle workshop, and he showed her the various techniques he had learned. It transpired that Rose had worked in a candle factory so she was particularly interested.
But the principal reason for them meeting was to buy and cook the food for the meal. Rose had printed out a recipe for shepherd’s pie and apple crumble and explained what quantities would be needed. Despite Johnathon initially appearing not to be that interested, he went round Iceland with Rose and helped choose the ingredients. The two of them then went with Chris to the Open House kitchen and started to prepare and cook the food. John was fantastic helping with peeling and preparing the food, cooking and washing up. It was all the more impressive because John does not usually cook his own food and had never cooked a proper meal for other people.
A few weeks later, when it came to pairing up younger and older people, John suggested he would like to meet with Rose. At their first meeting they found they had a common interest in researching family history, although John had never done anything like this before. Rose joined an online ancestry group and over the next few months they met at the local library and researched John’s family history.
For the first time Johnathon seemed to communicate in a serious way with an older participant, only reverting to his flippant behaviour when any of his friends turned up. He talked with Rose about her life and about not knowing her dad and how much this has affected her life. Johnathon talked about his family and growing up in Southend. On one occasion Rose brought her folder about her childhood house. She asked about Johnathon’s upbringing, which is quite complicated. Johnathon found out he had more half brothers and sisters than he realised. He spoke more about his family, his twin sister and other brothers and sisters. Rose spoke about her child being adopted, how it happened and what it felt like when they were reunited.
They started to write Johnathon’s family tree. Johnathon didn’t know much but often phoned his mum and dad to find out more. They talked about the block of flats in Southend where Johnathon grew up. How difficult it was for his mum living there with so many children and without a lift. Johnathon’s dad lives locally, they used to live together but Johnathon was asked to leave.
In late April Chris, Emma and John drove to Southend to visit his mum and family. It was an interesting and emotional day with his mum hoping to be able to visit John later in Stroud, money permitting. John has also made contact with other family members on his dad’s side, asking them about details of his family history. The project seems to have had a positive impact on some of John’s family relationships.