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

Poems; My Golden Son & These Streets

My Golden Son

The boy and I

Walked down the lane

with two old dogs

the lane warmed

by February sun

the sky blue

as we wandered on

in silence

every time I wanted to speak

there was nothing to say

no words

that had not been said before

I felt numb

the boy, sensing this

stayed silent, stayed gold

hope is in the snowdrops

darkness is in me

for all I see is gone

already a land of ghosts

the lane covered in litter

budweiser cans like a trail

I’d like to see that man

with a crow pecking his dead eye

I’d like to watch him die

instead of this gold land

instead of my golden son

These Streets

These streets hold dirt and grime

pigeons strut across the road

seagulls pull at black bin bags

in the back alley

litter and people discarded

rolled up in newspapers

junkies crouching on the corner

we drive on through that

see a glimpse of beauty in

red poppies on the roundabout

wild flowers on the bridge

did someone plant them?

or did they grow themselves?

Then, up up up

up and over

small cars stuttering into clouds

they rise above us

they fill the skies

the horizon is torched

and it hurts to believe in anything

to hope

is a pain in your chest

easier then to see death

in everything, to see the ending

a slow defeat, slow clapping

we hold up our hands powerless

too late to wake up now

we sleep forever

The Tree Of Rebels and Disconnection From Nature

So it’s finally here! The day has finally arrived! Sometimes when in the middle of writing and rewriting and crafting a book, publication day can feel like an impossibility. Something so far in the future it feels like it will never happen. The Tree Of Rebels felt like an impossible thing more than once. This was a very tough book to write and one I had a constant love/hate relationship with. It’s very different from my other books and I wrote it with an audience in mind, something I’d never done before.

As I’ve mentioned before, the seed of this book was sown while scrolling through Facebook one day. I’d kept seeing these petitions to sign to stop Monsanto patenting seeds. I didn’t understand a lot of it, but what I did read and digest alarmed me and got the cogs turning in my head. I’ve often thought about nature and who owns it. Have you ever walked through the woods or across a field, only to be stopped by a fence and a Private Property sign? Have you ever stood on a high hill and looked down at the landscape and realised how restricted our movements actually are? How the paths and roads have been laid out for you and how signs and fences stop us roaming as we once did?

The more I thought about large corporations owning seeds and nature and having that control over the food chain, the more I imagined a frightening dystopian world where growing your own food is banned. This might seem like a far fetched idea right now, but for some people this is already becoming a reality. Believe it or not, there are places in America where people are not allowed to have backyard gardens or chickens. Where people can be arrested for attempting to gather rainwater. The frightening future is already on its way…

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Distrustful of GMO’s, hormones in meat, anti-biotics in milk and pesticides on fruit and vegetable, more and more people are turning to growing their own food. Self-sufficiency is becoming popular again, and you can’t deny this is a form of rebellion, of taking back control. It’s vital for our planet too. The meat and dairy industry is literally killing the earth.

Dystopian future in mind, I already knew I wanted to write a young adult book. The protagonist, 13-year-old Lissie had been evolving in my imagination for some time, and now she finally had a place to play and grow. The book undoubtedly evolved into something more than I had envisioned. It’s not just about seeds or a post-apocalyptic future, it’s about rebellion, questioning the status quo, defying your parents and searching for the truth, no matter who it hurts. All classic issues in the complicated journey of growing up.

But one of the main messages I hope people pick up from this book if they do indeed pick up any is the consequences of becoming disconnected from nature.

I’ve always been a bit of a dreamer. A head in the clouds type of girl. I love nothing more than a walk down the lane, to the river, or across the fields, the common, or the woods. Something special happens to us when we are in nature, when we walk barefoot upon the earth, when we touch trees, smell leaves and view flowers and wild animals. Sometimes I think I might be a bit odd. I have very strong urges to touch and hug trees. They call to me, they really do. Once I lay my hand on the trunk of an ancient Oak, I find it very hard to pull away. I can’t get over the fact they are helping me to breathe! They are eating pollution. Without them, we would all die. The same goes for the humble bee and other vital pollinators. We simply cannot afford to ignore nature. We are nature. And I truly worry that many of us have forgotten.

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Where I live is very beautiful, but I fear that others do not see it. When they race their cars down the narrow lane and hurl their rubbish into the bushes, I fear they never linger long enough to see the beauty and majesty of the trees. I fear they have no clue that they would die if the trees were not there. I’m fascinated by the unseen lives of birds, insects, and animals. I’ll stare at birds in the sky, watching their flight, hearing their cry, wondering where they are going and where they live and what they do. I want to know. I want to be part of their world. Sometimes I feel like I am trespassing. Especially come dusk when the bats start circling and the owls start hooting. This is their time, not mine. How they must despise us, I often think.

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I think the thing we are often missing is gratitude and wonder. I am in awe of nature which makes me want to protect and nurture it. Sadly, others just don’t see it at all. In truth, this means they do not see themselves. They are disconnected from it, therefore they don’t care about it or appreciate it. If you don’t care about something, or see the value in it, you’re not going to go out of your way to protect it, are you?

In Lissie’s world, the people are taken care of. They are housed and fed and educated and worked. There is no war or violence. They have returned to traditional ways, fearful of the technological world that enabled war and destruction to almost wipe out the entire human race. But in order to keep them contained, the people are separate from nature. Food is grown and delivered to them. Animals are raised in domes . Unwanted plants are circled and torn up. Wild animals are feared and killed. They know very little of the natural world. And this is all sold to them as the perfect world. A society without war and hunger and homelessness. A safe, sheltered, catered for life. It’s Lissie who resists this version of life and strives to find out more about the outside world. A true rebel, spurred on by the dying words of her Great-Grandmother, she seeks the truth. What happened to the Old World? Who destroyed it and why?

Please feel free to leave a comment! What are your fears for the future? Do you enjoy reading post-apocalyptic or dystopian books, and if so why? How do you feel about the issues of humans becoming disconnected from nature? What can we do about any of it? I would love to hear your thoughts!