Monday 30 March 2020

The New Normal

So. We are all trying to adjust to a new way of life since partial lockdown was announced last Monday.

I really miss our morning walk, but figure that I'd rather have something to look forward to later on in the day, so we have our walk in the afternoon and Moll has found this equally confusing - dogs like habits but she is adjusting, bless her.

I have started preparing the walls of my back yard ready for painting - which badly needs doing - and it will be a lot brighter as a result even if I can only go up to as far as I can reach. It's also been good for me as when my friends upstairs are also outside painting, we can have good chats at a safe distance - they're up a flight of steps on the next level. So I've had a bit of company on those days which is good.

Otherwise, thank god I have the novel to work on, although some days that's hard. In fact, everything is hard but it is for all of us. As has been said before, this is a great leveller.

One good thing to have come out of it is that although I couldn't get to see my Mum - the lockdown came in force just as I was about to go up, but she'd already said No I'd rather you didn't come - I am ringing her every other day which seems to really cheer her up. I sent her flowers last week instead of for Mother's Day which was a much nicer surprise (she did get a card on The Day) and she rang last night, absolutely delighted. I suppose since we're all isolated now, for some reason this has broken down barriers between us.

Since Pip died, and being involved with someone who was away a lot, I was very aware of not having a partner around all the time, compared to my brothers who have both been married for a long time. (And of not having children but we won't delve into that Pandora's Box.) Now all that is irrelevant. You could say that while I don't have company as I would if I had a partner living here, at least I have lots of friends to talk to when I want to. So while I am alone it is a very different sort of alone-ness to missing being with someone, if that makes sense.

The divorce rate in China has rocketed over the past few months - no surprises there - and I know of at least one good friend who would rather not be in lockdown with the person she's with. So at least I don't have that problem.

And yes, I wish sincerely that I did have someone to go through this with, but life isn't like that at the moment so we have to make the best of what we have. I can look out of the window at fabulous views. Spring is really on its way. I can dream of the walks I will do when we are safe to go out freely again. I can walk to the castle or the seafront. And I am learning to like myself more. As a wonderful veteran said on the radio this morning, "If you can't get on with yourself, who else can?"

I know the coming weeks and months will be very testing. We will all be going stir crazy at times, frightened and angry and frustrated, lonely and miserable. But maybe some of us will learn more about ourselves, which could be interesting.

I'm wondering what lessons we will learn from this time? Or will we just go back to how we were before? It will be interesting to see, long term.

Wednesday 18 March 2020

Brave New World

It seems incredible to think how quickly everything has changed. A few weeks ago I was out in Spain having the most amazing writing retreat. Now - well, I worry for the lovely people who run the Finca. They must be so concerned.

Every time I turn on the radio, TV or look on social media, there is almost nothing but news of CV19 which I find makes me very anxious. I’ve got that horrible swirling in my stomach and I find it difficult to eat. I'm exhausted by it all and very fearful, like most of us, particularly those of us who live on our own.

We all have our different ways of coping. I’m not in denial, but I listen to the news headlines to see what might affect me, and those of my nearest and dearest, and then I turn it off. To listen or watch endless statistics make me so fearful and that isn’t good for me or anyone else. I fully respect others react differently, but I don’t think it’s healthy just to focus on this virus for 24 hours a day.

We have lives that we have to live and for the moment that is the challenge - to figure out how to cope with self isolation and panic buying. How we can support each other, and keep fit at the same time.

In amongst the tales of bare supermarket shelves and widespread panic, rising statistics and the economy flatlining, are wonderful stories of how people are helping each other. People playing ping pong out of balcony windows in Italy, singing out into the darkness. Pubs and cafes offering takeaways.

Pip’s old local, the Seven Stars in Falmouth, is offering to deliver beer and prescriptions to those who are self isolating. My vet will post medication and say if you’d rather wait in your car until your appointment is ready, they will ring you. Endless shops in Falmouth are offering deliveries (not then supermarkets). Becky Wass has been delivering postcards around the town so that people who are on their own can give their details and post it through a neighbour's door if they need help or just contact.

I'm getting together a group of friends so we can keep in touch, share shopping, dog walking, visit those we can, and enjoy walks or other ways of keeping fit.

Being a writer I'm fortunate in that I'm used to working in isolation. I will really miss going out of the house to meet friends for drinks or coffee, though we can still walk and need to for our dogs. It all feels very surreal, and we have to get used for that for a while.

The most important thing, and this is very closely with the Connecting Lives organisation I am involved with - do look up their website - is helping those who are depressed and isolated. That may be you or me, our neighbours or anyone.

We all need to remember, or think of how there are so many little ways in which we can help each other keep strong, keep sane and keep safe.

Wednesday 4 March 2020

Writing retreat

Well, it was one of the most stunning locations I've ever seen. That's what hit me at first. Having lived most of my life near the sea, I'm not used to those vast open expanses of mountain and they awed me, they spoke to me, they humbled me and I couldn't take my eyes off them.

The finca we stayed in was superb - a 200 year old place that had been lovingly restored and supplied comfort, relaxation with a lot of careful thought and consideration. The food was great - buffets of fresh fruit, cheese and ham etc for breakfast, gorgeous platefuls of fresh salad and wonderful cold concoctions for lunch, and for dinner - well, who knew?

And that's all before we got to the writing which was a tight timetable, but gave us plenty of workshops and one-to-one sessions, as well as time to read out and share our work with the other writers in the early evenings. Plus time to work on our own novels. Our tutor was Rosanne Ley, not only bestselling author of many novels, but a bloody good teacher!

I hit a very low spot half way through where I couldn't see where to go with my plot - well, I knew had to simplify it but nothing was making sense - and after a few sleepless nights, I cracked it. Plus we had an amazing workshop where one of my main characters suddenly leapt into life - boy that was brilliant, if harrowing.

The people were a lovely lot, all writing different things, and we left as good friends, which is how these sort of things should be, I imagine.

So I left on a wobbly high, if there is such a thing. I wasn't sure how I'd feel when I got home but surprisingly, I feel really fired up again. The enthusiasm and self belief that I'd lost has inched up a notch and my confidence is a lot better. More to the point, I am loving writing the novel again, even though i'm aware it will need a lot more editing.

So I would say, if you get the chance - go on this retreat at the Finca El Cerillo. It will be one of the most memorable experiences of your writing life.