New Writing North submission

This is a piece I wrote for my New Writing North submission. They had a contest on and I thought to give it a go, as I haven’t put myself forward for anything like that in a long time (if ever? I struggle to remember). Anyhow, it wasn’t accepted for publication, so I’ve decided to post it here in the hopes that somebody will read it one day and feel slightly reassured by the way I’ve documented the sheer madness of enduring a global pandemic. For context: the brief was to summarise the events and experiences of the last year, and so, being trapped in the midst of the first lockdown and isolated from friends and family, this is how I summarised the experience:

This isn’t how we envisioned our year panning out: all of our lives have been suspended and all the dreams we thought we’d manifest this year, shelved.

For the first time since childhood, the whole family is together under one roof.

Our food stock is yet to reach depletion thanks to decades of mum’s hoarding. The pantry is loaded and ready for indefinite quarantine, the deep freezer is ready to unearth all the long-lost meals that have been buried away for god knows how long. We always joked about how we’d be ready for a crisis and now that one is here, well, it’s just not that funny anymore.

It’s a miracle, really. As of yet, nobody has been throttled in our household. Dad hasn’t had to dare us to brawl each other for his own entertainment as the entire back-catalogue of Netflix and Prime has him covered. My globe-trotting sister is here on British soil, but still living in sync with a different time zone. The other one is watching TikToks for hours on end and spending up to 3 hours in the bathroom every other day (doing what, we will never know). Then there’s the matter of my mum: The Chilli Whisperer. They’re all over the damned house, under heat lamps and specialist equipment ordered from some dark corner of the internet.

The sensitivities are at an all-time high and moods shift like the seasons under climate change. Even the smallest things are like flint for a big fire. One minute you’re feeling pumped to use this isolation period for a series of productive activities that have been repeatedly put on the backburner, the other minute you’re sobbing into your sixth glass of gin because you miss your family and friends outside of these four walls, and Zoom just isn’t enough.

What I’m realising is that everyone needs their own space to do with it what they will, be it sleeping, staring goggle-eyed at BBC News for a few hours, yoga or just reading in some obscure corner of the house with a torch. Space is so important, especially with the spectrum of emotions everyone’s going through. There are lots of feelings right now and all of them valid. You can rub someone up the wrong way by looking at them. You can also rub someone up the wrong way by hiding the precious, last-remaining cargo of spicy Cheetos and eating them secretly in your room. I would say, “keep your secrets” but it’s obviously pointless when you’re faced with the culprit presenting the unmistakable red tongue and fiery fingers.

Lockdown is a volatile ride: both incredibly scary and exciting. We will only make it through this experience if we hold each other up on our respective bad days. We wake up, make the most of each day and look forward to a time when this will all be a distant memory, when the world has some semblance of ‘normality’. We cast our eyes to the future.

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