When Covid Came To Call

Two weeks before the kids were due to break up for the summer holidays, some of us felt a bit ill. Nothing too serious. Blocked noses, headaches, sneezing. My youngest had a few days off school just in case and then on the Tuesday my oldest daughter felt worse so we decided to do a covid test. To our shock it came back as positive. She did a second just in case and that was positive too. The rest of us did tests which were all negative but of course we all had to isolate for ten days just in case. One by one in that time period we all started to test positive and my husband developed all of the classic symptoms. He got quite poorly with a suspected lung infection which luckily the doctor was able to diagnose over the phone and prescribe antibiotics for. My mum was able to collect them for him. We had to isolate for two weeks in total and as you can imagine, this didn’t go down too well with my teenagers who were so looking forward to enjoying the summer with their friends. We finally came out of what felt like the longest two weeks of our lives last Wednesday.

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

It feels ironic that almost a year and a half after the pandemic began, after three lockdowns, masks, hand sanitising, social distancing and vaccinations, Covid finally caught up with us just as ‘freedom day’ was announced. If you’re not in the UK you might not be aware that our government has decided that we can now all just make our own minds up about covid precautions and restrictions. Masks are no longer mandatory, neither is social distancing and in September, the children will no longer be organised into bubbles at school or sent home to isolate if a classmate tests positive. I think the idea is that as most of the population are now vaccinated, we need to learn to live with the virus and take responsibility for our own precautions.

For me, it all feels a bit futile. We did everything we could to avoid catching it but we caught it anyway. And now, the safety nets are being withdrawn so it will be sink or swim for many people out there. And yes, I know that for the majority of people catching covid means a week or so of feeling poorly. But my mother-in-law and my mother are both extremely vulnerable with on-going and serious health conditions and the thought of either of them catching covid now is a huge worry for us. Learning to live with the virus for them may mean staying at home for good in order to stay safe.

It also needs mentioning that catching covid once doesn’t mean you won’t catch it again and having to isolate each time you catch it means a significant loss of income, as sick pay in the UK is terribly inadequate. Despite being double jabbed, I am probably more frightened of catching it again than ever before. We simply cannot afford to be ill.

I didn’t feel particularly ill. When I first tested positive on the lateral flow test I had no symptoms at all, other than the cold I’d had the week before when I was negative. The PCR tests came back promptly and confirmed the positive results. A few days later I had a couple of days of feeling light-headed, queasy and just ‘not right’. It felt a bit like a hangover, to be honest. Every time I tried to do something my head started to pound and I would have to sit down again. Luckily this passed after a few days and I am completely fine now. It took longer for my husband to recover but he is now back to work and feeling a bit more tired than usual but otherwise fine. Hopefully this means no ‘long covid’ for us, as we really could not afford any more time off work.

I did not have serious symptoms at all, but I had to stay at home and watch my children suffer. My youngest two have missed yet more schooling. My eldest has missed work and lost money. My other daughter reacted very badly to having to stay home when she has already missed out on so much. She did not get to sit her GCSE’s last year, or have a leaving prom, or sign leaving books…She started college in September and after that we had two more lockdowns and online learning. She did not get to socialise with friends last summer and she is overwhelmed right now with the feeling that she will not get a summer again this year. Her mental health has taken a battering and I have no way to fix it for her, other than call the doctor for help and keep her talking. I feel so useless.

When covid came to call, it finally found a way in. It got past our defences and our masks and our jabs and turned everything upside down again. When covid came to call it revealed a frightening truth about our daughter’s fragile mental health and an even uglier one about the lack of mental health support for young people in this country right now. It’s nothing short of criminal. When covid came to call, it arrived during an oppressive heat wave we could do nothing to escape from and forced us to look on while friends and family on social media posted pictures of fun days out enjoying the freedom we now have again. When covid came to call, it reminded us of why we were so frightened to catch it in the first place: we cannot afford to lose work or income.

I am relieved that we all got through it with our health still intact. We are all choosing to continue to wear face coverings and sanitise our hands as often as we can. We eat healthily and do all we can to boost our immune systems naturally. But we are all genuinely terrified of catching it again, purely because we will have to isolate again, lose work, lose income and sit trapped inside our home once again. No thanks! I don’t think we could do it again! It was much harder than the lockdowns because you knew the whole country was stuck at home. Isolating is something else entirely. It would be doable if it were just me…I would spend the time writing, reading and gardening, but when you have three teens who want to be out enjoying the summer, mental health not at its best and a seven year old who is hard to entertain at the best of times….Ugh, no thank you. We will be doing all we can to avoid catching it again!

We Write…

We write to remember

We write to forget

We write to find ourselves

We write to connect

We write to reach the truth

We write to construct lies

We write to create worlds

We write so we can hide

We write to make new friends

We write to have control

We write so we stay young

We write so we never grow old

We write to find out what we think

We write to find out how we feel

We write to discover what we believe

We write perfect moments to steal

We write to imagine the future

We write to understand the past

We write to record the now

We write so that we will last

We write to be seen

We write to be heard

We write to have a voice

We write to find the perfect word

We write to speak for the voiceless

We write to see ourselves in others

We write to express our pain

We write because we suffer

We write to be free

We write to hold on

We write to let go

We write to live on

The Soundtrack To My Life

‘I don’t have my headphones on yet, but the music is always there. I have a constant walking soundtrack to my life, you see. There is a song for everything.’ (Danny, The Boy With The Thorn In His Side series)

I’m currently reading and enjoying my own books – the entire The Boy With The Thorn In His Side series – which may sound weird and vain, but it’s for multiple reasons. I’ll probably talk about them in another blog post but it just felt apt to begin this post with a quote from Danny and his ‘soundtrack to his life.’

I’m at that stage in my life where I have lived through enough decades to have soaked up many musical phases and fads, for various artists and bands to have had profound effects on me, and for my nostalgia to go into overdrive every time I hear a certain song. Every Saturday when I am cooking dinner, I make a G&T, put on very loud music and dance around my kitchen. Sometimes I go back to the 80’s, sometimes the 90’s, sometimes I play new music! Anything goes!

And while I am dancing and singing and enjoying my drink, I go back in time. I revisit my own life in songs and moments and it’s a glorious and emotional thing. So, for fun, I thought I would break it down. My life in music, in sections, in moments, in songs.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Birth – 10 Alas, at this tender age I had no control over what music affronted my ears and my dominant memory from childhood is being forced to listen to Cliff Richard in my mother’s car. Every car journey, ever. I suspect at one point I thought Living Doll was quite funny, but only because The Young Ones covered it! The rest meant nothing to me, but I bet you if I heard any Cliff Richards song now I would know all the words to it… Other music I was introduced to at this age were also my mother’s favourites, Bobby Darin, Billy Fury, The Everley Brothers, Neil Sedaka… Significant songs: All I have To Do Is Dream by The Everley Brothers and Oh! Carol by Neil Sedaka

10-12 Around this age I fell in love with my first boy band, and boy was I embarrassed about it just a few years later! New Kids On The Block, remember them? Me and my sister were obsessed! We bought all the albums, and any magazine they graced the covers of! We even got to see them live at Wembley Stadium! I don’t think I could stand hearing one of their songs now though. It’s too cringey. They were too awful and the songs meant nothing, but I suppose it was fun at the time and at least it got me into music! Significant songs: Step By Step, Hangin’ Tough by The New Kids On The Block

12-14 Once I realised how awful modern pop music was, I went back in time. In many ways I was a peculiar kid! I don’t know how I discovered Bob Dylan, but it wasn’t from my parents. I remember buying one of his greatest hits cassettes when on a shopping trip aged 12. I absolutely loved every song on that tape. From there, I grew interested in any music from the sixties. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys and so on. We had a little radio in our kitchen and I would keep it tuned to Classic FM or something like that while I sat at the table and wrote stories. I wasn’t interested in pop music in the slightest. Significant songs: Ruby Tuesday by The Rolling Stones, Positively 4th Street and Blowin’ In The Wind by Bob Dylan and Catch The Wind by Donovan

14-16 It was a school friend who introduced me to Guns ‘N’ Roses and I devoured them for a year or two. I bought the albums and used to lay on my floor with my head between the speakers to listen to them scream! As with Bob Dylan, I was intrigued by the lyrics and started jotting them down in notebooks or on scraps of paper I was writing stories on. What really blew my mind though was moving from them to Nirvana. I was totally in love and soon forgot all about Guns ‘N’ Roses (though when I played them in the kitchen the other day, it as uncanny how well I remembered the words!!) I was genuinely devastated when Kurt Cobain took his own life. I remember hearing it over the radio when I was sat in my garden drinking strawberry milk. I wrote a similar scene in The Boy With The Thorn In His Side series. Significant songs: Breakdown and Coma by Guns ‘N’ Roses, Lithium, Dumb and Something In The Way by Nirvana

16-24 The Britpop era. Oh, what a wonderful time to be a teenager! Looking back now, we were so lucky! With the arrival of The Stone Roses, Blur, Oasis and Pulp, not to mention Supergrass, Manic Street Preachers, Super Furry Animals, The Bluetones, the Happy Mondays…. the mid to late 90’s Britpop era was an exciting time to be into music. Around this age I had started going to pubs and clubs with my friends, I met my boyfriend (now my husband) and our first conversation was about the bands we were into. Getting ready for a night out meant putting Oasis on really loud! At this time I was buying music regularly and religiously. Tapes and CD’s of all the bands I have mentioned plus many, many more. We would read Select magazine and NME and watch TFI Friday on the TV, plus Top Of The Pops, of course. I was lucky enough to see some of these bands live and at Glastonbury. Brilliant, happy, carefree times that come back to me every time I hear these songs. Significant songs: Slight Return by The Bluetones, Live Forever and Spersonic by Oasis, Misfits and Disco 2000 by Pulp, Motorcycle Emptiness by Manic Street Preachers, If You Don’t Want Me To Destroy You by Super Furry Animals, Beetlebum, This Is A Low, Tender, by Blur. Too many to mention!

24-34 The lost years. There was some good music about in the early 2000’s, but as I had my first child at age 24, I had less time and energy to seek it out. Top Of The Pops had ended. Many music magazines had died out. We had our own place, our daughter and bills to pay, so music slipped away from us. Kasabian, The Thrills, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Black Keys and Kings Of Leon all took our fancy during this time, but I increasingly found myself turning to the past for my musical fixes. John Lennon and Bob Dylan were the first songs I played my baby daughter. Significant songs: Imagine by John Lennon, Forever Young by Bob Dylan, Clubfoot by Kasabian, Whatever Happened to my Rock and Roll? Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

24-43 Finding new music is hard! I think I’ve got fussier as I’ve got older. Maybe that happens to us all. I was always so open-minded about music, enjoying what was new while appreciating what came before, but now I really struggle to find anything new to get excited about. Perhaps that is inevitable as you get older. New bands and new music tends to be geared towards the young and most of it does nothing for me at all. I think most radio stations play utter bile and most music magazines seemed to have died out or moved online. There is no Top of The Pops or music programmes to introduce you to the next exciting thing. I am lucky though that my 18-year-old daughter is very into music and has very open-minded and eclectic tastes. If I have found anything new to admire in the last decade it is because of her. I particularly love the Canadian band Mother Mother. Between us we have all their albums and we are going to see them live in March! Very, very exciting. They seem to be on my level, whatever that is, and so many of their songs feel like they are speaking directly to me. Significant songs: I’m Alright, I’m Okay, Bit By Bit, The Sticks, Ghosting, Body, Forgotten Souls, I’ve Got Love. Actually, all of them!!

So, what about you? Does your life have a soundtrack? If so, what songs and what bands would be on it? What memories do they bring back for you? Please feel free to share and comment!

Post-Apocalyptic Fascination

Ever since I watched Maximum Overdrive when I was a kid, I have been fascinated by post-apocalyptic fiction and drama. Developed from a short story by Stephen King, Maximum Overdrive explores how a group of survivors come together after machines start turning on the humans who made them. Not your usual post-apocalyptic concept, but it still explored how a small group are left when everyone around them has perished. I remember pretending it was real when I walked my dogs around the fields where we lived. I’d pretend I was the only soul left alive in the area and I’d pretend to be grossed out by dead bodies and gruesome finds, while I plotted in my head how I would continue to survive in this new world.

Image by George Tudor from Pixabay

As a huge Stephen King fan I inevitably went on to devour The Stand – a thumping great book about an apocalypse caused by a virus. I found it so fascinating I read it twice! Everything about it intrigued me. From the outbreak of the virus and the horrific details of how quickly it spread and decimated the population, to the individual stories of the people who survived and how they came together, to the rise of good people and bad people and the ultimate battle between them.

Currently, I am watching The Walking Dead for the first time and I am almost at the end of season 10. I’m utterly addicted! A zombie apocalypse is an even more gory and frightening one, but again, it is the human stories that fascinate me – from survival of the early outbreak, to the hopes and fears of groups trying to find safe places and barricade the walkers out, to the inevitable bad humans who are arguably more revolting and dangerous than the walkers, to the fascinating survival skills the humans pick up or develop along the way. I genuinely feel like should a real end-of-the-world situation arise, I would be better prepared thanks to watching this TV show!

I am also currently writing my own post-apocalyptic series and it’s been great fun but also incredibly challenging. I have delved into dystopia before, with The Tree Of Rebels set far in the future after wars have nearly obliterated the human race, but this is the first time I have attempted post-apocalyptic fiction that starts as the tragedy unravels. It’s challenging because it’s been in my head for so long and I have read and watched so many post-apocalyptic books and films, that I feel a bit intimidated. I so want to get it right that sometimes I struggle to write it at all!

I have however written the first two books and I am half way through book three. Because there is a good chance I will want to go back and alter things I am not releasing any of them until all four books are ready. But writing it, and watching The Walking Dead got me thinking – what is it about this particular genre that fascinates us so much? It’s hugely popular – you only have to look at the various Walking Dead spin-offs in action or in the pipeline, to see that the end of the world as we know it is a big business. Here are a few reasons I think the genre is so popular:

  1. Dissatisfaction with this world – I don’t think anyone would swap this world for one over-run by walkers, deadly viruses, or rampaging robots, but even so, I do think a dissatisfaction and anxiety about the society we live in fuels our interest in post-apocalyptic fiction. Characters in post-apocalyptic dramas tend to find a new way of doing things. Once they have survived long enough to start rebuilding, they tend to rebuild in a different way as if they have learned from the mistakes of the past, and I think we are curious about this. If everything was razed to the ground and we had to start again, what kind of society would we work to build? I think most of us would opt for a kinder, fairer more environmentally friendly one and that’s interesting to think about.
  2. Curiosity about how we would react – they say you never truly know how you would react to extreme danger, pain, fear, or the threat of death. We simply have no idea whether we would die easily or become a true survivor. Would we hide away crying, or would we come out fighting? In post-apocalyptic fiction and drama, the weak don’t tend to last long. Characters make stupid mistakes and fall victim to all kinds of terrible deaths. We like to think we would do better. We would be smarter, faster, stronger and more adaptable, but would we? Wondering about this fuels our need to watch and read the genre.
  3. Fascination with survival skills – in a post-apocalyptic world, characters are forced to go back to basics. Walking instead of driving, using horses instead of cars, building shelters, hunting animals for food, fishing, setting traps, filtering water so it’s safe to drink and so on. In our modern lives we don’t need to do any of these things and we tend not to worry about food or oil running out, but maybe we should. We used to be better connected to nature and we used to do all those things to survive. Things are far too easy for us now and we are softer because of it. Watching post-apocalyptic shows and reading the genre makes us more aware of the need for such survival skills. Anyone with these skills is going to have a better chance of survival and I think we enjoy picking up a few tips, just in case!
  4. Boredom – I think to a certain extent us humans grow bored of the society we live in. Once you are in the never ending circle of work, pay bills, work, buy food, work, work, work, you wonder if a different kind of life is possible. In post-apocalyptic situations, the characters are freed from the drudgery of the work/money hamster wheel and they can do whatever they like. Life might be dangerous, but it’s certainly never boring.
  5. Disillusion with the human race – now, I would obviously never advocate population control or the mass death of humans! But like a lot of people, I am endlessly disappointed with the human race. I am frustrated and saddened that they continue to vote for selfish, rich people who continue to wreck the planet. I hate to see our wildlife being decimated, our continuous consumption pushing the planet to the brink. If we are not careful, we’ll have a post-apocalyptic situation on our hands sooner than we think. Human beings can be wonderful, but they are also frustratingly stupid and selfish. I see this more and more around me and I weep for what we are doing to Mother Nature. I can’t help thinking she would be better off without us here. I think we enjoy the genre for this reason too. In books and films where the majority of the population have perished, we get to see what the world would be like without most of here, without us wrecking and polluting, using and abusing it.
  6. The need to go back to basics – I’ve blogged before about my strange desire for a far more basic life. If I could, I would withdraw from society almost completely. If I could live in a little house or cabin far away from humanity, with woods and fields and a stream around me, I would go in a shot. I would go off-grid and get back to nature. I enjoy watching and reading this aspect in post-apocalyptic shows and books. People living basic lives, at one with nature, far away from anyone else.
  7. Preparation for the future – sadly I think this might be one of the main reasons the post-apocalyptic genre is so popular. We are faced with climate change disaster and ecological disaster, not to mention soil disaster, and the possibility of more pandemics. Wow – sometimes I wonder how any of us get up and get through the day with all that hanging over our heads! It plays on my mind constantly. I have no idea what will happen but I have very little hope that the powerful people in charge will do the right thing. I think millions of us will suffer and die as things get worse in the coming years and for young people, the situation is even more dire and depressing. Maybe we are fascinated with the genre because we are trying to prepare ourselves for what may be coming our way.

What about you? Are you a fan of post-apocalyptic fiction and drama or is it something you avoid? Do you have a favourite post-apocalyptic TV show, film or book? Let me know in the comments!