The one where 2020 has been quite extraordinary – and surprisingly full of highs

So, it’s finally arrived. The end of 2020. The year many people have wanted to “do one” for a long time.

It’s probably not a bold statement to say that it’s the strangest year that most of us will ever have experienced and, pretty please, can it be the last time we do?

But while this may be a completely bonkers surreal year that many will want to push to the back of their minds filed under ‘grim’, 2020 has been an amazing year for me professionally, seeing so many dreams come true. So, while there are many reasons why I want to send 2020 to the naughty step, I want to high-five it too.

This is a rundown, quarter by quarter, of what 2020 has looked like for me personally and professionally, presented in order of occurrence. When I originally wrote it, it was nearly a novel in itself so I have massively cut it down to highs and lows. Even so, it’s still long as so much has happened professionally this year. I honestly don’t know if anyone other than my mum or hubby will read it all but thank you if you do! xx

JANUARY to MARCH 2020

Happy New Year and the start of a new decade. How exciting! I eagerly anticipated the year ahead with a whopping seven Boldwood releases made up of six of my back catalogue and one new novel, and I hoped this would be the year I could leave my day job as an HR Tutor and write full-time.

Little did we know that reports of a flu-like illness in China were going to change our lives beyond all recognition.

HIGHS

  • Release of the entire re-edited ‘Welcome to Whitsborough Bay’ series:
    • Making Wishes at Bay View (14th Jan)
    • New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms (20th Feb)
    • Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove (20th Feb)
    • Coming Home to Seashell Cottage (12th Mar)
  • Seaside Blooms broke into the UK Kindle Top 1,000 on 19th March and kept climbing
  • Making Wishes at Bay View was selected as Apple’s free book of the week (9th – 15th March) propelling it to the top of the free Apple Books chart
  • A massive knock-on effect on the rest of the series with a #3 for New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms, #13 for Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove and #24 for Coming Home to Seashell Cottage. They all made it into the Top 5 on the Romance category occupying positions #2, #3 and #5 at one point
  • Celebrating hubby’s 50th birthday with a meal with his parents just before going into a national lockdown
  • Normality for almost three months, regularly meeting up with Sharon Booth (great friend and super talented author) and attending the RNA’s Beverley Chapter meeting

LOWS

  • Saying goodbye in January to our beloved cat, Felix. After nearly 14 years with us, I was – and still am – heartbroken to have lost him
  • The munchkin, age 13, experienced a scary bullying incident on the bus home from school, so serious we needed to involve the police who classified it as an assault
  • Lockdown. I don’t think I need to expand on that! Although munchkin’s grumbles at being made to do the Joe Wicks PE session every weekday morning provided us with great amusement!

APRIL to JUNE 2020

This quarter started with a second month of panic-buying where household staples like toilet roll, pasta, cans of soup and flour were like gold dust. Hand sanitiser, paracetamol and disinfectant were also in short supply.

Zoom – something I personally had never even heard of until this year – became a life-saver for keeping in touch, as did social media (although you had to be careful not to be sucked down the rabbit hole of scary statistics and conspiracy theories!)

I’m going to swap it around for this month and start with the lows because they directly led to the highs in this quarter.  I will just remind you that these are presented in order of occurrence rather than severity.

LOWS

  • An unprecedented increase in work volumes as students took advantage of lockdown to race through their assignments. Enrolments of new students soared through the roof and, whilst financially amazing, the stress levels in trying to keep up were extraordinary. All without support or thanks from our manager

  • I couldn’t face celebrating my birthday and chose to largely ignore it 
  • My older brother turned 50 and couldn’t have the celebrations planned with his friends or family – a common story for so many this year
  • Cancellation of two theatre trips – a day trip to Leeds to see Sister Act and a weekend away to see Six
  • Family holiday to Portugal over May half-term cancelled
  • The unexpected and sudden loss of our brother-in-law, aged only 50. RIP, Richard, with love xx

HIGHS

  • Resigning from the day job and becoming a full-time writer from 8th June. It had always been my dream to be able to earn enough to be able to write full-time and it had finally happened. The increased income would give me a give me a buffer while my writing royalties (hopefully) increased from my new releases
  • Apple asked if they could repeat the UK promotion in the USA. Making Wishes at Bay View made it to #16 in the free chart and the series sold well on the back of this
  • Amazon selected New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms for a Prime deal. It was already inside the Top 100 by then but it peaked at #14 on 17th May thanks to being in Prime
  • People were turning to books for escapism, comfort and boredom relief. Uplifting stories of love and friendship – exactly what I write – fit the bill perfectly and this was reflected in my sales
  • Receiving messages from readers who’d binge read my Boldwood releases and the rest of my indie back catalogue and wanted to thank me for giving them such an uplift and welcome escape. Wow! I certainly hadn’t been expecting that
  • During the summer, Making Wishes at Bay View made it to #144, Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove to #145 and Coming Home to Seashell Cottage to #165. I’d never experienced chart positions like this. I’d barely hoped to dream of them and kept waiting for someone to pinch me and tell me it was a dream
  • How proud the munchkin made us. She moaned about Joe Wicks but not about studying and, with only a few nudges to ask her teachers for more work when she’d run out, she showed amazing maturity, never once moaning about being in lockdown and missing her friends

JULY to SEPTEMBER 2020

Restrictions had lifted in the UK but I pretty much remained a hermit. It’s not so much that I was afraid to go out but more that there seemed no point taking the risk. Being substantially overweight I am in a higher risk category and, with so many holiday-makers flocking to the coast, I felt my local town and beach were no-go areas. I managed a few local walks with the dog, hubby and munchkin – and even did an evening walk along the main seafront before the holidays hit – but that was about it. And my bottom has just expanded and expanded as a result!

HIGHS

  • The first book in a series set in a hedgehog rescue centre – Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow – was released on 2ndJuly. I was a little bit nervous about it as it was a new setting for me but the hedgehogs captured the hearts of readers
  • An impressive number of pre-orders meant an astonishing UK Kindle chart position of #291 on publication day, peaking at #86 in mid-August. My second Top 100 book. Yay! It made it to #40 in Canada and #11 in Australia
  • The Secret to Happiness appeared in branches of The Works. I chatted to the staff and took photos but I never thought to ask if they’d like me to sign copies. Muppet. Missed opportunity!
  • Boldwood celebrated one year since their first release. What an amazing first year of trading they’d had. We were invited to a summer moment on Zoom to celebrate which was pretty special
  • Release of the re-edited Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes (13th Aug). Initially it was free and reached #8 in the free UK Kindle chart, #43 in Australia, #20 in Canada and #15 in the USA
  • Release of the re-edited Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café. An impressive number of pre-orders saw an amazing release day chart position of #204
  • Met my parents outdoors on a couple of occasions
  • Sharon and I also managed one meeting but not for as long as usual. It was brilliant to be able to meet in person but the time went far too quickly
  • The munchkin returned to school and started three years of study towards her GCSEs. One of the bus bullies apologised (I think lockdown gave her plenty of thinking time), a truce has been reached and there’ve thankfully been no further incidents
  • Hubby and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary with a mid-week visit to Thorp Perrow Arboretum. It was a gorgeous day and there were very few people around so it was the perfect place to go. And, being only a short drive away from my parents, we stopped off at theirs for a socially distanced cuppa before coming home
  • The Works stocked another book – Making Wishes at Bay View – and this time I signed them. Proud author moment!
  • I was astonished and thrilled to be offered another contract with Boldwood for a whopping 12 brand new books. I nearly fell off my chair! The first book in that contract will be a brand new Christmas story in September 2021. Before that, there’ll be four more books released in January, March, May and August to see out the original contract: books 2 and 3 in the Hedgehog Hollow series (January/May) and the remaining two in my back catalogue (March/August)

LOWS

  • After only a week back at school, unable to see properly with her mask on, the munchkin tripped over a raised drain cover, went splat, landed awkwardly and broke her arm. Cue scary dash up to school and a trip to A&E to get a pot put on
  • She later fell down the stairs at school, also struggling to see properly in her mask, and made a right mess of both of her shins, scraping the skin off and badly bruising them both. The good news was she didn’t break her arm again!
  • The increased attention on me and my books massively exacerbated my imposter syndrome and I struggled to feel worthy of the amazing things happening to me. Writing a week-long series of posts about what this meant and how it manifested itself did me the world of good and I have been able to continue to make great inroads in quietening my ‘you’re not good enough’ demons since then, although I don’t think they’ll ever completely disappear and I’ve still had the occasional moment

OCTOBER to DECEMBER 2020

Now with the country in tiers, each tier dictating a specific set of rules, it seemed there was no end in sight. Another lockdown. Then came a ray of hope: a vaccination had been approved and would be rolled out imminently. Hurrah!

As Christmas approached, with a new strain of the virus spreading at an alarming rate, Christmas plans changed for many.

HIGHS

  • All ten books sported an orange Amazon #1 Best Seller tag at the same time. TEN! Wow! What a special moment that was! (13th Oct)
  • A socially distanced Hallowe’en BBQ at my parents’ house. A BBQ in late October in this country was certainly a first but a big brolly kept the rain off and the patio heater worked its magic!
  • The Works wanted another of my books and squeezed in an order of Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow. I managed to see it in my local branch – and sign the copies as well as another batch of Making Wishes at Bay View – before going into the second lockdown
  • Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes – no longer available for free – became my third book to get inside the Top 100, reaching #93 on 1st November. It only stayed inside the Top 100 for two days but that doesn’t matter. It still made it which, considering how many thousands of free copies it shifted, I wasn’t expecting
  • Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café broke the Top 100 too, peaking at #24 in the UK, #11 in Canada and an astonishing #3 in Australia. Woo hoo! With the exception of one day, it stuck around in the Top 100 right until Christmas Eve. I was a bit gutted it didn’t stay in the Top 100 for Christmas but over a month in the Top 100 wasn’t too shabby!
  • Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes achieved 1,000 reviews/ratings. At the start of the year, none of my books had more than 100 reviews. Today, it has hit 1,600. Still can’t quite believe it! (16th Nov)
  • The Secret to Happiness went on a BookBub deal – the only of my books to have done this – and it got to #32 in the USA in mid-November. That market is enormous and I certainly never expected that!
  • Guest speaker slots on a Facebook Live with Kim The Bookworm and with Exeter Libraries
  • Part of a Boldwood Christmas books panel on My VLF (My Virtual Literature Festival) which was great fun
  • Interviewed by a reader, Liz Clifton, about confidence and motivation
  • Guest on Julie Morris’s blog – A Little Bookish Problem – twice
  • The Welcome to Whitsborough Bay series continued to perform well and, in mid-December, all of them passed 500 reviews/ratings on Amazon

LOWS

  • Cancellation of my graduation ceremony after achieving my Masters in Creative Writing through Open University in late 2019
  • Cancellation of our October half-term holiday to Lancaster (to give us access to Blackpool and the Lake District) as Lancaster was in tier 3 so we (in tier 2 at the time) couldn’t travel there
  • Not able to see my side of the family over Christmas or my husband’s sisters
  • The tragic news that my second cousin died just before Christmas. Aged only 42, my heart is broken for his mum (my cousin) and her family and for another lovely man taken far too soon. RIP, Gary, with love xx


AND TO CLOSE…

Whether you’ve read the Dickens classic A Tale of Two Cities or not, you probably know the beginning: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” And that pretty much sums up my 2020.

For the best of times, I have achieved my dream of writing full-time, I am fortunate enough to work with the most incredible publisher with a wonderful team who support and respect all their authors as well as making us all feel equally important. Through Boldwood, I’ve had four books inside the Kindle UK Top 100 and Apple Top 100 this year, a Top 3 in Australia and Top 40 in the USA. All of my books have sported bestseller tags at the same time. Every book Boldwood has released has passed 500 reviews/ratings with one exceeding 1,600 and another marching towards 1,000. Quite honestly, it has been phenomenal.

But for the worst of times, I’ve lost my brother in law, a second cousin, and our gorgeous cat, and my daughter was assaulted. The disappointment of birthdays, holidays, theatre trips, weekends away and a graduation ceremony all cancelled pales into insignificance when faced with such loss and sadness.

I haven’t seen my brothers or their families since last Christmas although we did a regular family Zoom across the first lockdown. Hubby and I have never had much of a social life – we’re home bunnies and only have a few friends in the area – but we do miss being able to meet up with the small number of people we know and, as writing tends to be a lonely business, I’ve really missed my fortnightly meet-ups with Sharon.

I send my love and best wishes to my family affected by loss, and to anyone else for whom this year has been particularly tough whether that be through illness, bereavement, employment (or lack of it), finances, loneliness or any of the many other challenges that may have been faced.

My eternal gratitude goes to Boldwood Books and, in particular my editor, Nia, for making my dreams come true and being such a joy to work with. And thanks to my fellow Boldwood authors for all the support you’ve given and any reviews/promotions of my work.

Thank you to all the book bloggers/reviewers who’ve been so kind this year and to Rachel Gilbey for organising my blog tours.

I can’t thank enough all the amazing readers who’ve bought, borrowed, downloaded, and/or streamed any or all of my books. Thank you for choosing to take a journey to Whitsborough Bay and/or Hedgehog Hollow and for all the lovely messages on social media. You give me the encouragement to keep making stuff up!

To Sharon and my fellow-Write Romantic family, you’re my writing rocks and I couldn’t imagine how I’d have navigated my way through the troubled world of publishing without you all. It’s been lovely having such good virtual friends supporting each other in this difficult year. And to the Beverley chapter, I’ve loved our catch-ups.

Thank you to new writing friends I’ve made this year – Sam Tonge, Vicky Walters, Kim Nash and many others who’ve supported or promoted my work and whose books I’ve enjoyed reading. I hope we can meet in person next year.

And finally, to my biggest fan – my mum – my amazing husband and our wonderful daughter, thank you for all your excitement and encouragement. It really does keep me going. I know my dad is also super proud so thank you daddy bear too.

For anyone out there with a dream, chase it. Because dreams really do come true and I’m living, breathing proof of that.

When I finish writing a book, I love typing ‘The End’. Despite all the amazing things that have happened for me this year, I am relieved to stamp ‘The End’ on 2020 and look ahead to exciting writing achievements and some sort of normality in 2021.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

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 

The one where I look back on an unusual May

I always think there’s something extra special about the start of a month being on a Monday – fresh week, fresh month, fresh start. Lovely.

And as we step into June, I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on May because it’s been an unusual month with a few disappointments but, oh my goodness, what a delicious set of delights. Which is perhaps a little odd considering the whole of May was spent in a COVID-19 lockdown.

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Definitely not me celebrating my birthday                                               Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay 

 

DISAPPOINTMENT – I hate to start on a negative but the month started with a disappointment. I’m a May Day baby and I really didn’t respond well to a lockdown birthday and had a little strop about it which actually surprised me as I don’t really both much with my birthday. I tend not to work, I love gifts, and I like to go out for a meal with my husband and daughter to acknowledge the day. The fact that we couldn’t go out made me unhappy and my reaction was to ignore my birthday rather than have a half-hearted non-event. I made a ‘no gifts’ rule and sort of regretted that when the day arrived …. although I then broke it by ordering myself a stunning Lucy Pittaway print for my office. I can’t put it up yet because I can’t get it framed but it will make my heart sing when I can. And, actually, I might have ordered two. Well, there was 25% off and it would have been rude not to!

Screenshot 2020-05-11 at 22.17.16DELIGHT – I worked in the day job on my birthday but I took the following week off – a much needed break after working some extremely long hours since the start of March. When I returned to the work as a home-based HR Tutor, it was to a big delight because I handed in my notice. I really enjoy my day job but to write full-time is a dream come true and, whilst I will not be matching the income from the day job, I will be doing what I love and finally have a work:life balance; something I haven’t had for well over five years. Six days and counting…

DISAPPOINTMENT – There’ve been a couple more disappointments. Like so many people, there were plans in place which had to be cancelled in May – a shopping and theatre trip to Leeds to see Sister Act with the munchkin and a family half-term holiday in Portugal.

IMG_7561DELIGHT – I’ve missed my fortnightly meet-ups with my very good friend and fellow-author, Sharon Booth, but we had a lovely virtual catch-up this month and it was so good to see her/speak to her. Last week, I also caught up with a really good friend who I met when I was on TSB’s graduate programme in the mid-90s. We haven’t seen each other since I had my daughter (who will be 14 in December) so it was great to see/speak to her online too although that’s a lot of years to try and catch up on! One of the things that has come out of lockdown for a lot of people is reacquainting with old friends and that’s definitely a delight.

 

DELIGHT – I’ve received lots more delights this month with readers getting in touch with me. I’ve had tweets, emails and messages on Facebook from readers thanking me for writing my books which they say have seen them through lockdown. Every single time I receive a message like that, it humbles and astonishes me. I’m so grateful that (a) my stories have helped provide escapism during these challenging times and (b) that they’ve thought highly enough of them to take the time to find me and contact me. How lovely is that? Thank you to everyone who has made contact in May or prior to that. It really is so kind and thoughtful of you.

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Image by Thanks for your Like • donations welcome from Pixabay

DELIGHT – And the month of May finished on an absolute delight. One of the things that many readers have been saying is that they’ve binge-read my entire back catalogue. My fabulous publishers, Boldwood Books, have re-released five of my books (two shorter ones were packaged together as one to make it a four-book series release) and I’ve signed a contract with them for my remaining four but, for now, those four are out there as indie releases. I can therefore log into the author information on Kindle and see how many eBooks have sold each day and how many pages have been read.

Prior to the re-release of the Welcome to Whitsborough Bay series, I had a steady but not impressive number of pages read and eBooks sold. Nothing to make me particularly visible in the charts. Nothing to write home about. Nothing to make me feel I could ever do this full-time. But the re-release, the promotion on these books and the lockdown scenario have steadily boosted sales and pages read of all of my books. This morning, my Kindle stats told me that I had well over 1million pages read during May from readers borrowing my four indie books on Kindle Unlimited (Bear With Me and my three Christmas books). Eek! I have never come close to that before. I had a look back at the same month from last year and we’re talking just shy of 197k pages and that was for nine books, not four! And even if I just go back one month and look at April, pages read were 443k so they have more than doubled in one month and increased nearly six-fold in a year. Wow!

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For years, I’ve felt invisible. I’ve felt I was failing. I always believed in my ability to write but I just couldn’t seem to make an impact. And now it’s happened. I cannot thank my publishers, Boldwood, enough for helping get my name out there and to all the readers who have bought or borrowed my Boldwood and my indie releases. Because of you all, I will be a full-time author this time next week. If I didn’t have writer’s bottom, I’d be doing a happy dance round my office right now! I hope to make you proud with more time to write and therefore more uplifting stories to read.

I know that June is going to bring a couple more cancellation disappointments but hope it brings another box of delights too. Hope it also brings delights your way.

Big hugs

Jessica xx

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The one where I should be in Portugal

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This time last year – May half term – my husband, daughter and I went to Albufeira in Portugal. It was our first visit to the country and we absolutely loved it.

IMG_6180With so many amazing places to see in the UK and around the world, we like to visit different places but we had such fond memories from our week in Portugal that we decided to return this year for a relaxing week in the same resort and same hotel; a first for us.

But, for obvious reasons, we’re not there. Like so many people, our holiday plans needed to be cancelled as the world faces an unprecedented pandemic.

I wish we were in Portugal right now but I really can’t feel sad about it. It is what it is and we really have been fortunate. So far, COVID-19 has not touched our family with tragedy so a cancelled holiday, a non-birthday, a couple of cancelled theatre trips and a few other planned events that couldn’t happen are absolutely nothing compared to what some have and are still facing.

So I wrote a little poem about it….

 

I should be in Portugal, a break for seven days

Some time out with my family, soaking up some rays

I should be in Portugal, relaxing by the pool

Jumping in the icy depths when I need to cool

I should be in Portugal, walking on the sand

Dining out on tasty food, a cold beer in my hand

I should be in Portugal, a speedboat on the waves

Searching for some dolphins and cruising through the caves

I should be in Portugal, a trip to ZooMarine

Riding on the big wheel, and in the wave machine

I should be in Portugal, a walk through the old town

Visiting the gift shops, just as sun goes down

I should be in Portugal, the place we went last May

Lovely, friendly people – a super place to stay

Instead I’m in the UK, staying safe at home

Because a nasty virus has meant we cannot roam

Instead I’m in the UK, working every day

Hoping that these tragic times will soon be gone away

Instead I’m in the UK, my heart so full of sadness

For those who’ve lost the ones they love during this worldwide madness

Instead I’m in the UK, thinking about the firms

That won’t survive the loss of funds from this vile set of germs

Although I’m not on holiday, I’m feeling very blessed

That those I love are in good health, and not feeling distressed

Although I’m not on holiday, my family are by my side

My daughter’s doing well at ‘school’, filling me with pride

Although I’m not on holiday, my books are in the charts

With stories bringing comfort, warming readers’ hearts

Although I’m not on holiday, I’m really very grateful

That a cancelled trip is the worst I’ve had from a virus that’s so hateful

Please be assured, my books are a million times better than my poetry!

I know I’ve been very fortunate but many haven’t.

My empathy to those who’ve had events, celebrations and holidays cancelled, particularly ones that have been extra special like my brother’s 50th birthday plans and those who’ve had their weddings cancelled.

Wishing a speedy recover to anyone currently fighting COVID-19, including my lovely friend and fellow-author, Jo, and her family. Hope you’ve all continued to improve this week.

Love and hugs to anyone who has lost a loved one – whether to this virus or something else – and particularly where you haven’t been able to say goodbye and celebrate their life in the way you’d have hoped.

My best wishes to anyone with a business that’s struggling, has gone under, or who has lost their job/faces employment uncertainty.

And my thoughts are with all those affected by this worldwide pandemic in so many other ways I haven’t mentioned.

Hang on in there. I’m rooting for you. We’re hopefully through the worst and we’ll be able to spend time with friends and family soon as life returns to some sort of new ‘normal’.

Big hugs

Jessica xx

The one where it’s very different yet not different at all

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Nalgo – part of Cayton Bay, south of Scarborough – a view 15 mins walk from our house

Yesterday was day 1 of schools being closed in the UK (to most but not all children) and today was day 1 of ‘lockdown’. The PM hasn’t officially used that term and I know some people hate it but, to me, it makes sense. My immediate household is in lockdown because hubby and I are both self-employed home-workers who have no need to travel other than hubby going out shopping for basics for us and his parents (mid-70s and early-80s) who live locally. Unfortunately my parents live about 1.75 hours away so we can’t provide them with shopping support. (Sending love to you both xx)

Because we both already work from home, each with a spare bedroom as an office, very little has changed to our ‘normality’. If I stay off social media and avoid the news, I can actually believe that this isn’t really happening. And that’s no bad thing sometimes because, quite frankly, I’m scared. But this isn’t a doom and gloom post so I won’t expand on that. Let’s get back to lockdown in our house…

Even our 13-year-old daughter’s presence doesn’t scream of ‘different’ to us because we’re used to her arriving home from school late-afternoon and being in the house while we’re still working, and we’re used to having her here in school holidays while we’re still working. So everything feels pretty much business as usual. Sending my love to all those for whom this is a completely alien, those who are unable to work from home and are still going out to work, those who have found themselves out of work and, of course, those who work for any of the key services, especially the NHS/other healthcare services and food retailers (and all those involved in the supply chain).

Ironically, staying at home for me is probably going to mean I go out more. We have a dog – a 4-year-old sprocker spaniel called Ella – and she needs walking. Hubby normally does this and meets up with a group of dog walkers as I usually work long hours and can’t find the time. Obviously that can no longer happen.

We’ve decided to make a walk with Ella our daily exercise as a family, in-keeping with the PM’s guidance of staying with a family unit, going somewhere where there aren’t people, and keeping that distance when we encounter anyone. I need to do this daily because, if I didn’t, I would sit at my desk solidly, work from morning till bedtime and never get any air at all, not even in the garden. I know this because I am a bit of a workaholic (comes from having two jobs – day job and author) and have done that for most of the past 4 years. Even with that mentality, I did at least get out and about for some fresh air with the odd trip to the shops, a weekly piano lesson and a fortnightly get-together with my good friend and fellow-writer, Sharon Booth. The daily dog walk is to make sure we all get some air and exercise and so that my bottom doesn’t continue to expand whilst welded to my chair!

We’re very fortunate to live in a village on the outskirts of Scarborough, a short walk along a coastal road to Cayton Bay. There’s a loop we can take which is about an hour and we did that this morning. It’s such a lovely walk. We met very few people and, in the main, distance was maintained when passing anyone. There were a few muppets, though. Take the couple walking towards us with a large dog. We were about to cross the road when the man moved so we thought he was going to cross the road and that the woman and dog would follow. She stayed where she was, leaving us trapped with no choice but to walk between them. Social distancing not observed. What is wrong with people?

A little further up the road, a woman was out walking 4 young children, probably aged 6-10. She wasn’t paying any attention to them, walking in front, looking at her phone, while  they meandered all over the place behind her. We tried to give them a wide berth but they got in our path. Clearly not been educated on what’s going on.

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Empty main road into town

Then, on the home stretch along the coast, a woman sat in the middle of the footpath distracted by her phone while her kids ran about in the field next to her. We had to walk on the road to bypass her and then the kids ran out the field into our path. *Rolls eyes in despair*

Aside from those few numpties we did enjoy it and, if it wasn’t for the distinct absence of vehicles, you could believe that it was a completely normal day but the lack of vehicles, particularly on the busy main road into Scarborough (that we walk over), told a different story.

We walked through a bypass and I loved this sign drawn in chalk on the side. It hasn’t come out very well on the photos but there’s a rainbow at the end of it.

Wishing you all the best, wherever you are and whatever challenges you’re facing or worries you’re having right now. If it’s safe to do so, I hope you are able to get outside – if only for a short while or even just through an open window – to see the arrival of spring and find a little comfort from the flowers, blue skies and birdsong.

Love and hugs

Jessica xx

 

 

The one where people need to calm down so I’ve doctored the lyrics to Taylor Swift’s fabulous song

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Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

This week in the UK, life as we know it has changed beyond all recognition. Other countries like Spain and Italy have been in lockdown for some time and, whilst we haven’t quite hit that point, we’re well on our way. Schools closed yesterday, and the Prime Minister announced that pubs/ clubs/ cafes/ restaurants/ leisure centres/ gyms would need to close with immediate effect.

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Image by Selling of my photos with StockAgencies is not permitted from Pixabay 

The past week or so has seen many strangers reaching out with amazing acts of kindness  but we’ve also seen shocking scenes of ignorance and greed while people panic buy. Supermarket shelves have been decimated with pasta, toilet roll, liquid soap and hand sanitiser being like gold dust. In fact, food in general is flying off the shelves and the ridiculous thing is that there isn’t actually a food shortage or even a threat of one. There’s plenty to go around and the problem is simply that people are grabbing so much that the supply chain can’t get enough to the supermarkets to accommodate the shocking £1bn of additional spending that has taken place this week. Wow! The government’s message today massively focused on this. People basically need to calm down, stop stockpiling, and give a chance to those who are elderly, vulnerable, working shifts and so on as well as the sensible ones among us who are just trying to shop normally.

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Image by Karen Arnold from Pixabay 

When I woke up this morning, I had Taylor Swift’s fabulous ‘You Need to Calm Down’ in my head, but with a few tweaked lyrics to fit with the current panic-buying mentality. This afternoon, I had a play about with the full song. If you’re not familiar with Taylor’s song, you can find a You Tube link to it here. I apologise to Taylor for doctoring her brilliant lyrics and hope she can forgive me. And I’m no lyricist so I hope you can forgive me too! I challenge you to sing along and see if you can fit all the words in!

Please calm down, everyone. Just stop! There’s food. There are toiletries. The supermarkets and smaller local stores are not closing down. Many restaurants, cafes and takeaways are still delivering. You don’t need a year’s worth of supplies this week!

By the way, I highly recommend Taylor Swift’s latest album, ‘Lover’. It’s amazing 🙂

Stay safe everyone.

Jessica xx

 

You Need to Calm Down by Taylor Swift, doctored by Jessica Redland

You are somebody in the same boat

But you’re takin’ things from shelves like it’s a joke

And I’m just like, damn, there’s enough to go round

Taking more than three, that’s a bad shout

But to steal from my trolley, that’s a knock-out

And I’m just like, “Hey, have you a brain?”

 

And I ain’t tryna mess with your fear and tension

But I’ve learned a lesson that kindness and compassion are what we need at this time

And greed and hate never saved the world

 

So oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh

You need to calm down, you’re being a clown

And I’m just like oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh (oh)

You need to just stop

Like can you just not buy all that stuff?

You need to calm down

 

You are somebody who is obsessed

Stockpiling all this food like you’re possessed

Why are you mad?

It makes us so sad (Makes us so sad)

Loo rolls in your house like a stockade

Pasta piled up high like a blockade

Just takin’ that soap you are being a dope

 

You just need to take several breaths and then try to restore the peace

And control your urges to buy all the food that you won’t eat

‘Cause greed never made anybody complete

 

So oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh

You need to calm down, you’re being a clown

And I’m just like oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh (oh)

You need to just stop

Like can you just not buy all that stuff?

You need to calm down

 

And we see you over there on the internet

Booking all the slots to deliver it

But we’re calling you out

We all know now we can all eat

You need to calm down

 

Oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh

You need to calm down (you need to calm down)

You’re being a clown (you’re being a clown)

And I’m just like oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh (oh)

You need to just stop (can you stop?)

Like can you just not buy all that stuff?

You need to calm down

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Image by Tumisu from Pixabay Enter a caption