Home, our refuge from lockdown silence and sadness

Home, our refuge from lockdown silence and sadness

Year 10 boy Arjun Patel has won the plaudits of his teachers for an account of life in lockdown that ends with an unexpectedly positive twist.

Arjun was ‘highly commended’ for his short story on the theme of Silence, written as a remote-learning English class task.

Head of English Robert Hyland said: “Arjun’s impressively mature writing vividly captures many of the images that have become the ‘new normal’ – the empty shops and cinemas, the rainbow symbols – but reassuringly he has structured his writing to reveal an optimistic view of tomorrow, rather than taking it in a dystopian direction, which would have been easy.”

Arjun said he drew his inspiration for the story from a walk that he took during the first lockdown last year, when he remembers having been “astounded at the lack of noise and activity.

“On coming back to my home and hearing all the noises of daily life, I thought about how even though the country is shut down, we don’t have to be alone. Even if you live by yourself, there is always a way to cut out the silence from your life – video calls are a great example.”

His class teacher, Yioda Menelaou, said: “Arjun’s writing captivated me as he displayed his ability to write so gracefully about the way the pandemic has changed people’s lives. His honest depiction of the silence which has engulfed society was elegantly explored, and his final understanding of the importance of family and staying home at such a critical time was both poignant and hopeful. A truly remarkable story, one that will, I am sure, resonate with all of us.”

The story was also technically proficient, she added, with Arjun showing plot progression within the constraints of the 400-word limit, as well as a wide range of vocabulary and a varied structure.

Arjun begins the composition by describing the “deafening stillness” of the empty streets.He observes the boarded-up “bright, pastel-coloured shops” and a deserted park, its swings covered with spiders’ webs. Arjun thinks sadly back to the fun he and his friends had had on these same streets only a few months before, when they heard “the cars rushing past, the low buzz of people walking by” – sounds that were so normal in those pre-pandemic days.

But just as the coronavirus gloom threatens to overwhelm, he comes back to his home “nestled in a cosy corner, of a cosy street, in a cosy town” and its “many sounds”. These, writes Arjun, were the “the sound of laughter. The sound of the crackling fire, and the steaming pots from the kitchen. The sound of the TV, a bad comedian doing his bit. The sound of my family chatting away.

“At that moment, I realised something – I didn’t have to put up with the silence. I had all the noise I could ever want, right here. At home.”