CHANGING OF THE SEASONS
One of the many strange and unsettling things about the pandemic was the distorted progression of time. While the world continued to turn, bringing with it the changing of the seasons, life felt like it was out of joint, existing in a bubble of isolation and rules. The images and reflections below capture something of the surreal quality of this period, exploring our changing relationship with time as the seasonal cycle continued around us.
FANTASIA // ROSANNE VAN DER VOET
Pink see-through fantasia. A Spanish dancer and headless chicken monster. A faint red glow was all that gave the creature a body. Her webbed swimming fin shone through the artificial light’s radiance, erasing her illusory boundaries. A sea-coloured eye enveloped her, birthing her body into translucence, with bifurcated tentacles and anterior sail. The sea cucumber drifted in its sunken benthic world, flowing through the screen’s white light. There was use for her there.
The tap gurgled one minute ago. The shower dribbled. She watched the black mould gathering, heard the toilet flush. She imagined the slimy blood clots slowly seeping down the pipes. The children had passed by the door half an hour ago. They would do the same again, once more, later tonight. The little footsteps, light and fast. The slimy stuff in the sink had gotten worse, blackening the drain, her fingers when they handled the dishes, one by one, carefully. It stuck to everything. Wipe it down, spray with chemicals. Call a friend, still human, from a different dimension. Hear her voice echoing through the empty space. Beware the distance between letterbox and doorknob.
Avoid the candy kittens! Some teeth are burdened with genetic conditions. Some minds are compromised by thoughts of sugar. Some wombs bleed when they should not. The water flowed through the pipes, the traffic stopped. The sea between here and there became an endless expanse. Here is her father’s face, talking into a fabricated eye. Here come the waves. Too grey to behold, too endless to swim. The cauliflowers got stuck in Calais. Seize the Brexit vegetables! Mother and cat among the flowers of a different garden, show me the sea, follow me in the tracks of the sand lizard. The sticky distance was too vast. The footsteps of the upstairs neighbour were heavy.
The keypad on the front door played up during those days, this day, forever day. When her hands were cold it was almost impossible. Finally up the steps, more steps, turn and walk past the windows. Don’t look in. That was when the laugh resounded. A mocking, timeless laugh, almost joyous. The building trembled, crushed her into a gelatinous and slimy softness. It was no fall, no sudden crashing of her body down below. It was a sinking in her words. The apartment in this unfamiliar place, the black slime, the leaking tap. The creaking of the floors, the gurgling pipes. Just as easily a sea cucumber flying over seabeds. She was a centuries-old shark swimming through icy darkness. She was an eel flowing out of the tap.
The light shone through the madness. The spiders crawled out of their corners. The cauliflowers sank into the sea. The distance stretched itself, more than ever anticipated. The sliminess was the only reminder of old intimacies. When trains rushed down the tracks, when the ferries crossed her sea. Would she see their faces? Not her, that slippery animal whose body dissipated. A different being perhaps would. The woman who did not get stuck, whose sliminess remained where it belonged, at her centre. And here come the waves, unchanged. Submerging sea cucumber, vegetable and shark, drowning a character that got stuck in time. The waves cradled her, washing the soul of her body emerging from the depths. On the shore, she heard the song blowing like the wind.
Tomorrow, the cauliflowers came back.
CHARLOTTE CLEWLOW // DRAWN OUT EXPERIENCES
Drawn-Out Experiences documents the lives of six women living by themselves in Sheffield, over the course of one week in May 2021. At the time, residents in England were coming out of the third national lockdown in response to the global Covid-19 pandemic. Each chapter is a portrait of the individual in their own words. The images and texts collectively speak of contemplation and frustration; of priorities and anxieties; of who they are, where they’ve been, and where they are going. They portray a time of introspection and reflection on how to live, as they intermittently struggled with isolation and revelled in the quiet. The text that sits beside each is a representation of their recorded voices sent as voice notes — bar one which was hand-written — speaking the thoughts or feelings that had prompted them to draw.
DELAINA HASLAM // MY LOCKDOWN EXPERIENCE
I look back on it now as a kind of beautiful hell. It was immensely frustrating, and yet it had so many beautiful side effects.
It was always sunny in lockdown. The blossom. Skipping through carless streets. Squinting up into bright-blue skies free of aircraft. Passers-by smiled, but didn’t get in your way. Chalk drawings appeared on pavements, rainbows popped up in windows; snakes of painted rocks wound their way through parks; poems were pinned to trees; and fresh produce, baked goods and pre-loved toys were set out on roadside stalls, free for all. Neighbours became best friends; and on Thursday nights, we flocked to our doorsteps to applaud the health service and other key workers supporting us. In the evenings, long-lost friends wanted to chat; world-class theatre was streamed to our living rooms*; and we could order exciting food to be delivered to our door.
My hectic schedule of work around nursery, Kester’s French class and soft-play dates fell away. Endless days with Kester stretched out before me and I filled them with a pared-down rhythm of: morning activity; lunch; nap (usually just Kester); walk; tea … And it was transformative for Kester and my relationship. No longer was I carting him about, thrusting him onto various different people to be taken care of. It was essentially just him and me. I’m not saying that his dad wasn’t around; rather that I became essential to Kester in a way that I hadn’t allowed myself to be before. Our relationship grew enormously. We’re blessed with a range of lovely local places to explore on foot: parks, woods, a rambling Victorian cemetery, and Kenwood Hall – a hotel whose grounds back onto my mum’s garden (five minutes from us, too), which stayed opened up for people to enjoy its lake, lawns and wooded pathways, and which slipped into beautiful overgrown abandonment.
At first I didn’t know how Kester would handle the playgrounds being closed. But it was so much better than I could’ve imagined. I tried to explain that we were ‘keeping everyone safe (a motto I borrowed from his nursery). He got upset. And the next time we went he went right up to the chained gate and pointed to the word on the sign and said, ‘closed’. But that was it, more or less.
We’d do visits to Mum’s garden. We later discovered this was against lockdown rules, but it worked within our set of personal rules at the time. There’s a side gate into her back garden which Kester and I would go through. Mum would come to her glass-panelled back door and talk to us through it. We didn’t risk opening the door a crack too often because this would make Kester want to go into her house more. One day she opened it a crack and he moved to go in. She quickly closed the door, saying ‘no’ and he burst into tears of disappointment and incomprehension. Not only did grandma appear to be blocking him out of her house, but she also appeared to be rejecting him physically, holding him back. The bond they’d built over months of childcare was ruptured for a time. Prior to lockdown, when Kester still preferred to get about by shuffling on his bottom, he’d practise his newly acquired language by saying her name over and over, grandma, grandma, grandma, grandma. This stopped. They’ve rekindled their bond since we began bubbling last summer, but it’ll never be exactly that way again: the grandma chanting while bottom shuffling was stopped in its tracks.
And of course on the other side of that closing door was Grandma, who no doubt wept on the inside. A woman who’d lost her life-partner and best friend suddenly four years before. Who’d moved to Sheffield to be with her daughter. Who’d forged a new life for herself by joining things and going to things and speaking to people, over and over, forcing herself to go out even when she felt she’d rather not. And all this stopped. And here she was having to keep her grandson out of her house.
Lockdown meant the loss of childcare, and hence freedom, and hence contentment. I’d reached my happiest point since having Kester when Covid struck. He was going to nursery for the first time for two days a week and to my mum for a day and a half, and I was able to get a sensible amount of work done and also start to feel something near in control (or attempting control) of life admin. This made me really, really happy, mainly the work bit, as I love my work and it makes me really happy to be doing it. This all came crashing down abruptly, which was incredibly frustrating.
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