‘How do I spend lockdown?’ I guess I’ve been luckier than most. Although I am a very gregarious person and love meeting up with my friends and family, I also get so engrossed in whatever I’m doing that time flies by. My home office is my sanctuary. Writing is hard work for me because I’m dyslexic, however, telling a tale, doing research, going ‘out’ on location via Google earth, completely absorbs me.
Also, my location is idyllic. Although I was born on the Wirral, I retired to Greece. I’m lucky to live on the island of Rhodes where I bought a piece of land next to the sea and designed my own house. A dream I’m proud to have accomplished. It’s a simple building with my office in the centre looking out onto Rhodes’ airport runway. My house is completely solar powered. I’m very aware of my carbon footprint, climate change, and noise pollution, so the lack of planes at the moment is welcome. However, a lot of people are very sad and isolated because of this. This office is my sanctuary where I have everything I need, including a bed settee, which is a godsend. When I’m nearing a deadline and find myself working at three or four in the morning, (which, incidentally, is when I work best). I can simply fall onto the sofa, pull a throw over myself, and catch a few hours’ sleep.
There is nothing in my office that I don’t find essential. Three laptops, one for writing, one for editing photos, and one for research. A printer, and a cupboard full of research files, a shelf of dictionaries and travel guides, a small exercise bike, and sometimes a bunch of wildflowers from my garden. From the camera of my writing laptop, my office appears quite presentable. In fact, below desk level and out of sight, it looks as though a bomb has gone off. No matter how determined I am to be tidy, clutter grows around my feet and spreads to the sofa and desktop without my being aware. I have a weekly clear up, but before I know it, the clutter always returns.
The other thing that has kept me sane, is my annual challenge. Every year, I set myself a challenge – a new skill to master and something to keep me busy in retirement. Last year it was photography, this year it’s painting with acrylics. I find painting very absorbing and completely lose track of time once I start putting paint on the canvas. Both the painting and photography are always connected to the novel I am working on. When writing, I always visit the settings of my novel; I go down each road and gaze at every view absorbing the feeling of the place, and I do it alone, with no distractions. It is only through this process, I can put myself in the shoes of my protagonist, dream her dreams, face her adversaries, describe her picturesque location and its effect on her.
My latest book, Summer in Greece is about Titanic’s sister ship, the magnificent, 900-foot-long Britannic, which lays at the bottom of the Aegean Sea. Naturally, I could not actually take part in such a dangerous dive, Britannic has already cost many people their lives, so I did the next best thing. I watched every recorded dive I could. Next, when restrictions allowed, I bought myself a ferry ticket to the Greek island of Kea, nearest to where the HMHS Britannic has lain on the seabed for 105 years. I am fascinated that the ship has laid there since WWI and yet was only discovered in 1975. I took hundreds of photos of the Greek island, then came home and started painting. I hang the latest pictures on my office wall along with my book covers.
So, how have I spent lockdown? Pretty much the same as usual.
Summer in Greece by Patricia Wilson is out now (Zaffre)
I know it has become a cliché now, but I learned at a very early age that: the solution to most challenges, and to achieving what you want, is to ‘keep calm and carry on’. I was about eight years old, a plump, plain, under achiever when my parents entered me into my father’s work’s sports day. You could not imagine a less athletic child. First up was the needle and thread race. I sucked the cotton and poked it through the eye of the needle, flabbergasted that nobody else seemed able to do it. I plodded to the finishing line and crossed it with a grin and any arms raised in victory. My first taste of success, and I loved it.
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