The one where it’s all a bit strange

There are some pivotal moments in recent history where individuals, depending on their age, can recall exactly where they were/what they were doing when they heard the event happened. Some examples include:

  • The shooting of John Lennon
  • The fall of the Berlin Wall
  • The death of Princess Diana
  • 911

But this is probably the first time in my lifetime that we can add an entire year to the list. 2020. The year where everything and nothing happened. We might want to forget it but we won’t be able to because the global pandemic has impacted on every part of everybody’s lives.

How much of an impact there has been will massively depend on an individual’s circumstances and their mental health. What I might consider disappointing/inconvenient based on my circumstances might have a tremendous impact for somebody else. Therefore, what I’ve written below is very much how I might view things but I do recognise that the events may fall into an entirely different category for someone else…

For some, the impact has been disappointing and inconvenient but not necessarily life-changing or devastating – the annual holiday cancelled, a birthday not celebrated in the usual way, missing face to face contact with friends and family, a new alien work environment based from home. 

For others, the impact has been more significant – job loss or reduced hours leading to financial worries, a holiday of a lifetime/ wedding/ anniversary/ big birthday cancelled, being kept away from a loved one in a care home.

And there are those for whom this year has been a tragedy – illness, cancelled operations, bereavement, not able to properly say goodbye to loved ones, businesses failing, acute loneliness and depression and, of course, exam results and the impact of that on college/university places or employment.

My immediate little family of three has been fortunate so far, falling mainly into that first category of a disappointing and inconvenient year: holidays, theatre trips, celebrations for my hubby’s 50th birthday and my birthday all cancelled. Zoom has been a weak alternative to meeting family face-to-face but we still have our jobs and we’ve both worked from home for several years so haven’t had to adjust to that. We have, however, had an unexpected family bereavement – not to Covid – and that was hard, not being able to rush round and give hugs. But we have been lucky and I count my blessings every day for that.

But today feels odd. Strange. Wrong. Because today I should be at my graduation ceremony.

I achieved my Masters in Creative Writing at the back end of 2019 but it was through Open University so ceremonies take place all over the country, with lesser frequency in the north. I’d hesitated as to whether to bother when the ceremony at the nearest venue to us – Harrogate – would be almost a year after graduating but hubby and the munchkin said I should definitely do it and they would be there cheering me on, as would my parents. When Covid hit, all graduation ceremonies were understandably cancelled for the foreseeable future. I have no idea when it will be considered safe to have an event like this again or how they will catch up with the backlog. Will there be any point in attending a ceremony two or three years after finishing? It feels like the moment has passed.

This weekend, I would also have started getting organised ready for our holiday over the October half term. At the start of the year, we booked a week in Portugal for May half term and a holiday cottage in Lancaster to be in easy reach of both Blackpool and the southern Lake District. Portugal was cancelled and, with Lancashire moving into a Tier 3 lockdown yesterday, that’s also cancelled. We had already made the decision not to go while they were Tier 2 as it made no sense to travel from a Tier 1 part of the country into a higher-risk zone, especially knowing we wouldn’t be able to do what we’d planned for our holiday anyway.

What am I doing instead?

I’m staying at home as usual, waiting for a courier to collect the swab kit for my Covid test. I was randomly selected and invited to do this as part of the research survey undertaken by Imperial College London and Ipsos MORI on behalf of the Dept of Health & Social Care. I agreed I was happy to participate and, yesterday, my kit and instructions arrived in the post.

Also in the post was a box of author copies of Making Wishes at Bay View from the print-run that has gone into The Works. A case of normality arriving alongside this strange new world.

It all feels very surreal. If someone had told me last year to guess why I wouldn’t be able to attend my graduation ceremony and what I’d be doing instead, I’d never in a million years have predicated this. Yet this is the new normal.

And seeing as ‘normal’ is different, is it too early to put up the Christmas tree this weekend? Yeah, you’re right. Maybe I need to wait until November. Ooh, 1st November falls on a Sunday. Could I…?

Sending hugs to anyone whose 2020 has hurt/is still hurting. Hang on in there.

Jessica xx 

A David-Shaped Disaster

I have just endured a very traumatic couple of days. Why? Because David went missing. I searched absolutely everywhere for him; places he could have been (e.g. the bedroom, my office) and even places he definitely couldn’t be (yes, I actually looked in the airing cupboard; I was desperate by this point). I racked my brains for the last time I’d seen him but this is not easy when you have a memory like Swiss cheese. I’d definitely had him with me on my last work trip to Grantham roughly four weeks ago so, when I checked in there on Tuesday night, I hoped and prayed he’d be in lost property but no such luck. The safe perhaps? No; not there either. Argh!!! By this point I was in serious panic mode.

P1050745I’m sure you’ll have realised that this isn’t a person we’re talking about. David is my third book (Discovering David to give him his full title although, as per my last post on the Write Romantics blog, that may change). I tend to refer to my books by the male names in their titles: Steven, Gary and David. Anyway, David is plotted but only half-written. I wrote about a third of him during NaNoWriMo last November (I finished Gary then moved onto David as I wasn’t at a point where it was appropriate to start a brand-new novel) and I’ve just signed up to NaNo again for next month with a view to finishing David. The thing that had gone missing was my notebook with David’s plot in it, hence the panic.

I hadn’t planned Steven but did plan Gary and David. I know in my mind the rough idea of what’s going to happen but I have a set of three gorgeous hard-backed paperblank notebooks for the trilogy. There are scribbles and ideas in Steven but Gary and David have 2 pages per chapter where I plan out roughly what will happen in that chapter. I then use a date-free planner to keep track of timeframes so I don’t talk about Christmas only to discover it’s actually February. There are a couple of reasons why I haven’t really worked on David since NaNo last year: (1) I wanted to submit Gary to the NWS so did another edit on that and then I’ve been working on a final version of Steven as a result of a final round of submissions and a publishing deal; and (2) I decided to change the plot and was far too lazy to go back to the plan and swap it round because that would mean quite a lot of work. However, I need to do that work as it’s no point starting NaNo on 1st November without a plot in place.

P1050746Which brings me back to David going missing. I am going on holiday later today. I’m off to Tenerife for a week (can’t wait because, other than a weekend ferry trip to Amsterdam and another to Bruges, I haven’t been abroad since my honeymoon nine years ago). We get back on 31st October which means I’m straight into NaNo. Which means I need to have my plot ready. I wanted to take David with me so I could sort out the plot on the plane/on evenings which our daughter is in bed but I thought I’d make a head-start on it with my trip to Grantham this week. Only David had gone missing.

I looked everywhere. I dug out all the bags/backpacks I’ve used recently in case I’d left him in there. I even had the hubby go into the attic in case it was in the overnight bag we’d taken to Blackpool recently. I looked in the DVD drawers, my Brownie bag, my photo album crate … all places it shouldn’t be but you never knew. I felt so stressed driving down to Grantham knowing I’d lost it. I absolutely hate re-doing work and, although I was going to re-plot part of the story, there were another two threads which wouldn’t be changing (Steven is Sarah’s story, Gary is her best friend Elise’s story whilst still following what happens to Sarah, and David is Sarah’s other friend Clare’s story whilst still following the other two. Clare’s story is changing but Sarah’s and Elise’s aren’t. Therefore, I needed the plots for those threads). The other thing I started worrying about was what if someone had picked it up and took it for their own story? Unlikely but, hey, I’m a writer so my imagination went to the moon and back with this one!

P1050747I got home late last night and decided I’d better do some more packing for my holidays. I rummaged in my in-trays for the tickets and booking confirmation and what did I find? David. But the ridiculous thing is that I went through the in-tray on at least five occasions when looking for him before my Grantham trip. Why does this happen? Why do things disappear and re-appear again? Are there mean Pixies residing in my office? The same ones who steal odd socks out the washing machine and who stole my Sindy ice-skating costume when I was eight? Evil little monsters.

So all is calm now. I have David safely in my hand luggage and I’m gathering my plot-changing ideas in my mind. I have my Kindle loaded with my holiday reading too. I really think this is where my Kindle is going to come into its own; about 100 titles to choose from whereas I could only justify the size and weight of a couple of paperbacks on previous holidays and hope I liked them.

I won’t be able to respond to any comments until I’m back from my hols but please don’t let that stop you leaving one; particularly if you know where those pesky Pixies take things! Have a good week or so xxx