Mary Irvine: What Did You Do In Lockdown 2020?

I can imagine that will be a question asked many times in the future. So I looked at my diaries – I have two, one that I carry with me and one that lives next to a computer – and the answer they give is ‘Nothing’. Events crossed out and then a continuous blank.

However, I’ve actually done quite a lot. First thing I had to do was cancel the eight events I had personally arranged for other writers and acknowledge the cancellations of my own planned talks.

The Mackintosh Writers

One project I am very proud of was helping to compile and edit a booklet of poetry and prose by eight writers from Alexandria, Balloch and Helensburgh. We didn’t want it to be all about ‘The Lockdown’ and it isn’t.  The writers let their creative juices flow, variously and widely interpreting the theme. Various forms of poetry including haiku, a haibun and flash fiction pose on a variety of subjects, articles, memoir, reflection – it’s all there. Once again we have a display of talent that pervades the area. Our most difficult task was the title but we finally came up with one that reflected the content ‘Solitude – Light and Shade’, together with an appropriate photo (courtesy of Robin Lloyd-Jones). The booklet is now at the printers

The eight writers are known collectively as ‘The Mackintosh Writers’ named after the late Anne Mackintosh who did so much to promote and help writers achieve their potential. We are not a club, just a group who are passionate about writing, want to hone their skills and are happy to submit their work to the scrutiny of other writers – generally known as critiquing.

Ann and Mary’s Local Tales

A second booklet nearing completion is Book 5 of the ‘Ann and Mary’s Local tales’ Series, a collaboration between myself and illustrator Anne Marshall. Although that is almost ready to go to the printer we decided to hold it over until next year. The series has been very successful so far. The sale of one book funds the printing of the next. Any profit goes to the Beatson Cancer Charity. So far we have managed to send the Charity £600. And we enjoy doing them. We’ve had some great ‘research’ days out. In case you’re wondering we pay our own expenses.

Margaret Harrison

margaret harrison

My other writing has been on a personal level. The lockdown gave me the opportunity to finish ‘things’ off. The biggest task was to complete the first draft of the memoir of the Dumbarton peace campaigner, Margaret Harrison. I have boxes of notes, interviews and research which needed to be put into a cohesive 60/65, 000 words. I’ve now typed up 50,000 so am well on track.

I have found time to enter several writing competitions which I don’t normally do. Haven’t won anything yet but there were some ‘success for my novel set in Greece, mostly on the island of Spetses. It is now available in large print, a pocket sized edition and in Spanish. I’m hoping the next translation will be in Greek.

Rag Rugs

But it isn’t just finishing off writing. I have always made ‘rag’ rugs, following the examples of grandma and mam.  The philosophy of this art is it does involve any financial outlay. Last year, unable to obtain the proper backing (without buying one) I decided to make a wool rag rug. A friend had already given me a backing for one of those. Half a rug later the rug-making was shelved as writing demands took over. The opportunity in respect of time now arose. All went well until I ran out of wool with only a six inch square to complete. The rug was again shelved until restrictions were lifted enough for me to collect some leftover wool from a friend. The rug is finally finished.

Reading and Telly

Reading has been neglected for some time so I was pleased to be able to re-read Books 1 -12 of Bernard Cornwall’s ‘Saxon Stories’ (aka ‘The Last Kingdom’) in preparation for the final book in the series – expected release October 2020. Other reading included A.J. Cronin’s ‘Hatter’s Castle’ and ‘If I survive’, an academic research tome on the life of Frederick Douglas and his family, by Celeste-Marie Bernier and Andrew Taylor.

I have spent more time on the landline with friends in England and Wales and on Internet with those in Greece. Anything else?

Oh, yes, the occasional bit of housework!  I have heard people say their houses have never been as clean or they’ve cleared out cupboards, wardrobes, loft, garage, garden shed etc. I haven’t actually done any extra housework. My philosophy has always been the house will probably be there long after I’ve shuffled off this mortal coil. And I did loads of clearing out last year so little left to go – at present.

Overall I can’t say I’ve had any psychological problems during this period. I do appreciate I live alone so don’t face the extra pressure of having to consider the needs and feelings of others in the same house. I’ve found the time has passed very quickly but that could be an age thing. Perhaps the biggest change in my life has been the acquisition of a T.V. (do I hear gasps of disbelief?) some three weeks ago. But, rule number one, ‘No daytime viewing’. I check the guide to see if there is anything I might like to view and set record. I now have a very long list of programmes waiting for me to find time to access them. Although I am quite happy to be as I am at present it doesn’t mean I’m not planning for the future. The author events are being re-arranged and my talks re-instated for 2021. Most of all I am looking forward to being in Australia in March /April next year. But I’m not holding my breath…

Mary Irvine, July, 2020

Glasgow Walk: Maryhill, The Venice of the North by Ian R. Mitchell
“Monsters, Process and Mayhem” T.L. Huchu in conversation with Chikodili Emelumadu

This section: Coronavirus, Mary Irvine: Writer and Philhellene

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Avatar of PatByrne Publisher of Pat's Guide to Glasgow West End; the community guide to the West End of Glasgow. Fiction and non-fiction writer.

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