2020 has been a checklist for global disasters: political; environmental, with bush fires and flooding and now a potential pandemic with new cases of Coronavirus or Covid-19 announced daily. Apart from the bizarre stories of stockpiling loo roll, we hear about people self-isolating and, in the case of the state of Lombardy, an entire Italian province under potential lockdown.
What must it be like to be removed or remove oneself from the world?
When I was a teenager, one of my favourite poems was Tennyson’s ‘Lady of Shallot’. The hypnotic rhythm of the verses as well as the choice and placing of words build up to create the horror of her predicament. She must not look out of the window so has to view the outside world through a mirror.
‘There she weaves by night and day/ A magic web with colours gay.
She has heard a whisper say/ A curse is on her if she stay
To look down to Camelot.’
She also has no idea what the curse might be ‘And so she weaveth steadily.’ This builds up to delicious, dramatic climax when ‘half-sick of shadows’ she leaves the tower and island where she has been imprisoned by the curse. You might also recognise her from the paintings of John Waterhouse and other pre-Raphaelites (see above).
This photo was taken in Marrakech a few years ago and made me wonder who might have once sat in the gloomy interior looking out onto a sunny tiled courtyard and, directly opposite, another dark room. Perhaps the room was a refuge from the searing sun? Or something else?
If you need inspiration for your story, think about isolation as a theme or use a poem, a painting or one of your own photos as a starting point. Your story (up to 2200 words) can be on any theme or genre but must reach us by midnight on Monday, April 20th. So get writing!