Creative students boost our spirits

CREATIVE writing students at Ripon Grammar School are displaying true strength of spirit by putting pen to paper to reflect on life during the coronavirus outbreak.

Fourth form students, working remotely and individually since they were confined to their own homes after school closed on March 20, have joined together in a creative conversation which has inspired their teachers.

They were asked to produce a piece of writing entitled: ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’, using inspiration from poetry, personal experience or their current situation. Many chose to tackle the subject dominating the headlines. 

English teacher Jasmine Cortazzi said she was very proud that, in a time of adversity, her class responded so imaginatively to the task: “The pupils truly have demonstrated that the human spirit always triumphs and creates and takes inspiration from even the most challenging of circumstances.

You can read some of their work, below:

‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’

IT was the best of times, the worst of times. I had been cooped up inside my apartment for the past three months and I knew there were many more to come. As I stared across the bedraggled balcony into the dead street, the thought of how everything used to be crossed my mind. The busy street with people in every direction, the flamboyant colours of the shop signs and the sound of chattering made me feel joyous. However, in a second I realised that in the street there was no life whatsoever and this caused my heart to sink. The ominous clouds in the distance made everything seem extremely harrowing and reminded me that there is no escape from this agony. As the clouds drifted closer and closer and closer, they were like the virus that was ploughing through the city killing anything that got in its way.

I hadn’t had any physical contact with anybody: my loneliness was really intruding into my head. Most of the neighbours had quarantined themselves completely and the only time I could go out was to get food. The pain of not being able to go anywhere was like being suffocated. Each morning when I sat outside on the balcony with my breakfast, the gloomy whistle of the wind caught my attention as it magically elevated the leaves from the morbid trees into the abyss. Even the buildings were left looking melancholy, their shutters closed completely, and the paint peeling off the sides and the sense of dereliction was encircling the air.

Every now and then I would see one person walk past with their shopping and they would be walking as fast as they could; being very aware as if someone was hunting them down like an animal. It was every man for himself and the survival of the fittest now. I was dismayed about the virus, but I knew that I had to stay indoors even though I was on the verge of breaking. My mind was dispersed, not being able to think logically, I felt so trapped and distressed. It was extremely eerie at night when all I could see was streetlights lit with very dim, monotone light, making the roads seem even more spiritless. I decided to go to bed, although I couldn’t sleep.

I woke up the following morning feeling utterly destitute. Despite feeling horrendous, I glanced over to the side of the room where I saw streaks of light scintillate through the splits of the shutters. I got up and crawled over to the balcony where the warm, iridescent sun hit my cold skin. This gave me some hope. However, the first thought that entered my brain was when would be the next time I see or go anywhere?

‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’

THE age of mechanical evolution, the birth of war machines and wealth. The 20th century followed the Industrial Revolution on an asymptotic path of progress bound for collapse as the façade of shared victory grew thin. It all began in with a pandemic and war, which isn’t too unfamiliar to us now. Greed provoked actions which spiralled one by one leading the masses to pick their side, or be forced into one, across the world. This drove many of us apart and forced others together to survive. Feast and famine, democracy and dictatorship, peace and pestilence. We scattered to our respective factions and ideologies, despite our shared hardships in the hope that we’d be proven right and triumph.

Thursday, March 19th, 2020:

Today I awoke to a different world. I’d never lived through an international disaster, nor had I experienced such an eerie feeling as ambling about my daily business amidst the empty streets and fearful glances. One by one, nations have entered lockdown in a bid to save themselves and each other from our invisible foe. This is a war of isolation unlike any other battles. Our local medical services are the frontline, not some far off ‘No Man’s Land’ that we faintly hear of.

Before extreme lengths were necessary, I stepped outside each morning to be met with a deafening silence as the few fellow pedestrians kept their distance. There was a shared tension of a conflict, forged in isolation and distance. Despite being in the age of connectivity we feel alone, standing on the edge of an abyss to the unknown, in a land uncharted on any map. Technology gave us access to everything we know, but it also gives everything access to us. We’re equipped with the means to find information and stay safe but are promptly intercepted by the press and berated by bizarre or distressing statistics we’d rather live without.

Yet there is hope as there always has been. We live in a world of information and ignorance. All we need is to take our time to think, before the passage of time takes us. We must rest yet remain vigilant, distance ourselves and stand united and keep calm and carry on.

‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’

IT was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Corona virus had struck the world like a dagger. It swallowed nations by the day and was killing poor citizens with no regrets and in a spiteful, destructive way. It crushed and poked at lungs, travelling through the air waiting for its next victim to come and pounce like they were prey. The virus forced us to isolate ourselves from the infected world now upon us, it laughed as it took away our young lives and our freedom, right before our eyes.

The world was under lock and key, I felt my body start to swelter as I saw my friends for the last time before we were thrown like a piece of litter into our houses. No summer. No school. No fun. The population dropped like flies and hospitals couldn’t cope; they were too crammed. Patients were aligned in wards in formation, however in a chaotic manner the world could not cope. Coronavirus consumed us whole in mass numbers, trying to torture our families. It gave it a thrill, a rush of adrenalin pumped through its veins as it ended the world slowly at first, but moving quicker and quicker each day so we couldn’t cope. This virus had to stop. Now.

Despite the many difficulties, it brought our families closer together. We had to spend every minute with each other as we were on lockdown. It also meant I could stay in my warm cosy bed. No more of the treacherous eye watering get ups, which made my stomach churn rapidly just thinking about them. The alarm clock which felt like a million sirens ringing in your ears, crashing against my eardrums and pounding them with all their strength and might. But now, peace. The only noise to wake me up was the sound of the birds’ singing and calling, giving us hope for the day. I had nothing on my mind, not a single thought sprinting round every inch of my brain trying to cause me stress and uncertainty. My mind was at rest.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’

It was the best of times, the worst of times. Everyone who I did and didn’t know sat around the campfire on gnarled and twisted logs, their backs turned away from the night and what we were running from. No one made a sound other than the occasional mutter to someone close and no one took any action, apart from a suspicious glare towards another. Sometimes a snap or crack of a twig would pounce from between the trees tormenting the group but rather than getting up to fight, everyone cowered in fear hoping to not be the one who suffered next. Acrid smells plagued the air whilst unpleasant touch and crusted dirt covered our skin. It was unpleasant to move, our bodies were broken but somehow, as if by miracle, our minds held even if it was just by a stretching string.

Bit by bit, slowly but surely, the silence faded from the camp. Stories were spilled and lives unveiled. Suspicions and terror faded from our faces as interest, and before long, glee took over spreading the light from the campfire into the cold recesses that had become our minds. A jolly scene smothered the camp: dancing, singing, chatting. As far as I could remember even past these events that had taken over I couldn’t remember something that had brought everyone so close, even if it was due to such unfortunate events.

However, as the sun faded, so did the spirits of the others. I guess everyone blocked out the thought that things might come to an end and some would have to leave. Morning light cracked through into my eyes showing me it was time to leave, some from last night were gone, at least their last night was a good one; better to die in happiness rather than in despair. That night reminded me of the point of going through this treacherous world instead of leaving it behind, I mustn't live to survive but survive to live. Pulling myself forward I lifted my head to look at the devastation around me: broken trees and wrecked cars and obliterated buildings and roads collapsed into the tunnels below them and there was no end to it.

Nevertheless, I walked and I walked and I walked and I walked on hoping to find something to make the journey worth it.