New Friends: November 22nd

Nanowrimo word count 2385 running total 34,731

At the start of the lockdown in March, my neighbour bought six hens. They were for her eleven-year-old son to give him a new interest. She hoped it would help him cope with the Covid-19 restrictions. He loved them, and they are gorgeous. We told him we didn’t mind them being in our garden. Now, they come to the patio door and peck at the glass! My husband feeds them Aldi Multigrain bread, and they adore him (and the food). When he comes in from his golf game, they run to the car clucking. He loves the attention and says, ‘Is Palo not feeding you?’ They race back to the patio where they know he will appear. Are hens that clever?
We were in Kashmir last year, and the hens awaiting slaughter in the shops were in such a poor state. We didn’t want to walk down the street for fear of seeing another cage with straggly, starving hens waiting to be put out of their misery.
It is an unfair world.

November 6th

November 6th 1603 today/11040 total words

Trump still making incorrect statements about the election, but looks like a win for Biden. The news in Scotland is about the effects of Covid-19 on how people are living in the UK. I am reminded of how life for people in Punjab had changed following the Spanish flu pandemic. My mother was born around 1926, and the effects of the epidemic were still being felt in society. People thought it so quaint that their parents were over-zealous about the cleanliness of their kitchens, keeping apart and not allowing the sharing of food or drink. People forgot where these ‘old wives’ tales came from. I can see a correlation in how life is changing for us now. We are becoming scrupulous about personal and home hygiene. Will my great-grandchildren think their parents are odd when they continue these habits over the rest of their lives? My mother-in-law would never have tolerated meat dishes being cooked in her kitchen. She didn’t eat from a communal plate, and towards the end of her life, younger members of the family thought her odd. I know of a couple living in England who have two kitchens in their house because the wife is a strict vegan, and the husband wants to cook meat. I am reminded that my family never hugged. My brothers and I didn’t see our parents in a hug, they didn’t hug us once we passed the toddler stage. I believe that this stems from the pandemic of 1918-20 when members of our family died and left children orphaned. It is a form of social distancing. We didn’t think we were a strange family until we saw others being more touchy-feely. Perhaps the changes, to cope with Covid-19 in our times, will be more far-reaching than we think.

November 3rd

1770 words today.

I spent some time this morning in sending money to a family in India. The mother is my house cleaner. The father migrated from Uttar Pradesh to the wealthier Punjab to work as a farm labourer. He lived in our field hut and spent his days helping my brother-in-law. He married a girl from his home village and brought her to live in the cabin. When his family grew, my brother-in-law gave him his tractor shed to live in. Thirty years later he is still there with three sons, two daughters-in-law and five grandchildren under-aged eight. The elder daughter-in-law has a skin disorder which looks to me like shingles gone awry. It’s scaly now, and I think it’s on the mend, but she has had it for three months, and it’s all over her even on her hands. The medics in Chandigarh say she’ll need a series of injections and treatment at the cost of over £600 which this family don’t have. They’ve sold all they could for the (not so helpful) treatment so far. And, with Covid-19 work is scarce and no furlough system. We are not the same religion, but they are like family. Of course, I sent them more than medical fees.

To write or not in the time of Covid-19

I had applied to join a Blaze Creative Writing online course with Strathclyde University last November, so I knew that I would be writing in the ten weeks beginning 20 April. There are thirteen of us and our tutor, David Pettigrew, estimated our total word count for the course would be 9000. Therefore, I will have at least written that number of polished, not draft, words of my novel in progress. I am now at the final assignment, and the problem is I must write the ending. The deadline is next Monday. Without an end date, I would dither endlessly. Still, I am consoled by the thought that thinking is a vital part of the process of writing. I do a lot of it.

As for ‘not writing’ I don’t include reading in that. Reading helps our writing except that is doesn’t get the words on to the paper (or the screen). This course talks a lot about our reading, and we have all added to our reading lists.

First of all, we posted, discussed and wrote our novel first page, which was very interesting, as, within the group, we have a wide range of settings, historical and modern.

Then, we posted our favourite first pages. Our tutor’s choice was Enduring Love by Ian McEwan. Find it here:

Other good novel beginnings and titles (important) which we mentioned are below.

The Trick is to Keep Breathing by Janice Galloway

The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

The Lies of Lock Lamora by Scott Lynch

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Clare North

Two classic books on our craft are Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg and On Writing by Stephen King. I have read these early on in my writing life. Perhaps I should revisit them but do I have the time? I used to be very busy, out and about, talking to people. Now, I spend much time online responding to other people’s writing. Note to self – I must make progress with my novel.

What did I do when I was not writing? I started by tidying everything. The house first, but that didn’t take long because I don’t accumulate stuff. Then, my clothes. I took all the elastic out, sewed new waistbands for cords. My trousers are more comfortable now. I found lots of wool and unfinished projects and completed a crocheted stool cover and two bags. I knitted one sock, one glove and a pink balaclava (to show that I could).

I left Facebook because it seemed that there was a lot more there now that I found annoying. On a Zoom (I know what that is now) meeting with friends, I admitted that in the first two weeks I hadn’t gone out at all. They insisted that it was lovely around where I live, and I should be out walking. My husband agreed as he was walking regularly in the field tracks behind the house.

I put on the shoes I have in my car for wearing at the gym, took sweets and a bottle of water and followed Bob along the road (very noisy, cars are moving faster in the lockdown). We turned right on to the farm track and up the hill. At the top, we turned right again and made our way to the end where we climbed over a fence into Balmore golf course. And that’s where the birds are happy and in full song. Amazing. Birds call from one tree to another, and we hear them because there are no other people. The sky is blue, the air is clear, and the Branziet Burn trickles through the empty course and the fields towards our house. In this part of the walk we don’t talk, we let nature make all the noise it wants. We listen. We make a circle around Baldernock Primary School and climb the hill back to Branziet.

This daily walk has me in its grasp now. It’s over an hour long. I become more energetic and leave the sweets and the drink and concentrate on the walk rather than the stopping.

Time moves on, Nicola Sturgeon’s daily death count report shows a decrease and an end looks nearer.

However, I now like being in the lockdown. I don’t rush to my mother’s house, hoping she is well. I do not have to make her lunch. She is a stoic 93-year-old and does not want anyone to visit her in this pandemic. My brother lives closest and does her shopping, and that’s all she needs.

My granddaughter is not at school and doesn’t need me to take her home to her house. It was great to see her every weekday, but life is so much simpler when it’s my husband and me. This changes when the golf courses open. He is out every day, but I am still happy not to go out unless for essential purposes. I shop fortnightly because Bob now takes a turn at the weekly shop. I realise I have been doing this by myself for too many years. He has also started to clear up after our evening meal. That’s fine too.

I look ahead and re-open my Amazon seller account. I sell two books in four days. I go to Milngavie Post Office where they charge more than Amazon would have for postage. I am now always going to buy postage from Amazon, which is a bad idea because it is a not-enough-tax and employee paying conglomerate, but during this lockdown one thing I’ve learned is to look after myself.