At Your Service #2
To date I have interviewed 4 Europeans who are all working at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals and all 4 of them have been really interesting, kind and very generous with their time.
I heard about the ritual of the exhumations of loved ones in Romania, I was lucky to get a taste of the best ever home-made Hungarian rice pudding and I'm also dreaming of a Spanish way of life - my last two interviewees were both from Spain.
Roxana Whiteman was my first subject. I visited her at her hom in Goldthorpe, a small town on the outskirts of Barnsley where she lives with her partner Jeff, their cat and new puppy. We talked for a few hours about her life in Bucharest and her move to the UK where she worked for a few years in a care home before embarking on a degree in nursing. Roxana works hard and is passionate about her job. When she is not working at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, she often volunteers at dementia cafes and she runs her own social enterprise: Uncover Happy HeARTs, whereby she goes into nursing homes and spends time with the residents, helping them to get involved in crafts activities. She says that it is important to keep people active in activities that are social and fun. She is driven to make people happy, especially people who suffer with dementia and those who are elderly. Roxana is also an amazing networker - she knows everyone. And she has been a great help to me by identifying people who might like to work with me on this project.
The most interesting aspect of the interview, apart from hearing stories about a person's personal journey, is the response I receive to my two NHS related questions: what do you love about the NHS and what are your concerns for this very British institution that you are part of?
Without wanting to reveal the answers, I am already hearing things that I think need to be shared wider. People from different European countries have knowledge and experience of the health care systems in their countries of origin. They know what the alternative could mean for those needing care and treatment. Their 'love' for the NHS sounds genuine and their 'concerns' seem more real and are based on what could actually happen if we don't invest in this system.
I'm currently on my third painting and, realising that the work takes a long time to make, I know that I need to manage my initial expectations (the paintings are becoming much smaller!). After each interview I spend a few hours writing up a summary of what people have said, waiting for comments back, looking at things they send me. I had a fantastic experience listening to a playlist of Spanish music. I also look into the background of each individual, finding images of where they came from, looking for patterns that are appropriate, spending a long time on composition - trying to portray each person in a way that suits them. 'Cool'. 'Welcoming'. 'Comfortable'. 'Radiant'. It all takes time but it is lovely to work in this way. I feel I owe this to each person I meet and talk to.