It feels appropriate, in this last post of the year, to look back over 2020 from the perspective of this website. It’s been a godawful year for many of us, wherever we may be. For many the year has been marked by travel restrictions, social distancing and working from home. Or not working at all, on furlough or suddenly unemployed. For others it has been a year of travelling to work and working under threat in hospitals, shops, schools and transport. And of course for some it’s been a year marked by illness, sometimes sever illness and even death.
I’ve tried deliberately not to reflect much of this in my posts, but it crept in. Subtly in some places, rather more well flagged in others. The post titled London in the time of the coronavirus for example.
In March I visited England for my mother’s 98th birthday. It was a trip planned months before Covid-19 put in an appearance. As the date for my departure approached, so did the disease. The last few days before I left Sweden in mid-March I kept expecting the authorities would close the borders. They didn’t, so I travelled.
But once in England, once we’d celebrated Mum’s birthday, I started worrying again. Would “they” close the borders? Would I be stuck as a house-guest at my sister’s for the duration of the pandemic. The dithering of the British government saved me. I got home again after only about 36 hours of nervousness at Gatwick airport.
I was greatly relieved to be home, but immediately fell ill with what I suspected was a dose of the disease. Which I reported in A day in my Corona life. Mrs SC was sick with something at about the same time and between us we had all the symptoms. Not separately though. We self-isolated together for a fortnight.
Later in the year, when testing became possible (though pricey), she tested herself. And found a disappointing absence of antibodies. So we think neither of us had it after all. A bit of an anticlimax.
Covid – family stories
Back in the Disunited Kingdom, my mother has come through the year without going down with Covid. Possibly because she lives alone and has minimal contact with people other than my sister.
However, Sister Supercargo works as a speech therapist. She’s been involved from early on, working with severely affected patients after they have survived on respirators. Surviving on a respirator involves having a tube stuck down your throat, pumping air into your lungs. When the respirator tube comes out, your vocal chords are often bruised and may be torn. My sister has been working to help Covid survivors regain the power of speech after this trauma. She’s been dressed in the famous PPE (when available), and has been subjected to regular testing. Still, we’ve always had in mind the possibility that she would become infected and carry the virus to my mother. It hasn’t happened. We hope it won’t happen. And now the vaccine is in prospect we are looking forward to another family reunion post Covid. If not on Mum’s 99th birthday, then at some later point in 2021.
Writing developments, on the website and off
But none of this seemed to me appropriate to write about. Instead I chose to document my development as a writer.
2020 was the first year in my adult life when pieces of my creative writing were published—by other people. My poem “September the Diva” had first place in The Poet’s 2019/2020 winter edition (Seasons). Later, their summer edition carried four more poems (On the Road). There was an SF flash story, “Patchwork”, in Red Planet magazine in March. And in the autumn the Writers Abroad group of which I was a member published two more short stories and another poem in Far Flung.
I also took part in a novel writing course on-line. This was organised by Writers and Artists and lead by William (Bill) Ryan, writer of historical crime fiction. Educational, inspirational and panic inducing in about equal measure.
Reporting from current journeys and travel experiences for Stops and Stories was a no-no. Instead I started to write up my notes from the trip Mrs SC and I took to Ghana at the end of 2018. I’d always meant to do do this, but procrastinated. Now I got going and found myself blending in stories from my childhood with my more recent memories. I lived in Ghana as a six year old in 1964 and 1965. So far I’ve published five posts – there are more to come.
This side of the summer, an interesting development has been learning more about my grandmother Debbie. She and I shared a birthday, and I wrote a little piece about her as my last post for July this year. Amazingly, that started a little avalanche of discoveries which I reported on recently here.
From a writerly point of view, it hasn’t been such a godawful year. It’s been a year of silver linings.
As I’m becoming more serious about submitting stories and poems elsewhere, I’m also becoming more restrictive about publishing them here. But occasionally something comes along that seems appropriate to share under Articulations.
In the spring, after I’d recovered from my bout of not-Covid and two weeks’ self-isolation, I was struck by the way my mother-in-law, Ulla, had faded. In just two weeks she’d gone from a fairly active elderly lady to being bed-ridden and unable to eat. I wrote her a poem, “A Villanelle for Ulla”. Within another week she had died. Not Covid, but old age. Later, the family got together and scattered her ashes off the coast in the same place where her husband’s ashes preceded her three years before.
In November I took part in Nancy Stohlman’s FlashNano flash fiction challenge. Most of what I wrote remains in darkness on my hard-disk. Some items may form the kernel of completed pieces at a later date. But one short dialogue was a comment on current events in Trump’s USA. I worked it up. (It didn’t require much effort.) And published it as “The Ballet of Absurdist Nonsense”. There’s an explanation of that title at the end of the post, if you get to it.
A word about godawful
Finally, a word about “godawful”. It seemed like a good word to use in the title of this post. Then I chose it as my key phrase for purposes of Search Engine Optimisation and discovered I had to keep repeating it. Even now my SEO analysis nags me with: The focus keyphrase was found 4 times. That’s less than the recommended minimum of 6 times for a text of this length. Really, I’d should only have used it the once. Repetition makes it stale. I apologise. I will do better next year.