Irene and Lynn


Irene Lofthouse in conversation with
Lynn Harrison

Lynn Harrison is a midwife at Bradford Royal Infirmary with twenty-nine years of experience. Irene Lofthouse is a writer, playwright, actor and social historian. Lynn and Irene have been neighbours for twenty-three years.

26 weeks: reflection

It’s October half-term, a time when one of my alter-egos Wanda the Witch, usually roams Yorkshire and beyond communing with spirits, creating spells, telling strange tales, scrying the future and reflecting the past.

Even her predictions on Lady Day in March couldn’t foretell the extent of the strangeness that would happen, nor her scrying in mirrors reflect how much lockdown, easing, tiering and lockdown would affect work, relationships, confidence, concentration both personally and communally.

As I look back through emails, several predictions were spot on:

  • don’t think of visits to schools till Spring 2021 at the earliest (March 2020)
  • explore ways of creating workshops online – live streaming, recorded, (March 2020)
  • podcasts a way forward as radio/audio will fill a live performance void, learn how to do this (April 2020)
  • live theatre for own work not a goer till Spring 2021, more likely to be the Autumn (April 2020)
  • likely to be in another lockdown by Christmas (June 2020)

The months have been a massive learning curve: wrestling with video-making; buying, learning how to use and record on a smart-phone; appearing as myself (forty years of hiding behind costumes gone in a click). Trying to create a ‘silent’ space amidst the noise of strimmers, children playing, house renovations, garden parties happening during lockdown and beyond, little of which happened weekdays in ‘normal’ times, hasn’t been easy.

Conversations with Lynn showed how different our work lives have been. As most of my work was cancelled and contact time restricted, Lynn’s workload increased, mixing with colleagues and community continued. Our discussions illustrated that we shared concerns for the future and in especial for people’s mental health and well-being. The second wave illustrated one effect on young people as Lynn’s son (now at Uni) tested positive, and the whole family had to isolate. All are fine.

In my street we got to know households better; saying hello to previously unknown neighbours; con-verging for impromptu distanced get-togethers on the grass outside to chat; pulling together to fight a planning application that would destroy precious habitat. I noticed the number of couples marrying who’ve been together for years; perhaps, like WW1, there’s a feeling that should death happen, a wife/husband will be more secure than a partner.

So I’ve learned:

  • that digital delivery doesn’t have to be perfect – I can’t control platforms
  • to re-appraise skills and re-purpose them for new uses
  • to re-connect with old technology – sending handwritten postcards and receiving replies has been a joy, and a way of documenting the months
  • re-create a slower approach to life – time out to embroider, to grow things, to read, to stare at the clouds
  • to remember that old friendships, relationships, outlook and priorities will be affected, may shift and new ones develop
  • to live in the now, with the highs/lows, stop/go, push-me-pull-you life we find ourselves in

I’ve never had a ‘career’, been unemployed many times, living on the edge with little/no money something experienced throughout childhood, and I know by re-inventing and reshaping, there’ll be work at the end of all this.

It might not be what I’ve done previously, but I look forward to finding out what it is.

Irene Lofthouse

Leave a Reply