September 29th. That was the last blog post here. It's been an age and reflects the impact of Coronavirus and the lockdown on my state of being. That last post, Clearing Out The Family Home, was about a great piece of radio and if you didn't give it a listen, I think it's well worth half an hour of your time. In terms of the house, it remains all quiet on the Preston front, which means there's still some emotional pressure as well as more time to appreciate what the place has meant to me and savour those lingering memories.
Lockdown Literature is practically an oxymoron here. I've been reading the same book since then, or rather, I haven't. It's a slim paperback, I've enjoyed each visit and have always left it wanting to return soon, only it's not happened. Fiction seems so very far away just now, like some shadow from the distant past. The world, in fact, seems to appear as it might when looking through a set of binoculars the wrong way round. The very earth beneath my feet is more crumble topping than firm ground. I've traced back the journey of the year and the new dissonance makes sense. Being ill back in March and for an extended period knocked me for six. My dad suffering from the virus, his hospital visit and his isolation was all tough, while his very welcome survival has left him scrabbling around in the dust of dementia, lost in a fog most of the time and being looked after by some lovely folk who probably have much more complex and difficult stories to tell than I. Adjusting to the pressures of teaching from home was difficult and returning to the workplace was equally taxing. There have been many times when I've screamed STOP, but sadly the universe was unable to hear. Which eventually took me to the edge of a cliff of sorts. Thankfully, I've stood at that clifftop many times and have learned to recognise not only it's contours but the fact that when I'm there I need support. Thanks then to family and friends who've been there, for a the patience and kindness of my GP, for the counselling service I was put in touch with and for the medical intervention offered. Each of these is greatly appreciated and has been an essential part of what is now taking shape as the early strides towards recovery.
It's been hard. And it's been hard for everyone. I'm not here looking for sympathy and if I'm able I'd rather send out warmth and care to anyone who might need it. I still do have some fuel in the tank, even if I've had to take a break from my crisis counselling shifts that were causing me more harm than I could endure. It's possible I'll go back to taking those shifts and it's also possible that I might not. In case anyone out there feels a need to do something positive, getting trained up and taking a turn might be an outlet for you (check out this site for more info).
There were a couple of books read before things ground to a halt, both worthy of a mention.
The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley was rather intriguing. It's a story told in flashback to a series of childhood pilgrimages made to find the miracle that will cure the protagonist's brother and help him to speak. It's set in the north west coast of England in an area I adore, full of stillness and peace and yet carrying sinister tones due to it's sands, tides and remoteness. The bare bones of the novel are excellent and some of the description of person and place is exquisite. That said, if it were a three-layer cake (and, yes, I've been clinging to The Great British Bake Off as one of my many rafts of comfort) the top and the bottom might be perfectly made with the middle feeling a little overcooked and dry. It's definitely worth attention and the dark events that unfold skirt the edges crime and horror, occasionally falling deeply into both.
A Study In Scarlet is the last book I managed to finish. I can't add anything to the many things that have been said or written about it, so I'll not say much. Sherlock Holmes is such an icon who has appeared on screen in so many forms and interpretations that it's easy to forget the fine writing that set it all off. I began at the beginning because it felt right and found the tale to be fresh and intriguing from the off. Watson's return to England and his meeting with Holmes is deliciously told and the murder at the centre of the case is fascinating. I'd have been happy enough with the case alone, but the inserting of the back story of those involved as a separate entity works brilliantly and really had my adrenaline gland working overtime. Excellent stuff.
So, if the reading's on hold, what of the writing?
I can't say I've managed to create anything fresh for a few months, but I've been able to satisfy myself working through novels I've already completed. I had to re-read my next release from Down And Out Books (My Funny Valentine) as a final check and ended up making far more improvements than I would have hoped were necessary. The good news is that I really enjoyed the story, so I'm hoping you will too when the time comes. I shouldn't be too long and I'm grateful that it exists because it really does bring light to the tunnel to have it to look forward to.
I'm also giving the third in the series its final edit. So far it seems to hang together and manages to satisfy my need to work on my stories even when there's no fresh material inside me. I'm very grateful for that and hope that the tap to my creative juices is turned on soon so that I have somewhere to go when I'm finished.
From the pits of lockdown literature, then, here's looking forward to some rapid climbing in 2021. Thanks for sticking with me. x