I had just written, ‘Sex, drugs and rock and roll,’ when my wife popped her head round my study door and announced, ‘We’re in lockdown!’
This isn’t a usual line in my Teacher series so I remember it well. I was writing a piece of dialogue for my next novel and the dynamic fictional character, Izzy, was complaining about her latest boyfriend.
So lockdown began and my life changed in subtle ways.
On the first day there were two memorable moments. Outside the front door there was a pot of beautiful yellow primroses, a gift from our local village church, wishing us well. There was also a postcard from a teenage girl that I had never met who offered to help with shopping.
As a writer self-isolation was already a way of life so that didn’t change. However there were moments when I was reminded of its impact, not least when I overheard a brief conversation in our hallway between my two granddaughters.
11yo. ‘Mummy says granddad can’t give us a hug.’
11yo. ‘Because he has to self-isolate.’
Long pause . . . 7yo ‘Well, can I give him a hug?’
Lockdown was certainly a productive time for writing and I completed another 80K novel which will be out next year. There were many undisturbed hours in my study but, of course, there was also ‘spare time’ in my life. I built a dolls house bookcase for one of my granddaughters which was a success. I also tried my hand at breadmaking which was a disaster! My huge loaf looked good but was hollow. Fortunately, with the addition of some cinnamon, eggs and raisins (plus a helpful wife) it was transformed into a delicious bread pudding!
Meanwhile the new novel, ‘Back to School’, number thirteen in the Teacher series, has been launched. It’s a prequel set in 1970 and follows the life and loves of the young Jack Sheffield.
I should be out there now doing a signing tour so I’m missing the opportunity to meet my readers and catch up with their news. This is something I’ve always enjoyed. Likewise my talks have been postponed, including a Literary Lunch, so there have been disappointments. Even so, I’ve learned the power of Zoom after being invited to do a Q&A for the Open University Biennial Conference. It proved to be an entertaining and informative half hour with lots of tips for budding authors. Also the support from Penguin Random House has been terrific with a programme of radio interviews plus a Blog Tour.
As lockdown eases it was good to feel a sense of freedom and drive to the ISIS Recording Studio in Oxford where, with strict social distancing in place, I recorded the audio edition of ‘Back to School’.
However, as life returns to a modicum of normality, I still think back to the primroses and the postcard and I’m reminded of the generosity of the human spirit.