Welcome to the latest weekly installment of our blogs written by poets about what they have been doing since the lockdown began. We’re calling it From the Front Lines: with the public being urged to stay at home to hinder the progress of Covid-19, it often feels as if our front door is the front line. Today, we hear from poet and teacher Anne Frater.
Cha tug e ach seachdain gus an do dh’fhàs mi sgìth de na deilbh air Facebook de na bha pàrantan a’ dèanamh còmhla rin cuid chloinne. Tha gu leòr ciont an cois a bhith nad mhàthair a tha ag obair làn ùine, gun a bhith a’ cur ris aig an àm a tha seo leis gu bheil thu fhathast ag obair làn ùine, ach bhon taigh, agus nach eil thu saor gus cuideachadh le obair sgoile no eile.
Tha m’ obair làitheil – a’ teagasg chlasaichean agus a’ ceartachadh obair, ag ullachadh ma choinneamh an ath bhliadhna agus a’ frithealadh choinneamhan – fhathast a’ dol. Ann an iomadh dòigh, tha mi fortanach gu bheil an cothrom sin agam, agus nach eil an t-uallach nas motha na tha e. Leis gun deach cùrsaichean Oilthigh na Gàidhealtachd ’s nan Eilean an cruthachadh airson a bhith air an lìbhrigeadh air astar, cha tug gluasad gu bhith ag obair bhon taigh buaidh cho mòr sin orm a thaobh an teagaisg. Gun teagamh, bha e caran neònach a bhith nam shuidhe aig a’ bhòrd sa chidsin an àite bhith ann an seòmar VC sa cholaiste, ach a bharrachd air sin, chùm a h-uile càil a’ dol mar bu chleachd. Bha na h-oileanaich a’ faighinn na stuthan-teagasg aca air-loidhne, agus chùm sinn ris a’ chlàr-ama a bh’ againn a thaobh clasaichean-taice: le sin, bha beagan structar fhathast againn ged a bha a h-uile càil eile bun-os-cionn.
Ged a tha an obair latha fhathast a’ dol, chan urrainn a ràdh gu bheil e buileach ‘mar a b’àbhaist’, oir a bharrachd air oileanaich, tha agam ri dèiligeadh ri clann agus cù, agus is gann gum faigh mi fois airson m’ obair a dhèanamh san latha obrach. Cha mhì nam aonar ann a bhith ag obair ann an uairean beaga na maidne, leis gur ann an uairsin a bhios an taigh na thàmh. Obair chruthachail? Tha ’n tobar air tràghadh.
A dh’ aindeoin na tha neònach agus riaslach mun t-suidheachdadh anns a bheil sinn, tha buannachdan na chois cuideachd. Chan eil a leth uidhir de dh’eughachd ann sa mhadainn – coma ged a bhiodh a’ chlann fhathast nan aodach oidhche ’s iad rin obair sgoile, coma ged a bhiodh cinn gun an cìreadh. Chan eil cabhaig aig ceann eile an latha nas motha, leis gu bheil mi aig an taigh aig còig uairean air an diog, agus nach eil agam ri bhith a’ tilgeil rudeigin ri cheile ann an cabhaig dha clann a th’ air an tolladh leis an acras. Chuir a’ chasg air siubhal gu na h-Eileanan an Iar dìon oirnn, gu ruige seo co-dhiù, a’ toirt adhbhar eile dhuinn a bhith taingeil gur ann an seo a tha sinn a’ fuireachd. Thàinig a’ choimhearsnachd ri chèile gus dèanamh cinnteach nach biodh dìth air duine sam bith, agus tha sinn a’ bruidhinn (aig astar sàbhailte) ris na nàbannan a choinnicheas ruinn air cuairt ceadaichte an latha, seach a bhith a’ smèideadh riutha às a’ chàr ’s sinn a’ dol seachad.
Mura bitheadh nach urrainn dhomh fiù ’s breith air làimh air mo phàrantan, air eagal ’s gun toir mi an galar seo tarsainn air an starsaich …
It only took a week for me to get fed up of the Facebook pictures of what parents were doing with their children. There’s enough guilt from being a full-time working mother without adding to it at this time because you‘re still working, albeit from home, and that you’re not free to help with schoolwork.
My day job – teaching classes, marking work, preparing for the next academic year and attending meetings – is still going on. In many ways, I’m lucky that it is, and that the workload isn’t more onerous. Since UHI courses are designed for distance delivery, the move to home working didn’t affect the teaching too much. Without a doubt, it was a bit strange to be sitting at my kitchen table instead of in a VC room in the college, but other than that, things carried on as usual. The students accessed their teaching materials online, and we kept to the same timetable for tutorials: a wee bit of routine in the midst of the chaos.
Although I’m still doing the day job, its not quite ‘as normal’, because in addition to students, I now have children and a dog to deal with, and I don‘t get much peace to do my work during the working day. I’m not alone in working in the wee small hours, when the house is quiet. Creative writing? The well is dry.
Despite all that’s strange and challenging about the situation we’re in, there are upsides. There’s much less shouting in the morning – so what if the children are still in their pyjamas while they’re doing their schoolwork, so what if hair hasn’t been brushed? There isn‘t the same rush at the other end of the day either, as I’m home at five o’clock on the dot, so I don’t have to quickly throw something together for ravenous children. The restrictions on travel to the Western Isles has protected us thus far, giving us yet another reason to be grateful that we live here. The community has come together to ensure that nobody is without help, and we stop (at a safe distance) and talk to the neighbours we meet on our permitted daily perambulation, instead of waving at them as we drive past in the car.
If it wasn’t for the fact that I can’t so much as hold my parents’ hands for fear of bringing this disease across their threshhold…
Born in Stornoway, Isle of Lewis in 1967, Anne Frater was brought up in the village of Upper Bayble in the Point district of the island. Scottish Gaelic is her first language, and the language in which her poetry is written. Her poems were first published in Gairm magazine (1986) while she was a student at Glasgow University, from which she graduated with an honours degree in Celtic and French in 1990. After a year at Jordanhill College training as a secondary teacher, she returned to Glasgow University and was awarded a PhD in 1995 for her thesis on Scottish Gaelic Women’s Poetry up to 1750. Her work has appeared in two collections, Fon t-Slige / Under the Shell (Gairm, 1995) and Cridh Creige (Acair, 2017). She worked in the media in various capacities before taking up a post for the University of the Highlands and Islands at Lews Castle College, where she now teaches Gaelic literature.