The Hillcrest Centre is planning to reopen on 1st September, subject to the latest developments and government advice, with a view to slowly beginning to get back to normal. It’s hard to say at the moment whether it will be feasible to restart later in the autumn if social distancing and other measures are still in place, but we will, of course, keep you all informed of what’s happening.
In the meantime we thought we would give a flavour of what some of the GuestHouse committee members have been getting up to! This month Umi Sinha shares with us some of her insights from lockdown.
Like many people’s, my activities have been curtailed by lockdown, but to my surprise it has been an opportunity to reconnect with my childhood. I spent five of the first ten years of my childhood on an inland naval engineering base situated in a remote hill station in the Western Ghats of India, a place of spectacular scenery, including rugged cliffs and waterfalls, that is now a popular tourist destination.
Our parents were both very busy and we barely saw anything of them. In those days, and probably still in India, it wasn’t considered safe for girls to go out and play, so while my brother ranged the hillsides and fields with his friend, my little sister and I were stuck in the house with our ayah (nanny). Before I started school at seven there was absolutely nothing to do, so I gradually worked my way through my mother’s vast collection of books.
Although I have always thought of my childhood as boring, and my predominant impression is of silence, looking back I realise how rich that world was, with so much time to daydream, think and immerse myself in fictional worlds. Much of the content of those adult books went over my head, but through them I made journeys, explored the world and shared in exciting adventures. I decided then that I wanted to be a writer like my mother, to live a quiet life and create those worlds for other people. But, as John Lennon said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”. Like most people, I got busy.
What I found in the first few weeks of lockdown was a wonderful peace. I didn’t have to rush around any more. All events stopped. All my teaching work has continued, but instead of being less meaningful on Zoom, it became more so, because my students really need the contact with others, the incentive to keep creating, and to share their work. Some wrote about our experience of this new reality, others didn’t, but in some way it has informed everyone’s writing. With more time to daydream and reflect, I too have been able to find new depth in my own writing. I am also lucky that both my adult children happened to be between homes and ended up staying with me, and we have shared some wonderful family time together. Over all, this has been a positive time for me, but I know it has not been for many. We all have different stories.
I’ve missed storytelling, but the few events I have attended on Zoom, good as the tellers were, failed to satisfy what I love most about live storytelling – being in the room with other people and feeling the story draw us together, the shared response of being part of a community, which was something I missed so much in my childhood. Looking at other audience members in separate small boxes on a screen, if anything makes me feel more separate. Because that community feeling has always been so much part of The GuestHouse (our very name suggests it) it was one of the reasons none of us felt inspired to try to keep it going on Zoom. Another was that there is so much good professional storytelling available online at this time.
All of us on the committee look forward to being back in that community space, sharing stories with you all, as soon as it’s possible. In the meantime, here’s a story I thought you might enjoy:
Café opens 6.30pm serving organic meals, snacks and cakes and a very warm and welcoming atmosphere.
Stories 7.30 – 9.30 pm on the second Tuesday of the month.
£7 in advance, £9 on the door
Bay Vue Rd, Newhaven BN9 9LH
Free parking. Disabled access.
Free parking and disabled access.