Day: June 10, 2020

Lockdown Blog

Lockdown Blog

 

 

 

Come Away With Me was the last of six books that I wrote while I renovated a tiny listed cottage in a coastal village where this book is set.

I only have to glance at the cover and the air is full of the lilting sound of waders out on the mudflats of the estuary where I  used to walk my dog. I would plot another chapter of the book to the music of seabirds out pecking among the stones on the foreshore. The shrill call of the oystercatchers, the softer ‘ki-ki’ of the turnstones and the ‘pee-wit’ of the lapwings were all magical, but it was the haunting cry of the curlews, like ship-wrecked souls in the dusk, that caught at my heart the most. Their calls would carry across my garden and filter into the long window of the landing where I used to write. If there is music to a certain time in your life, then that rippling, mournful sound of a curlew is the music of these years.

Come Away With Me is on a special Amazon Kindle offer of 99p for the whole of June. For anyone who has not yet read it, I hope you enjoy, and I hope you will hear the lilting sound of sea birds in the background of this story…

Covid 19 has been a fierce reminder of how casually we treat our world and each other. The havoc and suffering caused by this pandemic has changed all our lives.  It would be so good to think that we will never take our world for granted again, that we will remember how loud birdsong suddenly sounded in the mornings, or how clear and wonderous the night sky. It would be fantastic to believe we will start to reward nurses and doctors and cleaners and front-line workers, to reflect the job they do, not merely clap and sing for them.

 

Lockdown has isolated us from those we love and made us face ourselves head on. We have so much time to think about what is important in our lives. The huge loss of the small everyday things we take for granted. Being with our children, visiting our families, hanging out with our friends, planning the small celebrations that mark out our lives in coffee spoons…

 

 

Unable to be close to another human being is isolating. Without touch we are diminished. A hug is not a tiny thing, it is a colossal loss of human contact;  an instinctive act that warms and revives and expresses all that we feel and are. Even the most casual hug of greeting demonstrates warmth. To hold another for a moment is an affirmation of love or friendship, and matters.

Lockdown will also have made the plight of those already suffering behind closed doors, far worse. The economic and physical effects of this virus will tragically go on reverberating into the future. Will it change how we read and what we write?

My agent blanched at the thought of receiving endless dystopian novels and believes everyone will have had enough by the time we are out of this. For myself, I am suddenly drawn to happyish endings, something I never thought I would hear myself say…I do not think I will want to read books set in lockdown, I will want to escape.

Other writers have written about periodic bouts of being unable to read.  To suddenly find you cannot read any of the books on your TBR pile is terrifying, in case it lasts. (It doesn’t)

So, I was relieved to know that many other people are experiencing the same thing, including Nigella Lawson. Audio Books are a life saver.  An exquisite reading of a beautifully written book is a magical experience. Soothing for those long sleepless nights curled under a duvet. Telling yourself you will have an early night with Abir Mukherjee, after a bad day cheers you up enormously. Listening, is obviously, a quite different experience to reading, much depends on the reader and the way the book is written, so I’ve learnt to pick my books carefully. Some books just need to be read. (Hilary Mantel) But in this way I have discovered  authors I might never have read.

Here are a few audio books that have given me pleasure.

At the moment I am listening to Smoke and Ashes the third book in Abir Mukherjee’s Rising Man series about a flawed British detective and his  Oxbridge educated Indian sidekick serving with the police force in Calcutta in the 1920s  All three books are wonderful.

The Binding by Sarah Collins. (Beautiful book. Beautifully read.)

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett (strange, but captivating)

The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri (Exquisite)

The Dry, The Lost Man & Force of Nature by Jane Harper (Rattling good listening)

The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn (Brilliant)

Where the Crawdads Sing Delia Owens (Fantastic setting and character, too many elements in one book was a distraction but did not spoil.)

I go back to The Cazalet Chronicles, starting with The Light Years– by Elizabeth Jane Howard again and again. Immersive, compelling, warm and familiar as a comfort blanket.

I am happily obsessed with growing things at the moment so I am distracted from the fact that I have a book out on submission.   Eating what you have grown yourself is smugly satisfying.  My days away from my laptop are spent guarding my fragile seedlings from drought, a vicious north wind in June, and fighting off snails and slugs and a thug of magpie called Malcom who likes to upend my pots to find bugs for his young

I am also trying to settle on what I am going to write next. Two entirely different stories are vying for dominance in my head and gardening and walking are excellent ways to free up creative decisions, or procrastinate…

I live on the SW coast path and when I walk, I take a lot of photos. As if I have a need to capture all the beauty around me. As if it will not be there the next day. This spring has been especially beautiful. All the wildflowers came out at once, to dazzle with the impossible beauty of nature. Into this new hushed world, birds are singing their hearts out and everything has seemed brighter and cleaner and more beautiful.

The other day someone isolating on their own tweeted they had an egg for breakfast. They tweeted this because, in the absence of social life or work, an egg for breakfast was the highlight of their day and they felt they might be disappearing. It resonated with me. I take photos. Of my garden. Of my seeds. Of the birds. Of my walks. To perhaps remind myself, in a locked down world, that I am still here, that I do  exist. And how lucky I am.

 

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