Iris has just moved into a retirement village to be with her friend, Rose, but her arrival is not the happy day she imagined. It’s March 2020, Rose is nowhere to be found, the lockdown means communication with fellow residents is limited to shouting across balconies and entertainment is only provided by the young gardener. Has Rose made a mistake?
I find story writing a little bit like making soup. You start with one ingredient and then you add another that complements it, but you need an unlikely ingredient to liven it up and then you need to simmer the mixture long enough, for all the flavours to come together.
Lockdown for my husband and me was not especially difficult to begin with. We are both retired, my husband is housebound and I have a bad foot, so we were not about to travel the world and we were no strangers to Sainsbury's online deliveries, so it was other people who had joined our world. We could sit outside enjoying the garden in spring, while others were battling day and night to save peoples’ lives, while clad in inadequate masks and suits. What was there to complain about?
But as time wore on and we were unable to see our family, and my choral singing had shifted from postponed concerts to becoming a forbidden activity, we began to realise that our communication with others, however limited, was the most important element of our lives.
We were fortunate, but I thought of older people like us who had moved specially to be in a lively community of similar souls and who would by now, be feeling more cut off than they had felt when living alone.
The next ingredient was what I call ‘graded death.’ Death comes to everyone, but if you unfortunately die in a recorded event that makes the news, your every detail will be made known to the world, but if you are just another statistic on a certificate, you are anonymous. (You would never guess both my parents worked in the Births, Marriages and Deaths department in the General Register Office, would you?) In a pandemic, you may well have caused the death of other people without knowing it, or someone, known or unknown, will have caused your death.
Finally, I read that the first Sunday in May is a special event in the gardening calendar. You will need to read the story to find out what that is.
I started a Covid Diary in March, recording what was happening in the news, as well as what I and my village community were doing. When I was asked to write something for Aftermath, I did not want to record a version of my diary entries, but to write a story reflecting what was happening at the time, through its characters. Nothing reflects the times more than what is written in the moment. I am still writing my diary and looking back at what I wrote on that day in 2020 and already it reads as history.
You will find more of my stories in Bridge House’s anthologies – Magnet Book; Café Lit; Snowflakes; Baubles; Glit-er-ary; Crackers; Nativity and Mulling It Over. (Bridge House has been good to me and I am very grateful for their support.) I have had stories on story websites and I also write short plays. I have had two of them performed professionally, in small theatres.
My full length play Caribbean Calypso was the runner-up in Trinity College of Music and Drama’s 2011 International Playwriting Competition, in the category of a play suitable for performers aged 11 and under. In December 2017, the play was performed three times in Bangalore by Jagriti Kids – a charity promoting literacy and school attendance.
The play is based on the Anansi and Tiger stories and involves music, masks and audience participation. If you have a group of mixed ages and abilities and would be interested in more details of it, please contact me – email@example.com