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.
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.
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!