Touchstone | Being Human Conversations

Last week, we took our ‘Being Human’ conversations to Touchstone Bme Dementia Service. There we chatted with 15 people living with dementia and their carers from the South Asian dementia café. The cafe is at Touchstone, run by Touchstone dementia service is called Hamari Yaadain which means ‘Our memories’. Now what struck me immediately was the sense of community amongst the people in the group. They were very caring of one another, really kind and accommodating towards one another. They listened and enjoyed each other. There were lots of smiles.

I love the sounds of people talking in languages I can not speak. I get a sense of what is being said because of the gestures and facial expressions but don’t of course actually know any of the words. And this happened a lot through the session – some translating into punjabi, and also a number of moments where the conversation broke away from the english and back into native tongue.

Some of our questions are idiomatic and so as second language English speakers, people answered very literally. This was really interesting. Questions like ‘do you count?’ took on a whole new meaning, from counting sheep to go to sleep, to money and even garlic bulbs.

One of the things that worked really well was the opportunity to reflect on the change in role for some of the carers, who may have previously not been as independent or used to taking the lead role.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the questions picked and answers given on the day.

What’s your favourite food? Fish or chicken and Chips, Curry and Rice, Vegetables, best is home cooked food. In the end though, most people agreed the very favourite food was chappatti’s as they go with everything.

Have you ever been stung? Most people in the group had been stung. 

Have you ever locked yourself out?Many times….examples given were keys in car doors left overnight in the drive, and keys in house front doors. One particular story was about a time when someone went away to Sri Lanka and their postman found their keys hanging there in the front door lock. Luckily he knew there sister very well Gand she lived close by. So he gave the keys to her. Notably, it was very close to April the 1st( also known as April fools day) and so their sisters family decided to ring them in Sri Lanka and ask them where their keys were. Of course, they panicked about the lost keys until they were  told that the keys were safe. Yes many stories of lost keys.

What is your favourite word? Well, love and thank you were the resounding favourite words. ‘Sat Sri Akaal’ meaning Welcome or more accurate translation might be ‘Bless you’ and ‘hello’. The other word mentioned was ‘kuch nahi’ which is a punjabi words meaning ‘say nothing’ (as the politicians do).

What is normal? Normal is when I feel ok. Sleeping and eating are normal activities. 

What stops you in your tracks?The pink sky. Seeing the Moon, which is stunning when it is really full and big. When a car nearly ran me over. The dark.

When do you count? Well, I didn’t have to buy any garlic for a year, so that’s what I count. I count how many to place in rows. I count sheep backwards from a 100 to go to sleep. When I get my money from the bank. I have this habit of counting up to eight on my fingers then reverse counting it back down. I don’t know where that habit came from but I often do that.

How do we make things better? Philosophising. Kindness. Listening. Helping each other. Caring. Slowing down. Coming here to Touchstone.

What would you do if you had no fear? Go sky diving. Many people scared of heights and snakes. we decided it was sensible to keep ones fear of snakes. We reflected that being afraid of heights seems to come for some as they get older. One person would change nothing if i had no fear – ‘I’m not afraid of anything’. Swimming (I’m afraid of the water) . Walking alone at night.

“Quotes…” that we picked.

You don’t make mistakes. Mistakes make you.– That’s true. It can be the making of you. You learn through making mistakes. Absolutely, you have to fail to learn.

Peace begins when the people with the most power listen to those with the least. – Everyone agreed with this and it made us quietly reflective.

You don’t know how strong you are until being strong is the only option you have. Before my husband got dementia, he did everything…the finances, the driving. But now I am the one that does everything. So its really true that you find out how strong you are when strength is your only option. And I have so much inner strength that I really didn’t know I had. The other week I even drove to London and I even had to drive through the Blackwall tunnel and I did it. Achieving things like that give me so much confidence.

If you think this group would fit for you, a friend or family member then get in touch with Touchstone by clicking here. For more about the game contact tea and tolerance on our website or email

This project is part of a ‘try and test’ project of @teaandtolerance thanks to generous support from Time to Shine @LeedsTTS Get in touch to find out more or how to get involved with the ‘Being Human’ game.

Cafe Conversations | A Taste of Slap

Tea and Tolerance took over the cafe at York Theatre Royal to have conversations as part of A Taste of Slap 2020 on 15th February 2020.


Though storm Dennis submerged trees this weekend, we stayed nice and dry in York and chatted with visitors to the event about a really wide range of topics. People could have conversations inspired by tea trolley or our ‘Being Human Game’ From death, dreams and ghosts…to benefits of social media, how to combat loneliness to the perils of the charismatic leadership style. Here’s a little taste of the conversations we had. Thanks to Slap! for having us and to all attendees for their contributions.

We also talked about the benefits of this game to reduce social isolation because of the feeling of connectedness talking so surprisingly deeply and personally with other human beings that you have never met before. WE also talked about how it can be easier to open up to strangers, And about permission. When is it ok to talk to people and when will they regard you as w weirdo.

The Conversations

How does it feel to be vulnerable? It’s a big question. I think about the flooding this weekend and how that must feel for some people dealing with that – very real. Last year, I was made to feel really vulnerable. I’m still not sure I can forgive that person. It’s taken a long time to feel safe around people again and to have any kind of trust. Sometimes really scary things happen. And in that absolute vulnerability, everything feels really different. Looking back, being that vulnerable was the making of me.

If you had one wish, what would you wish for? I would say, to be strong and fit and have no fear so that I could be bold. To have more motivation and focus. Inner peace.

What is your favourite word? Discombobulated. Piglet is one of my friend’s favourite words. Some words just sound good. They sing

When the best leader’s work is done, people will say: ‘We did it ourselves.’ 

It’s a pity we don’t have more leaders like this. We seem to prefer charismatic leaders – hierarchies, I suppose.  I think maybe we would do better with these kinds of leaders that empower people. 

We talked quite a lot about social media and whether or not it reduces social isolation? And in what ways is it useful to us? And we talked about the pressures for young people- you know having a life being broadcast one status at a time. We talked about the limitations of twitter to have any nuance in conversations. Yet that the anonymity of social media does mean you can hear and consider the views of people you would never meet in the real world. This has helped some of us to expand our thinking, knowledge and views around some subjects.

Why are you here? Its really important to support events like this (SLAP). I came because my friend invited me

How can we forgive? When the person knows what they did. I’m not sure you always should forgive. Not forgiving can give boundaries and keep people away if you don’t feel safe around them. Though not forgiving keeps something that someone else did i wrong close to you. In teaching, I have always treated all my students with ‘Unconditional Positive regard’.

They need to know that so they can trust you. There used to be this thing called gifted and talented but studies showed that often the students that were identified as gifted and talented, whatever their actual ability, completely outshined the others. Maybe this is that unconditional positive regard. We then went on to talk a little about the human givensThese are the givens and drivers of human nature. We talked about how these help you to understand where someone is coming from. It gives clues to what they need by the behaviours they show you.

The Human Givens

They seemed relevant to a game called ‘Being Human’, so I thought I’d share them. They are as follows…

Security: A sense of safety and security; safe territory; an environment in which people can live without experiencing excessive fear so that they can develop healthily.

Autonomy and control: A sense of autonomy and control over what happens around and to us. 

Status: A sense of status – being accepted and valued in the various social groups we belong to.

Privacy: Time and space enough to reflect on and consolidate our experiences.

Attention: Receiving attention from others, but also giving it; a form of essential nutrition that fuels the development of each individual, family and culture.[12][13][14]

Connection to the wider community: Interaction with a larger group of people and a sense of being part of the group.

Intimacy: Emotional connection to other people – friendship, love, intimacy, fun.

Competence and achievement: A sense of our own competence and achievements, that we have what it takes to meet life’s demands.

Meaning and purpose: Being stretched, aiming for meaningful goals, having a sense of a higher calling or serving others creates meaning and purpose.

Questions and quotes added. 

“Its our power to make others’ shine”

“You can’t pour from an empty cup.”

“Don’t do other people’s work.”

“Behaviour is communication.”

“If I knew what my own prejudices were, I wouldn’t have them.

‘Do you believe in dreams?”

“Let your life speak.’

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