Guest Post #4 – Dreaming Of Another World

Dreaming of Another World is a new feature on my blog, inspired by a piece I wrote last month. I wondered if other creatives felt like me during lockdown…that another world could just be glimpsed as the pollution cleared and the traffic stilled. I reached out to writers and bloggers to ask how lockdown affected their vision for the future. Has the experience changed them or the way they live their life and if so, how? The next guest post is from author Celia Micklefield. Here she discusses how anger often got in the way of her writing during lockdown…

My Covid Year

I give my sincere thanks to Chantelle for the opportunity to put my thoughts together and write this piece. Since February my ‘Covid-World’ experience has been bugging me. I haven’t been able to organise my thinking or my writing for quite some time now. As a result, my work-in-progress, A Measured Man isn’t as close to The End as it should be. That isn’t because I don’t know the plot. I know it very well. But, actually writing it has been beyond me.

Instead, I’ve been on a mission to bake the perfect loaf of bread, grow the juiciest fruit and vegetables and keep my dahlias pristinely dead-headed and voluptuous. I’ve needed physical occupation. Even though my CRPS (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome) lays me low some days I’ve wanted to be doing something as long as it didn’t involve too much thinking. CRPS affects my immune system. Neurological pain wears you out and inflames your entire nervous system. I usually catch everything that’s doing the rounds so at the outset of this new virus I knew I’d have to be careful. I couldn’t settle though, to work at my next novel. I wasn’t able to sit still. Beating up a lump of dough and slicing green beans or hacking off wilted flower heads replaced my normal daily activities. I think it’s because I’ve been angry.

Lockdown loaf!

I don’t want to get too political. As a writer of fiction it isn’t appropriate and I wouldn’t want to alienate potential readers. My characters can have strongly-held views: Celia Micklefield, the author very rarely comments but as myself, Celia Smith, I can’t help wondering what happened to common sense last winter. Viruses don’t travel by themselves: they need a host. People carry them. So why didn’t we stop people travelling way back in February to give us more time to prepare for the inevitable? We were completely without the means or even a decent plan to cope with such an emergency even though a 2016 exercise had pointed out the risks and pitfalls. So, we fell into the pit and panicked.

I began ‘shielding’ long before the instruction. Similarly, the local care home went into lockdown and banned visiting. They already had their own stock of PPE. They refused to take in anyone from hospital even though they’d been instructed to do so. Their staff don’t use public transport because there isn’t any to reach many of our villages. We’ve been lucky being quite isolated here in Norfolk. We recorded a relatively low number of casualties in the population and in care homes but we expect the recent influx of holiday makers will change all that.

It seems the current pandemic has brought out the best and worst of humanity. Some thought their holiday was more important than the risk of spreading disease. Many chose to ignore guidelines and did as they pleased. Yet there have been stories of amazing selflessness and goodwill. People were more patient in the supermarket, even in the car park. Our two local pubs organised food parcel deliveries for folk who had to stay at home. Eventually my partner and I were allowed to visit his mother at the care home where we sat, appropriately distanced and wearing masks in the garden marquee. We worry what will happen when the money from the sale of her house runs out. It still winds me up that single people (her husband died two years ago) diagnosed with any form of dementia have to sell their home to pay for their care. Imagine if cancer patients were treated the same -or any other chronic condition? Surely there’d be a revolution.

Maybe that’s what we need: a revolution. Not in the violent battle sense but in our values and attitudes. I’m reminded of what the anthropologist, Margaret Mead said about the earliest signs of civilisation in ancient cultures. Her students expected her to name things like cooking pots, fishing hooks and simple tools. Instead she explained how skeletal evidence of a broken femur which had then healed was the first sign of civilisation. Animals who break a leg do not survive long enough in the wild for the bone to heal. They can’t run from danger or hunt for food and drink. A healed human femur shows that somebody else stayed with the person who was in difficulty, helped them to safety and tended them until they were well again. Have some of us forgotten that it’s in our genes to be compassionate and offer kindness to others?

I grieve for society. In a speech in 1977 U.S. Vice President Hubert Humphrey said the following:

“The moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”

I believe this year has shown us just how broken we are. We cannot continue to build our world systems of government based on a need for continuing economic growth that mostly benefits those already rich. How can we keep on building luxury apartments when there are so many without any home at all? Why are we still buying products wrapped in plastic? Why do so many people always want the latest upgrade of everything? I haven’t even mentioned climate change. That’s an even bigger catastrophe waiting to happen.

Sociologists say it takes 50 years to change people’s attitudes. If that’s the case I won’t be alive to see the changes I’d wish for but maybe I’ve witnessed the beginning of it. Hooray for the young people who successfully forced the U-turn on the ridiculous algorithm designed to give students results for an exam they didn’t have the opportunity to sit. Three cheers for the shoppers in my local supermarket who refuse to use the self-scan machines because somebody lost the chance of a job at an extra cash out. Good for you if you didn’t buy any clothes you didn’t really need this year.

See? I told you I was angry. People I thought I knew well have shocked me with their selfishness. People in the public eye have stunned me with their incompetence. There now, I’ve got it off my chest. Maybe I can get back to novel writing soon. In the meantime I must concentrate on the positives of my personal Covid year: I bake loaves of bread I can be proud of and my dahlias are show-stoppers.

Author biography

I first began writing in earnest after I retired from teaching and went to live in the south of France. I sold short stories to a UK women’s magazine and was offered a contract by the first literary agent who read samples of Trobairitz the Storyteller, my second novel. Unfortunately it didn’t work out. I was so disappointed I decided to continue self-publishing as I had with my first novel, Patterns of Our Lives. I suppose you could classify my work as Women’s Fiction but they’re all different sub genres: a saga set partly during WW2, literary fiction, a psychological mystery, dark humour. I love reading a variety of genres and I think I’d be bored if I had to write the same kind of book every time.

When I started out I knew nothing about book bloggers, blog tours and the like and just kept writing not really going about marketing my work in any sort of sensible way at all and missing out on building important relationships. A series of difficult circumstances brought me back to the UK to live with friends where I wrote my only non fiction book, People Who Hurt, abusers and codependents looking for answers, a book to help others understand the nature of toxic relationships.

Now I live a quiet life in Norfolk near the east coast of England and I’m content looking after my vegetable garden and writing, albeit slowly. I have a neurological condition called CRPS (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome) which developed while I was living in France after I was hit and knocked down by a careless driver. My bones mended but my central nervous system didn’t. Pain is my constant companion but I’ve learned how to deal with it. On low pain days I write as much as I can.

I have a website http://www.celiamicklefield.com and a Facebook author page in my author name. You’re very welcome to visit and maybe leave a comment.

My three novels and two collections of short stories are available on all Amazon platforms. I hope to make a better job of marketing my fourth novel, A Measured Man when it’s ready.

Link to Amazon UK page

Thank you so much to Celia for taking the time to write a guest post for this feature! I really appreciate it. It’s proving to be incredibly interesting to find out how other writers felt during the lockdown about society in general and where we go from here. If you would like to write a fiction or non-fiction piece for the blog on the theme Dreaming of Another World then do get in touch!

Guest Post #2; Dreaming Of Another World

Dreaming of Another World is a brand new feature on my blog, inspired by a piece I wrote a few weeks ago. Following on from my post Dreaming of Another World, I wondered if other creatives felt the same as me, that another world is possible and could just be glimpsed during lockdown. I reached out to other authors, wondering what their reactions to lockdown were in terms of the future. Has it made them want something different? Has it made them change the way they are living, for instance? Do they have daydreams, like me, about a different way of life? Each week I hope to post a response to these musings from guest authors and bloggers. This could be stories, poems, essays or personal pieces. This second piece is from author Lily Hayden. To find out more about Lily click on the link at the end of the piece.

Dreaming of another world- Lily Hayden

Headphones in and eyes down, I spent my commute dreaming of a world where I didn’t race from a school run to jam myself aboard a packed and late train that spilled us out at a hectic station. My head would be full of all the things I would do ‘if I had time’ as I was swept up in a sea of commuters like a dull, drab shoal of fish swimming past the now-familiar rough sleepers and brimming commercial bins, dodging the puddles from cleaners hosing down the pavement outside the strip of bars and restaurants until I reached my office to sit at a desk for nine hours exchanging eye rolls with my colleagues as we counted down the days to the weekend with the same lethargic lack of enthusiasm; “Ugh, Monday!”, “How is it only Tuesday?”, “Happy Hump day.”, “One more day!” and finally “Thank God it’s Friday!”.

My head, like the commuter fish around me, would be full of all the wonderful things I could do if I wasn’t a slave to the rat-race.

“I’d love to go vegan,” I’d lie to myself as I inhaled my fourth coffee before midday. “I just haven’t got the time to meal plan!”

Same for exercising. Not a chance could I fit gym time in amongst juggling work, writing and raising four children and numerous animals.

“Love the concept of zero waste!” I’d shrug as I clicked through an Eco page on Instagram in my lunchbreak. “But who’s got time to go searching for all that? I can barely manage one big shop on the weekend.”

“We should do more with the kids,” I’d say to my husband as we flopped down exhausted on the sofa on a Friday night, feeling the familiar pang of guilt as they all disappeared off to their rooms once the takeaway had been devoured. “If only we had more time!”

And then suddenly we had time.

“This is so strange,” we would repeat to various neighbours that we only ever saw in passing as we all flew from school runs to work on a never-ending hamster-wheel of rush, rush, rush.

We played games in the street at a social distance and went for walks in the woods that I’d never set foot in despite living on their doorstep for thirty-seven years. We baked, and we gardened, and we sat in the sun. We made little schedules for the children, and the big ones helped the little ones with their schoolwork. We skimmed stones in the river and explored the fields and the forests. We went from driving every day to once a week, and I thought about the carbon footprint reduction.

80,000 people commute into Cardiff every day for work with an average commute of 19 miles taking 48 minutes according to various sources. That’s 1.5 million commuter miles on train, bus and car pumping out tens of thousands of tonnes of CO2 every year.

“Did you know Cardiff is the fourth most polluted city in relation to size?”

“If half of those commuters worked from home, imagine the impact to pollution!”

Imagine! The world could start to repair the damage we’d done to it!

We had enough time to watch the news, to really watch it and talk about it, rather than scroll past on our way to work, the gym, drinks, dinner with just an apathetic ‘how awful’… And we had time to take to the streets chanting ‘no justice, no peace’ when we woke to the reality of the cycle of oppression that we had been complicit in. Strangers united to topple statues of terrible men who did terrible things in the name of profit and power.

We clapped for the nurses that work gruelling shifts putting their own lives at risk to care for others, but all they wanted was fair pay and protective equipment to keep them safe. Of all the people in powerful positions, a football player was the one to convince our Prime Minister that while schools stayed closed to the majority, children would go hungry without their free school meal. The staggering reality of poverty in our country felt like a dirty, little secret had been exposed.

But not everyone could stay home and breathe. A hotchpotch of roles were marked as essential alongside the obviously necessary ones as businesses interpreted the loose rules to suit their pockets, and instead of question the necessity we ordered takeaways, and everything from Amazon, we queued to buy paint from B & Q, and the country sold out of hot tubs.

And then we began to grow bored of entertaining ourselves. By nature, humans are sociable creatures; we missed our friends and our family, and worried that the children needed the routine of schools. By the end of June, mixed messages teased of our ‘playgrounds’ re-opening, and we craved our postponed holidays, desperate to jam a facemask on to jet off to foreign shores the minute the planes took off, or gather outside the pub to clutch that first ice-cold pint or queue to fill a basket in Primark. We were chomping at the bit to get back to ‘normal’.

The emotional need for normality was exacerbated by the very real fear that there would be economic repercussions of the wheel not turning and millions of worker bees furloughed; businesses would fold, and jobs would be lost forever. With fear in our hearts, we will jump back on the treadmill as soon as the whistle is blown. It’s likely that we’ll never have this chance to collectively stop again in this lifetime.

Imagine though if that was the last chance that the world was willing to give us.

On Monday I could be back on that train, headphones in and eyes down; the only thing that would have changed would be the facemasks we are wearing, and wouldn’t that be a horrible, horrible waste. Over forty thousand people have died, and tens of thousands are still recovering from a very serious and debilitating illness.

We cannot let this be for nothing.

I know it wasn’t just me on the train dreaming of having the time to be better, having the time to care, to educate myself, to read, to share, to connect, to donate, to question the morality of the society I live in. I don’t want to go back to seeing my own children for just a hectic hour each morning and evening, missing their lives so that I can pay to keep the roof over their head. My husband took over sixty business flights last year, we drove maybe twenty thousand miles of car journeys. I don’t want to contribute to the destruction of our planet anymore. I don’t want to be shocked when I read that over one million children in the UK rely on free school meals or scroll past news of more racial injustice because I’m too exhausted to be angry. I know that it’s not just me on the train dreaming of a slower pace, more time and deeper connections.

I dream of a world where we learn from the lessons we’ve been taught.

Thank you so much to Lily for this wonderful and thought-provoking piece. If you would like to find to find out more about Lily’s writing, please follow the links below! And if you would like to contribute to this feature with a non-fiction or a fictional piece do please get in touch!

Link to author page and bio: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lily-

Hayden/e/B07CR8KF7D%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share

Guest Post; Dreaming of Another World

Welcome to a brand new feature on my blog; Dreaming of Another World. A regular slot handed over to fellow authors and bloggers. Following on from my post Dreaming of Another World, I wondered if other creatives felt the same as me, that another world is possible and could just be glimpsed during lockdown. I reached out to other authors, wondering what their reactions to lockdown were in terms of the future. Has it made them want something different? Has it made them change the way they are living, for instance? Do they have daydreams, like me, about a different way of life? Each week I hope to post a response to these musings from guest authors and bloggers. This could be stories, poems, essays or personal pieces. Our first piece is from author Grahame Peace. You can find out where to follow Grahame at the end of the blog post!

After months of planning, my partner and I, along with my youngest sister and her husband, had been looking forward to travelling to Nice in early April to celebrate my other sisters sixtieth birthday with her family. In May we also had plans to go to Paris with friends and realise a lifelong dream and visit Versailles. All that came to a sudden halt in late March 2020 due to the lockdown in the UK and across Europe due to Covid-19. Along with that, we had to cancel theatre trips, meeting up with friends and family, and our regular trips to the gym.

I’m sixty-two and suffer from asthma and allergies, putting me in one of the Covid-19 high-risk groups. Funnily enough, my partner and I had both been ill in late November 2019, we’d never experienced an illness like it, and as information came to light about the coronavirus, we are both convinced we had it. We had all the symptoms, although, without testing, we’ll never know. One good thing came out of that, once we were feeling better, we both rushed for flu vaccinations, and we’ll be going for another as soon as they become available in September.

None of us could predict what would happen next as the lockdown started here in the UK and across the world. I retired from my job in the National Health Service (NHS) in 2014, so I know first-hand the many daily challenges facing NHS and social care staff, how I feel for my hard-working, and often undervalued NHS and social care colleagues. It’s good to see them finally being valued and getting recognition for their work; one can only hope they get all the resources they need and are going to need in the future.

Since retiring writing has been my fulltime (F/T) occupation, and I treat it like a F/T job, working every day for several hours at my computer. The lockdown had no immediate impact on me from a work perspective. My partner was soon put of furlough but was used to working from home, so being at home every day wasn’t unusual. A positive outcome from that meant those jobs in the house and garden could now receive our full attention, not that there were many. During lockdown, my youngest sister and her husband have built two greenhouses and created a fantastic vegetable garden; they even discovered a hidden stream on their land.

Like many, I became obsessed with the news as well as trying to find out as much as I could about the virus. I was distracted and found it hard to concentrate on my writing. I still do, although I persevere. But how dire the news has been, with the daily death toll not just here in the UK but around the world. Along with awful predictions about what life could be like for years to come, and the worry for many as they lose their jobs. I still find it impossible to make any future plans, and I’m grateful to have my writing to keep me occupied; it’s also a much-needed distraction as I lose myself in imaginary worlds. I have a vivid imagination, which is both a good and a bad thing!

During the lockdown, we’ve hardly seen friends and family, but thank goodness for Zoom, what a fantastic piece of technology, it’s like something out of my favourite childhood TV programme ‘Thunderbirds’. We’ve tried to entertain ourselves with lots of reading, internet shopping, re-watching most of our extensive DVD collection and binge-watching various TV shows and series. Along with long daily walks in the countryside, even in the pouring rain, just to keep moving and get out of the house and into the fresh air. We also started shopping for our elderly neighbours. How I feel for people shielding who live on their own; they don’t see anyone for days on end as one day merges into the next.

During the lockdown, I finished and published my tenth book, The Ghost from the Molly-House. A Christmas Wish, this is book seven in the series and set in 1850 in Victorian London. As with all my books, I did a lot of historical research into the period, it truly was a world of the haves and have nots. Doing all the research helped me to realise that even with a global pandemic, how lucky we are to live in 2020. Life was grim and incredibly cruel in Victorian times, but that’s history for you! I’m now busy researching and working on my next book, The Ghost from the Molly House. Lady Fenella and the Fleet Diamonds, which is set in 1937. I hope it will be out later in the year.

Life is slowly returning to some form of normality, my partner started work again on 20th July, and things are opening up again. Not that I have any desire to go anywhere or back to the gym until I see how things unfold in the coming weeks, particularly as we’re starting to see spikes of Covid-19 cases all around the world. I’ve even started cutting my own hair; and going to a supermarket feels anxiety-provoking with panic buying, social distancing, long queues, plastic screens, hand sanitiser, and now face masks; I dread it, but needs must.

For me, one of the good things about the lockdown has been nature, the wildlife in the garden, the bird song in the morning, and the considerable reduction in pollution and traffic on the roads. I’m sure that’s had a positive impact on my asthma; for a period, I even stopped using my inhalers. It also created a sense of community; our neighbours have all come together. We had an outdoor, socially distanced VE Day celebration, which turned out to be a lovely evening enjoyed by all.

One downside I’ve witnessed has been litter. As I’ve walked through the countryside and watched the news, I’ve been astounded by all the litter, and rubbish people leave everywhere. Things like drinks cans, beer and plastic bottles, garden and building waste, and, of course, fast food packaging, without a thought for the environment and the poor people who have to clear up after them, it’s staggering.

Seeing how some political leaders have behaved over Covid-19, has made me feel increasingly worried about the future. I base that opinion on their actions, political spin, and fake news. It’s not inspired confidence, just at a time when the world needs to come and work together. The pandemic has brought out the best and worst in human nature with incredible acts of kindness, but also unbelievable acts of selfishness.

They say, ‘every cloud has a silver lining’, I do hope this pandemic will prove to be a wakeup call to everyone in the fragile world we live in; we can’t live in isolation, we’re all part of a global economy and like it or not, what happens in one part of the world, has an impact everywhere else. The days of things like the British Empire are long gone. Lockdown hasn’t made me dream of a new world; it’s just highlighted the need for the world I’ve always dreamed about; a world of peace, harmony, tolerance, respect, kindness, love, consideration, and equality. But someone somewhere will always want the last fish in the sea.

Thank you so much to Grahame for writing this piece for my new feature. You can follow him via the links below! If you are interested in writing a piece for Dreaming of Another World then please get in touch. I am looking for stories, poems, essays and non-fiction on the theme of another world. Did lockdown inspire you to change your ways or even your life? Would you like to see a change in society after Covid 19? What are your hopes and fears for the future? Anything written in response to Covid 19 and/or the climate emergency will be considered! Many thanks.

Website: https://www.grahamepeaceauthor.com/ Amazon UK Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Grahame-Peace/e/B00JNA07HE/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gpeaceauthor Twitter: https://twitter.com/GrahamePeace

Barefoot On The Cobbles – Guest Post by Janet Few

Dr Janet Few.JPG

When Chantelle kindly offered to allow me to pay a visit to her blog, she said that her own writing was gritty, contemporary and non-conformist. I reckoned that I could manage at least two out of three. Then I discovered that her blog was called Glorious Outsiders and that certainly had a resonance. I am here to talk about my new novel Barefoot on the Cobbles and my slightly eccentric life; Glorious Outsiders abound!

Before I was any sort of published author, I was and still am, an historian. As such, I am not particularly interested in politics or tales of the great and good. I am fascinated by ordinary people, how they lived and the influences that underlie their behaviour. If I say that the presentations that I give on historical topics include aspects of witchcraft, mental health, non-conformist religion and the role of women, you might get the idea. It is the marginalised who intrigue me the most; truly the outsiders.

I am also a keen family historian. I seek out my ancestors and pay tribute to all those from whom I descend. These are not rich people, nor are they anyone who is well-known but they are those who, if it were not for me, might be forgotten. I have several non-fiction books in my portfolio; books about social history, genealogy and local history. I had reached a lull in ideas for more non-fiction topics, so I thought it was time to turn to fiction. I hadn’t written ‘stories’, since I was an angst-ridden teenager. I was all set to craft a very different novel, when the tragedy upon which Barefoot on the Cobbles is based came to my attention. It was a story that was not recalled in local folklore, which piqued my interest. So, in a way, I still haven’t written fiction, as this is the retelling of a true story. I did find that my historian’s instincts had to be suppressed at times. Although very little in the book is pure invention, there were occasions when I had to create plausible scenarios to fill in the gaps in the historical record. At first, I found it very difficult to convince myself that I really could just make it up!

Barefoot is set, in the early years of the twentieth century. This era provided me with plenty of scope, encompassing as it does, the First World War, the fight for women’s suffrage, the influenza epidemic, the dawning of a social conscience and medical care in pre-NHS days, all of which feature in the book. So, from that point of view, the novel is not contemporary, yet the emotions that my characters experience are recognisable today; the psychological make-up of human beings does not change.

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In Barefoot on the Cobbles you will find a narrative set in the beautiful Devon landscape; communities whose lives were shaped by the sea. So not just real people but real, recognisable places. There are scenes in the local asylum, on a battlefield, in court and on deathbeds. I think that qualifies as gritty. It isn’t all doom and gloom because the characters’ lives shaded from joy to despair, as do our own. As I struggle to answer the question, ‘What is your book about?’ I often say it is about people and the incidents in their pasts that led to the tragedy that is the culmination of the novel. It is a ‘why-done-it’.

Who then are Barefoot’s non-conformists, the Glorious Outsiders? The person who became the main character is a fisherman’s wife, who is past middle-age and described by some of her neighbours as ‘odd’. On the surface, her behaviour seems unconventional and the novel seeks to explain why this is so. Apart from this desperate mother, you will meet the troubled daughter, the reluctant soldier, the traumatised engineer, the militant suffragette, the alcoholic bankrupt and others on the side-lines.

I will leave you with the blurb and if you want more information, it can be found on my own blog The History Interpreter http://bit.do/bfotc

“In the euphoria of the armistice a young woman lay dying. Daisy had grown up, barefoot on the cobbles, in a village on the rugged North Devon coast; she was mindful of the perils of the uncertain sea. Her family had also been exposed to the dangers of disease and the First World War but for Daisy, it was her own mother who posed the greatest threat of all. What burdens did that mother, an ordinary fisherman’s wife, carry? What past traumas had led, inexorably, to this appalling outcome?

Vividly recreating life at the dawning of the twentieth century, Barefoot on the Cobbles is based on a real tragedy that lay hidden for nearly a hundred years. Rooted in its unique and beautiful geographical setting, here is the unfolding of a past that reverberates unhappily through the decades and of raw emotions that are surprisingly modern in character.”

Barefoot on the Cobbles – a Devon tragedy ISBN: 978-1-911438-54-0 is published by Blue Poppy Publishing https://bluepoppypublishing.co.uk and paperback copies can be obtained from them. It is available on Kindle from Amazon, in various English-speaking countries. The link for the UK is https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07K3YMYRV