Book Week Scotland 2020 Poetry Safari

Are you ready for a poetry safari?

Find and enjoy new poetry from Lockerbie Writers as you walk the special 3km route around Eskrigg Nature Reserve, Lockerbie.

There are nine new poems from Lockerbie Writers on the theme of ‘Future’ along the route – and you can also pick up your FREE copy of Lockerbie Writers’ new publication, a companion booklet for the safari. (While stocks last.)

Visit in your own time – the poems will be on display throughout Book Week Scotland (16-22 November). No booking required.

Thank you to the Scottish Book Trust and Muirhall Energy for supporting this project and making it possible.

🙂

NOTES:

** Please read all guidance on the route and follow all current government guidance to help keep the reserve and the route COVID-safe for the whole community to enjoy. **

For more information on the event, search ‘Lockerbie Writers’ on Facebook or visit the event page: www.facebook.com/events/1114019055721636

For more information on accessibility, parking and any other questions about the reserve, you can visit: http://www.lockerbie-wildlife-trust.co.uk

For more information about Book Week Scotland, visit: www.scottishbooktrust.com/book-week-scotland

New Writing Week 2020 – Day 7

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!

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

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.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

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:

Lament of a Lockdown Lass by Deborah Redden (Day 1)

The New Normal by Betsy Henderson (Day 2)

The New Normal by Rita Dalgliesh/My Lockdown by Frank Walker (Day 3)

Lockdown by Steph Newham (Day 4)

Heat by Paula Nicolson (Day 5)

Blue by Kerrie McKinnel (Day 6)

New Writing Week 2020 – Day 6

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 penultimate story is by the group’s Events Manager, Kerrie McKinnel.

This is our sixth day of new stories and poems on the theme of ‘lockdown’, produced by Lockerbie Writers.

As today’s story comes from yours truly, it seems like an appropriate point at which to reflect on my own experiences of this process.

I will admit that I was apprehensive when I first suggested this week of blog posts – mainly because I had been rather late in thinking about it. In 2019, we had spent several months doing drafts, editing and peer review ahead of the publication of our second collection of writing. To ensure these posts would be ready in time for National Writing Day, I could only allow 3 weeks: 1 week to write, 1 week for everyone to read and review the work by the other group members, and a final week for each writer to reflect on the feedback which they’d received via the peer review and complete their final edits.

Thankfully, the group did not disappoint. It has been a busy month, but I am incredibly proud of the work which everyone has produced.

Today’s new writing is a short story which I wrote inspired loosely by the traditional tale of Red Riding Hood. I aimed to give the plot a modern-day twist by plunging poor old Granny into lockdown …

Several peer reviewers commented that they would have liked to read more – that Blue’s story was only just beginning when it ended. When editing, I toyed with the idea of writing more, but decided not to for this particular blog (word limit in mind!) … perhaps in the future I will come back to Blue’s tale.

Read on and enjoy – and don’t forget to share!

Photo by Nicolas Veithen on Pexels.com

Blue by Kerrie McKinnel

Once upon a time there was a girl called Blue. Now, please don’t ask me whether or not this was really her name. It sounds unlikely, doesn’t it? But that was her name, and that’s the end of it. Blue lived up to it too, in her turquoise t-shirt, lapis leggings and sapphire sneakers.

Blue’s days were taken up with college, helping on her parents’ llama farm, and daily jogs to Granny’s to do a few chores and have a chat over a cup of tea. Pretty standard. That was, until a terrible plague hit the land. Overnight, Blue’s classes were cancelled, and Granny was instructed to stay at home with immediate effect for her own protection.

‘I know it’s rough,’ said Granny when they video-called a few days later.

‘Rough?’ exclaimed Blue. ‘Understatement of the century! What will you do?’

‘I don’t know.’ Granny sighed. Her tablet slipped down her lap, giving Blue an excellent view up Granny’s nose. ‘G.D.S. said they’d help, but so far I haven’t even had any food.’

‘The Goblin Delivery Service? Oh Granny, you know better than to rely on them!’

‘Well I don’t have much choice, do I?’ scolded Granny, and then she sighed again. ‘I’m sorry Blue, I’m just a bit … well … fumbleglasted with the whole situation!’

Blue gasped. She’d never heard her granny swear before. She told Granny she’d sort something out.

‘Don’t go getting into trouble.’ Granny sniffed and cuddled down into her brown dressing gown.

‘Would I do that?’

‘Have those sores on your hands healed yet?’

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

‘Granny!’ Blue rubbed at her palms. ‘Honestly, litter picking is completely inhumane. I was in so much pain.’

‘I’m sure that girl from your college class was too.’

‘I keep telling you, if she didn’t want me to punch her then she shouldn’t have wound me up.’

‘And I keep telling you, you don’t go around punching people.’

After she’d finished on the video call, Blue went down to the kitchen and found an old picnic basket. Apples, bread, chocolate cookies … she piled it high and slipped in a bottle of wine out of the pantry.

‘Don’t you dare take the long way to Granny’s,’ shouted Mum. ‘I don’t need you coming face to face with that poor girl again.’

Blue jammed her headphones in and strode off into the wood. Why did Mum make such a fuss? Blue had no intentions of meeting that “poor girl” again. She didn’t want to end up back on community service, or worse. She was deep in thought, rubbing at her scabby hands, when someone tapped her shoulder.

‘Sorry, can I …’ she began as took out her headphones and turned around to find herself face to face with a wolf.

‘Good morning, my dear,’ he said. He looked as if he was trying to smile, but all it did was show off his perfectly white teeth. He laid his paw on her shoulder. ‘How lovely to …’

‘AAA!’ Blue screamed as she punched the wolf square in the jaw.

‘Ouch! You horrible girl! You’ve broken my jaw.’ A low growl erupted from his stomach as he lunged towards her.

‘Stranger danger! Stranger danger!’ yelled Blue as she punched him again, and then once more for good measure. She took off through the wood with the wolf following right behind her. Leaping over tree branches and loose stones, she sprinted as fast as her sapphire sneakers would take her, and she didn’t stop until she reached Granny’s house. She burst in, slammed the door behind her, and stood gasping for breath.

‘Blue? What’s wrong?’ cried Granny, and then she noticed Blue’s bleeding knuckles. ‘Oh, Blue. What did I say about getting into trouble?’


Kerrie McKinnel is Lockerbie Writers’ Events Manager and a founding member of A Novel Approach group. Since completing her MLitt Creative Writing (University of Glasgow), Kerrie has run a number of successful events and workshops for both groups, and compiled and co-edited their two books, Lockerbie Writers’ Anthology (2016) and Behind Closed Doors (2019). Kerrie is a self-employed writer and also runs creative writing workshops through her business, Kerrie McKinnel – Writer. Her writing has been featured in publications including Gutter, Southlight and From Glasgow to Saturn. For more information visit: www.kerriemckinnel.com.

Thank you for reading my short story!

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?

Check back tomorrow for our next post!

If you’ve missed our previous posts, you can read them here:

Lament of a Lockdown Lass by Deborah Redden (Day 1)

The New Normal by Betsy Henderson (Day 2)

The New Normal by Rita Dalgliesh/My Lockdown by Frank Walker (Day 3)

Lockdown by Steph Newham (Day 4)

Heat by Paula Nicolson (Day 5)

New Writing Week 2020 – Day 5

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 next contributor is the group’s PR Manager, Paula Nicolson.

This is our fifth day of new stories and poems on the theme of ‘lockdown’, produced by Lockerbie Writers.

One of the joys of joining a writing group is getting to know the voice and style of each individual writer. Each member has their own particular genre likes and dislike, a natural flow to their sentence structure and rhythm, and a vocabulary which is as personal to them as their favourite notepad-and-pen combo. Of course each story and character will have their own feel, but once you know the other people in a writing group then often it is easy to recognise each author’s voice.

Or is it?! As part of the peer review process for these New Writing Week posts, I sent out the stories and poems anonymously, so that each peer reviewer’s judgement was not shaped or clouded by the knowledge of who had written the piece. If you are a Lockerbie Writers member reading this, it would be interesting to know how many of the authors you have attributed to the correct stories so far!

Our fifth day of new writing comes to you on behalf of Lockerbie Writers’ PR Manager, Paula Nicolson. Thank you to Paula for sharing this intriguing and clever take on the ‘lockdown’ theme. I imagine that those group members who read the twist at the end of this short story would know only too well that it was Paula who had written it!

Read on and enjoy – and don’t forget to share!

Photo by Patrick Henry at Unsplash.

Heat by Paula Nicolson

The crackers Jess took from the supermarket stuck in her throat; she’d committed a crime that day, but there’d been no police to come after her.

*

The early morning sun was nudging its way through the tree branches. It was time to venture from her self-imposed lockdown, but as usual, Jess had a reluctance to leave the house.

With her wide brimmed sun hat, white boiler suit and Mickey Mouse sunglasses, she walked along the kerbside brush; the creak of her swaying wicker basket and the crunch of weeds underfoot were swallowed up by the silence. Sweat was already trickling down her forehead and nestled in her eyebrows.

Pleased that she’d remembered to pack a hammer, a spare pair of sunglasses and a water bottle, she hummed one her favourite tunes that used to be sung by the protestors; that is before the demonstrations descended into riots. Stopping by the river, she filled her water bottle from its trickle and then climbed the bank to the bridge overlooking the supermarket.

‘Better check for cars before I cross the bridge,’ she said and chuckled to herself. There was nothing there; as it had been for some time.

After pushing open the supermarket door, she headed straight over to the cracker section; her trainers pattering softly and rhythmically on the chequered flooring.

‘39 steps,’ she whispered to herself as she arrived at a broken and sloping shelf on which the last two remaining packets of crackers clung.

‘They’ll go nicely with soup!’ she said as if she was talking to one of her customers. She didn’t miss the cheesy music or the toddler tantrums, but she longed to ask someone, ‘Can I help you with your packing?’

But then she heard a clunk from two aisles down, and then another. She slid the two packets of crackers into her basket and ran to a cash desk where she hid underneath its chair and put on her tabard. The clunking stopped.

Gripping the conveyor belt, she peered over the counter. A woman was standing by the canned soft drinks section, repeatedly picking up a can from the few that remained, one by one.

Standing up and smoothing the creases in her tabard, Jess said, ‘Welcome to Robertson’s! Can I help you?’

The woman turned; anger crept across her face, and she threw a can at Jess. Then another, and another.

‘Wait! I’m not going to hurt you!’ Jess said, while ducking.

As the woman ran at her with another can in her hand, Jess could see that her skin was red raw with equally angry patchy ulcers on her face, arms and legs.

‘Oh dear,’ Jess said. She never liked what had to come next. She felt so sorry for the poorly folk left behind. Being in so much pain and with an unquenchable thirst, it would make the most acquiescent person turn to rage. Climate change, solar flares and meteor showers were all blamed in turn as the roads melted, the forests burned, rivers shrank and people died; they finally realised that nature was just running its course as the Earth self- destructed.

Reaching for the hammer, Jess hit the can out of the woman’s hand, and then her head. It was swift, with only a few blood splatters left behind as she dragged the woman’s body into the supermarket’s old walk-in freezer. The only other casualty was her Mickey Mouse sunglasses; found crushed underneath the cash desk.

*

As Jess finished her soup and pulled down her window blind, she sighed. She’d only wanted to have a chat.


Paula lives near Lockerbie with her family and an overly chatty cat. She worked as a scientist for 22 years in Hampshire, but now works as a librarian in Annan. She’s a published poet, short story and a prize-winning flash fiction writer. You can find her blogging at https://deckywritingsheepslife.blogspot.com/

Thank you to Paula for sharing this perfectly-formed short story.

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?

Check back tomorrow for our next post!

If you’ve missed our previous posts, you can read them here:

Lament of a Lockdown Lass by Deborah Redden (Day 1)

The New Normal by Betsy Henderson (Day 2)

The New Normal by Rita Dalgliesh/My Lockdown by Frank Walker (Day 3)

Lockdown by Steph Newham (Day 4)

New Writing Week 2020 – Day 4

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 fifth contributor is the group’s chairperson, Steph Newham.

This is our fourth day of new stories and poems on the theme of ‘lockdown’, produced by Lockerbie Writers.

Since lockdown began in March 2020, the group has been swapping writing via email in response to fortnightly prompts. This has been a relatively new experience for some members, and very different to our usual in-person meetings.

‘But what makes it so different?’ I hear you ask. Surely a story by a particular author will have the same impact whether it is in an email or read out loud at a meeting?

Actually, no, not necessarily.

Imagine you are watching an Oscar-winning film and we reach the climax; the protagonist delivers her tear-jerking final monologue, complete with dramatic pauses and parts which are quieter, slower, delivered with a tremble in her voice … and then imagine that you are reading that same monologue on paper while sitting on the sofa with a cup of tea. Suddenly that piece of writing may have to work harder or in a different way to compensate for the lack of a dramatic delivery.

It’s the same when we read our writing. We know our own stories and how we want them to sound. We know when to shout, when to whisper, when to pause for effect. Sending our work out to be read by others in our absence is a totally different experience and sometimes a harsh learning curve … but certainly a worthwhile one, especially for writers who aspire to publication.

Our fourth day of new writing comes to you on behalf of Lockerbie Writers’ chair person, Steph Newham. Following feedback from the rest of the group, Steph worked hard on this story to ensure it jumped off the page in all the right ways … I hope it takes your breath away as it does mine. Thank you to Steph for providing this moving and beautiful short story.

Read on and enjoy – and don’t forget to share!

Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

Lockdown by Steph Newham

It’s true he’s gone. One of the earliest to die, harnessed to a machine. I wonder if this is a dream. Why can’t I visit him? The question haunts me. I don’t think it’s a dream. My pain’s in the blisters on my fingers; in the ache of my back each evening as I put the hoe on its nail in the shed. I don’t mourn my confinement. I’m in love with this garden; his legacy, it consoles me. My hair tangles in whippy branches as I hug the trunk of the willow we planted twenty odd years ago. I ease my pain by picking resin teardrops from the bark where a branch split off in a storm just after he died. I watch them fall, welcomed into the mound of sweet-smelling compost that I’ll sift and spread around his garden.

Under my care the garden survives. I feel its boundaries of hawthorn, beech and hazel shiver gently, while the laurel, holly and newly-planted yews shake their darkness into place around me. Beyond the hedge it’s quiet and the strangest thing is the empty sky. I am not lonely; I feel his presence just beyond the greenhouse or in the potting shed. I hear his steps on the gravel, smell the dampness of his tweed jacket in places I know he has not been, and my heart gives a thud.

I walk the paths in the dawn hours, listen to the blackbird; why so jubilant, when he is no more? I dead-head roses; my tears mingle with dew on the petals as I remember his endless patience at my incompetence in his garden. There is a deep dent in the box hedge round the herb bed. How had I done that? Was I careless with his shears? I’m sorry, I mutter, then feel his smile shape my mouth – never mind, pet, it’ll soon grow again. I go indoors, make a cup of tea, feel my spine uncurl. Later I think I’ll thin his beet seedlings, even though I don’t know how.

I begin to feel safe enough to persuade the children that I’m fine. My mind has memories of a world outside that no longer interests me; during my waking hours, I concentrate on the one who has been my world for the past twenty-seven years. Each morning I wander this garden I’ve inherited, my feet becoming rooted in the right mix of brown and green compost-rich soil he fretted over. I will not think of those evil-weevil grubs that plague me. I‘ll defend his hostas against slugs. I’ll plant seeds in the raised bed that never disappointed us.

Six months and the dahlias have gone over and birds are feasting on the rose hips. Dreams still trouble me. I know the yews will never provide arrows to protect me. Only isolation here will guard me from the virus that took him. I look about, think of my grandma who said growing laurel has benefits: brooms can be made of the branches. I run fingers through my tangled witch hair. Perhaps in the future I might need to fly high over the hedges to take a look beyond his garden. Put an end to the isolation. Return to that other world we once journeyed through together. But for the moment it is enough to tend the plants he nurtured.

Thank you to Steph for sharing this thought-provoking short story.

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?

Check back tomorrow for our next post!

If you’ve missed our previous posts, you can read them here:

Lament of a Lockdown Lass by Deborah Redden (Day 1)

The New Normal by Betsy Henderson (Day 2)

The New Normal by Rita Dalgliesh/My Lockdown by Frank Walker (Day 3)

New Writing Week 2020 – Day 3

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.

As today, Wednesday 24th June 2020, is the official National Writing Day 2020 and midway through our week, please read on for work from not one but two writers – Rita Dalgliesh and Frank Walker.

This is our third day of new stories and poems on the theme of ‘lockdown’, produced by Lockerbie Writers.

National Writing Day first came to our attention in 2018 when we invited the fantastic Sara Maitland to join us for an evening of readings and Q&A. It was so inspirational that, in 2019, we went one step further. With funding from Dumfries & Galloway Council and DG Unlimited, we were able to host a full day of workshops on the theme of mindful creative writing, with special guest Margaret Elphinstone.

After two such inspirational events, it came as a huge disappointment when we learned that our planned day of workshops for 2020 had to be cancelled. Of course this was inevitable and for the best, but felt like such a blow especially as the lockdown announcement came just weeks after we’d put in a funding application and secured two more exceptional Scottish authors to join us for the day.

We hope you’re all keeping well, and we’re keeping our fingers crossed for our National Writing Day celebrations in 2021!

Our third day of new writing comes to you on behalf of Lockerbie Writers’ members, Rita Dalgliesh and Frank Walker. In her own fantastic style, Rita has provided a clever acrostic poem, while Frank’s moving and honest short story follows a day in the life of lockdown. Thank you to both writers for providing thought-provoking pieces for today.

Read on and enjoy – and don’t forget to share!

Photo by Valeria Boltneva on Pexels.com

The New Normal by Rita Dalgliesh

Listen. Ssssh! sound of silence. Nature at its best. No pollution, just hot spots outside essential shops.

Our roads are clear of vehicles. Sea vessels detained in harbours and aeroplanes, they are grounded.

Come – see this social distancing thing, soon we may hug again. Rainbows show we clap for carers.

Keep busy if you can. Time passes with pride in many, an attempt to improve premises, it’s fun, fine.

Deliver some joy. Food parcels to the now unemployed. Masked with care this whole deadly affair.

Our choices we survived to relish now rely on four stages of recovery. Want to comply with them?

Whatever the outcome of COVID-19 this fatal; feared virus is still out there somewhere, just testing.

No contact. A new normal for our nation’s underway. Love survives with miles apart smiles anyway.

Photo by Andrew Neel on Pexels.com

My Lockdown by Frank Walker

I slowly emerge from slumber to sunlight penetrating the thin curtains.   Time to get up. But what am I getting up for? Nights are the worst for me.  Tossing and turning, inviting sleep which steadfastly refuses to come. Eventually, a fitful sort of sleep catches me unawares. Normally on a Thursday, I would have my day club. But not this particular Thursday! I am in lockdown. Stumble to the shower, becoming fully awake the moment the water hits my skin. Move to the kitchen, hit the kettle switch. I hear a thump. Newspaper hitting the floor. Ah well, that’ll fill half an hour or so. I make some toast, settle down to read, drink my coffee.

All too soon the paper is read and discarded. What now? Let’s see. What pastimes do I have? A latch hook cushion cover kit of a wolf; an Airfix kit of a spitfire? But which one?

I ponder. The wolf claims victory over the spitfire. 

I work on it for a spell.

But then, my old friend, boredom, makes an appearance.

I grab the spitfire kit, but soon it too becomes stale.

I hang out my washing. Hear two men talking, one moaning about how nagging his wife is.

Oh, to have another human to share the boredom with! He does not know how lucky he is. He cannot know the sheer frustration that leads to you smashing a mug against the wall. The feeling of utter hopelessness that makes your temper rage at the futility of the situation. I wonder what it must be like for a criminal in solitary confinement. I have committed no crime, yet though there are no material bars in my home, I am almost as much a captive as that prisoner.

The only avenue left to me is the good old internet. I check my emails. Need not have bothered. Mostly junk.

Decide to do a bit of writing. Concentrate on a book I intend to write on my life in nineteen fifties farm work. Email pings. Prompt from my writers group. Thank God! Something else to take up my time creatively.

I go out for the one bit of daily exercise allowed under the restrictions, adhering to the social distancing rules of keeping two metres apart from people out and about. I return, sit on my garden chair for a bit, enjoying the late afternoon sunshine. Go back indoors and prepare my evening meal. Grab the TV magazine, see what is on later. As usual, not a lot, only another Midsomer Murders. Oh joy!

And right on cue, boredom makes a return.

I dwell on the situation. I reflect on my moans and gripes, but then I think of others in this situation. Those diagnosed with the virus. Families who have had loved ones so cruelly snatched away from them. All the suffering and grieving, the pain and loss. And suddenly, my situation pales into insignificance in the shade of this.

I go to bed with a different frame of mind.

Frank Walker is a 67 year old man who lives on his own.  He is a widower and enjoys many pastimes, but his joy is creative writing and poetry, in which he is working towards a degree with the Open University.  He also has a deep love of watercolour painting.

Thank you to Rita and Frank for sharing these thought-provoking pieces.

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading these pieces of new writing from Lockerbie Writers.
If you have enjoyed it, why not check out our books, Lockerbie Writers’ Anthology and Behind Closed Doors?

Check back tomorrow for our next post!

If you’ve missed our previous posts, you can read them here:

The New Normal by Betsy Henderson (Day 2)

Lament of a Lockdown Lass by Deborah Redden (Day 1)

New Writing Week 2020 – Day 2

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 next writer is Betsy Henderson.

This is our second day of new lockdown-themed writing, produced over the last few weeks by Lockerbie Writers.

Today I thought I’d tell you a little more about the process which has brought these stories and poems to life. It began at the start of June when members were sent the prompt – LOCKDOWN – and were asked to write up to 600 words inspired by the theme. Members were encouraged to interpret the theme as broadly as possible, and – as you will see as we work through the pick of the bunch this week – they certainly have.

This is always one of the joys of our little writing group, as no matter what the prompt is, you can guarantee that each member will produce something individual to them and their writing interests and style.

Our second piece of writing is a reflective short story from Betsy Henderson. Betsy has used a variety of strong images and visual descriptions to craft her thought-provoking piece. Thank you to Betsy for sharing it with us.

Read on and enjoy!

Photo by Lucien Wanda on Pexels.com

The New Normal by Betsy Henderson

The planes stopped flying, the factories stopped spewing out their poisonous waste, the cars stopped moving and all the people stayed at home.

The animals moved in.  The wild birds descended from the skies and took over the gardens and foxes and deer came into the towns. Wild rabbits and hedgehogs ventured into urban areas, where they were welcomed.

For the first time in many decades the skies were clear blue. 

The sun shone.

The air was pure and the folks relaxing in their gardens could breathe – long deep breaths without choking.

Workers were furloughed from their jobs and families had time to enjoy being together.  They learnt old ways of making do, young mothers learned to cook healthy meals from scratch, gardeners began to grow their own food. Parents found they liked playing with their children now they didn’t have to rush about getting ready to go to work.

And the sun shone!

The masses began to go for long walks in the countryside. Bicycles were dragged out of dusty garages and saw the light of day for the first time in many years.  Children began to talk to each other face to face.

Everyone had time to learn new skills, to spend time just being alive without their usual pressures. They could enjoy this new life, at least for the moment.

And the sun shone!

There were two downsides – children couldn’t see their grandparents – they were being shielded! But technology kept them connected.  Older people learned to “facetime” and “skype”. – At least they could see each other, even if not in the flesh. The other downside was people dying – old people, young people, sick people, fit people. Terrible pictures were shown on TV every night, but most people tried to accept it – everyone knew that was why we were in lockdown.  ‘Keep away, you’re not two metres!’ was often heard, as we all tried to stay safe.

On a Thursday night we all clapped for the NHS – our heroes! They saved the life of our great leader!

But it became the “new normal”. We all became accustomed to our new way of living. Most people were happy enough, it would soon pass – well it would, wouldn’t it? At least we were still alive!

And the sun shone!

Eventually the powers that be decided we would have another “new normal”. We were allowed to go a bit further, to meet a few more people. Some factories re-opened, some people went back to work.

And the sun shone!

Thousands of day-trippers descended on the seaside. Car parks were closed, roads became blocked. Still they kept coming in their hordes. Where was the two-metre rule now? Had they left it at home with their common sense?

The toilets were closed – what could they do? They were miles from home. They were desperate. Perhaps they should have thought of that problem. Perhaps they should have stayed at home!

And the sun shone!

Tempers were frayed, all the good feeling of the past few weeks flew out the door. Rubbish was strewn out of the car windows, no-one cared, it wasn’t their beach to clean up. Someone else would do it.

After they had left, the tide came in. All the plastic rubbish left lying was swept into the sea. The seabirds thought it was fish, dived down to kill it, but instead it killed them, sticking in their throat, choking them to death, a slow painful death.

Never mind, it’s not my mess!

And the sun didn’t shine!

Thank you to Betsy for sharing this thought-provoking piece.

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?

Check back tomorrow for our next post!

If you’ve missed our previous post, you can read it here:

Lament of a Lockdown Lass by Deborah Redden (Day 1)

New Writing Week 2020 – Day 1

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 first writer is Deborah Redden.

2020 has certainly been a unique year so far, and we’re only halfway through!

As we approach National Writing Day (which this year falls on Wednesday 24th June), we had originally hoped to bring you a day of author talks and workshops – but, due to current restrictions, this has been postponed. Instead, we have worked hard to bring you a selection of new and exciting writing.

And our theme? … Lockdown, of course!

As the week goes on, we’ll tell you a little more about the process we’ve gone through to get to this stage, but for now, let’s get reading.

Our first piece of writing is a humorous poem from Deb R., along with her own original (and brilliantly funny!) illustration. Thank you, Debs, for allowing us to use this wonderful drawing alongside your work.

Read on and enjoy!

Copyright Deborah Redden 2020.

Lament of a Lockdown Lass by Deborah Redden

Wash your hands,
Then wash your face,
And wash your hand some more!

Eat your Pizza,
Then do your homework,
Don’t play with the kid next door.

Wear your mask,
Just toe the line,
No a play date isn’t allowed!

Keep this up
My lockdown child,
Your Mum is terribly proud.

No, I never
Wail in my pillow,
Cause I’ve burnt the burgers for tea!

Cause plates are stacked,
The place is a tip,
The loo seat’s sprinkled with pee!

I am, of course,
A model of strength.
No, Jelly legs don’t live here …

For I’m a nurse,
Mother and wife.
A super-strength void of fear!

But despite my
Super-Mum armour, 
Sometimes this Mama feels gruff …

So follow the rules,
And keep your phone.
Please skip your eye-rolling huff!

N.B. No eye-rolling huffs were endured during the writing of this poem. 

Thank you to Debs for sharing this hilarious and all-too-true tale of a mum’s lockdown struggles.

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?

Check back tomorrow for our next post!

Book Launch of Behind Closed Doors (November 2019)

Who really knows what goes on Behind Closed Doors?

Readers can now get an answer – or at least a peak through the open door …

In November 2019, Lockerbie Writers launched their new book, ‘Behind Closed Doors’. This collection of short stories and poetry is their second publication, following the success of ‘Lockerbie Writers’ Anthology’ in 2016.

The group were delighted to receive a grant from the Scottish Book Trust which allowed them to hold two book launches during Book Week Scotland 2019.

The money was enough to print a batch of copies of this new book which were gifted to everyone who attended either one of the book launches – and there was enough money left over to pay for some amazing bespoke cakes, provided by talented ‘A Novel Approach’ member Laura Mason!

The first of the two launches took place on Thursday 21st November, 6pm, at DG Customer Services Lockerbie (formally Lockerbie Library). Despite the cold dark night, almost twenty people braved the elements to show their support for the group.

This event began with introductions from Lockerbie Writers’ Chairperson Steph Newham, Lockerbie Writers’ Events Manager Kerrie McKinnel, and local writer Vivien Jones who had kindly provided the written introduction for the book.

The introductions were followed by several readings from some of the book’s contributing authors, beginning with Paula Nicolson. Her children’s story features a penguin who struggles with directions, and got lots of laughs and “awws” from the audience!

Next up was Kath J. Rennie, whose story is a nostalgic tale of a woman’s journey from teenage Saturday job through to her wedding anniversary many years later.

Steph Newham returned to the stage to read an extract from her story about an artist and his model.

Afterwards, there was a Q&A with the contributing authors, followed by a chance to chat with the group members – and of course pick up a complimentary copy of the new book and buy additional copies!

At the end of a fantastic launch night, there was just time for a group photo with all of the contributing authors pictured above: (L-R) Rita, Frank, Betsy, Kath, Chris, Steph, Paula and Kerrie. Sadly our ninth author, Deborah Redden, was unable to join us on this occasion, but she was in our thoughts!

On Friday 22nd November 2019 at 2pm, most of the group met again, this time at Annan Town Hall/Library. This second launch attracted approximately thirty-six people – and goodness me, did we have an impressive room to suit the occasion!

Steph Newham, Chairperson, was up first again to introduce the book, followed by Events Manager Kerrie McKinnel.

The group was grateful once more to Vivien Jones, who joined us to provide another introduction and to take questions from the large and enthusiastic audience.

Readings at this event were provided by a different selection of Lockerbie Writers’ members, beginning with Rita Dalgliesh. Her poem, the only one to be featured in this book, is a rhythmic and clever family tale with an Irish backdrop.

Next up was Betsy Henderson, whose nostalgic story of domestic abuse and being widowed during the 1950s drew gasps and smiles in equal measures from the audience.

A special mention must go to both Betsy and Rita, who were reading their writing in public for the first time, and who did extremely well despite their nerves and the large audience. Well done ladies!

Last to read was Christina Openshaw. Her unusual tale features a house as its narrator, and is told over a number of years.

By the end of the second launch, we had given away thirty-four complimentary copies of our new book to members of the local community, and a number of the Book Week Scotland free books and merchandise, as well as meeting a number of enthusiastic writers and offering advice about joining a writing group, how to start writing, and much more.

Our thanks go to the Scottish Book Trust for providing us with the funding to hold these book launches during Book Week Scotland. Thank you to both venues for providing such cosy and welcoming rooms, and to Laura for the cakes! Thanks also go to all members of Lockerbie Writers and A Novel Approach: the contributing authors of course, but also Paula for arranging the venues, posters and much, much more; Laura for the cupcakes; Godfrey for his tireless editing; Frank for suggesting the idea of this book back in 2017 and kicking off the process; Steph for guiding the group through numerous discussions and disagreements on all elements of its conception and publication; and all of the other members for listening to us all going on and on and on about the editing, marketing, launches etc and offering advice and support along the way. Without all of these individual people, this book would not exist.

You can pick up your copy now from Amazon.co.uk – search ‘Behind Closed Doors Lockerbie Writers’.

Halloween Week 2019 – Day 5

To mark Halloween, all week (28th October – 1st November 2019) we will be sharing a selection of spooky stories written by members of Lockerbie Writers and A Novel Approach writing groups.

Can you hear a noise? What’s that weird shape in the shadows?

Today is our final day of spooky stories, all inspired by our summer outing to Lochmaben Castle and the ghostly tales which we heard there from local paranormal group Mostly Ghostly.

Our final stories come from Rita Dalgliesh (member of Lockerbie Writers group), and Frank Walker (member of Lockerbie Writers and A Novel Approach groups).

Read on and find out … if you dare!

Phantom Express by Frank Walker

The night was dark, cold and wet. The station platform was deserted, devoid of life, and as I stood, coat collar raised in a vain attempt to foil the elements, I could make out the light of a train in the far distance. I found this strange as I habitually wait for the train at this time. Why then have I not spotted the light before?

It was clear the train was approaching at great speed, go great that it could not possibly stop at this station. My heart was pounding as I stood there, transfixed, in complete awe at what I was witnessing.

The carriages sped past, each lit up, and the shape of passengers were mere dark silhouettes at the windows, their features indiscernible, and all seemed to be staring straight in front of each other, as if in deep concentration.

The train was no sooner through the deserted station when it simply vanished from sight! One minute it was thundering past; the next, gone!

I could not stop trembling. Was I in shock? What had just occurred?

I was never so glad to see my train pull up. As I seated myself, I related to the conductor what I had seen.

“Oh, so you saw it then, did you?”

I asked him to explain.

“Well, a hundred years ago and express was switched onto the wrong track in a grave error. It had just cleared that station when it collided with the train you are on tonight. There were no survivors. Seems evey year on the anniversary some unlucky sod sees the phantom express.”

I continued the journey deep in thought.

Ahhh by Rita Dalgliesh

Before day’s done, evening through night.
The fire wouldn’t light; nothing went right.

Dropsy is an understatement. I’m just vacant.
Perhaps possessed of a lonely spirits’ vocation.

I’ll take a stroll, shrug off the weight of wonder.
What shock as ghostly sights before me wander.

Not to be acknowledged by others passing by.
Now nerves are shrieking. Shaking is this body.

I get the creeps so bad I almost want to weep.
That’s not how to deal with this … just sleep.

I sit to slumber aware of all creeks and cringe.
Shade; shadows play havoc as sanity recoils.

Ahhh hear a scream; soaked in sweat; dripping.
Rising to my disposition. I’ve been dreaming.

I frighten half a household with that shriek.
Possessed of little or no sleep. What a freak.

Dozing off with too much in mind’s a blight.
Creating these phantoms evening through night.

Thank you to Frank and Rita for sharing these terrifying tales of late-night apparitions … and overactive imaginations!

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading all of our stories and poems this week.
If you have enjoyed them, it might interest you to know that in November 2019 Lockerbie Writers will be publishing their second anthology of new writing. Thanks to support from the Scottish Book Trust, you can receive your FREE copy when you attend one of our book launches. Click here for full details.

If you’ve missed any, below please find the links to our previous posts.

Halloween Day 1

Halloween Day 2

Halloween Day 3

Halloween Day 4