Welcome to another guest post for my ‘Hello Home…’ pandemic themed feature. It would seem all of us have experienced or are still experiencing a lockdown of some sort while the corona virus continues to blight our lives. Although we are all in the same situation, we experience it differently because our homes are all so different. Thinking about this inspired me to write a piece a few weeks ago dedicated to my house and what it has meant to me during these strange and unsettling times. I then decided to reach out to others who might want to talk about what their home has meant to them during the pandemic. Today please welcome writer Adeola Sheehyto the blog!
My house has shrunk.
I’m not entirely sure when it happened, but sometime just past summer the walls began to move.
This house has always been cosy, but I now understand that bungalows have a habit of getting smaller the longer you stay in them, especially when the people inside just keep growing bigger.
I look down at the floor and expect to see a visible path in the carpet. There is a perfect circle to run in, from the hallway, through the kitchen, round through the front room and back again. I know it is perfect because I watch the exhilaration on their faces as they chase each other, and because I laugh at their shrieks as I join in the pursuit.
On a Monday there are so many people in my house I’m reminded of a house-party and my second favourite spot in the hallway, there are no getaway stairs here. Only now all the ‘guests’ are in tiny boxes on screens, with each child in a different class in a different room. There aren’t enough rooms or screens, so I end up here, in the hallway. Except this party is oddly quiet. I wonder if this is what those silent discos feel like? Everyone in their own individual worlds, together.
Our daily lives are now governed by these mini invasions, sudden bursts of people all talking at the same time, scrabbling for a moment of connection.
The nights are a contrast and that silence has a different feel.
Once it’s just the house and I, we both exhale, deep and long, releasing the built up tension and softening the edges which have hardened through the day’s onslaught.
The walls recede there in the dark. They shift back into place, a retreat from the battle lines drawn in the day. It’s those daylight hours, with their noise and movement that take up all the air and physical space. That’s when the walls move in and I start plotting my escape.
I used to love travel, but I loved coming home too. That brief window of time when you step inside the door and see the space as an outsider. It only lasts minutes, like the moment you bump into an old friend or lover on a busy street
and your eyes drink each other in, smiling in recognition, noticing the changes. The instant familiarity and simultaneous curiosity of the new.
Then slowly it all slots into place, the warmth of people fills the air, the sound of chatter pushes the stillness out and it’s all the same once more.
I haven’t left in over a year and familiarity is not helping our relationship. I need to leave so I can miss you. Your walls are like arms encouraging me on my way, pushing me out the door. We will like each other again I’m sure, but right now I can’t imagine how you got so small and I just don’t seem to fit.
Thank you so much to Adeola for writing this piece for the blog. If you would like to find out more about Adeola and her work, her bio and links are below!
Mother, writer, and women circle facilitator, Adeola leads courses in creativity and all aspects of the feminine experience. The written word has been her expression, safe haven, and dearest love for as long as she can remember. Be it fiction, poems, essays, or musings on life, her pen is almost always attached to paper.
Welcome to what will be the final guest post for my Dreaming of Another World feature, but do stay tuned for news on a brand new guest feature coming soon! This was all inspired by a post I wrote about how lockdown forced me to pause, think and dream of another world, one I could just glimpse when we were all forced to stay still. I asked other creatives for their thoughts, feelings and experiences during this strange time and I had a wonderful response. Please welcome Adeola Sheehy to The Glorious Outsiders and enjoy her personal piece on her lockdown experience. You can find out more about Adeola at the end of the post.
When the unknown woke me from sleep in the night, I used to be able to tell the time by the activity from my window. Lying still so not to wake the baby I would listen for the vans and lorries hurrying past to signal the early hours. A few hours later the headlights of the earliest workers would slice through the blinds, sliding down the wall as the cars turned the corner and quietly began their day.
Next the encroaching daylight. How slowly the darkness lifts, as though it wants to hold you in its grasp for as long as possible. On the rare occasion I slept in I would be woken to the marching herds of school children, chattering loudly to hear themselves over the swoosh or the cars and buses, and the stomping of their own feet.
That’s just an echo now, their feet are hemmed in by walls and walk only across the soft carpet of their homes. The car engines are cold as their owners try to remember to leave them running every so often, so their batteries don’t die. How strange this static, stationery waiting. This pause.
As we huddle indoors, the news speaks of a sinister thing lurking outside. It is alive and hunting us, preying on the weakest among us. It has learnt how to travel unseen, invisible as it stalks us. We go out only in the daytime, for short periods and never altogether. The roads are quiet but even though the houses are full, they are quiet too. I hear no children in the gardens, or laughter from an open window. There is a hush, a waiting, a palpable fear.
Then in the night, I wake to darkness. There are no sounds or lights to offer me clues, only the rhythmic breathing of my dreaming family. What is it out there, prowling the streets?
I feel the presence of the fairy tale wolf prowling an isolated village in ever tighter circles. It’s come in from the dark woods, no longer in a distant far away land, it’s come to the doorstep. The village shuts their doors against the threat, but also to each other. Their once united community split into multiple tiny islands. Each fearful, focused on survival, and weakened by being alone. The wolf has the run of the town now, it can walk anywhere it likes, it has taken over a new territory and the villagers must come out sooner or later. It’s an unwinnable siege of their own making.
The shadows and the darkness have melded into one suffocating thing. My body is still and my breathing steady, as only my eyes move, tracking back and forth, searching out the presence that has my arm hair standing on end. I see the curtain twitch.
I left it open just a crack, so we could breathe a little freer. I watch it move, the delicate white lace against the dense dark. Through it a plume of white steam pushes inwards. It dissipates quickly only to be replaced by another warm breath fogging the air.
The wolf is at my door.
A home educating mother of four, Adeola’s writing has adapted and changed over the years to fit the time constraints of a full life.
From short stories, to essays and articles and with various characters nagging in her ears wanting their tales to be told, you can currently find her writing in magazines such as Roots + Wings and Juno, as well as the soon to be published Hear Our Voices collection by Conscious Dreams Publishing, and in the Fireside group at The Kindred Voice.
Lockdown seems to have broken the dam, and her pen is firmly attached to the page, so follow her on Instagram at @adeola_moonsong to see where she’ll be popping up next.
Thank you so much to Adeola and ALL of the creatives who have participated in this feature. We’ve had short stories, poems and personal pieces and they have all been amazing. I am thinking about collating these pieces into a collection at some point (subject to each author’s permission of course) but I would like to make it a really diverse and interesting one. So, for my next guest feature I would like to know how your pets helped you through lockdown, or the pandemic in general. If you are a creative with a furry friend, then please get in touch! Perhaps you even got a pet for the first time during lockdown? I’d like to know about you and your pet, how you got together, what you do together, whether they have a positive impact on your mental health and how they have helped or hindered your creative processes and your everyday life during the pandemic. Please get in touch 🙂
Dreaming Of Another World is a new feature on my blog, inspired by a piece I wrote a few weeks back. I wondered if other creatives felt the same as me, that another world could be glimpsed during lockdown and that perhaps we ought to use this unique time to change our ways. I reached out to other writers and bloggers to ask how lockdown affected their vision of the future. Has the experience changed them and if so, how? Are they going to make changes to their lives because of what has happened? This next post is from author LE Hill, a former journalist who used the lockdown isolation to finish and publish her first novel. She also runs a writing based Community Interest Company, like me! Enjoy the post and if you would like to know more about LE Hill and her novel The Girl I Left Behind, the link is at the end.
By L E Hill
Five months ago, I was sitting in the café at John Lewis in Glasgow drinking coffee and catching up with one of my close friends who I see only once or twice a year. It was almost deserted and as we chatted we realised it may be the last time we caught up for a while.
Earlier that morning, when I arrived on the early train to Glasgow, I met my brother briefly and we hugged albeit wondering if we should. I’m so glad we did – who would have thought hugging or showing affection would become so taboo. We talked about our kids and the prospect of the schools closing at Easter. Little did we know what lay ahead.
Later, I met another dear friend who by coincidence was also in town. She had flown up from London for the weekend to visit her mum and had packed a bag as her employers had advised her to work from home for the next few weeks. She ended up being back for almost four months.
I stayed with my parents that night and as I said goodbye the next day before getting the train, I wondered when I would see them again – especially as my dad has ongoing health conditions. We were all waiting the imminent announcement that we were going into lockdown.
That morning I willed the train to go faster to take me home to my own family. As I looked out of the window and watched fields flash by, I could feel the creep of anxiety begin. I felt as though I was on borrowed time and wanted to get into what would soon become my bubble.
My biggest concern was how it would affect my children – particularly the abrupt end to their academic year; cancelled exams; cancelled activities; having their freedom curtailed and having to think about things that didn’t event enter my head when I was their age. Yet I watched in amazement and with pride as they and their friends adjusted and adapted and showed great resilience despite everything in their world being turned upside down.
For the first couple of months of the pandemic I didn’t have much time to dream. My mind was hectic – too busy making sure my kids were okay, worrying about my parents and trying to juggle work. All of my freelance community work dried up overnight – as meeting places shut down and everyone stayed at home. Perhaps that lull did in some way fuel my thoughts and trigger something which had been at the back of my mind for a while. I did indeed start to dream.
I have always wanted to write books. I have written – since I was a child –. yet up until lockdown I hadn’t written very much at all for about a year. I had completely lost all confidence in my ability to write. I just didn’t feel good enough.
I know the joy that creative writing can bring – I teach it to community groups in a bid to help people share their stories and build confidence. I work with older people, those living with dementia and their carers and survivors of domestic abuse. I love watching people smile as they discover the joy of writing, sharing their story and realising that they can do it. Yet I could not.
Over the years I have written four books. Two will probably stay in a drawer forever, but over the past couple of years I have been tirelessly trying to get two novels published. I naively thought that if I signed to an agent and publishers showed interest then I was on the home straight. Not so. Despite strong interest and requested and detailed rewrites for two, the interest then faded away. I soon learned all about the term ‘being ghosted’. I lost my confidence, forgot about how much I used to enjoy writing and decided that my dreams of having my work published were pointless.
But during lockdown I thought a lot about the fragility of life. I read the devastating stories of loss and anguish and how much Covid-19 had affected so many people. I also regularly reminded myself how lucky I was that my family were well and safe.
So – I gave myself a shake. I’m not getting any younger and who knows what is around the corner. I finally accepted that I didn’t need anyone else’s approval to get my book out there. Just my own.
A friend designed the cover, I planned a launch date and on July 11 published my debut novel, The Girl I Left Behind.
It’s not perfect, I have loads to learn but isn’t that what life is about? I have no expectations either. I just want to write. And I have been. I have started to enjoy journaling, writing Haikus and have managed to rewrite another book which I had put away in a drawer.
I bumped into someone locally who had bought The Girl I Left Behind and she told me that my book had got her back into reading again; a friend from university – that I hadn’t spoken to for years – contacted me to tell me how much she enjoyed it.
Even my dad, who never reads anything other than the sports results, has been reading it. For me, that is what it is all about.
I keep reminding myself that I am where I am supposed to be today and things generally work out for a reason. My years of dreaming about having my work in print have finally come true.
LE Hill has always loved reading and writing and her short stories and poetry have been published in various anthologies. She has been shortlisted in national writing competitions and been a writer in residence with Women’s Aid East and Midlothian. A former journalist, she spent much of her working life in Glasgow, Edinburgh and London. She has also worked in marketing and communications and has an MA in Creative Writing from Kingston University and a PhD from Stirling University.
She is particularly interested in creative writing for health and well-being and runs a small social enterprise in East Lothian, Sharing A Story CIC, using shared reading and creative writing sessions to reduce social isolation and build confidence.
Thank you so much to LE Hill for writing this piece for my blog! I still have spaces to fill for this feature so please get in touch if you have a story, poem or non-fiction piece on the theme of dreaming of another world…
I don’t know about you, but I am experiencing such a mixture of emotions right now that it’s genuinely overwhelming. I’ve got fear and anxiety dipping and rising. I’ve got humour coming and going. I’ve got excitement about the challenges ahead and the thought that maybe, just maybe, this situation will somehow bring some good and make us change the way that we live. I’ve got determination and a kind of let’s just get on with it atttitude popping up from time to time. Sometimes I want to laugh and sometimes I want to cry. I am so grateful for so many things and at the same time unable to really absorb all this, let alone plan. The uncertainty is definitely the most stressful element of it all.
For me, the answer lies in writing. Always. Ever since I was a kid I have written to help me make sense of the world around me and the emotions I am feeling. I don’t often really know what I think or feel until I write it down. So, here I am, soaking up the latest news that UK schools are to close indefinitely this Friday due to the Corona virus outbreak.
A few weeks ago I barely gave the virus a second thought. I think a lot of us ignored it. It was like all the other things we were supposed to be afraid of right? SARS and Bird Flu, Swine Flue, Ebola and Zika virus to name but a few. The biggest things worrying me were climate change and the turmoil that would possibly arise from Brexit.
It was something happening in another country to other people, and that attitude shames me now. Because now we realise, don’t we? How bad things can happen to us too. To any of us, anywhere, at any time. We realise now how scarily fragile everything truly is.
Last week, as the virus started to dominate the news, as other countries started to go into lockdown, it still did not feel real. Until I went into my local Home Bargains and could not buy loo roll. I had enough at home but was mildly surprised and amused to view the stark, empty shelves. I wrote about it on Facebook and I think most people were feeling the same. Well, isn’t that a bit annoying and strange?
A few days after that I went to Tesco late at night, figuring that was the best way to get what we needed. My husband works in a frozen foods supermarket and he was reporting empty shelves and panic buying there. That night at Tesco I started to realise how strange everything had become. The shop was busier than it should have been at 10.45pm. There was no loo roll, no medicines, no soap or handwash, no pasta or rice, barely any tins or packets. I still got most of what we needed so I wasn’t too worried, but it did start to sink in. This is not going away. This is just going to get worse. We are heading towards lockdown, school closures and job losses. Oh shit.
Still, Monday morning rolled around as usual. No change there. School run and work. Busy, busy. No sign that anything was going to change too much in our day to day lives. That day I did make the decision to stop my fortnightly adult writing group until further notice. It’s my least frequent group and I make the least money doing it. Enought people had said they wouldn’t be able to come due to the situation, so I decided to pull the plug. I thought that would be it. But by Tuesday afternoon I had recevied an email from one of the schools I run an after-school writing club at informing me that all after-school clubs were cancelled until further notice. My other school followed suit and I then found out the museum I hold two writing groups at was closing, so those had to be cancelled too.
I wouldn’t say I panicked exactly, but I started to stress about the financial side of it all. Would I have to refund people for the sessions they had paid in advance for and so on. The more I thought about it, the more sad I felt. I’ve spent so long building up this little business and it’s really only been in the last year that things have started to take off for me and make some real money. However, I didn’t feel too sorry for myself for long. I started to think about all the time I would now have to read, write, learn to play the guitar and garden.
And then today, the news we had all been expecting. All schools, colleges, nurseries and so on are to close doors this Friday until further notice. I’m not exactly stressed about it. I am actually quite looking forward to spending more time with my children and I am determined that my 5 year old, in particular, sticks to the same school day he is used to. I am determined that he will have fun. It’s going to be a challenge for us all, but the schools have been absolutely amazing, with the constant updates and reassurances and I am sure they will be sending lots of resources our way. So now I won’t exactly have much free time, but it’s okay. We have a new challenge to adjust to and humans are nothing if not adaptable. We also have a remarkable ability to look on the bright side and make light of things. I think we will see alot of that.
I am of course anxious about food and medicine supplies. I stocked up on our asthma inhalers and hayfever meds this week, just in case. Paractemol is like bloody gold dust now! But we are in a luckier position than some. As long as he does not fall ill, my husband’s supermarket job should be secure. He is utterly exhausted though. They are run off their feet and dealing with very abusive customers at times. We live in a semi-rural location, with only one neighbour. We have a large enough house and a very large garden. I am extremely grateful for my hens and ducks who are all laying very well at the moment and I am putting the extra effort into the vegetable garden. I fully intend to put the kids to work out there too most days, as I feel like now more than ever they need to learn these skills, in case anything like this happens again.
It could be worse. We are lucky. The government is talking about help for the self-employed and for renters, so there is hope there too. I am going to be sending out weekly writing prompts to the children who normally attend my clubs and I am going to post daily ones on my business page for the writing company. I hope to figure out how to put online classes/workshops together at some point, but I am now rather stretched for time with the home schooling to get my head around.
My main worry is my 74 year old mother who has a heart condition. Her operation has been cancelled and she is in the vulnerable group. She doesn’t seem to see it that way though and so far has not been too good at isolating herself. This worries me greatly and I have tried very hard to impress the importance of it on her.
Anyway, the way I see it now, our job is to stay calm, stay positive, stay kind. Help each other whenever and however we can and be there for our loved ones. Keep busy, keep active, embrace the arts more than ever, and in my case, write my way through it. If you see more blog posts than normal (I’ve been quiet lately on the blogging front due to the business of life) it’s just my way of working through it and making sense of it. I can’t recommend writing strongly enough for easing stress and anxiety.
My main thought right now is how fragile everything is. How quickly things can change. How suddenly the ground can fall away from under you. It should give us all pause to think, especially if we have ever looked down on those less fortunate than us. Now we are all in a vulnerable position. It doesn’t matter how rich or poor you are, what colour your skin, or how much power you have. This is affecting us all. Because truly, we are all one, we are all connected. It’s just that we have forgotten that and lost sight of it. Maybe there are some lessons to be learned in all of this. That’s also the best we can do, I think. Learn from it. Admit where we might have been wrong. Aspire to change.
That’s all I’ve got to say on it for now, but I think I will be back regularly with my thoughts on this and with news on how my drastically changed life is going! Wish me luck with the home schooling, that’s all I can say!