Angela writes in April 2020

Dear Mungrisdale friends

I hope you are keeping well and safe. I have been thinking of you all a great deal in recent weeks, and really missing your inspirational writing and our happy times at Mungrisdale. I am hopefully very much recovered after my operation and this week is Week 8 of that recovery, when I would normally be back with you all! So I thought that, if you are slacking in a world weary sort of way, ‘in the bliss of solitude’, lying on your couch (as in couch potato?) or raring to go, I would give you a little exercise to stir the old brain cells into action.You may have this email twice as I will ask Trevor to pass it on if he would be so kind, just in case I miss anyone off the list.

During the last war, housewives particularly were asked to write a diary of daily experiences. Some of these accounts became famous after the war and really reflected the privations of a nation under extreme stress. There was also humour, pathos and tragedy in those intimate reflections. We have become so used, very quickly, to the strange country of pandemic – social distancing, PPE, battling for slots at 11 o’clock at night with supermarkets, hand washing, Lockdown, to name but a few. As writers, it seems to me important to record these extraordinary times, even if it is a while before we want to revisit them when it is all over. There are unique challenges of isolation, the inability to see family and friends, or even to talk to neighbours. I would really like you to begin to record these times through poetry or prose.

For myself, I have found, having been in isolation with my husband for at least a month, and probably before that because we were in isolation since the beginning of January, waiting for my operation, I long to go to the beach, I am afraid to think about going to shops again, worry about running out of essentials, but at the same time by myself much enriched by silence and quiet time and stillness. The pleasure of a daily walk is intensified.

I will try to give you a short exercise occasionally, while we are all in isolation, which you are very welcome to do. You can send them to me directly. I cannot promise to answer or comment on each one immediately, but I will do my best. I would also like you to keep them in a file for when we come together again and we can tell each other how we have fared.

This time I would like you to write either a piece of flash fiction, strictly no more than 100 words, a short poem, or a piece of descriptive prose, and again no more than 100 words, on the subject of Lockdown. You can, as usual, take it in any direction you wish. Please please please put your name at the bottom of the piece and send it as a Word Document. It can be as personal as you like, and you can also tell me whether you would prefer that I do not share it. If Trevor, our esteemed secretary is willing, we can share some of them with you all.

Most importantly, I would also like to know from everybody whether you have managed to master Zoom, as I am planning to try to host a very short meeting – about 15 minutes, sometime soon as an experiment

In the meantime, my thoughts are with all of you, and my fervent wishes that you keep safe and well.

Warmest good wishes

Angela x

Splutters

A Short Play

by David Clemson and Charles Woodhouse

Written jointly in a 15 minute exercise in Iona on Angela Locke’s May 2019 Writers Retreat. Denis is named after David’s childhood cricket hero, Denis Compton (Middlesex and England) and Len after Charles’, Len Hutton (Yorkshire and England)

Selection Committee, Haltwhistle

Stage Direction
Denis knocks on Len’s door

Denis: Morning, Len.
Len: Morning, Denis. I have put the kettle on.

SD
Denis sits at kitchen table. Len makes pot of tea.

Len: We’ve got a real problem here, Denis. Saturday approaches and we still don’t have a team.
Denis: That’s right, Len, and Haydon Bridge are top of league.

SD
Men ponder and drink more tea.

Len: You don’t think they’d lend us a couple of players?

SD
Denis splutters and nearly spills tea.

Denis: Haydon Bridge! Them beggars wouldn’t give you time of day even if stood by church clock.

Len: Aye, you’re right. So what are we going to do?

SD
Men ponder and drink more tea.

Denis: Haltwhistle isn’t just up to much this season. But we could reach out a bit. What about asking help up at Alston and then over at Brampton?

Len: It’s a bit of a stretch but why not? I’ll ring Steve in the Post Office at Alston.
Denis: And I’ll ring Bert at the grocers at Brampton. Then we’ll see what we can do.

SD
Denis and Len sit back and enjoy rest of tea.

Denis: You know, Len, Haydon Bridge won’t know what’s hit ‘em. They’ll be stuffed.

SD
Curtain closes

The Woman’s Own

How long does a river flow to the sea?
How high are the clouds in the sky?
How deep is the valley between you and me?
How many times can you lie?

You are a river that flows deep and fast
You are the sea and the land
I am the woman who still comes in last
I am the well-bitten hand.

How to survive when you can’t breathe the air?
Or live in the world unmolested?
How do you speak up? How do you dare?
When love is eternally tested.

If I was a tiger, then you’d be the gun
If I was a candle, then you’d be the wish
I honestly feel as if I am all done
Like I came to dinner, and I was the dish.

Lorraine Mackay

Leave Taking

stairs-2062236_1280
Solid stone steps lead down to fields and flower beds,
Before this ancient house, a green lawn spreads.
But turn your head, look back towards the door
An anguished couple stand, as sun drops lower.

And what of the lad who’s saying good-bye?
His gaze looking past Shepherds Crag,
Is he riding away with a sword at his side?
Or wearing a khaki cap?
Is he trying to smile, and promise his mum
That one day, very soon, he’ll be back.

Can he see how the bees make the petals expand?
Hear the fountain that plays in the pond?
Will he care if the trees are cut down when he’s gone?
Does he feel any sort of a bond?

The house must have known many similar scenes
It’s stood on this brink for so long.
But the strength of the love when your boy takes the place
Of failed politicians, in war,
Is something beyond what we know of as love,
It’s not better than love,
It’s just more.

Lorraine Mackay