July 2020


July almost over.

I can’t believe it’s a month since I posted June’s.

Things have moved on. Things have started to settle down. It’s a strange thing when someone close passes away and that has been happening much more often than I would like. As you get older, you expect to lose more people, especially the old ones, but the world doesn’t play by the rules. Often, friends and relatives go before their time. And each one is different. Totally different. I can’t explain exactly why that is. One person dies and you are devastated; another person dies and it doesn’t hit as hard; yet another and it feels more like some surreal joke. With those differences in reactions comes the inevitable guilt: Why hasn’t that hit me as hard? Why has that floored me when the previous death hardly caused me to pause what I was doing? There are no answers. It certainly has nothing to do with how much love or care is involved. If it did, then it would be obvious. We just have to keep taking the punches and carrying on as best we can.

It’s just that there have been a few too many punches this year: job losses, illness, being in lockdown, not seeing friends and family, wanting to throw bricks at the tv. The list goes on. One of the hardest, for me, has been the inability to hug people. Only when it is forbidden does it become clear just how much you rely on it. And I know, we’re not all huggers. PaeneolusSome folk die a thousand deaths when arms encircle them. I guess that is down to how you were brought up. Not that being averse to physical contact makes you a cold person though. I did a sociology course back in the nineties and the lecturer made the claim that men who shake hands with their fathers had a more formal and colder relationship than those who hug. I remember making quite a fuss as I always shook my dad’s hand when I saw him but it had nothing to do with the nature of our relationship. He worked in a business environment where shaking hands was the normal manner of greeting and I remember him telling me, at a very young age, that the way you shake someone’s hand can convey an awful lot about confidence and sincerity. I think he just wanted me to be able to shake hands with people in a positive way rather than adopting the cold, limp fish approach. It is, of course, also cultural.

That’s a little Panaeolus foenisecii up there in my lawn.

Along with all the restrictions and disappointments, missed holidays and cancelled plans in general, I think that everyone has had a little taste of poor mental health. I can’t imagine anyone having escaped it (other than the clinically stupid) so maybe there will be a bit more tolerance around for those who struggle day to day. Motivation seems a common problem with people I’ve spoken to. HawkWe suddenly had plenty of time on our hands (well, a lot of us did) so we saw an opportunity to get those things done that were always being pushed to the back of the queue because life was getting in the way. I saw lots of articles about getting that novel written or that instrument learned or that DIY project under way. And i guess a lot of us have done some of those things. It hasn’t been easy though. I always wake in the morning with mild anxiety. No idea why, it just happens and I feel overwhelmed by what the day might have to offer or any challenges that might come my way. It’s momentary and usually disappears while I’m in the shower or waiting for the kettle to boil. The problems that seemed insurmountable become a short list of easily achievable tasks. But I’ve noticed over the past few months that the time taken for that feeling to disappear has lengthened. Not by a huge amount, but it has lengthened and it is then followed by a bout of apathy. It just struck me how easily this could become out of hand and then you’re in the very real world of depression and poor mental health. It’s not a massive leap and it’s quite terrifying.

Scary-looking Elephant Hawk-moth Caterpillar desperately trying to move on.

For me, the thing I expected to crack on with was writing. I have two novels that need work. One needs finishing (by quite a long way) and another needs a massive edit. We locked down on March 16th. That’s nineteen weeks ago. You can write a novel in nineteen weeks if you put your mind to it. I think I might have added somewhere in the region of a thousand words. Whatever it is that happens when I write creatively just hasn’t been happening. Writing this blog and my journal has been the most constructive I’ve been. And, of course, neither of those things involved a great amount of imagination. This virus, apart from killing tens of thousands of people, also seems to have put creative activity on hold. I know I’m not on my own as I’ve spoken to a lot of people about this: other writers, painters, musicians. We can all still go through the motions of the craft but the creative art seems to have been plonked on the shelf for a third of a year. I’m sure some have managed to keep going and I’m very jealous of those guys. But none of my creative friends have been able to take advantage of this time that’s been made available. I suppose it’s no surprise that your head has to be level and relatively worry-free to be able to create efficiently. I’m just starting to feel things beginning to improve, but then life is starting, very, very slowly, to get back to some level of normality.

Although, what level of normality might we recover? We are able to meet with family members now and even go to the pub with them but we are still being urged to wear masks and avoid physical contact. A few friends have jetted off to the sun but for those who, unknowingly, picked the wrong places to go, they will now have to self isolate for fourteen days. I’ve done that. It’s no fun at all.

And what about the poor souls who are shielding? There are thousands of people who daren’t go anywhere near another human being and yet, with the steady relaxation of rules, aren’t we making a dangerous world all the more dangerous for them? It seems that the probability of picking up the virus is diminishing all the time but, for many people, zero probability is the only safe option.DSC07329 Filling pubs and shops and getting more relaxed about our daily lives is putting others at an unacceptable risk. I worry that there is not enough concern, or any concern at all, by those making the rules. Now that people are spending money again the establishment are getting all excited about this nightmare being over. But it’s not over. It might not even nearly be over. We don’t have a vaccine, although things are looking up on that front, and we don’t even have an effective treatment for people who become ill with the virus. We are not actually in any better position than we were at the beginning of all this and yet we are being encouraged to behave as though the worst has already past.  I remain suspicious of the reasoning behind many of the decisions being taken. People are so desperate to return to normal that any relaxation of the rules coming from the government is being taken as advice that it is perfectly safe to do those things. That’s not the case at all. We are still getting almost a thousand new cases a day. That might be a huge improvement on April’s figures but that’s not a sign of a virus going away.

I’m definitely a glass half full person (and who wouldn’t be with courgettes that size!) so I need to feel more optimistic about all this. There will be an end to it and we will look back and perhaps even laugh about some of the things that have happened. There are some things that are not even remotely funny though, such as last month. And there are tens of thousands of people who have experienced the same heartache. But the time will come when this is in the past and it will be something that the vast majority of us survived. It has already been likened to the situation people went through in the war. But I don’t buy that. I don’t think it’s anything at all like the war years. The wars were decisions. Bad decisions, mostly, but they were decisions that could be reversed at any time by those in charge. And there was definitely going to be an end to them. However unpleasant, however murderous and selfish, they were decisions that could be changed. This is nature attacking us. No-one in the world is in a position to decide that enough is enough and that we will end the spread of the virus now. We are doing our best to fight it (at least the scientists and doctors are – the ones that no-one listens to any more) and we will in all likelihood find a way to tackle it. But it is here with us until we prevail.

So, be positive! I’ve printed out a chapter, three and a half thousand words, that needs changing from third person to first person (don’t ask!). That is a start. Once momentum has built up then I need to find a way of maintaining it. Maybe it is time to be more creative and to start moving forwards again. However, I fear that they might have to be baby steps.

Hopefully, see you all in August. Stay safe and keep your chins up. And maybe take a little peek at my Website where you can purchase a couple of Romantic Thrillers if it takes your fancy. One available in paperback as well now!