Well this has been a funny old year hasn’t it. Back in December-January I was feeling cautiously optimistic I was headed back towards some semblance of normality after the weird discombobulation of returning to work after a year off. In February we viewed a flat and ended up making an offer on it: stressful and exciting weeks ahoy! Then there was March.

Greetings to you, dear reader, in this apocalyptic new future whose working title is 2020. I thought this was going to be a year of moving house, going for a long weekend in Ullapool with friends, and finishing a couple of manuscript drafts – including a YA dystopia I began in 2014. The sheen has kind of gone off writing that one in recent weeks, somehow.

The year so far

I was in a pretty good position for a while there. In January I went to a workshop run by writer Kaite Welsh on Cracking Your Creative Goals in 2020, joined a creative accountability WhatsApp group for nudging in the right (write? Hurr hurr) direction and collective cheerleading, and set myself some pretty realistic targets for the year. I was careful to factor in things like our desire to move to somewhere with a bit more space, work projects, the presence of a toddler and my tendency to over commit.

I also attended a very good Write Mentor workshop run by YA author P.M.Freestone at the very end of February. It was fantastically helpful for seeing where I need to go with my current works in progress and introduced me to some other writers of MG/YA which is So. Helpful. You don’t even know. Unless you know.

Immediately after this, buzzing with ideas, we had an offer on a new flat accepted subject to sale of our one. Ours was not ready to sell. Or view. Not sure it is now, to be honest. We have a toddler, not sure if I’ve mentioned that. Anyway we spent some time panicking and a lot of time cleaning and tidying and painting and being annoyed with photographers for showing up at nap time. Then finally our place went on the market two (2) working days before the UK went into lockdown due to this Coronavirus Pandemic we’ve all been hearing so much about.

Oh yeah and in the interim, one (1) day after going on the market the kiddo was sent home from nursery with suspected chickenpox. He did not have it, but we still don’t know what he did have. Was it the ‘rona? Insert a shrug emoji here folks. What we do know is it involved a fever, so we isolated for 14 days just in case. My sister brought us shopping and left it outside the door, including some absolutely enormous strawberries – we’re talking James and the Giant Peach proportions here.

Now, we are extremely fortunate in that we had someone to bring us essentials, we’re lucky enough to have a garden that we could escape into each day, and also none of us actually had the virus. But in spite of all this I have to say that 14 days cooped up in the flat with no alone time whatsoever was not my favourite time. By the end of it I was experiencing tension headaches, mood swings, aches & pains and fatigue. I can only imagine how other isolating people are getting on. Grim.

Looking Ahead

Upshot of all this is that we now have no real idea what’s going on with the move (will we even manage to sell our flat in the inevitable recession that follows all this?) and that routine I was thinking I’d get into has been chucked off a cliff in favour of the magical mystery tour that is working from home with a toddler. Writing and blogging has ceased whilst I just try and get through it all, to be honest.

I’m worried about the fact CBeebies has become a third parent to my son, I’m worried about my partner who suffers from health anxiety even when there’s not a pandemic on, I’m worried about people close to me for various reasons I shall not go into here, I’m worried I am not being a very good friend or colleague just now… I’m just generally worried. Like everyone is. And it’s hard to stop yourself from spiralling, especially if – like me – you are addicted to the hellsite that is Twitter and keep reading updates all the time when you should hide your phone and have an early night.

However, I’m very aware that I am fortunate in my selection of problems compared with many others. I also have a brilliant support network, some of whom sent me a hamper of cheese and chocolate after that particularly horrible fortnight. Others have got in touch to video conference and ensure that my son has seen other children every so often. And we’ve joined in with communal watch alongs of Doctor Who and old Eurovision, as well as doing games nights and a pub quiz. If anything this is the most socialising we’ve done since having a baby.

And now we’re three weeks into the lockdown, our 14 days are up with no further symptoms which means I can leave the house for my one hour of socially distant exercise per day, and the wee one just SLEPT THROUGH FROM THE HOURS OF 12am – 7am for FOUR NIGHTS IN A ROW. That’s nearly a week! Things are looking up.

I might now try and get back into my lovely silly MG manuscript for a little while each night. A bit of escapism feels like it might help my brain to stop spiralling.

But the dystopia is just a little bit too on the nose for now.

P.S. What Are You Reading

Largely before all this kicked off I managed to do a reasonable amount of reading this year. Below for posterity are the titles I consumed in the first quarter, with three word reviews for each.

My concentration span is not that great just now but hopefully I will get back into reading again over the coming weeks.

  • Queenie – Candice Carty-Williams (funny, sad, unexpected)
  • Unicorn – Amrou Al-Kadhi (honest, informative, interesting)
  • Binti – Nnedi Okorafor (woah there, tentacles)
  • Sensible Footwear: A Girl’s Guide – Kate Charlesworth (everyone should read)
  • How Long ’til Black Future Month? – N.K. Jemisin (love her lots)
  • Who Let the Gods Out? – Maz Evans (gags for days)
  • The Darkest Bloom (Shadowscent Book 1) – P.M.Freestone (not typical YA)
  • The Panopticon – Jenni Fagan (realistic traumatised teen)
  • All The Birds in the Sky – Charlie Jane Anders (best opening ever)
  • Wain – Rachel Plummer (beautiful, inclusive, magic)