The end of 2019 was a busy time for Fermanagh Writers. We had been involved as writers and performers in two dramatic presentations directed by Paddy McEneany: our own The Ghost of Christy Past for the Fermanagh Live festival, and The Gods of Sound and Stone in the Strule Arts Centre, and we were looking forward to a new project Better Together in conjunction with Ballinamore Hens Shed. I had been in hospital with a clot on the lung, and we all needed a rest before the next issue of Corncrake. There would certainly be plenty to write about.
Then Covid arrived.
These words were written just after our friend Katharine – Kathy May – died. I wrote them down without thinking of grammar or meter or sequence or refinement.
They are from my first thoughts as my wife Ann McNulty and I were, and still are, trying to come to terms with our grief at the tragedy of Kathy our lifetime friend being dead. Perhaps I thought they were going to be the kernel of a poem or a piece of dandified prose. Not yet, I am not ready to disturb them.
You taught me
It was fine to dance alone
push back the terrors
explore my inner minx
dig deep to excavate buried joys
permit the lightest fingertip trickles
on sun kissed skin
trace the nape, slip hips, tap heels
in sync to heart stopping beats
sing, dream, let go.
The Border Between Us was a project run by the Glens Centre in Manorhamilton. It took place over the lockdowns of autumn and winter of 2020 and 2021.
Somebody must look for rainbows
under leaden skies –
work furloughed, playgrounds empty,
plans cancelled, there’s no excuse.
We’ve read, drew and danced
cooked and home-schooled
played on the iPad
streamed and then…
The shadow of Coronavirus has suffocated the world. But as a physically disabled woman, the world has opened up for me.
With a squeeze of a button I see National Theatre productions on YouTube. Daily I have rediscovered Melissa Etheridge rocking from home. Jason Byrne is sweating workouts through Instagram; I have dusted off my dumbbells and he is inspiring my exercise. I have collaborated with Gary Lightbody, beaming from his LA rental. I run a book club through Zoom; isn’t it interesting to see other people’s décor? Normally I cannot access their homes.
The clerics stood
commanding, demanding, unending
the old walls stood
supporting, surrounding, upstanding.
The lonely figure stood
courageously, stoically, outrageously
with pride and honour and defiance.
Here it is…
A finger on the pause button
– A figurative spoke in the wheel
Our lives on hold
Whilst we await release
This is not a love song, a love poem or a love note
It is a list;
a way to organise things inside my head
I do insist we never kissed
Or saw each other naked
Or made dinner together
Or watched nights break across days
None of the above
I was never a musical child. As the saying goes, I couldn’t even carry a tune in a bucket. Once, in my twenties, I bought a tin whistle and a book of folk songs with music, and I tried to pick out tunes in that.
Music theory was a locked book. I did not have the key. I did not even have a clue what a key was.
The other day I was sitting
and I said to the wife
We are all now starting
a different life
The Chinese or a Bat
who ever’s to blame
Between you and me
it all is the same
Her pen poised over the card. Did people send these any more? What about Snapchat or Tick Tock whatever that was? She doubted he was on those.
She just wanted a connection. In lockdown she felt adrift, lost amid a sea of people in trapped in tiny houses, thrown this way and that on a never-ending tsunami. When the children left, they had been so busy, him commuting to the city, her with her all-consuming job. Having such a big house didn’t help. She thought of the early years struggle to pay the mortgage, for what? Lots of space now to keep apart in.
The Editor posed the question of how I, as a writer, have managed to pursue my creativity in the vacuum of Covid-19. I realised that I have not. Instead I have allowed a malaise to creep in though the side door, rendering my creative output this past year negligible.
But lately I have found one sliver of light that offers potential redemption.
As some of you may or may not know, I have recently self-published my second book of a trilogy ‘The Blossom or The Bole’. Book 1 was a huge success in 2017, so with encouragement of the amazing reviews from my readers and my fellow writers I embarked on writing Book 2 in 2018.
I had often heard of writers block but had never experienced it until I quite literally lost the plot halfway through. I was on the brink of giving up altogether.
For me, one of the few positives of the first lockdown was that it provided the time and space for creativity. The novel I had been working on for the past few years, including a high level of research, was now at the critical point of completion – the final draft with editing and completion of the illustrations. Now there was nowhere to go and no excuses left. It was time to finish the novel and self-publish.
The Lost Garden of Garraiblagh is the story of a garden, interwoven with the stories of the people connected to it. It is a love story, reaching from Victorian times in and around Belfast through to the present day in Northern Ireland.
Modern culture is mainly oriented towards the limelight. The goal of many is to be known, noticed, celebrated and lauded as achievers. They want to be recognised as wise and powerful. Somehow, they thrive on being in the limelight before an audience. The bigger the crowd, the better! Others fail the test to be considered worthy. (more…)