Writedown provides a unique record of life in Galloway, south west Scotland during lockdown through the work of 22 writers in a collection of lyrical poetry, desperate rants, humour and quiet endurance. They tell the story of a community encountering unprecedented times
I came to this book wondering if these writers would have shared my experiences of Spring 2020 and they did. They speak as Everyman expressing our shared responses to unprecedented times. Through diary entries from March 23rd until June 15th we are reminded of the day lockdown began, of the shortages in the supermarkets, the difficulties arranging food deliveries and of the grief at being cut off from our loved ones. Some had accidents which were more worrying than they would normally be, operations were postponed, yet the skies became quiet and unpolluted and the birds sang.
We lived in virtual reality. There were zoom calls with family, quizzes with friends on Kahoot and, my shared experience, reading to my grandchild on Facetime, even though she told me I was an imaginary Gran. As one of the writers said, “How acute is the isolation when my screen shuts down.”
I loved the reference to “The Subjunctive World,” where a calendar showed where we would have been or the appointment we would have kept. I empathised with Mary’s feelings of the “lightness” of having no commitments, only time to ourselves but also with the “weight” of guilt because no-one in my family has the virus and I have a garden to enjoy. Everyone enjoyed the beautiful weather and the time to garden and Leonie’s detailed description of the wildflowers, insects and birds is magnificent. And yet it was difficult to ignore politics. The murder of George Floyd in America and the massacre in Kabul were also part of life at that time and we shared not only clapping for the NHS but also the feeling that, “our government floundered like numpties.”
Individual anecdotes lit up the entries. I have great admiration for Cath who made scrubs for hospital staff. Several of the writers are widows and they recalled moments from their lives with their husbands. Sharing a phone call with a friend you have known most of your life was something many of us did but one elderly writer decided to phone lonely people in the parish to cheer them up. Little things like having a banana to eat or finding somewhere to swim gave immense pleasure.
Perhaps most sad was that although we hoped, “the pandemic would lead to a fundamental shift in society, maybe kinder, and in politics they’d be honest, maybe actually work for the good of the people once it was over,” one of the writers realised, “Maybe that’s a step too far into the realms of Utopian fantasy.”
Writedown on Amazon UK