Here we are 900 years into lockdown (I am in Scotland, where we’re still working on the basis the extremely contagious virus might spread if we all jump on the bus to the office or invite folk round to do the housework) and I thought I’d better write something about things that are going well – a few pockets of sunshine, if you will. Mainly because my last post was kind of a downer.

Pocket 1

Today we should have been driving Oop North for a long weekend with some pals from university, which obviously we had to cancel. That was sad, but we’re going to have a catchup over drinks and everyone’s favourite video meeting platform later. And as an added bonus, we do still have a couple of days off work. Well, day job work. We’re keeping up with the childcare.

Anyway, for the next couple of days naptime can be used for things like writing as opposed to furiously attempting to finish off bits of day job work I can’t focus on in the mornings. So here I am with a bit of space to do that sort of thing and, for the first time in about eight weeks, the inclination to do so.

I know, for I am on social media basically always, that I’m not alone in saying I’ve struggled to concentrate on writing anything since this all began. (Although Val McDermid tweeted earlier that she finished her 34th novel today – what a pro who is also dead to me.) But gradually my brain is starting to spark to life (and then sputter out… and then spark to life) again.

cartoon of a dragonfly wearing a blue jumper sitting on the stem of a leaf. His black moustache and green wings are drooping and his tongue is sticking out with exhaustion
Evinrude knows what I’m talking about

A fortnight ago I started keeping an extremely dull handwritten plague diary, which helped me to start thinking about things in a more writerly way again (is writerly a word? I’m not getting any red dots underlining it…). And this afternoon I spent about an hour collating notes and part drafts written in different places over the last year. In the process, I discovered that I actually have a very detailed outline for my current Middle Grade Work-That-Was-In-Progress pre-pandemic.

It’s detailed enough that I could probably work out a to-do list of bits to write in 15-20 minute bursts over the coming weeks. If I can do that, I may actually be able to finish the draft in the foreseeable future. I have never been that organised with my fiction writing. My ‘process’ generally involves having a starting point (could be a scene, line or character) and a middle or end point to work towards. Then I write as much as I can as fast as I can (ideally over a fairly short period: a few days for a story, a NaNoWriMo for a novel) to find out what happens. After that I go back to make it actually good in the edits. Or to find out it was deeply awful and not worth bothering.

Doing it this way would be a bit of a departure, but I don’t have days off with nothing to do but write and think anymore, so the old way is no good. Got to be worth a try, right?

Pocket 2

One of the side effects of lockdown has been spending more time with my offspring and partner. They are here ALL THE TIME, what’s going on. JK, it’s a global pandemic, a very weird time.

We are both working from home and nursery is closed (except for children of key workers which we… aren’t). Now, to be honest I’d only really just wrapped my head around the new normal of being in work 4 days a week with lunch breaks to myself and as many hot cups of tea as I could handle about 6 weeks before this all kicked off. So it was a little galling having to get used to another new normal.

small hands turning the page of a book with a picture of a tiger and the title 'the tiger who came to tea'
One morning we were awoken by a cry of ‘cake! buns!’ – the messages in this book go deep

But you know, my child is a toddler, discovering new stuff every day, and it is pretty cool to see it in action. Over the past 9 years or whatever it is (8 weeks I think now) there have been lots of new words and skills, including dribbling a football whilst shouting BOOSH and ‘dancing’ – see pocket 3.

Pocket 3

When all this started I spent a bit of time googling ideas for things to do with small people, and came across a blog that suggested trying to get them dancing along with a band Koo Koo Kanga Roo.

Wikipedia calls them an ‘American comedic dance-pop duo’. They describe themselves as ‘a kids’ band for adults’, have toured with Reel Big Fish and the Aquabats, and have been on the Warped Tour. They’ve been going for about 13 years so it’s pure chance I didn’t come across them earlier – but hey, better late than never. Anyone who knew me as a teenager/has had the misfortune to see me out at an alt/rock club night will be unsurprised to learn that they are my new jam (along with Beck’s 2017 album Colors – wall to wall bangers, yo).

The small one also likes them (result) so for the past few weeks has loudly demanded ‘DANCING’ on a daily basis. To start off with, this involved sitting down in the middle of the floor whilst dad and I did the actual moving about, but now we’ve graduated to running around in a circle and occasionally clapping.

For those who would like to know more, I shall now embed three of our family favourites for you to peruse. The band are doing live (distanced) shows from one of their garages during lockdown and I dunno, it’s all a heady mixture of juvenile but pure humour that cheers me up.

Toddler’s favourite – Cat Party. The call goes up for ‘CAT DRAWING’ this is what time it is. I wasn’t too fussed on this one initially, but it’s grown on me.

Husband’s favourite (and probably mine as well) – Awesome Rainbows. Easy moves, total earworm, hard to dance to this with a small child and not shake off any quarantine bad feelings.

My second favourite (maybe) – The Coolest Person. This is just relentlessly positive and it makes me smile.

So. That’s my third pocketful of sunshine for these dark times. What are yours? I MUST KNOW.