Snow Poem

By Katie-Alice Constant

Quarantine had formed its skin

Over my house 

Until snow cracked through its epidermis,

Like hermits we tentatively step out. 

Snow under my feet

And then down my back

Laughing and screaming 

The dog bounding, kicking and rolling,

Memories fall thick and fast;

Of snow days and time off work.

Now we have ourselves another great day 

To get away from sticky hands

That bind, run and numb up with the weather,

Hours that are glued, plastered and moulded together. 

Joyous hollers can’t be dumbed or gobbled by quarantine’s rough edged tongue.

Snow

By Ceci Browning

I am wearing my mum’s wellies. They are navy blue with thick white stripes. They are also far too big. Between them and my feet there are three pairs of socks, and yet there is still an inch of empty space at one end. But my gloves and my coat and my scarf match perfectly. They are all navy too. I couldn’t wear my own wellies because the left one has a sizable hole. And it has snowed.

I’ve ventured outside. It’s still early, hours until lunch, but the streets are already full of footprints, dark shapes in the white landscape. Every few minutes I pass herds of small children or wet dogs without their leads or booted hatted grown-ups like me. Good morning, they smile. Hello, they chirp. Everyone seems to be friendlier in the snow. Perhaps it is because nobody can go anywhere. Nobody is in a rush to do this or that. Nobody has anyone to see or anything to get to.

I have always liked snow. 

The previous day I had been looking forward to seeing a friend of mine. Well, a ‘friend’. A friend that isn’t really just a friend, but also isn’t quite anything else yet, and probably won’t be. Someone I like, a lot, someone I particularly enjoy the company of, but someone who isn’t the kind of someone that means when your aunt or your friend or your godmother asks, have you met anyone, you say yes. I’d say no. I’d definitely say no. Because while he isn’t just anyone, he’s also not really that kind of someone. 

Anyway, we had plans, Mr Someone and I. I hadn’t seen him in a few weeks and I was looking forward to catching up with him. I wanted to hear what he’d been up to. I wanted to ask how his Christmas was, and his new year, and everything in between. Because while I didn’t really care, I cared quite a lot. Sadly, however, Mr Someone had other things on. I wasn’t top of his to do list that day. An hour or so before when he was due to pick me up I got a text. He wasn’t going to make it. Another time, he says. Sorry, he adds. I remind myself I’m not really supposed to be disappointed.

The next morning, with my feet sliding around inside my wellies, I’m still thinking about him. I’m thinking about how everything seems to have slowed to a halt at the moment. Everything has given up, spluttered to a stop. And I’m thinking about how the things that haven’t stopped are awfully complicated. I sigh, and my breath forms a small cloud in front of my face. 

In the daytime I’m studying for my degree from home, with my dad in the next room hitting his keyboard in a way that makes it sound like he is chopping wood. My brothers are both upstairs, talking loudly to their teachers, tapping out long messages to their classmates. They are doing their very best to educate themselves from their bedrooms. My friends are miles and miles from where I am. At the end of the phone, yes, one call away, perhaps, but it’s not the same. And Mr Someone? Your guess is as good as mine. 

Young people are meant to be striding forward into the sparkling most exciting parts of their lives. Together. In pairs and in groups and as a generation. Twenty-somethings are all hovering at the precipice of something brilliant, the days that should someday be looked back on as the glory days, but have been stripped of the time and the energy and the space to leap over it. We all appear to be going backwards.

I turn the corner, an almost hairpin bend around a fir tree, and the hill rolls out ahead of me, white and glistening in the sunshine. My mouth drops open into a little o shape, like a penny.

Tiny coats of all colours race down the hill. Raspberry pinks and rubber duck yellows, pea greens and postbox reds. Parents in khaki green and dark blue with black rucksacks and sensible shoes chase after them, tripping over their feet, and each other. Bobble hats wobble and then plastic sledges tip over into the snow. Giggles and shrieks and yells drift up from the bottom of the slope, where a row of misshapen snowmen stand to attention. Teenagers scrape the thick branches of low trees with gloveless hands and hurl snowballs at unsuspecting siblings. There is laughing, there is hugging, there is joy.

For months and months, I have not seen so many people all in one place. But most of all, for months and months, I have not seen this many people having fun. Families are staying apart from one another, socially distancing as they should be, but it is still glorious. I have forgotten quite how important this coming together of strangers is. This is what Christmas was missing last year. This is it. This is what we, collectively, all of us, thought we had to leave behind forever, when in fact this is the thing that matters most. 

We are not going backwards. Of course we’re not. We are still pushing on into the future, however uncertain it may be. It’s simply that we are not moving in a straight line. Like the sledges of the children on the hill in all their bright colours, we are swaying and wavering and stopping and starting, but we are still moving forward. I will get my degree. I will see my friends again. Have a pint with them, watch a film with them, cook dinner with them. And who knows what will happen with Mr Someone? Maybe we’ll see each other. Maybe we won’t. Either way, I’m sure I’ll get to where I’m meant to be going. We all will.

Photo taken by the author.

‘Lagging’: An Interview with Molly Taylor

I spoke to Molly Taylor, who is currently directing, writing and starring in her online show ‘Lagging’.

Lily Could you summarise the premise of ‘Lagging’ for us?

Molly ‘Lagging’ is basically a blatant rip off of Staged. I fell in love with Staged over the summer – it was the first online production I’d seen that felt really suited to the format. Lagging is a reality-based fiction about the cast of ‘5 Lesbians Eating A Quiche’ (the show we were going to do this term) who get cancelled and go to Zoom to do online rehearsals for their online production – we’re playing with the weirdness of online rehearsals as well as some classic student theatre character jokes. It’s quite fun to do something that’s so blatantly stereotypical and jokey, whilst finding some sort of sympathy for the characters. They’re all stuck at home, doing this as basically a bit of a favour, and no one’s really getting what they want out of it. But everyone’s still doing their best, which I think does summarise a lot of what Cambridge theatre has had to do.

Lily What was the thinking behind the decision to do it as a series of small episodes rather than a long production?

Molly Part of the impetus is that I was tired of doing three-month long rehearsals of something that was then cancelled. You can also do short musing, not entirely directed comedy much better in short episodes – people then have a lot more tolerance for stuff that isn’t plot heavy. But I was also really excited by the idea of being able to do something and seeing it come to life a week later. It’s amazing how quickly people got stuff together: my AD wrote an entire sea shanty in three days! We got an editor two days beforehand and he’s done an amazing job. A bit terrifying, but it’s fun doing something so immediate and kind of stressful after such a sedate year.

Lily How does the rehearsal process and filming work?

Molly Episodes are broadcast on Sunday, and we’re supposed to start writing the next episode the same day (I don’t know if we do). I really wanted to be collaborative with the writing so that anyone in the cast or production team who wanted to be involved with it could be. We have a writing gathering, an open Zoom call that anyone can come to for two hours, I gather everything together and then we have a sort of script by Tuesday. On Wednesday we do a rehearsal/read through and a staging of it. At this point, the script is still up for debate. But on Thursday we have to film, and it actually takes quite a while so at that point the script is a final product. It’s a tight turnaround and there’s a lot of room for people to make contributions if they want to, but not to openly devise, because otherwise things inevitably end up not getting done.

Lily With comic timing, doing it over Zoom obviously makes things very different to how they would be on stage. Do you record it with everyone on Zoom or do you record individual parts and then edit it together? 

Molly That was the biggest challenge. We realised quite early on that you can’t really get an actor in a comedy to just sit down and record themselves reacting to jokes. So instead, we have this elaborate setup: everyone is on a Zoom call, but we use the Zoom option ‘Hide non video participants’ so that those not in the scene can’t be seen. When someone enters a scene, they’re already in the room and then they can enter on cue easily, because there’s a whole lot of late entries or people coming in at the wrong time (classic Zoom banter). You have the Assistant Director screen recording the grid, and everyone separately screen recording themselves so that you can cut between group and individual shots. For comic timing, it was crucial that they all were on the call together. 

Lily You act in it as well as directing, which is a theme throughout with production team members making cameos. Is that something you’ve done before? And for those who were acting for the first time, how do you make someone feel comfortable? 

Molly I think a lot of people who were willing and excited to do it had done acting before, and if not, there was very much a willingness to do it, as it doesn’t require incredible acting skills. I really considered casting someone to play myself, but it felt a bit strange to have everyone else play themselves plus this other person as I lurked in the back. And, you know, it’s quite fun. It creates more of a community as well because we all do really enjoy hanging out with each other, even if the script says otherwise!

Lily It’s nice that it’s something for you guys as much as it is for the audience. What themes are you keen to explore in the weeks coming forward?

Molly The future episodes see a lot more joking around with online theatre as a concept rather than Zoom. Each episode is based around a related issue. You’ve got an episode about getting the rights for online theatre, which is trickier than you might think. We’ve got one about intimacy direction on Zoom with a fun cameo from a Cambridge Theatre classic coming in to play the intimacy director. The cast in future episodes, especially two of them, also get closer – the sea shanty becomes more relevant! How you start friendships or relationships and maintain them remotely will definitely become increasingly relevant. I think those two are the emotional heart. I hate that phrase, but they’re certainly the avenue through which we explore relationships.

Lily What advice would you give to anyone else who’s playing with the idea of theatre during lockdown? 

Molly There’s lots of funding available if you send forms to the right people and there are always people you can go to and ask for help – ADC online and the ADC are incredible at supporting online shows. But you don’t necessarily need them – we applied to ADC online with this show and didn’t get a slot, but I was so determined and so fed up with being cancelled that we decided to do it anyway. Use the fact that online theatre doesn’t need a budget because YouTube accounts are free. There are also so many people at the moment who are willing to give up their time to create something. And you don’t need to know people either – I put up the editor ad on Facebook and got loads of applications. The resources have almost never been easier to access, so use them! It’s a great way to flex directing and organising muscles, get to know people, and make theatre connections so that hopefully when theatre comes back in person, you’ll be a better, more experienced person for it. And we can all get on with making the theatre that we would ideally be making. 

You can watch episodes 1 and 2 of ‘Lagging’ on Youtube here. Episode 3 is due to be released on Sunday 14th February.

2020 In Review

By Alexandra La Guardia

2020 was the year when the unimaginable happened and the year when nothing seemed to happen at all. The pandemic changed our lives completely, and yet we quickly adapted to the ‘new normal’. For many, the overall sense is that this year felt pointless, motionless. Covid started and life was put on pause. 

It would be insensitive and wrong to say that 2020 was a good year for the world. 1.84 million people have died, and that number will have risen by the time I finish writing this. Hundreds of thousands in the UK alone have lost their jobs. Domestic violence, inequality, and mental health problems are just a few of the negative consequences of the pandemic.

Everyone is ready to put 2020 behind them. Rightly so. But there is also good reason to reflect on this past year. As plans were turned upside down, we were challenged to think in creative ways. Time normally spent commuting, seeing friends at the pub, or travelling, was suddenly there for us to use in different ways. Students who barely knew how to flip an egg discovered their calling as cooks, Strava replaced Instagram, and books which had been gathering dust for years were plucked off the shelf. And there was also time for a little silence. Time to take a breather from the busyness of life. Early-morning walks (and the occasional lie-in) replaced the early-morning rush, and on one late-night stroll, I saw a fox standing on the roof of a car looking like he owned the street.

I realise that this paints a grey-tinged year in a rosier light than it might deserve. These little pleasures do not outweigh the difficult times that came with the virus. But while it’s perhaps a cliche, the hardest moments are often the ones which really help you to grow. The challenge of learning to live alone leads to increased independence, while living in a house full of people can make you a more patient person. Being forced to behave in a different way than we’re used to – no pubs, no hugs – can help us to think about what really makes us happy, what we can do without, and what we miss the most when we don’t have it. 

2020 made us appreciate the things we took for granted: a group of over six sitting inside on a cold night, walking into Sainsbury’s without a queue circling the block, shaking hands instead of bumping elbows, not being glared at when you cough after swallowing water the wrong way. It even makes us appreciate the things we didn’t think would be missed: waking up for lectures, spending the day in the library, airplane food, night clubs.  

And while the pandemic holds the 2020 spotlight, other historical events make this year worth remembering. In February, Harvey Weinstein was convicted for rape and sexual assault. The global Black Lives Matter movement dominated the summer, forcing countries to look at their colonial past and present-day racism. Joe Biden became president-elect, with Kamala Harris as the first female, Black and South Asian vice president-elect. And the fires that blazed through Australia and the West Coast were a wake-up call to the threat of climate change. 

2021 will not see immediate change; in fact, it looks pretty bleak.  New year, new covid variant, it seems. As vaccines are being rolled out, so are restrictions. But as spring comes, things will begin to go back to normal. Only it will once again be a ‘new normal’. One in which, hopefully, we appreciate friends, concerts, parties, art galleries more than ever before, and remember that happiness can be found in the simplest things, like a good walk on a sunny day. 

2020 proved to what extent the world is interconnected, and that societies can change drastically in response to a global crisis. So let’s hope the world can finally come together to fight that other global crisis, climate change. And maybe we can do it without furlough and face masks.

Photo is author’s own.

Business as Utterly Unusual

by Kristina Harris

I’ve got to be honest, I’ve seen more ‘business as usual’ now than I have ever seen in the entirety of my short life. I was walking down the street the other day where substantial construction was taking place. There were metal fences framing the torn apart streets. The gravel was coming apart at the seams, and the fences twisted and turned in the most confusing urban labyrinth anyone has ever had to go through to get to Shake Shack. When I finally escaped the loud drilling of chaos, I was met with a yellow rectangular sign that read ‘business as usual’. At this moment, I stopped my pursuit of cheese fries and just looked at the sign. I turned around and looked at the calamity of construction I had just walked through and thought, they must be f**king kidding me? NOTHING was as usual on that pavement. Nothing is as usual!

Nothing is even close to normal. Usually, when I talk about something being six feet, I am describing an ideal boyfriend or the deep end of a pool, not the distance between me and a friend! And masks? Do not make me laugh. I have never worn this many masks – not even when I was re-enacting the most dramatic scenes of Grey’s Anatomy on wine night. Never in my life have I felt more like a secret agent than when I whip my mask off after having looked  around the corner and not seen anyone. We’re doing happy hours alone over spotty Wi-Fi connections, and videoconferencing dates. And class? I have no idea. I slept through most of April and May because surviving is freaking exhausting.

Regardless, by whatever stroke of luck we are back in Cambridge. We are socially distantly making friends, joining clubs, and meeting girlfriends. We are doing Zoom drinks, and even wearing mascara again. The Zoom life isn’t all bad. I don’t really miss walking home barefoot, heels in hand regretting that I didn’t just wear trainers. They are back in style in a big way anyway.

For some of us, we haven’t been back in Cambridge since March. For some of us, this is the first time ever in the city. To everyone running around unsure which arrow to follow, and which side of the pavement to be on, don’t worry about it. No one knows what is going on. But, welcome back! Seriously.

This welcome is even more all-encompassing than it has ever been in the past because we have all moved into an alternate virtual reality. And no, we didn’t fall into Jumanji. We just slipped into an entirely unpredictable present, and we all found ourselves here, in this lovely town together. Nothing is the way it was, or how I pictured it. Yet, we are still expected to power through. To keep the world turning. To keep learning. To keep working. For me, it hasn’t been easy to stay focused, to stay upbeat and positive. I don’t even want to talk about how staying fit is going. But that’s okay! I am doing my absolute best.  

Which is why I am even more appreciative of spaces like Girl Talk now more than ever. It may just be the smallest corner of the internet, but this small place is just for us to be unapologetically ourselves. For our voices to just take up space. To take up six feet of space for that matter!

So, welcome back, or just welcome! Come to the blog to hear from other lovely beings at Cam who are just trying to make sense of whatever the heck 2020 is. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. And try your very best to enjoy your life. No, things aren’t the way they were, nor are they the way you expected. But that isn’t nothing. Some of the best times, some of the best nights are when you didn’t even expect to go out. When you didn’t make any plans. It might seem incredulously optimistic, maybe even freaking ridiculous. But business isn’t as usual. So, don’t make your life usual. Make it utterly unusual.

Image: wet pavement by Adrian Eckersley