Writing Now

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.

The List

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.

On Small Rituals to Keep Us Safe by Lauren Vevers

I wear the same coat to the hospital every day. The first time I pull it on, a crash of sickening anxiety rising in my body. In the early hours of the morning, outside the Intensive Care Unit, a familiar waiting room. I clutch the coat close. I can smell her perfume on the collar or I can’t and my mind is playing cruel tricks. In these periods of acute emotional stress, time twists in unusual ways; reality is soft like damp clay. I’m making deals with a God I don’t think I believe in. I’m clinging onto her and hoping. I’m also expecting the worst.

The coat is dark blue and practical with a fleece-lining and generous pockets. Like everything my mam owns, it’s in immaculate condition and looks brand new. She would wear it on walks with my dad in winter. They’d track their steps and proudly report back how far they’d made it. Around March of this year, I spot the coat hanging in the wardrobe at home. I need a jacket for a camping trip and it fits the bill. She’s happy for me to have it. Many of her clothes are from before, when wearability in a wheelchair wasn’t a consideration. When I put it on, I feel closer to her and that scares me. It’s a perfect fit. I’m almost 29, the same age she was when she fell pregnant with me. It’s happening too fast and I’m not ready yet.

For my mam, everyday rituals kept dark things from the door.

I grew up with the same mindset because fear is infectious and because I was scared in my own right. I was sensitive to the unpleasantness which crept in at the corners; I fixated on death and illness and loss. So it’s no surprise that, when she falls ill again, I reach for the blue coat day after day. In the beginning, it’s a comfort and I find solace in repeated action of reaching for it before I leave. Later, it becomes a talisman. My mind tells me that mam’s recovery is dependent on it. I know she is getting better because of the care she’s receiving in hospital. But I can’t help but believe in the power of the coat.

The illusion of control brings me consolation against the unsettling randomness of the cosmos.

I have always relied on small rituals but I don’t know at what point those became rules and when those rules became restrictions on how I live. If I’m about to go away, I pack a bag and then I re-pack it and I pack it again and repeat. My house has to be tidy at all times; I can never leave dishes festering in the sink. Any minor changes to my routine are seismic shifts. It’s exhausting. There are other rituals, though, that are much less claustrophobic. Writing is one of them. When I write I open up to possibility and hope floods in. I write to investigate pain in a way that’s containable. I write so that I can leave the coat by the door.

Lauren Vevers is a writer and director from Newcastle upon Tyne. Her writing has been published in The i, Notion, The Real Story, Hobart Pulp, Popshot Magazine, and others. She writes about theatre and feelings for Exeunt and A Younger Theatre. Her plays, ‘Trashed’ and ‘Bassline’, were included in the Pint-Sized Playwriting Longlist for 2018 and 2019. She was a participant on the BFI Northern Exposure Lab. Her debut short film as a writer / director, LOVE SPELL, was recently awarded funding from BFI and is in production with Freya Films. Lauren also runs creative writing workshops for young people and community groups in the North. Say hello via email at laurenmaryvevers@gmail.com or on social @laurenvevers.

Other writing:

‘so altered and infinitely more’ in The Real Story: https://therealstory.org/2018/08/17/so-altered-infinitely-more-by-lauren-vevers/.

‘searching for Marlene Dietrich in Berlin’ forthcoming in She Found It At The Movies: https://redpress.co.uk/collections/red-press-bookshop/products/she-found-it-at-the-movies

‘family magic’ forthcoming in On Relationships from 3 of Cups: https://www.3ofcups.co.uk/shop/on-relationships

Thank you,

Rolling Maltesers By Julie Noble

My Grandma came to live with us when I was nine-years-old. She moved into my parents’ Seventies Suburban life – peppered with parties that caused divorce and homebrew that brought headaches – and gave us a sense of solid, stable love that helped me survive.

Tempestuous tempers and endless supplies of alcohol combined to make cataclysmic times, but my Grandma’s gentle presence was a godsend.

And the ritual we observe in memory of her is the act of Rolling Maltesers. Continue reading “Rolling Maltesers By Julie Noble”

May It Come Easy to You By Jay Moussa-Mann

“Would you like a biscuit?” my new school friend asked me politely. I had been at my bursary won boarding school only a few weeks. It was my first winter in the UK, and I shivered under the coat I refused to take off even indoors.

I declined the delicious looking biscuits, politely shaking my head.

“You sure?” she said and I nodded smiling. Then I watched in dismay as my new friend turned and put the biscuits away in the cupboard never to be seen for the rest of the evening. I was left horrified. Horrified and hungry. Continue reading “May It Come Easy to You By Jay Moussa-Mann”

Words to My Fifteen-Year-Old Anorexic Self by Katie Metcalfe

You are squashing a lone branflake against the side of your cereal bowl, as you sit on bedrest in a children’s psychiatric hospital. You must extract from the flake as much milk as you can. You’re sure the milk is blue top, the full-fat one, and you don’t want to ingest any of it because tomorrow is weigh day and gaining anything will mean you’re losing control and getting fat. Continue reading “Words to My Fifteen-Year-Old Anorexic Self by Katie Metcalfe”

Writing Your Truth in the Age of Lies

This year’s theme for National Poetry Day is truth. Have you ever had that gut-twisting feeling when someone has lied about you? And those lies have made other people see you differently; treat you differently, maybe even hate you? That’s kind of where we are. We live in the age of lies and the age of lies is also the age of hate. The low level hate that happens on buses and in classrooms and board rooms and the loud hate that rallies and waves banners. Telling the truth isn’t just about having your say, it’s about understanding where the hate comes from, talking about what it does and passing the shame back to the haters and away from the victims.
Hate leaves a mark beyond the moment and what poetry of witness does it it registers that mark, the wound the hate leaves. Not the statistics, not facts – something that is and beyond truth: the wound on the individual and by extension the community. Continue reading “Writing Your Truth in the Age of Lies”