Recurring: March-September 2020

In the summer of 2020 I was asked by Creative Futures/Collage Arts to participate in a project. The brief was to write a lockdown diary which, as well as being a good way of documenting a strange time, was a real test of very recent memory. I’ve become an infrequent diary writer, so I had to search through emails and my Twitter feed to work out what had happened, and when. Here’s an extract:

Mum’s care home is now closed to visitors. We have been visiting her without missing a day since 2015. I was only there the night before, but I go anyway as I’d been planning to, in case they’ll let me in. As I approach, I see closed signs on the gate, on the door. I stand at the entrance in the drizzle. The sky is pink. A woman approaches. She wears a nose ring, hood up, shoulders hunched with disappointment. She has come to see her Grandad. I tell her the home is closed, and her eyes become glassy with tears which don’t spill. I haven’t been for a while, she says. We stand and talk for a while.

Twelve women of colour took part, and our diaries were compiled into an e-book, released in December 2020.

You can read them here.

Thanks to Kate Pemberton of Collage Arts for inviting me to take part in the project.

Belly, in Best British Short Stories 2020

Belly, which was published in Ellipsis Zine in 2019, is included in Best British Short Stories 2020 (Salt Publishing). Thanks to Nicholas Royle for selecting it.

Vanessa couldn’t believe her luck when Reggie asked her out. I’ll treat you to a Nando’s, he said. He drove her to the West End in a silver Volkswagen Golf GTi. Vanessa didn’t dare ask where he’d got it. They abandoned the car down a side street off Charing Cross Road and ran laughing towards Trafalgar Square.

Read the rest in the anthology, available from Salt, or online at Ellipsis Zine.

The Ceramicist

 

The Ceramicist (detail) © Josie Sommer, 2020

The Ceramicist is about a couple who meet an artist at a party, and what happens when they visit her in her studio. It is also about art and generosity, memory and forgetting:

We receive an invitation to the ceramicist’s open studio day, and I decide that we should go. Jim says, Experimental ceramics? Are you sure?

The ceramicist lives in a gently tilting house on the corner of The Hill, a desirable part of town where the houses are proud of their exposed sand-coloured brick, their facades wreathed in climbing roses.

The Ceramicist appears in Ambit 240, and it is my first print publication. Special thanks to Kiare Ladner for her brilliant, energising short story workshop at Collage Arts Writing Room in October-December 2019 which helped me to start writing again after a dry spell, and to Kate Pemberton and the editors of Ambit.

Kathleen & Johnny

We were so envious of Kathleen for being with Johnny, they’d been together since she was fourteen. We were so impressed, cos he was five years older than us. We were so jealous, even though he hit her sometimes, slapped her face – but they were always together. Johnny was interested in the British Movement, in the NF, in National Socialism, he said they had something, he said they were onto something, and I wondered about the scar that began at his top lip, skin laced tight up to his septum, I wondered whether he’d once had a cleft palate, I couldn’t help wondering whether he’d ever tasted glass from the neck of a broken bottle.