An Hour A Day Keeps The Blues At Bay – The Rambles of a Wannabe Traveller

by Becca Arlington

It’s day whateverteenth of lockdown and I’m beginning to wish I had written down each small achievement so I remember this significant period of history in the future, instead of just crossing out all of my painstakingly-well-made plans in frustration.

The most exciting part of each day is probably the hour long walk around my little town; discovering more back roads and wooded areas than I ever thought could fit into the sleepy suburb.

Never have I ever spent so much concentrated time with my parents.

Never have I ever struggled so much to get motivated.

And never have I ever felt guilty for not doing enough home workouts, or even more importantly, not buying a puzzle on Amazon Prime.

My sister got six months of Disney Plus so at least I can binge watch childhood favourites and belt out the classics at the top of my lungs. I might be 25, and I might pitifully still live at home, but there’s always Disney.

I hope the novelty of pub quizzing doesn’t wear off once normality resumes, because I’ve probably done about 1,234 online quizzes with friends at this point. At least my small amount of general knowledge will be increasing daily.

Perhaps I should be going on Zoom dates, that would be quite a story for the grandchildren; “we met in the midst of an apocalypse and could only make eye contact through a screen; it was the Romeo and Juliet of our era don’t you know.”

My dad and I got symptoms. He was so lethargic and feverish for at least two weeks and I had some headaches and no sense of smell or taste, but we are the lucky ones and I am so grateful for that.

I feel I should be doing more to help, but deadlines are coming and creeping faster than normal and my Monkey Music children in my online classes won’t monkey around by themselves. As I attempt to teach them virtually, I hope and pray that the dystopian tales that speak of school children only being taught by screen don’t last longer than lockdown.

I made banana bread the other day, so I am now an official quarantine cliché; but it was very tasty, so I have no regrets. This may be my last ever foray into the world of baking now that flour is scarcely seen on shelves, whilst it’s viewed as an essential product for all of us bandwagon-jumping novices.

I think back to the beginning of last year when I was travelling the world and the possibilities seemed endless. How lucky I was that it was a year prior to pandemic. I give myself wanderlust every day as I attempt to finish my very belated scrapbook and travel blogs. What a difference a year makes. It all feels like a distant memory when so much is now an impossibility. Goodness knows when I can tick off the next country on my ever-growing bucket list. At least the world gets greener as humans stay indoors.

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The daily walks are a reminder that nature continues to flourish, and the sunny weather has brought an abundance of wildlife to the forefront of my senses. The flowers smell stronger, the birds tweet louder and I even saw a rat running across my road just yesterday. I think it was a big ‘FU’ to humans. “Ha, I’m not in isolation b****tches.”

But then the rain began in earnest and the hail indicated that the ten plagues may well be coming for all of mankind. The sun seemed a glimmer of hope during such a bewildering time, but it had been snatched away by the grey clouds of impending doom.

Daily walks have now become replaced with short bursts on the Wii Fit and I am naturally baffled that it told me I haven’t lost any weight. Although I did only just have an Indian takeaway, something to look forward to during the repetitive cycles of eat, sleep, repeat. Its warm and inviting boxes were sprayed within an inch of their life with what remained of our nearly-exhausted supply of Dettol, but the food inside brought back memories of my time in India, and, uh-oh, the wanderlust begins again.

To take my mind away from the unforgiving urge to travel, I FaceTime my niece. She might be a six-month old sausage dog, but she understands how to smash through lockdown unperturbed and constantly grateful that her ‘hoomans’ are always around. I note down her top tips and am then informed by my mum that she has signed me up to sing to my road in a lovely little street party. It’s the small things right now, so I don some rainbow clothing and sing about the rainbows to a socially distancing, but very kind audience.

It’s lockdown and it’s strange. I’m up one day and very far down the next, and the world might never be the same again; but I am not alone, and I am one of the fortunate ones. I am trying to hold on to each small moment and remember that this too shall pass.

 

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Becca Arlington is studying for a Master’s in Creative Writing at Brunel University. She works part-time as a music teacher for young children and is currently blogging about her recent six-month trip around 19 countries. You can find her on Twitter at @beccablogs360.

Funeral Home

by Emmi Goldenberg

New Canaan, Connecticut

6th April, Day 22 of Quarantine:

Cycling along the roads, everything seemed like normal. Gardeners in front lawns blowing leaves in spirals, the odd kid skating up and down the quiet lanes, chipmunks darting from burrow to bush with their tails bolt upright for balance, the occasional rumble of a car passing cautiously at 15mph, the birdsong unbroken as jaybirds perched in every other tree.

Everything seemed like normal until I reached our little town. It was empty. Everything was still. The only sign of movement were the changing traffic lights that flashed green for the non-existent cars, or the crossing man who flashed white for the non-existent pedestrians. Not a single person was here, New Canaan’s town was deserted.

I cycled further up Elm Street and took in the desolate avenue, unable to keep the feelings of sadness at bay. With the spring weather, the town would usually be bustling with people at the early morning farmer’s market, out for their morning coffee, families together for brunch, the annual sidewalk sale. Daffodils, ice creams, and donuts.

As I waited for no reason at a stop sign, I noticed some life; two builders in a pothole. Even they were hiding from society. I mean, I don’t blame them, the whole world was an apocalypse, no one knew what would come of this but at least they could work while they wondered.

The emptiness was peaceful. Despite the abnormality, there was something soothing about being the only one around, almost as if I had entered a world of my own – cliché and comforting. Basking in the newfound bubble, I made my way home, thinking about how everything was still while I was in motion. As I cycled out of town, I passed the Funeral Home, lost in my thoughts I was startled by the figure on the porch. It was the owner. He was stood by his front door dressed in a freshly pressed suit, staring out into the deserted streets. He was working, watching, waiting for the victims of the virus. His aura was beckoning; willing me to fall into his open arms or the casket before him.  I looked away. A sinister chill darted down my spine.

This was day 22 of quarantine for me, it is now 2nd May and day 48. God knows what it’s like out there now.

image001Emmi Goldenberg is a first year English with Creative Writing student. Split between England and America she usually has a very hectic lifestyle, but currently she is sat in the garden watching the world go by. Follow her Instagram @egphotos_ where she is beginning to experiment with the collaboration of photography and storytelling.

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/egphotos_/

Portfolio: https://www.clippings.me/emmi

 

Nest: A Covid-19 Easter Mini-Saga

by Emma Filtness

Screenshot 2020-04-16 at 17.13.31

Friday

I sit on the green velvet couch in my third floor flat staring out of the closed door to my Juliet balcony, sweltering in the sky-blue heat, and I’ve got no idea why they call it a balcony when it’s just a door that opens onto fresh air mediated by a grey metal railing overlooking the faded tarmac of a car park and the ugly Tetris-piled red brick of the building next door and I think surely Juliet must’ve had better than this as I clutch a navy can of fly and wasp killer, knuckles white, lid off and in a perpetual “position of readiness,” to quote my secondary school PE teacher, Ms Rugg (I wonder what became of her) during enforced netball training thinking they didn’t teach me this, they didn’t prepare me for this, there wasn’t a class on how to deal with wasps building a nest above the door to an invisible balcony during a pandemic and I’ve been googling all morning, clicking on hit after hit of perfect nightmare material – stalker-lens close-ups of antennae and all those legs and stripes and stingers that can be used again and again unlike bees, I wish they were bees, and pictures of round grey nests that look like paper mâché creations from a hell-dimension, and home-remedies offering wisdom like spray surfaces with peppermint oil or a mixture of clove oil and lemongrass and I haven’t even got a spray-bottle let alone the peppermint oil, only lavender and frankincense for my oil burner but there’s no scientific evidence so I panic-order two kinds of wasp killer with Prime with a dose of extremely short-lived vegetarian guilt and after check-out it tells me they won’t be here for another week as apparently they’re not “essential” and the property management team are not answering their phones as it’s not only a pandemic but a fucking bank holiday and no amount of Easter eggs will ever make this okay.

Saturday

I binge-watch Grey’s Anatomy from the beginning in an attempt to distract myself from the hive. I somehow managed to forget just how amazing Sandra Oh’s hair is, and the rest of her, to be honest, and think I finally need to watch Killing Eve soon. I’d be under the duvet ideally, but it’s too hot what with the door and window closed and the evil little shits keep nosing at the window. When I turn off the lights to sleep, I see tiny flitting shadows everywhere, but I know they are not in my room – they are inside my head. I dream of wasps, obviously.

Sunday

My partner bought me a chocolate egg, a posh one from M&S, but I managed to drop it somewhere between the bag-for-life and the kitchen worktop, and it feels like the perfect metaphor for life this Spring. I eat most of my stoved-in egg anyway and feel sick afterwards.

Monday

Brian from Rentokil called. He’s coming over tomorrow. I eat the last of my egg and a whole bag of Colin the Caterpillars. I’m on Season Two already (which is impressive, even for me).

Tuesday

Brian from Rentokil arrived a whole hour early and I could’ve kissed him, social distancing be damned (relax, I didn’t).

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meDr Emma Filtness is a poet and lecturer in Creative Writing at Brunel University London, currently zine-making and binge-watching her way through the apocalypse. Follow her on Twitter @Em_Filtness and find her poetry project exploring nature and the dark feminine @cultofflora on Instagram.

Brunel Creative Writing students win 1st Prizes in short story competitions

1st Prize Winner R.V. Maloney. Source: http://www.dorsetfictionaward.co.uk/uploads/1/0/2/0/102049858/published/shortlisteepicture_1.jpg
Dorset Fiction 1st Prize Winner R.V. Maloney

Congratulations to 2nd year Brunel University London Creative Writing student R.V. Maloney, who was awarded  1st place in the international Dorset Fiction competition for her short story ‘The Greater Crested Tern’.

R.V. wrote the story following her weekly Creative Writing coursework prompts. She will be awarded a £500 cash prize, and her story will be featured in Dorset Fiction’s yearly anthology.

The judges said, “Within a thousand words, the story is threaded with blooming motifs and detail which are in turn sewn in to a wonderfully metaphysical piece. The writer uses an interesting range of sometimes obfuscated literary devices, which bed well into the prose. The creative and multilevelled story instantly caught our attention, and continued to blossom in our minds long after reading.”

Check out an interview with the author, and read her award-winning story, at the Dorset Fiction Award website.

Photo Credit: Scarlet Page / Henley Literary Festival
Photo Credit: Scarlet Page / Henley Literary Festival

Joint Honours Games Design and Creative Writing graduate Aimée White was awarded First Prize in the 2017 Dragonfly Tea Short Story Competition.

Aimée’s winning story ‘Generation Lotus’ was written to the contest theme of Journey and was selected by a panel of judges including comedian/writer Helen Lederer, journalist and novelist Paula Cocozza, and Daily Mail Literary Editor Sandra ParsonsAimée’s impressive £1500 1st Prize in the Main contest category was announced at an Awards Ceremony at Henley Literary Festival.

You can view all the 2017 Dragonfly Tea Short Story Competition winners and runners up in the Main and Children’s categories here.

 

Calling all budding designers: Cover Design Competition

The Creative Writing department are currently beginning the exciting process of developing this years anthology ‘The Imagination Project’ which features a range of second and third year students’ stories. The anthology launches on the 15th of March 2016.

The competition for the cover design is open to all Undergraduate students and as well as seeing your design used on all copies of the book, you can win a £50 Amazon voucher and 10 copies of the book. Plus if you’re an aspiring graphic designer it’s a great addition to your CV.

The anthology includes a diverse range of work so, as the title suggests, let your imagination run wild!

The design needs to be:

  • High-resolution, 300 dpi .tif/.jpg format OR vector eps format.
  • Size: A5 (148x210mm) plus a spine on the left (17x210mm).
  • Please keep a copy of your working files so if you win they can be easily edited

And must be submitted by Monday 15th of February at 5pm to Dr Bernadine Evaristo via email (Bernardine.Evaristo@brunel.ac.uk) AND in hard copy form in an addressed envelope handed in at the Gaskell reception.

For further information on what your submission must include please check out the link: http://www.brunel.ac.uk/cbass/arts-humanities/creative-writing/creative-writing-anthology-competition/_nocache

Good luck & happy designing!

Guest Blogger – EMMA FILTNESS!: ‘Keeping it Local’ – Event

Hello fellow writers,

I am a Creative Writing PhD student, a part-time lecturer in English and Creative Writing, and Brunel’s Publications Officer. I came here originally to do the Creative Writing MA and loved every minute of it, so I stuck around for more.

It is shaping up to be a busy but fun start to the 2014 academic year, and I am here to tell you about some great community Creative Writing and Arts events that are happening at Brunel and in the surrounding area over the next month or so, with the hope that some of you might come along and maybe even take part! I have been working quite a bit lately with the wonderful Charlotte who is Arts Programming Officer for the local borough (Hillingdon), and she is keen to get Brunelians involved…but let’s start with me, me ME!

1. As well as teaching some of you for modules such as Introduction to Writing Fiction and Drama, I run a weekly Creative Writing class at Brunel’s Arts Centre. Classes consist of themed writing exercises, prompts and related activities suitable for all levels of experience. Classes are open to all Brunel students, staff and members of the local community. If you are an arts student at Brunel, you can come to the class for free (yes, FREE!). You may want to sign up soon, though, as places are limited (classes begin Tuesday 30 October, 6pm). These classes are ideal if you want somewhere to try out ideas and have the space to write without the pressure of looming deadlines and grades. I make a little anthology of work produced on the course each academic year, so these classes also give you the opportunity to see your work in print (I will even furnish you with a spare copy so you can give one to your mum). View the Arts Centre web pages to find out more, or email me (contact details below).

ArtsCentreAnthology

2. Charlotte is running Bigfest, a one-day festival in Uxbridge town centre on Sunday 28 September, 2014. There will be music, theatre, street performers, a food market and, most importantly, a live literature tent! Brunel writers and locals will be reading poetry or prose between 12 and 4pm. I will be reading a short story from my thesis (stories based on the life stories of little old ladies), Joe Norman who is an English PhD student, lecturer and Brunel’s Communications Officer will be reading a short story (once he manages to find one of his that is suitable to be heard by delicate, innocent ears and does not make people want to be sick) and Brunel Creative Writing MA alumna and local journalist Barbara Fischer will read to you from the memoir she is currently working on in which she recalls her time as a “hack”. Come along and listen (again, it is FREE!) or, if you are feeling brave, why not sign up to read a story or poem? If you would like to give this a go then email me soon so we can reserve you a slot (contact details below)

Bigfest2014

3. Charlotte has also set up an open mic evening at the newly-refurbished Uxbridge Library. The open mic sessions will run every other month or so, with the first one taking place on Friday 3 October at 7.30pm. You don’t need to book, just turn up, pay the teeny tiny £3.50 entry fee (it is free if you sign up to read/sing/strum), and listen to poetry, prose and other acoustic offerings from local writers and musicians. Again, if you are feeling brave and fancy reading, strumming or singing, then let me know and I will make sure there is a slot with your name on it. There will be some empty slots left for those of you that prefer just to rock up on the day and see how you feel…

Open Mic Poster

I should probably stop there before I wear out your eyeballs…if you want to know more about any of the above then please send me an email at E.Filtness@brunel.ac.uk

Please also keep an eye on the Brunel Library blog for information on the Brunel Author Series…thanks for “listening” and I hope to see some of you at one, some or all of these awesome local events!

Happy scribbling,

Emma