Lockdown creativity

Our June 2020 Zoom meeting included story telling by three members who shared their creative writing. We hope you enjoy these pieces as much as we did.

Viral War

Corona meant ‘pop’
when I was growing up!
Orange, lime, tizer, raspberry,
dandelion and burdock, strawberry.
Glass bottles with a penny return,
what a lot of fizzy sugar to burn!
Kids parties now have water,
though they do appear fatter
than us who enjoyed jelly, trifle, jam with pips
instead of cucumber, tomatoes and  dips.

The namesake virus has conquered the world
stopping life as we know it – how absurd
that the round intracellular monster
could blow the world asunder!
Follow recommendations we must,
no close contact or kissing those we trust.
Shaking hands has become so automatic
rather than elbows, feet or staying static
at 2 metres distance between individuals
wearing masks practicing hand washing rituals.

The overflow fizz is before the stillness.
Let’s hope the ‘pop’ is controlled – lots less
than 20,000 before the bubbles settle.
Please put on the kettle!
Toilet rolls, paracetamol out of stock,
soon no walking round the block
as a London lock down predicted.
Pray we’re not afflicted
by the awful viral war in store.
Keep well, stay in, don’t let it get a bore!

– Heulwen Reading

An Easter Story

It was the warmest of springs, it was the coldest of springs – since records began according to the weather forecasters and the seaweed hanging on the back of our toilet door. Whatever the meteorologists of all stripes indicated, at the end of March when temperatures were unseasonably high, I decided to have a barbeque for an April Easter Monday; but – two weeks later temperatures were unseasonably low. When Good Friday arrived the weather was cold and wet. Not to worry – three days to go.

Forty people had accepted the invitation and the house is not large – I’d invited just about everyone I knew thinking at least half would be away or have some other commitment, but no – obviously Easter was just as boring for everyone else as it was for me and not only had all our friends accepted but several had phoned to ask if they could bring their parents or parents-in-law who were staying with them for the holidays. Oh goodie, I was saving my friends from another day of trying not to kill their relatives.

At a pinch and with an efficient shoe-horner we could get 30 people into the downstairs area – as long as they were standing, without moving and didn’t expect to eat anything because where we would cook if it rained I had no idea? The patio was fine but had no covering and barbequed food for 40 would certainly be a challenge in our galley kitchen with its small oven and work tops the size of postage stamps.  Rachael Khoo, I thought, she manages to rustle up gourmet meals in a miniscule kitchen in Paris – but not for 40 people I remembered – more like six – tops.  No role model there then.

On Easter Saturday morning, seeing the leaden skies, I decided to watch the TV chefs to see what suggestions they might have and turned on Saturday Kitchen with the lovely James Martin who was very sensibly preparing a traditional, sit down roast lamb lunch for 6. He was followed by the charmingly beautiful (and I’m certain fragrant) Rachael Khoo. In her tiny kitchen Rachael was dashing off an amazing tray of brilliantly coloured roast vegetables and a savoury cake made with cheese and figs for her three (paying) visitors. These TV chefs provided no tips on how to cook 40 sausages, chicken legs or lamb chops or where to put salads, bread and some kind of pudding. OMG – I was panicking now.

However, later in the day the grey skies turned blue, my spirits rose and I began to draw up the shopping list. Perhaps those patches of blue would expand and the temperature would rise.

Now in my view, optimism is a wonderful thing. Firstly you don’t get stressed, secondly you only live your problems once instead of dying the thousand deaths Shakespeare talks about the coward suffering. However, old Baden Powell also had a very fair point when he thought up the boy scouts motto To fail to prepare, is to prepare to fail. So whilst I was out shopping, now watching the crowds dashing through downpours to their cars and loading up soaking wet parcels I decided I should hedge my bets.

Sunday came and the temperature remained down in the low teens; the showers were heavy but definitely more intermittent than on Saturday.  We moved the furniture round as best we could to try and make more space in doors and completely abandoned the barbeque, which I should point out was never my husband’s favoured option (barbeque, he says, is French for burnt on the outside raw on the inside). We filled the fridge with wine, beer and a few soft drinks (you’re getting a picture of my friendship group) and I found my largest cooking pot and started work on the biggest chilli con carne known to mankind – together with a smaller veggie version (chilli con veggie) for those amongst my friendship group who drink like fishes and don’t eat meat.

Easter Monday dawned.  Grey skies. Drizzle. I still had the bread and cheese to buy and the salads to make so the hours between 8am and 1pm absolutely flew by in a whirl of activity so that by the time I opened the door to the first friends I was absolutely astonished to see brilliant sunshine arriving with them.  And yes, of course it stayed with us all day.  We spilled into the garden and enjoyed copious amounts of chilli, alcohol, sunshine and friendship for what was one of the best Easter Mondays ever.

– Sally Littlefair

An Empty Feeling

‘So she was his second wife’,

‘No his third’,

‘Oh, I see’.

The two young men passed me and turned off the path to reach the gate. Grinning I carried on walking. I realised what I had been missing. Ten weeks of working at home, ten weeks of shopping at a distance, ten weeks of drowning in work. Ten weeks of considering the state of the world and the state of my fridge, with both topics leading to a sinking feeling.

I had nearly turned and followed the young men, but I did not need to do so. After all it was obvious…

The multiple groom was a nerd, a wealthy train spotting nerd, abandoned by three gold digging blondes who had married him for his money but not his company. He now sat alone in his Highgate town house, reading books on steam trains and playing with his model railway. His doting and doted on Mother prayed every night for him to meet a woman with her own anorak. His twin sister, who was happily married to a volunteer guard on the train she drove on the Epping to Ongar railway, was at this very moment creating a profile for her brother on Train Matches International. ‘I am looking for a woman, with wit, wisdom, a sandwich box and their own thermos’ she typed ‘Tractor drivers also considered’….

Or perhaps…

The multiple groom had recently abandoned his latest no-longer wealthy widow from Whetstone, leaving her with a bare quarter of her fortune, whilst her on-line Waitrose order was not booked and her prize begonias were not watered. His elderly Mother abandoned in her flat in Hastings no longer expected his call, no longer remembered his smile. Her love which should have been spent on her grandchildren would have withered in her heart if it had not been for her sewing. She was at this very moment carefully phrasing the WhatsApp invite to wife number three to join her weekly Wednesday zoom calls. For every Wednesday whilst she mended the badges and jackets of the Hastings Devils motorcycle gang (average age 68 1/3) she zoomed her son’s ex-wives and abandoned girlfriends and relatives. They chatted about motorbikes, muesli and macramé but not about him. Whilst wife number four was nearly in the bag, he knew not what he left in his wake.

Or maybe…

It was all a series of ghastly mistakes, our helpful groom had not meant to get married to wife number one, he was just the best man but when Toby failed to show he felt he had to step in. With number two he had just been mending the photocopier in the registry office and again the helpful bloke he had agreed to stand where told (and after all he looked more presentable than the real groom who was currently waking up hangover in a hedge near Durham). Whilst for wife number three, well it was a bit of a blur really…he had been looking for the gents in the hotel and then there was door and a load of people dressed up and the young woman in the white frock had been so very very pleased to see him. This marriage had gone surprisingly well, was still going surprisingly well. He was still unsure why the heiress to the circus should want him, why she who spent her working day upside down on the trapeze should want a man so grounded. But it turns out even circuses needed somebody to mend the computers. And now with twins on the way his life was perfect – although he did wonder what way the babies were in the womb.

Or maybe…

Life has been tough under lockdown from listeners in to other people’s conversations, like me… so if you are socially distancing when you see me – could you please raise your voice a bit as you talk about people I will never meet and I whom I never will. I can fill in the gaps of the bits that I missed.

– Gill Whitney