Here is the first submission to my call out ‘The Time to Write is Now’. Now more than ever it’s important to write about this experience so that we can react to history and not become victims of it. This fantastic price by Cate West captures the moments just before and led to UK lockdown measures.
1 Although it is early, the car park is full. Windscreens line up like riot shields, glittering in the morning. Nothing is moving. Everyone is inside.
2 You expect the empty shelves, but not the queues. Caroline squeezes between laden trollies, picks up a packet of Colman’s sauce from an emptying shelf. She looks at it as if she can’t remember what it is or what to do with it. Caroline has three daughters and a mother with diabetes. You think she hasn’t recognised you, but as she passes she touches your arm with her fingertips.
Everyone is standing too close.
‘It’s just greed,’ the cashier mutters, her face rigid with fear.
3 The people are walking in the sunshine, spaced out, a procession to a scaffold. There are still too many and they are still too close. It might be the last time, they are thinking. The sky is blue and full of silence. Will we have a blackthorn winter? On the green the people arrange themselves like chess pieces about to be played.
4 You ration news, but information is airborne, infects from all around. An innocent looking email, replete with particles of uncertain science.
5 There are books that can’t be finished, there are classes that have been cancelled, there are lunches that will remain uneaten. Appointments in your diary are promises to the future that can’t be kept. Your friends’ faces are pixillated, fading. The world is cleaner and more silent. You wonder how long you will connect with it.
Cate West teaches via Family Learning in schools and the community in Nuneaton, designing courses to ignite the imagination, from making stories to designing dens. She was born a writer, trained in fine art, and is currently editing her first novel. Cate is passionate about outsider narratives.