Thursday, 2 April 2020

Lockdown thoughts and a tribute to a lost friend

Today’s blog post is not a #writingishard post. Instead, I decided to write one from the heart. It is something I felt I needed to say. To say it is strange times is an understatement, isn’t it. We are living through history. In years to come people will ‘What was it like during Covid-19?’ and we will say we were there. People will write about this period in time. I find that concept quite surreal.

I know talking to friends that we are all going through similar emotions. A lot of the time we feel we are coping. Getting on with life doing a variety of things but then suddenly for no reason, we become
emotional and tearful. As I was talking to a friend on FB (Social media has never become so important as it is now) I think it is vital to acknowledge these moments of feeling overwhelmed. You shouldn’t be feeling ashamed of them. We are all feeling like it at times. My way of coping them is to do something mindless like colouring in a picture, doing some drawing (I’m a really bad artist but I know no one will ever see them), or dance crazily to my favourite music – it is the old adage, dance as if no one is watching – that is me. I live alone but I am lucky, and I know it, I have family very close, and I am mean very close. I was working yesterday and in the middle of a workshop, I heard this ‘NANNY’ being shouted. I opened my door and there was my youngest grandson at his fence wanting me to catch bubbles with him. There is a house between us, but Emily didn’t mind bubbles flying across her garden. I sneaked out for a couple of minutes to do just that. It makes all the difference for my sanity.

Family quiz
Checking in on people is vital at the moment. A quick message on text, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp or Messenger, whatever is your favourite method can make all the difference. It can bring a smile or even a giggle. My social life has taken a real upturn. We even have a family quiz night now. I went to the virtual village pub via Zoon last Friday night and have caught up with friends and siblings too. It can make a huge difference when you live alone just to hear someone’s voice. But the things I miss the most is a hug. Is human contact. Is my grandchildren wrapping their arms around me. Is holding my brand-new granddaughter and watching her newly learnt smile. The bear hugs from my sons and the all-enveloping hug from my daughter. The ache for those is physical. It really hurts. Those are the things I am going to do first when this lockdown is over.

During this time my colleagues and I have had to deal at a distance with the loss of a great friend. We
RIP Prof Neil McCaw
haven’t been able to come together to share our grief. Prof Neil McCaw was a larger than life character. He wore the best shirts. He so kind, but never suffered fools gladly. I have sat opposite him in meetings and he’d give me a look, just slightly raising an eyebrow, with a slight twitch of a grin. I’d know that I’d get an email later with his ‘thoughts’ on the meeting. His emails were the best. I’d quite often get an email from him because he’d found something that he knew would interest me because that’s what he was like. We’d talk about tv programmes, theory of creativity, life, dealing with illness and dogs. I knew if I had a worry, I could ask him, and he would give me an honest answer. It wasn’t always necessarily the answer I wanted to hear, but I knew it was always the best answer. Neil was a great support. He always had my back. He mentored me in my career and celebrated my successes. He was a truly gentle man and a gentleman, so kind and generous of heart. He knew so much and was so interesting to talk to. Passionate about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and George Eliot. You could have a fascinating and challenging conversation with him.

He started, with Andy Melrose, the Creative Writing Undergraduate Programme at Winchester. He always strove to make it the best it could possibly be. His leadership was such that we all wanted the same. He showed us how to be the best academic you could be. It made you push to ensure your teaching was at the top of your game. Neil achieved his aim too. The programme was number one in the country and renowned for what it offered. We were proud to be part of it and what he was creating.

My heart goes out to all my colleagues and to his family. Neil, go shine brightly for us.

This seems appropriate a bit of Paul Buchanan

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