Zooming Into Summer? Readaround – 10 June 2020

Lots of firsts.

First, thanks to Suzy for, firstly, coaching some of us IT ‘dinosaurs’ – or as I prefer, we intrepid explorers – and then hosting, virtually glitch-free (apart from a couple of audio issues) our first virtual Readaround, the first of summer 2020.


7.00pm and time to titivate. I hate sighting myself in photos; framed in a little box is no better. One bonus – I can uplift my unruly hair with no one noticing the mess behind. Then, should I arrange my background as in reality I might have plumped cushions … place myself tastefully in front of a learned bookcase like those on TV? (No.)

7.15pm – can I find the meeting again? Evidently, yes.

Joanna didn’t read but contributed to her first Readaround, so first up, the second chapter of Eddie’s fourth novel – whew again. Some lovely turns of phrase, like MP back benches a metaphor for dying. We wondered if switching viewpoints is confusing and so much backstory early on, a consequence of not having read the previous books. Eddie is working on how to bring readers up-to-date concisely so that he can jump into the current, ghostly story involving a journalist, will, letter, mystery package and scandal.

Then the first of our lockdown-themed (naturally) pieces: Maggie M’s poem entitled On the Deck. Although it’s not being entered for the Scots competition with theme ‘travelling hopefully’, Maggie took that as her inspiration, looking ahead to when lockdown is over and she and her partner are once more together, can travel to Arran to ‘talk and flirt’ on the ferry as they get to know each other again. This forward-sailing narrative weaves – to mix my metaphors – threads of Zoom-time and travelling hopefully into an Arran knit of internal rhymes and adventure.

On to Carolyn’s short, Alan Bennett-esque monologue about queuing at the post office, called New Normal (already out-of-date) written on her last day out, it transpired, before shielding. As much prose poetry – a rhythmic performance of slow-motion real life, beginning with ‘honest blue sky’ and the strangeness of no traffic noise, moving into ordinary jobs now infused with danger like the man ‘collecting smiles and thumbs up as he goes’; such nuggets of positivity seeming more important in this time when people’s laughter feels inappropriate and threatening.

Taking us into the (sadly, cake-less) comfort break, Jeanette with the start of her first book review – an amusing hook on its genre – and questions on structure within a tight 500-word limit. Maggie B just happened to have some guidelines to hand!

Maggie followed our 15-min. cuppa and ‘blether’ with the continuation of her children’s story for 8-10-year-olds, The Secret Life of Ailsa McCann (apologies if I didn’t spell that right). Age appropriate as usual, thoughtful with a light touch – magic stones are both a gift and two-edged sword – takes in relationships, has realistic dialogue, differentiated characters, is descriptive and wacky.

Ajay gave us a poem/eulogy called Bedside Vigil, recently written just before and after his mother died – not Covid-related so spared that separation – when he’d spent a lot of time learning much about her (and she’d also read it). Understandably difficult to write and read, the juxtaposition of hospital and family begins and ends with a question of time, and such lovely repetitions as ‘sleepless rest followed by restless sleep’. The title conveys subject but we thought maybe not intimately enough, and perhaps it could include a facet of time or mantra about his mother.

Joanne read the latest in her series of Scots poems, Speakin’ Oot (again, apologies for any misspellings) based on her mother but not a true story, a believable portrayal of trying to sneak out of the house, with an amusing and visual punchline: ‘shouldnae hae on Estée Lauder’. Competition contender.

Another contender for publication, Damaris’s first-person, present tense tale, Guardian of Cats, the seventh from her semi-factual collection about living in Italy. Woman feeding twenty feral cats who is unable to pay a vet and fears being labelled mad, well-observed and builds from intro of individual cats to convey her passion.

Suzy’s brain too frazzled from hosting (she said, not me) it was finally my turn. I’m not a poet but some emotions require this shortcut and my poem, titled Pandemic (Once in a Hundred Years) – penned when some police were, I shall say, enthusiastically enforcing rules – is self-evident. Comments confirmed what I hoped to achieve – snappy, rising panic, cynical tone, anger at authoritarianism.

We’ve clearly been putting our Lockdown to use. An exciting, mildly chaotic (in fairness, we eleven haven’t glimpsed each other for a long time) evening spanning the emotional spectrum. Yet ultimately with no need for Suzy, as group leader, to exercise her right (so I was previously informed) to mute us all if our much-anticipated jamboree got out of hand – another virtual benefit, eh? It’s not all gloom.
On cue, Maggie B’s clock bells called us to a close.

Next up in two weeks, Carolyn’s (and Ajay’s) virtual(ly) midsummer Readaround. Try it, I dare you!

Jan Braysher

One comment

  1. Joanne Bailey

    What a fabulous account of a fantastic first virtual readaround. Looking forward to the next one xx

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