I want to kick off with a mention that Reflex Press’s anthology Volume Two, The Real Jazz Baby, has recently won the Best Anthology Award in the 2020 Saboteur Awards.
My story Let Me Be Your Fantasy is featured, together with 160 other authors, and I’m very proud to be a small part of an award-winning selection of great flash fiction.
You can pick up a copy here: The Real Jazz Baby. Congratulations to Reflex Press, and everyone involved!
Writing this update hasn’t been easy, and I can’t even blame a busy schedule; when I’m not grappling with Skype and other working from home challenges, I’m mostly checking the global coronavirus tracker and looking for something to do. My to-do pile is vastly diminished; I’ve cherry-picked the least despicable chores, and I’m now left with painting interior woodwork or clearing out the garage (again). I’m marking time, hopefully looking back at week ten of lockdown in the UK as the darkest time before the dawn.
We’ve had a few health scares and a hospital admission in the extended family, but we all remain (physically) healthy. We’re very lucky that we have space to spread out at home, a garden, no need to travel and the ability to work from home. I don’t even have to commute regularly anymore, so I don’t need to go out ordinarily during the week. I’m also a fan of shopping deliveries when I can get them, so staying indoors through the week is my normal.
For the first month, or six weeks, the unprecedented different-ness of the world left me unable to concentrate on reading, writing, or any except mundane tasks. I found my thoughts were very inward-looking, navel-gazing even, as I fixated on minor irritations and worries. I had to pull myself up and remember and acknowledge everything we have to be grateful for.
Even so, although I’ve resumed my writing, I worry about how introverted and self-contained I’ve become, but not in a good way. I think part of that is a feeling of lockdown helplessness; the world seems to have gone mad, and not just with the virus. I write this as America burns with the injustices still being meted out to its own citizens. I want to join UK protests, but I’m still worried about my own compromised lungs. It’s a scary and trying time, and I hope we can move on from the pandemic soon; there’s more than enough to crack on with.
And therein lies the crux of my angst; being a shut-in has magnified the freedoms I had that I took for granted and that we need more than ever. We are living through an extended, weeks-long pre 1990’s English Sunday afternoon! Back when the tubes ran on a skeleton service, as did the buses, even in London; no shops were open apart from the odd off-licence that closed at 1 or 2pm. You couldn’t even take a whirl around a local library or museum; I was so desperate for something to do in those days that I went to Sunday school, secure in the knowledge that I could win a packet of Toffos or Spangles by answering bible questions correctly (not that I was a pious child, but I was a champ at speed reading the appropriate verses).
This realisation came to me when I begged my husband last week to run (and drive) with me to the Peak District; let’s find a quiet corner of a moor to walk across, I cried. And he pragmatically reminded me that we wouldn’t be alone and that the National Trust car parks were closed, so there would be nowhere to park. That Sunday bath-time, Songs of Praise on BBC1, school tomorrow, helpless gloom descended on me once more, from distant decades.
But unlike then, I see an end to the restrictions fairly soon, and I’m a grown woman who can judge my worth and actions on my own principles, not those of the Sunday School teacher. I can protest those things I need to, and I can motivate myself to write; after all, my laptop and the internet are still right in front of me!
This realisation gave me the stern self-talking to that I needed, and I’ve submitted one piece of flash fiction and two, count em, two short stories to anthologies in the last two weeks; wish me luck!
We always have a choice, even when some choices are (temporarily) denied us. Even when every day is like Sunday, we can carry on with the resources at our disposal, and not let worry and fear lock us down even more.