The following piece was awarded second prize in the OU Students Association writing competition. The author, Rebecca Collet, is from South Wales and is in her final year of a Creative Writing MA.
Please note, this piece contains strong language.
Two things I never ever wanted to be: a teacher, a hairdresser.
A third thing I never wanted to be: stuck in the house with my family.
A fourth thing, maybe? OK: a burden.
I could probably list a fifth, sixth, thirtieth thing if I had enough words to spare, but I’ll spare you. Nobody is having fun, enjoying lockdown, believing this is the best thing ever. Except my husband. God love him, his endless optimism and enthusiasm are a fabulous foil to my own personal stance. Eeyore, if he/ she were alive, might mutter to themselves, ‘Oh, fuck; it’s her!’ if they saw me coming in the distance. Not that they could at the moment, unless they were loitering around my little South wales housing estate, walking slowly for their daily constitutional – unlimited bored wandering around my estate, you say? I truly am blessed! It’s just to demonstrate my current mindset on things, which is (un)surprisingly disastrous when it comes to creative thinking. Or any thinking at all.
In real life, when my seven-year-old progeny goes off to school in the morning, and my husband pops out to do his work stuff, I have the house to myself. Nobody to distract my genius, save my loud, moustachioed cat. So, I am usually tremendously productive and on top of everything. I should be, but I am not. The reality is I potch about, then sleep for a few hours (infuriating disability, not just laziness) before feeling frustrated at having done nothing again all day, and my daughter is home in forty-eight minutes, which isn’t enough time to try and write anything. After she goes to bed, I’m too tired, and want to watch TV with my husband and think of nothing except how long before I can slope back off to bed. Unacceptable!
So, I set my alarm for 5am (again; this is in real life, that mythical land where buses run and I can speak to people – though not many people, perish the thought) and every time amaze myself with how much quality flows from my fingertips in those quiet ninety minutes before the day starts proper. This is my writing time, my happy place, my productive, magical, golden hour and a half in a day filled with pretty much nothing but sleep and procrastination. But what is this coming on the horizon?
LOCKDOWN – Aargh! HUSBAND WORKING FROM HOME? Aargh! HOME-SCHOOLING? What the fuck now? I never signed up for this! Where will I find time to write now?
I think you know the answer, don’t you? I’ve already admitted to only being able to write early in the morning, before she wakes up, when my husband is giggling over tripe on Facebook and doing yoga. Does she now wake up at 5am? No. Do I still wake up at 5am? Rarely.
I don’t have the nurturing, patient, non-psychopathic personality suitable for teaching. I never thought I did, so it came as no surprise when a mere twenty minutes into our first home-school session, I am swearing, throwing books on the floor, and my daughter is doing the squinty-eyed laughing she does when she is trying not to cry at Mummy being nuts. Come 3:15pm, Mummy is a gibbering wreck who now must cook dinner, listen to Daddy brightly tell her of all he achieved that day, the conference calls he has booked for the week ahead, and other things that she doesn’t hear as she is loudly banging stuff in the kitchen, while brief snatches of dialogue flit through her mind as she scrabbles to find a singlefuckingpenthatworksinthisstupidhouseJesusChrist!
I am extra tired out, mentally spent at the lessons, and trying to stay bright and open, and to listen, really listen to my family tell me the things they are happy about. Because I know I need to stay happy and strong for them in return, it doesn’t work if one member crumbles, does it? Who will ensure there are clean clothes in the ironing pile, that the recycling and rubbish are put out on the right day, that there is food in the house, that the lessons – so lovingly set by her beautiful, luminous Disney princess-esque teachers – are taught, that the correct indignant emails are fired off to the places they need to be fired off to? Who will be Mummy if/ when Mummy loses it?
And what does Mummy want/ need/ crave? A little quiet, goes without saying, but more than that; Mummy wants to contribute. Mummy wants to prove to herself that she can write, that she is good enough, better than most, no; that she is vital and MUST be heard. Why? Because of the fourth thing Mummy never wanted to be. Mummy is sick of seeing herself as a burden, and Mummy wants to contribute. It’s been a while.
So, I sit at my Argos desk in my Argos office chair, my Christmas presents last year, and force myself to dig around in my head for those words I know are in there. I challenge myself, when perhaps I should take the easy route, but I chose to push and challenge myself just the same. I know I write better when I don’t know what I am doing, but not the way you think I mean. For the coming EMA I could write one story. Just. One. Story. Instead, I’ve chosen to write close to thirty little masterpieces. I’m writing in a form I hadn’t even heard of until a few weeks ago, that I never knew existed. But, like a good student, I read some lauded examples, and fell in love with it. So that is what my scant snatches of time are being flooded with from now till then: Masterpieces – thirty, give or take. So far, I’ve written eleven. And a synopsis, so I know where I’m going (except, I’m not sold on the ending) and I know I’ll get there.
Lockdown can do one, I’m going to soar.