Pen To Print

Thoughtful Tuesdays: Telling The Grandchildren…

by Eithne Cullen

Today we’re reflecting on what we’re going to tell our children and grandchildren when this is all over. I suppose, like me, you’ve been getting lots of funny cartoons and videos from your friends to cheer and amuse. It’s a great way of lightening the mood and keeping us in touch. I had one this morning which showed the Star Trek team turning up in 2020 and deciding to turn back immediately. They obviously didn’t think it was the place to be.

While we’re on a lighter note, there’s a lot to be said about what we’ll look like and how we’ll find ourselves when we are back to ‘normal’. I think people will have grown their creative capabilities: editors and agents won’t be able to deal with all the novels we’ve written. There will be some who are fitter than they were at the start and some who’ll have put on weight. An interesting topic is what our hair will be like – with this in mind I asked some Pen to Print regulars to let me know their thoughts and came up with this poem: Lock Down, Lock…gettit? Oh well –

Lock down

From flaxen waves to curly hair
nit picky mum picks nits
from children’s hair, the schools
closed two weeks ago, that’s nits
for you – no social distancing.
Desperate woman reaches
for kitchen scissors to have a hack
hopes it’s not too bad when it comes back.
Front line worker cuts her fringe
needs a gap above her mask to see, her PPE.
Jolly Facebook post declares
“we’ll know the true colour of your hair”
while some just wait and see
how it will be, when all is said and done;
but many men and women dread the truth
they will be outed by their greying roots.
One sighs in great relief, knowing
she doesn’t have to wash it every day.
Luxury of leaving off hijab, letting locks
hang loose and curl – inside for weeks.
One keeps forgetting to brush hers
because she’s going nowhere.
Or using the tools to hand – a bread knife
and cheese grater, one hirsute man
self-scalps and stuffs a cushion, hairilly.
Another boasts her hair’s fine, it’ll do
for a year. And more who had the sense
to get it cut before the barbers’ poles
stopped turning, only now to
worry about their beards. Amazon
delivers specialist scissors, cutting edge
right to the door, husbands wait in fear
of wives and wives get stuck in, “it’ll grow!”
No product or dye, no curlers, GHDs
our hair breathes a sigh of relief
all the way down – from its roots to its tips.

Telling The Grandchildren…

My son, Thomas, was born on the eve of the Great Storm (some called it a hurricane) of 15th October 1987. Anyone who remembers it will have a story to tell, I’m sure.  It was before mobile phones and the phone lines came down; this meant it was hard to stay in touch, hard to see if everyone was OK. If you don’t remember the actual storm, you’ve probably seen the clip of poor Michael Fish, the weatherman, saying categorically there would be no storm.

It was a bizarre time for me. During the night, while my baby and I were trying to sleep in a strange hospital room,  windows rattled and lights flickered as the power dipped. In the morning, I looked out to see the car park littered with fallen trees. My husband couldn’t contact my parents, who were going to look after the other children while he came to collect me. Nor could he get through to the maternity unit to let them know whether he’d be coming to collect me or not. It all worked out well in the end, and we got home safely. What it did mean, though, was that there was always a story to tell when I talked about his arrival in the world.

And now, in 2020, in the year of Covid-19, I’m awaiting the arrival of my first grandchild. There will be many stories to share with this little one about the world he or she arrived into.

While his parents to be are locked down, they have plenty of time to prepare for the new little one and will hopefully be rested and well by the time they have to face the inevitable sleep disturbance.

I may well be meeting my little granddaughter or grandson through a window. So I’ll be saving up the opportunities for cuddles, sitting and singing with the baby on my lap. I’ve been looking forward to these for the last few months. I’m ready to be a Nanna, even without being able to hold the baby!

And think of the stories we’ll be telling for years to come.

While we might be cautious about telling the sad stories about the suffering and pain experienced by individuals and their families, there are so many things we won’t forget: for example, how proud we were of the healthcare workers who cared for the victims. We’ll tell about the Thursday evenings when we clapped at our gates for all of them. I hope I remember to mention the whistle I’ve been blowing, the friendly chat among the neighbours and the fireworks someone was setting off. I’ll mention my friend who has been making scrubs for nurses, at home on her sewing machine.

I’ll mention that petrol prices were very low! Not so many places to drive to in those days. How funny for us; we’d just bought a new car and it sat outside underused, but very shiny.

And the buses that ran along the High Road, almost empty. They were needed to take people to work.

I’ll be sure to talk about the shopping trips: at first, the rush to strip the shelves of toilet paper and the jokes that followed. But I’ll remember the real fears of people who were worried about getting food for their families, missing the support of food banks and free meals. I’ll also remember to describe the social distancing in the supermarket queues, when Grandad took a book to read while waiting to be called in to the shop.

We’ll be able to say, “Yes, the history books are true! The Prime Minister was in hospital and the Queen came on the TV to tell us we’ll meet again!”

We’ll hear about the way our precious little bundle was delivered, not by a stork, but in a stretched service which would still put delivering this baby as a high priority and give his/her mother the best of care. Perhaps we’ll know about the quiet streets they drove through to bring him or her home.

And when the question comes: “What did you do in the lockdown, Nanna?” I’ll be able to describe teaching Grandad to bake, listening to him playing the ukulele in the house and in virtual strumming groups. I’ll be able to tell her/him that we walked the forest on paths we knew and others we grew to know. We’ll describe the anxiety we felt about keeping two metres away from fellow walkers. And the hours of gardening we did. I’ll boast about the writing and the creativity people were inspired to take up and develop.

I’ll also be able to point to all the knitted garments of her childhood, his infant days – knitting like a mad woman!

That’s what I’ll say. And she’ll sigh, or he’ll walk away.

“That’s the trouble with Nanna, always talking about the past!”

*****

 

The 7th April was William Wordsworth’s birthday. He would have been two hundred and fifty years old. And even people who don’t know much about his poetry will know at least a few words of his famous daffodils poem.

I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

*****

Lynda Shepherd has been Spring-watching. Her poem shows the subtle changes she’s noticing as Spring progresses towards Summer:

I Spy Spring…

I spy Spring, bursts of colour, shoots, tender green leaves, blossom, daffodils, crocus, snowdrops and tulips. I tick them all off a list I made like my Nan used to do when a journey by car seemed so very far.

Now the temperatures have begun to lift, the sun gently warms our skin. Occasional showers, nature’s own refresh button.

I spy Spring, blossom and sleepy nectar-filled bees pave the way for slowly-forming fruit.

The days and weeks slip past, vegetables in all the colours of the rainbow growing above and below the ground, soon to fill our plates. The days become shorter as the season pushes the clock hands forward. Be calm; I spy Spring has become Summer.

And finally…

In these very taxing times, it’s nice to look to the future, when we can see our family and friends again. We’ll be back to a world where these memories will be part of a very important oral history; something to tell the children and the grandchildren, as we’ve said. We’ve got a lot to look forward to and a lot to be thankful for.

Let’s take some inspiration from other writers:

The ancient Persian poet, Rumi, gave this advice: “Wear gratitude like a cloak and it will feed every corner of your life.”

And Charles Dickens told us (though I’ve slightly paraphrased): “Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every person has plenty; not on your past misfortunes, of which we all have some.”

Next week, I’ll be sharing some writing from someone who has worked with Pen to Print in the past: Julie Sanford. Our very own Lisa suggested she write something about her novels, but she was wary of doing so, as they are quite deep (as Lisa says…makes 50 Shades look like Goldilocks!).

Issue 4 of Write On! magazine is available now online. Click to read your copy.

And now, in 2020, in the year of Covid-19, I’m awaiting the arrival of my first grandchild. There will be many stories to share with this little one about the world he or she arrived into.