To mark National Writing Day 2020, all week (beginning 22nd June) we will be sharing a selection of new writing from members of Lockerbie Writers.
Our final stories come from Christina Openshaw and Kath J. Rennie.
This is our final day of new stories and poems on the theme of ‘lockdown’, produced by Lockerbie Writers.
This special week of blog posts came into being because we were unable to hold our usual in-person event to celebrate National Writing Day. While the blog can’t compare to an evening of readings from a Scottish author or a full day of writing workshops, we hope that our selection of lockdown-inspired stories and poems have brought you some enjoyment … and perhaps even inspired you!
One of our aims as a group is to inspire others to write, and it is always something which we focus on at our events and workshops – along with the joys of joining a writing group.
If you have been encouraged to start writing, please take a look around our blog, join our Facebook group, follow us on Twitter, or get in touch for more inspiration and advice.
Without further ado, it is time to introduce our final stories which come from Christina Openshaw and Kath J. Rennie. These stories could bother be described as thought-provoking and moving, but each approaches the theme of lockdown in an entirely different and highly individual way.
Read on and enjoy – and don’t forget to share!
Lockdown by Christina Openshaw
Lily sat watching television with husband Sam as she knitted away – then it happened. Her body fell sideways.
‘What’s the matter love?’ Sam asked, but got no response. Something was wrong – he picked up the phone in a panic and rang the doctor, who visited and sent for the ambulance – telling Sam, ‘I think she’s had a stroke.’
Sam, shaking, rang their eldest daughter, Meg and told her what had happened. ‘I’ll follow the ambulance in our car, could you meet me there?’
As Meg entered through the hospital doors, far ahead along the corridor was her dad – dashing breathlessly towards the room where Lily was. She could hear him saying to himself, ‘You can’t go yet – I have to go first.’
Sam sat with Meg, watching Lily throughout the night – in an emergency room, Lily wired up, sleeping. From there she was transferred to the stroke ward, better to be looked after. Staff soon began realising that when Lily was asked a question she did not or could not reply; but they were used to this.
Sam and their two married daughters were shocked when informed of Lily’s condition; she had no use in her right arm or leg as yet. ‘We’ve never had to deal with anyone who’s had a stroke before, have we?’ They would have to wing it as best they were able, only time would tell. Over the next couple of weeks the family were overjoyed: she was more alert, taking notice – but still she never spoke.
On one of her daughter Meg’s visits, Lily started patting her face. ‘I don’t understand Mum, you don’t wear make- up.’ Lily persisted, urging Meg with her eyes to fathom out what she wanted to say.
Then it clicked. ‘Is it a mirror you’re wanting, Mum?’
Lily smiled, nodded, as she was handed a little compact. This she moved up and down both sides of her face, then, sighed with relief.
‘Awe, Mum your face is fine,’ said Meg realising her mum’s face must feel funny, and that she was looking to see if it was.
Back at home weeks later everyone felt that there was nothing wrong with Lily’s brain, she just couldn’t get the words out. If asked to repeat something, she spoke perfectly clearly – when asked a question no answer came.
Sam was so upset that Lily never called him by name, but would repeat it if prompted. Her first independent word was ‘NO!’ The family were all there that day – they laughed as Sam, joking, said that, ‘Of course it would be.’
Lily did become proficient at hand signs, and the odd word or sentence that came automatically like, ‘Just a minute, just a minute.’ One of her favourite words was, ‘Frustrating.’ When people couldn’t understand, she used this often; where she’d got this from, nobody knew. They understood why she said it – she was locked in; trying to communicate, but sadly hardly succeeding.
The day of Lily’s grandson’s christening, the whole family gathered together in Emmanuel Church; she sat at the front in her wheelchair along with Sam. The organ began to play All Things Bright and Beautiful – everyone was singing, including Lily. She never faltered, knew all the words – words she’d always known. Everyone looked at her, smiled at each other – nudging, nodding.
She was with them – all together, not locked out for once.
The Dancing Carrier Bag’s Message of Hope by Kath J. Rennie
It came as a shock – the inability to visit loved ones; for them to visit me; to give each other much needed hugs, kisses and laughter.
All communication was to be by phone or social media; at heart, I knew it wouldn’t suffice, but it was necessary if we were to keep each other safe.
Those early days in my new home stretched out so slowly. The walls began to close in on me; walls with a decorative style not to my taste; stark white painted walls with imprints of previous tenants.
I told myself to put up with it until summertime, until a decorator may be allowed in to do the work, but the walls closed in more and no amount of framed pictures consoled.
I was tempted many an hour to get the pasting table down, unroll the packaged beautiful rolls of gold glittery paper bought before lockdown. Don’t be tempted to do it yourself! My inner voice warned. You know what you’re like for putting a foot through a strip of wallpaper as you fight to attach it to the wall; of how the paper folded back on itself, covering my hair in wallpaper paste, and then I realized, the dammed ceiling would have to be painted first!
Frustration began to set in. Together with the isolation I was feeling I was ready to scream, but instead (isn’t it strange how the mind works) I burst into laughter at past memories of how trying to be a top decorator had gone so terribly wrong.
‘What’s so funny?’ my son (also in lockdown with me) asked.
I told him of the drastic mistakes I’d made.
‘I’ll give it a go,’ he said in earnest. ‘It can’t be that hard to do?’
I tried not to laugh out loud, thanking him for his offer. I was not going to let him attempt wallpapering for the first time in his life with my expensive rolls of paper.
‘PAINT!’ I shouted out at the top of my voice, scaring our cat half to death. ‘We’ve litres of it; we’ll soon have this place looking brighter and cheery.’
Gazelle-like I made for the broom-cupboard; grabbed paint brushes and trays; I was a woman on a mission. Then realised, sadly, I wouldn’t be able to repeatedly climb a ladder to paint the living room-ceiling due to having a disability, and, I realised, neither would my son; also with a partial disability … BLAST! DAM! BLAST!
I sat a while and cursed our disabilities, I cursed the deadly virus. I turned the air blue with my swearing, and then tears fell slowly down my cheeks and I’d wished I’d never moved away from the countryside.
I’ve often thought of tears as being healing waters, and they were; they gave space to rethink a plan of action.
Dismantling a mop head from its pole and attaching it to a sponge roller, the ceiling was painted; a little at a time, over time, but that didn’t matter; the grubby yellow tinge became a lovely antique cream.
A month passed by. Three rooms seemed brighter, but they still spoke of solitude. The solitude felt crippling; it had me stand and gaze out through different windows of a yet still, unfamiliar home; especially my bedroom window mostly, which overlooks a football field where once all my sons had played footy; and the children’s play area, where once I’d pushed them on swings.
It was at this window one spring evening, observing hues and the lushness of fir and ash trees swaying in the slight breeze that I was consumed with a feeling of dread and fear; all memories of days gone by dissipated as eeriness seemed to cloak the park.
Sadness was felt. Thoughts of … ‘How long will it be before children will again swing gleefully up into the air? Or slide bravely down the slide? Or rock boisterously on the toy horse and cow?
I felt myself comparing my feelings of being lockdown with how I’d felt after a major disaster in the town. The feelings were comparable. I knew I had to move rooms, but as I went to, an object caught my eye: a white plastic carrier-bag, caught up in the breeze, dancing its way along the road’s white marking. It twisted and twirled before leaping up into the air.
I was mesmerised. In my mind’s eye I was watching the leading female character Odette dance her part in Swan Lake. I watched it for what seemed an age, until the bag was carried off out of sight.
I’ll never forget that night; of how a discarded piece of plastic magically took me to a happier place; a place of strength; of hope.
Thank you to Christina and Kath for providing these final stories and rounding off our week of new writing.
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading this piece of new writing from Lockerbie Writers. If you have enjoyed it, why not check out our books, Lockerbie Writers’ Anthology and Behind Closed Doors?
If you’ve missed our previous posts, you can read them here: