Pen To Print

Thursday Connectors: What Now?

by Farzana Hakim

Hi, all. It’s that time of the week again when I, Farzana, your host, bring you an exciting edition of ‘Thursday Connectors.’ Our theme this week has me holding my head in my hands while I’m nodding and shaking it vigorously. Ouch! Yep, it’s giving me a headache because, to tell you the truth, I really don’t know, ‘What Now?’

I’m sure many of you will be feeling the same. The lockdown is easing speedily and things are indeed returning to a semblance of ‘normal’, yet the pandemic is still here and the number of cases and deaths remain alarming. The virus is as deadly as ever and the vulnerable are still at risk. Although we are being told to go out as much as we want to, I know so many people who, like me, are reluctant to venture outside for anything other than the essential grocery shop.

All businesses are now allowed to open up. For obvious reasons, I don’t drink alcohol and have never been to a pub, so this was something I didn’t miss during lockdown. To other people’s delight, though, the pubs in the UK opened up last weekend. The isolation many people were forced to adhere to has relaxed enough for us to go out and have a bit of fun with a friend or two. We can even eat out at a restaurant with our family. So, we’ve finally moved forwards…

But my anxiety levels are soaring. Take my trip to the B&M garden centre in Dagenham Merrielands the other day, for example. The place was buzzing, not with bees, but with noisy activity and customers. I had my mask on, so did the husband, yet most people didn’t have a mask; not even dangling from their chinny chin-chins! Many were not keeping a distance, either. Hardly surprising, though – when our government’s messages are as vague as ever.

I’m truly afraid of another wave of the coronavirus hitting us hard again.  It’s already done so much damage to me and my community and our society. I’m not sure I’ll be able to cope with more grief and sadness. But at least masks will soon be mandatory in shops. Even Donald Trump is wearing one now!

******

Let’s head over to Brazil for our first ‘Connector’ of the week. Liam Cotter talks to us about how the country has been faring since the easing of lockdown.

Hi, Liam. Let’s connect:

Changes In Brazil

It started as rather a surprise. However, the state we live in, Santa Catarina, was able to lock down quickly. We were plunged into the deep end. Apart from essentials like supers and chemists, everything shut. A large majority of people went to the super and bought tons of toilet paper and alcohol gel. I got a little frightened, as I had to turn my teaching business around from one day to the next. It was do or die. The government seemed to not care less. The President, Bolsonaro, was against the country closing down and attacked the state governors for doing so. This meant we were left in limbo regarding good advice. In fact, people generally stayed at home. Of course, the President’s followers, who went against the state governors, wanted to reopen everything as soon as possible.

Three months later, everything is open and infection rates are going up and up. It has been very difficult to keep everything going but my wife and I have been blessed with still being able to teach online. For many, though, it has been very hard. Small businesses, in particular, have been forced to close down, as they have had very little support from the government. Life has changed a lot in Brazil in the last three months and the future looks bleak for many.

It’s also worth noting that Rio de Janeiro, in particular, is a ticking time bomb, with the amount of COVID-19 cases increasing sharply. The hospitals are grossly under-funded and are unable to cope with the situation. Sao Paulo is no different.

There is little trust in the government. They appear to be cooking the books in relation to the true figures. The biggest problem we have is the lack of testing.

Let’s try to keep our heads up high and dig our heels in. The future may be bleak, but it’s all we have.

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Thank you for this, Liam. I’m also worried about our situation here. But let’s remain optimistic. I’‘m sure we will come out of this stronger and far more compassionate towards each other.

Our next ‘Connector’ is Barbara Campbell, who writes poetry. When I was sent this poem by our Editor to consider using on my page, I was so overwhelmed by the authentic language being used that I wrote back saying to say, I would use it straight away. I admire writers who aren’t afraid to use their own language and style in their work. Isn’t it something special when a verse from a writer you’ve never read before, touches you and appears so relatable?

This poem also took me back to my teenage years, when I used to help out at my father’s supermarket in Hackney, where I gained and experienced the privilege of hearing different dialects and accents belonging to this colourful and diverse borough of London. Oh, the vibrancy of the wonderful, cheerful people who used to come to the shop! How I’d laugh and joke with them. This poem reminded me of those very special days.

So, let’s say hello to Barbara, who has grown up in the UK but is also strongly rooted in her Caribbean heritage.

Hi, Barbara. Let’s connect:

Lockdown

Just because u in a
Lockdown and caan leave u yaad
No mean say u fi let go
And live in a bed from marning til nite
Leave off de wig and comb u hair
U fi get up and bathe

Rub down de foot bottom
No mek it favour grater
Grease de scale leg
Or it will favour alligator
Moisturize wid coconut oil

Don’t sit down a wonder
Wen it a go done
Plan wat u a go do fe now

Discard de nite clothes
Wat  tun day wear
Dress up in u best
Like u goin somewhere

Pickney nah go a school
U  still have to feed them
Give them two dumplings
To satisfy their needs

No mek de pressure bear
Down pon u
Fine something fe do
Sort out de yaad
Get rid of de rubbish
Weh u store up fe years

Same way dis a something come
A same way it have fe go
Follow de rules cause
Lockdown is not forever

©Barbara Campbell, 2020

You can connect with Barbara on Twitter: @BicPoet and Instagram: @BicPoet55

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Now, some exciting news about ‘Thursday Connectors’. As you all know, the page was initially set up to keep us connected during the stresses of lockdown. In fact, during this week’s article, I was meant to have said my fond farewells to you all! However, it makes me very happy to tell you that ‘Thursday Connectors’ will be continuing for much longer than anticipated. (I see cheers and balloons being released up into the air, in celebration.) The only difference being that I’ll be connecting fortnightly as oppose to weekly from now on.

Don’t be disheartened, though. ‘Thursday Connectors’ will still be weekly. The only difference is that, instead of me, my sons, Najam and Sameer, will be hosting and connecting you to a much younger audience of writers and creatives. And I am super-excited to be introducing my boys to Write On Extra! Like me, they love telling stories and connecting to the world.

Please do continue to send in your short stories, poems, pieces of art and thoughts. They will kick off the youth section of our magazine with a colourful array of creativity. Our next season is themed ‘A Kaleidoscope Of Colours’ and we’ll be exploring the shifting landscape we are living through at the moment, looking at how we adapt to the ever-changing, ever-swirling patterns of life.

I’d love to see your ideas and experiences in spoken word format, either audio or video, as well as artwork. Our youth need to be encouraged to enter the world of creative arts and our Thursday page is all about connecting people. So, tell us your stories. Tell us about your culture. Tell us who you are and what you stand for. I’m looking forward to it!

Email your submissions for our ‘Thursday Youth Connectors’ to me, Farzana Iqbal, care of: Pentoprint@lbbd.org.uk. Please ensure you write ‘Youth Connectors’ in the subject line.

That’s it for this week. Thank you for being such loyal readers and contributors these past few months. As life begins to return to normal, I look forward to moving onwards together.

In the meantime, take care and stay safe. See you again soon!

You can connect to Farzana on Twitter: @farzanahakim

Read Issue 4 of Write On! magazine here.

The lockdown is easing speedily and things are indeed returning to a semblance of ‘normal’, yet the pandemic is still here and the number of cases and deaths remain alarming.