These are strange times, with lockdown in its fifth week amid fears that the unseasonably warm weather will make people complacent about social distancing. This time in 2014, I was in Penzance on holiday. It was my first visit to Cornwall, and I hope it won’t be my last. In the apartment overlooking the harbour, not far from where The Scillonian docks, I worked on The Shame of Innocence and wondered if I’d ever see it in print.
Six years on, and there are now three Detective Inspector Jeff Lincoln titles out there, and I’m working on the fourth – but that all seems a bit irrelevant when Covid-19 is threatening our way of life on a global scale, and lives are being lost at an unprecedented rate.
Life in lockdown is intolerable for many people, especially when an end date is impossible to predict. I’m luckier than many, I know – I’m never short of projects to work on at home, whether it’s sorting old photos and postcards, de-cluttering my paperwork or polishing short stories that have been languishing unfinished for ages. But so many individuals and families are stuck indoors, unable to reach out to loved ones or even stay in touch with them through social media. They’re worried about their own health, their jobs, their future prospects. What of life afterwards? What will the world look like after Covid-19? One thing’s certain – it’s never going to be the same.
Yet hasn’t lockdown also brought out the best, the most creative ideas in people? Virtual book festivals, remote music making, new ways of bringing groups together to share their enthusiasms? The book group I belong to has been using Zoom to have a weekly gossip and then read a play – complete with hats appropriate to our characters. For a couple of hours a week, we can forget our troubles and have a bit of a laugh, congratulating ourselves on getting the technology to work while we make mincemeat of Sheridan’s The Rivals.
Books have proved popular as people tire of box sets and streaming services – and some people have turned their hand to writing, recording their observations of this unusual period of history. What have YOU noticed in particular during lockdown? What sums it up for you, so far? The run on toilet paper, the scarcity of pasta, the disappearance of tinned foods from supermarket shelves – at least in the early days? Or is it the quiet of empty roads, the strange lack of routine while schools and offices and shops are closed?
For me, selfishly, it’s the calm of having no commitments, no meetings I need to get to, no deadlines I have to meet. No fear of letting people down by having to cancel a talk or a visit because I’m ill or something’s cropped up – because EVERYTHING’s cancelled. But what wouldn’t I give to get back to normal right now!
WATIO, we keep saying – When All This Is Over… we’ll meet up, we’ll go out for a coffee, we’ll go to the library, the cinema, the hairdresser. Until then, life is put on hold and we just get on with things as best we can.
Keep safe and keep well.