Living The Lockdown Life… Again #lockdownuk

As the nights draw in, the days getting colder, it seems natural to retreat into our own spaces, to keep warm and dry, cosy socks and slippers the order of the day.

And so it is now, as autumn gives way to winter, the last vestiges of red-gold still clinging to the trees. We’ve had frost here already, the mild panic when you realise it’s time to leave for the school run but the car is still iced over, the crunch of leaves underfoot, lines of glitter scoring the rooftops and windows.

And we’re also in lockdown again. The second one of the year, as Covid infections rise once more after our summer of relative freedom.

Things haven’t changed too much in our house, to be honest. My husband has been working from home since the first lockdown in March, and I’ve been working at home for a few years now. Schools are still open so the kiddo is out of the house, and the dog still needs to be taken for her daily walk, greetings still exchanged in the cool fields and pathways.

It’s been a bit of an eye-opener, to be honest. In many ways, I’m very fortunate that my life hasn’t been curtailed too badly by the current global circumstances. However, it’s also made me realise that, when this is all over, I would like to go out more, do more, see more people in person, rather than just participate online. I had plans to see people this month, but they’ve all been postponed – while the current lockdown is only supposed to be until December 2nd, I feel as though it’s more likely to run until Christmas, at which point I hope we’ll be allowed to mix in small groups, at least.

So for now, I’ll get out when I can with the dog, breathe in woodsmoke-scented air, look across the distant hills and dream of a day when we can all meet up again.

Stay safe and well, everyone xx

PS. I realise there is big news, and a big change, coming from the US. Let’s hope this will lead to brighter days going forwards…

A Monday Update

Despite the recent easing of lockdown rules in England, life is continuing much as it has been for me and my family. Hubby and I are still working at home and the gorgeous girl, who is in secondary school, is still not back in classes, and won’t be until September.

Still, there are things I miss. I miss my family, of course. It seems madness to me that I can go to a pub and interact with hundreds of strangers, but I can’t have more than two households meeting under my own roof at any one time. However, I’ve spent long stretches of time away from my family before and I suppose this is how I’ve been coping, by treating this as just one more enforced separation.

I also miss getting out and about, though one thing that lockdown has taught me is that I probably wasn’t doing as much of that as I thought I was. I am looking forward to venturing out and exploring this fascinating tiny island again – whether with family or with friends. I’m also looking forward to meetings closer to home, coffee or lunch with friends, big family barbeques, and the occasional ‘out-out’ evening.

I miss travelling, too. We were booked to visit Morocco in early April (and are still waiting for our flight refunds, coughRyanaircough!). I also had a trip to Wales at the end of March to attend a workshop, and another to Avebury in June to join the Silent Eye, but all have been cancelled. At the moment, the idea of getting on a plane is on about the same level for me as going to the pub, so I don’t imagine we’ll be going anywhere we can’t drive to anytime soon. Still, I know I’m fortunate to have been so many places – there will be chances to travel again and, in the meantime, I’ve been revisiting my old Wednesday Wander posts.

I don’t miss the noise, or the busyness of my old life. The feeling of having to be here and there and here again, of trying to fit things in, instead of the days stretching and moulding into a new, more relaxed routine. The hum of the motorway has returned, the buzz of traffic nearby, the rattle and hoot of trains in the valley. But there is still birdsong and buzzing bees whenever I venture out, still flowers and clear skies and long views – I know I’m lucky to have all this on my doorstep.

So I guess this is just an update, really. In some ways, I’m progressing with things, and in others, they stay the same. Writing-wise I’m moving forwards – there are new stories to tell, new worlds to explore. After having four full manuscript requests but no luck (so far) on my vampire novel, I’m shelving it for now and writing something new. My co-author project is picking up pace again, so hopefully I’ll have some news to share on that soon.

Until then, I hope you’re all keeping safe and well. How is lockdown life treating you?

xx

(All photos taken locally on recent walks)


You can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

Living La Vida Lockdown

(If the Ricky Martin song is now in your head, sorry for the earworm.)

It’s a funny old time, this lockdown. Bringing up lots of memories, days past relived, choices assessed, plans made for going forwards. Time has no meaning, any more – the days punctuated only by the alarm going off in the morning, the click of the letterbox when the post arrives, the occasional arrival of a van, delivering items to people on the street.

It’s no Vida Loca, that’s for sure. The biggest excitement is a trip to the supermarket, where people no longer seem to be bothering with social distancing, as though the past three months have been some awful and ridiculous dream, a figment of our collective imaginations, that we’re all now just waking from.

Lockdown is starting to ease here, though with different restrictions depending upon whether you’re in England, Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland. The revelations that a government advisor, at the height of the pandemic and while suffering from Covid himself, travelled 200 miles north to his parents’ house and then made a few daytrips while he was there, have helped to unravel the months of sacrifice and solitude, as have the misleading messages and constantly changing guidance. I think people are sick of it, too – the long queues outside shops when they opened on Monday perhaps an indication of how people just want to do something different.

But I hope we don’t rush back to the world that was.

Great change is happening, groundswells of movement. People continue to protest that Black Lives Matter (as they do, and should, and always have), and there has been a shift in understanding around the nature of work and what, really, is essential, and that the people who keep things running, who care and educate and deliver and feed us, should be paid a proper wage for the work they do. People are also discovering the communities in which they live, helping neighbours in need, supporting others. There is a chance here to continue, to forge a better world.

There has been bad behaviour, too, of course, like the aforementioned adviser and his lockdown trip (symbolic of a greater disarray among our government), or the people who trash our countrysides and beaches for some unfathomable reason. But hopefully the seeds of positive change have now been sown, and we won’t lose this momentum, reaping the harvest of better times in the future.

I’m still going on lots of walks, just as I always have, stories dancing in my head. The inability to focus which plagued me at the beginning of lockdown, perhaps linked to the adjustment of living in a strange new world, has long gone, and there are new stories brewing, new worlds to explore. We also, as a family, managed a trip to the beach. Not a long drive away, an hour or so, to a beach we knew would not be busy. We took everything we needed with us, and left nothing behind. There were other families there, but with enough space that we could all keep plenty of distance. It was good for the soul to be somewhere different, to breathe sea air, to see my daughter laugh as she danced in the waves. These are the small joys to be taken at such a time.

We’re also lucky that we still, as a family, have been able to work. Ineligible for any of the government support programs, we know we’re fortunate to have paid employment during this time. A lot of people are struggling, and the fallout from this will be felt for years to come. Another reason a better world, a more caring world, will be needed.

At the moment, though, I’m staying home. I’m a dedicated shopper, oh my goodness yes I am, but I have no plans to hit the stores anytime soon. This virus hasn’t gone away, just because lockdown is easing. So we will stay safe as best we can, and hope that the others we love can do the same.

So I guess this is a blog post about nothing much, really, because on the surface, that’s what I’ve been doing. But there have been seeds sown in both my personal and professional lives, and I’m hoping, just as I’m hoping to see in the wider world, for some positive results.

Hope you’re all staying safe and well x

Photos from a recent walk and our trip to the coast


Enjoyed this post? Want to read more? Find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, Under Stone (Ambeth Chronicles #4), is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

The Loss Of Touch In A Post-Covid World

I attended a funeral on Wednesday for a dear family friend, someone I’ve known my whole life. He didn’t die of Covid; rather, of old age and ill health and a broken heart. He did die alone, though, except for nursing staff, his friends and family unable to visit him in his final weeks. Still, we gathered to celebrate his life, one of colour and flamboyance and dancing to his own beat, unapologetic to the end.

In the UK we’re still under some restrictions due to the Covid outbreak (and I think they’ll increase again, sadly – we are not out of this yet). Therefore, only a dozen mourners were allowed at the funeral. His neighbours, though, lined the street as the hearse passed, and there was love aplenty to lift him to the next realm. When we reached the chapel, there were only a dozen chairs scattered around the large space, instead of the pews and crowds and whispered hum of a usual funeral. We each took a chair, pulling them into small family groups of two or three, all of us nodding and blowing kisses across the room. But there was no touching. No hugging or comforting or patting of arms. No shaking of hands or kissed cheeks. Afterwards, we sat in separate chairs in my parents’ back garden and toasted our lost friend, telling stories of his life as we ate from our own serving bowls, the food prepared using gloves and tongs and tiny dishes, rather than the usual free-for-all of big plates and togetherness.

It was very strange.

I couldn’t put my finger on what about it, exactly, was strange, until later in the day. And I realised it felt as though everyone was mad at me. There was no change in conversation, in how we talked and laughed and related to each other. But without the hugs and closeness and touches of everyday life, I felt, somehow, on the outer. And it made me realise not only how much the world has changed due to Covid, but also how important touch is as part of our human existence.

In ancient times, when humans lived in tribes, the community was how we protected ourselves, strength in numbers. To be exiled from the tribe was basically a death sentence. In medieval times, when prisoners were sent on the long journey to London and the tower, no one would talk to them or interact with them in any way, in case they be seen as sympathetic to their crimes. This is, in fact, the origin of the phrase ‘Sent to Coventry’, as Coventry was an important stop on the way to London. Closeness and acceptance within our own community is a sign that we’re part of something, that we’re included, not shunned. Yet now we cross the street to avoid getting too close to people, stand in the driveway and shout, rather than having close conversations. We have to do these things, of course, but I wonder what impact it is having on us as a society.

We communicate so many things through touch. The handshake, the hug, the pat on the back. The kiss on the cheek, on the hand, or the lips. Holding hands. Linking arms. The Maori hongi and the Inuit kunik, rubbing noses to express affection. We affirm our relationships, whether business or friendship or family or lover, through touch, and it is how we experience much of the world. So, as a species, to have touch taken away from us is a very strange thing.

I’ve been fortunate during this crisis to have both my husband and daughter at home with me. Hugs are not in short supply in our house. I can’t imagine how it must feel to be cut off, to be isolating alone, with no human touch at all. And I wonder at the long-term fallout of this, of the mental impact of going without such an important sense for so long. Even before Covid there was growing distance within our communities, people not knowing their neighbours, much of our lives lived online. Once we return to whatever normal will be when this is over, I wonder what will happen – whether we’ll continue to keep our distance, or perhaps make more of an effort to seek out human contact, rather than shut ourselves away.

I hope the latter is the case.


Enjoyed this post? Want to read more? Find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, Under Stone (Ambeth Chronicles #4), is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

Strange Days

It’s been a rather bizarre month, hasn’t it?

I know that’s a wild understatement, and that there are very many people out there struggling with awful things at this time, so I don’t in any way mean to make light of the situation in which we find ourselves.

I’m an anxious person, and also someone who picks up the emotion of those around me, so I’m finding it difficult to write at the moment. My husband and I are both self-employed, too – while we’re okay for now, it’s on my mind. I have a first draft of one book completed, plus a fully plotted second book, and a third book which is about half-written. They’re all waiting for me, and I can hear them calling, but when I sit down to write claws of uncertainty grab at me, taking my focus so I have to step away again, telling them I’m sorry. I know this will pass, and the words will come again, but for now I’m trying to be kind to myself. I’ve baked bread and caught up on the ironing and tidied out a cupboard that needed to be tidied out, and maybe I’ve watched a bit too much Star Trek, but we all have to find our own way to keep going.

Anyway, enough about that.

While I do write about books and writing-related stuff, this blog has always been about positivity and in finding the silver lining in things, even when things aren’t so great. So I’m working hard to find the positives in this, the things that I’m grateful for.

I know I’m fortunate to have a comfortable home in which to isolate, and the love and support of family. Fortunate that the weather is good and, when I go out to walk the dog, people still exchange greetings (from a distance, of course). Fortunate that we’re all staying well at the moment. Fortunate to have time to address all those little tasks that hang around and never seem to get done – no excuses, now!

It’s the small joys, too. The joy of sitting outside in the sun in the morning, drinking hot tea. Of new frogspawn in the garden pond (nothing grand, just a bucket set into the ground), and the red kites that ride the updrafts, reminder that life goes on. There are bluebells coming through, blue elf-spears poking out of the earth, and the fruit trees are starting to sprout, a promise of blossom and fruit to come.

I know there are many people who are not in comfortable situations, and many other people who are doing wonderful things to help out. This is an event unprecedented on a global scale, and so, in all the fear and worry, I try to find stories about people who are doing good, like the small boy who spent his pocket money on loo roll for his elderly neighbours, or the refugee family who left food on the porch of the self-isolating family who had sponsored them. These are the bright lights against the darkness, and a reminder of who we can be, if we choose to be our best selves. I’m trying to do my bit as well, and know there are many in my local community who are keeping an eye out for others who might need help, and that’s heartening.

To be honest, I wonder whether I’ve had the virus already. As you know, I’ve been ill since the beginning of December, and was finally starting to feel good mid-February. However, at the end of the month I had a sore throat, which developed into a cough (though it seemed a continuation of the one that had plagued me for months), and left me feeling very tired. Then my breath started to go and on March 3 I woke in the night burning up and unable to breathe to the point where I had to wake up my husband. I’ve had very bad pneumonia before, but I’ve never, ever felt like that, where my chest was so full and heavy I couldn’t take a full breath or stop coughing. Eventually I fell asleep, waking drenched in sweat. The fever abated but the breathing difficulties stayed with me for a couple of weeks, only really getting better in the last few days. I also lost my sense of smell and taste – once again that’s only just returning to normal.

I suppose I’ll never know, which is fine. We are still isolating, just like everyone else. But I’m still here. I hope you all are, too.

Stay safe and well, everyone – we’ll get through this together.

xx


Enjoyed this post? Want to read more? Find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, Under Stone (Ambeth Chronicles #4), is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.