'Grasshopper' is a short story written in response to events in real time, in the form of a woman keeping a journal which documents the moments when coronavirus creeps first through the country, then into her community and finally into her family.
I’ve decided to write a few brief notes about coronavirus. It seems important to document these times I find myself living through.
No, that’s not true. Not really. Do I think the times I’m living through are worthy of note? Of course. Is a travel writer – no, a part-time copywriter for a travel company – the person to leave that legacy? God, no.
No, the real reason I’m populating this Word Document with these sentences is that today is my first day of furlough, a hastily arranged situation – my employer texted me over the weekend to let me know – but nonetheless I came here, into the kitchen, and sat down at my laptop just before 11am, as I do at this time every week, to write my weekly copy. I love my work so feel rather lost without it.
Another untruth. What I love is that I have successfully carved this moment out of my week, a moment that isn’t dictated by the demands of my family and that I can keep a small part of my present life in the one I have left behind, the one of travelling.
But travelling is over. There are no holidays to be sold. Any of my descriptions of sparkling coasts or historic villages just a short bus ride away aren’t just unnecessary but totally inappropriate. Surreal. Madness.
Thus: furloughed. Nothing to write. No destinations to describe, unless Fir-upon-Clune could be termed a destination.
Should I instead describe the past few days? The lead-in to our lockdown, as it seems like we’ll be calling it.
I’m not sure what the purpose this description would serve. Our weekend – our household consists of myself, Adrian, our son Isaac, his baby sister Willow and Grandad – was fairly normal. Adrian went to The Chapel to collect the things he needs to work from home, both on Saturday and Sunday and, predictably, spent almost the full day there each time, presumably writing. Isaac spent most of the time in his bedroom playing computer games as he would have done anyway. Grandad (we all call him Grandad) watched repeats of Frasierin the front room, hunched at the end of the sofa. I drove Willow to the big park on Saturday for one last trip to the playground before it’s closed down and then into town to go to the supermarket on Sunday. I say town – I mean Garside Marsham, a completely different town, one with a Tesco and pub, which is about twenty minutes’ drive away. I hoovered and mopped the house where I could. I baked a casserole and made a trifle.
Richard V. Hirst is an award-winning short story writer. He is the co-author of The Night Visitors and the editor of We Were Strangers: Stories Inspired by Unknown Pleasures. His writing has appeared in the Guardian, Time Out and the Big Issue. He lives in Manchester.
My dreams are packed with flying serpents, supermarkets. I sleep a tight 5 hours and wake at dawn with a headache. Then my mind must accommodate all this now. Every morning, all this now kicks in the door and there it stands shining in the fullness of its horror which is a kind of splendour. What can one say to all this now removing the air from the room, all this now blocking the rest of the picture, all this now rearranging every aspect of the day in relation to itself? It goes on moving the furniture in there for a long time.
Before is defunct. All roads leading to beforeland are closed.
I decide we are going to move into the spirit world for a while. But first I’ll need to pick up a few things.
One-item lists collect in drifts around the house, pastel squares that cross the register from reminder to catechism to yelp: every day I will take my fear out for a walk – rest – strong bread flour – I will allow my children to see that I am appropriately but not excessively scared – strong flour – breathe – call about broadband – can’t breathe – strong flour and the pansies.
I’m thinking about the pansies a lot but it’s too early to put the bedding plants out, the big white and purple pansies I always buy are not frost hardy and they don’t sell them online and I’m scared to go to the garden centre even with my makeshift bandito bandana in case I kill someone it’s the day after the vernal equinox and I can’t my mind keeps getting stuck on the pansies, keeps returning me to the pansies because that night what we were starting to suspect might be the last night at the pub and I couldn’t stop myself hugging though everyone did in the end.
Because I know how important a timeline is I keep trying to find a definitive point. That last night at the pub was Thursday the 12th of March, 2020 between the hours of five and ten pm – a week and a day before time of writing. All this now even then waiting in the wings. Things were beginning to distort though we tried to hold it back with our own arms, our dirty hands – no, not that night, it was later. The sense of normality clung though every day it degraded a little more.
I try and try again to drop a pin into the moment where it all fundamentally changed and realise I am standing in it. It is this moment. Filled with the sound of before calving off now and the rush of air into the space between.
Kate Feld is a writer whose work spans poetry, fiction and essays. Her writing has been widely published in journals and anthologies including The Stinging Fly, The Letters Page and Hotel, and she is a frequent performer at North West literary events. She is founding editor of creative nonfiction journal The Real Story and lectures in journalism at the University of Salford.
On the evening of March 23, the United Kingdom's Prime Minister announced that the country was going into lockdown.
Overnight, living rooms became offices, gardens became outdoor gyms and parents became teachers.
Switch on the radio and you'll hear plenty of adults discussing the state of the nation - but what about the kids? How are they feeling?
In Their Own Words is a collection of audio diaries from children from all over the Greater Manchester area, who have been kind enough to let us listen in on their lockdowns.
An audio adventure with a difference! Think break-out-room meets folkloric nonsense!
Watch the video then go to www.yantantethera.org/playalong.html to follow Professor Jigget on his most daring adventure yet! Do you dare to join him?