In the period between Christmas and New Year, we take an opportunity to look back at our collection of When This is Over essays. Published earlier this year, each expresses an individual perspective on the coronavirus pandemic and shares thoughts on what the future might hold.
How shall we be, next? There will be less money around. If we share what there is better, that does not have to make us less happy. The world that has gone did not make us very happy anyway. How we raced around, getting and spending; what a trance it was! We awake sadder and wiser.
Horatio Clare is an author, journalist, and radio producer who writes about nature and travel.
I’ve been amazed by the energy, commitment, and resourcefulness with which literature is being taught in these testing times of virtual education, and it only makes me more hopeful that, with the pandemic behind us, great fiction will help the young navigate their way through the slogans, rallies, tweets, press conferences, redacted documents, conspiracy theories, violence, and anti-democratic laws of the populist myth-makers.
Carys Davies is a Welsh short story writer and novelist and the winner of the 2015 Frank O’Connor Award.
So here we are, all doing our bit; ministers clap for the NHS when, mere months ago, they clapped themselves for voting down a pay rise for the same NHS workers who they now call ‘heroes’; now they charter flights to bring in Rumanian veg pickers who for 4 years have been scapegoated and demonised as parasites, as pollutants in the body politic. So the germ June2016 has deflected and protected itself.
Niall Griffiths is an author of novels and short stories, set predominantly in Wales.
2020 always had the promise of something special about it. It was one of those years that I logged in my head as a child and looked forward to as some kind of momentous landmark: How old will I be in the Year 2000? What will life be like in the Year 2020? The answer to the first question was a simple act of mental maths. The answer to the second required imagination. Maybe I saw a sci-fi fantasy of flying cars and time travel? Maybe it was a future love paradise of world peace and eternal youth? Whatever I had in the back of my head, it certainly wasn’t Coronavirus.
Hayley Long is a teen-fiction writer and has been shortlisted for the Costa Children’s Book Award twice.
There’s not much to say about the park. It’s got a cluster of lifesavers at one end, a playground in the middle next to the ventilator pod, and a wide patch of grass where most activities take place. Mum flips open the picnic blanket under the shade of our favourite lifesaver and we each settle into our usual spot. Dad likes to sit with his back touching cool bark whereas Mum prefers the edge of the shade so sunlight strokes her skin. Dad insists we give thanks before tucking into the berries and, as usual, Hayat races through the prayer under her breath. Pink juice runs down her chin before I take my first bite.
Hanan Issa is a writer, poet and artist from Wales.
they are storming the Bastille
but now the gendarmerie
have stun grenades
and this morning the air stings
with tear gas.
Robert Minhinnick is a Welsh poet, essayist, novelist and translator.
In recent weeks, we have all had a lucid insight into a far lonelier world. But, curiously, it is a world where we exercise more, listen to and play more music, draw or paint more, and initiate more conversations with friends, family members and colleagues; it is a world where we now recognise simple, benevolent acts as transformative to our mental health.
Welsh poet Glyn Edwards has been the poet in residence at the Chester Literature Festival and the Dylan Thomas’ Boathouse, and has had writing published by Verve Press and The Guardian.
The lockdown suits me because I love isolation. I aim to keep as low a profile as possible ordinarily, so to be even more hidden away now is a godsend. After years teaching Creative Writing at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David and at Oxford, I was happy to take redundancy last year to focus on my own writing.
Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch is a poet whose work has been shortlisted for the Michael Marks Award (2014), the Roland Mathias Prize (2013) and Wales Book of the Year (2009).
What is this logic? How strange that the first instinct of many is to visit spectacular sites of nature or holiday spots despite the warnings about social distancing. I remember the visitors to Otherworld, charging around the dark interior, demanding to be entertained, circling around the same rooms over and over again. Are we making nature our immersive experience now that places like Otherworld are off-limits?
Zoë Brigley is a Welsh author and poet now living in America, fulfilling the role of Assistant Professor in the Department of English at The Ohio State University.
At intervals, when the sky was overcast, the water out in the distant bay was almost black, like putrescent dye. By contrast, the straggle of warehouses, high rise apartments and shining hotels that constituted the capital city gleamed across the dark swells with a spectral brightness. It was as if they were lit less by solar light than by some interior lantern. They were like the pavilions of an abandoned necropolis built out across the barrage and along the edges of the coastal plain. Cardiff in lockdown.
Peter Finch is a full-time poet, psychogeographer, critic, author, rock fan and literary entrepreneur living in Cardiff.
The morning after, waking,
from… What? The world was all there,
as is, but every distance between us was huge.
And yet we seemed to see things,
and each other, clearer than before
Philip Gross is an award-winning poet and author of novels for young people.
Jupp and I live in a village at the centre of Germany’s first Corona hot spot – 300 people in the largely rural communities around us were infected at the carnival festivities over the last weekend in February – so we’ve been in lock down since pancake day. Our county, Heinsberg, was on the national news for days, until the rest of the country was hit by the wave of infection.
John Sam Jones’ collection of short stories – Welsh Boys Too – was an Honour Book winner in the American Library Association Stonewall Book Awards.
If there is one thing I would like to see result from the pandemic, it would be a revolution in social care provision. Just as all of us are entitled to free healthcare at the point of need from the NHS, so we all should be entitled to a good standard of free social and nursing care when we are unable to look after ourselves.
Anna Lewis has won several awards for her poetry, including the G.S. Fraser Prize, the Robin Reeves Prize and the Christopher Tower Prize, and her story ‘Fruit’ won the Orange/ Harper’s Bazaar short story competition.
A new world. I say it out loud so I can feel the way it rolls over my tongue. I savour the word new, once meant for something shiny and store-bought, now signalling change and lessons on a global scale. I have talked to friends and family about the need for anger, for revolution and protest. Though in lockdown, these feelings are overshadowed by a lack of control and helplessness. We’re waiting. One thing is for sure, when this is ‘all over’, to wish things back the way they were is to deny the ugly truths about the structure of our society that the pandemic has brought to the surface.
Taylor Edmonds is a writer, performer and marketing & social media manager from South Wales.
When you love someone but they die, you’re given a new world whether you like it or not. Deal with that, now. Live without her. I don’t think I can. Well, sorry but you have to. Loss doesn’t turn your life upside down. It blurs its edges, makes your surroundings bright and shrill. The familiar and predictable rears up. Any sense of control was a pretence, and life, really truly, has teeth. It did all along. Nobody told me? We did, you just didn’t think it would happen to you. You never do. Give her back. We can’t. You won’t. Alright then, we won’t. Have it your way. None of this is my way.
Rosie Couch is a current English Literature PhD student at Cardiff University and a contributing editor at Wales Arts Review.
We are led to imagine, always, that to be away from the desk is to detract from the important bit: the act of writing itself. We believe now that we are no longer spilling from taxis on Saturday nights, or obligated to attend a family birthday of an aunt who ritually insults us every year at a table for twenty-two at the local Harvester, we finally have that precious time to finish that novel.
Natalie Ann Holborow is the Swansea-based multiple award-winning author of And Suddenly you Find Yourself (2017) and Small (2020).
If we can build hospitals in days, we can eradicate homelessness in months. If we can salute NHS workers and carers by clapping, then we can adequately reward and sustain them forever after. If we can crowdfund to maintain an essential creativity of being on life-support, then we can invest properly to make all forms of ongoing creativity a key component of Wales’ DNA.
Dai Smith CBE is a Welsh academic, cultural historian, author, and former BBC programme editor and broadcaster. He was chair of the Arts Council of Wales between 2007 and 2016.
It’s early on Saturday 4th April and I am dancing. Twenty-odd years ago I was probably doing much the same, except then it was to the strains of Get Get Down by Paul Johnson in Cardiff’s Hippo Club, my eyes like saucers, my face a rictus grin of pure joy. Now I am forty-two years old, bald, about four stone heavier, and I’ve had a good night’s sleep and a bowl of porridge, but I’m dancing my way down the middle of Newport Road like no-one’s watching. Because they aren’t.
David Llewellyn is a Welsh novelist and script writer.