This should have been the busiest time of a busy year, travelling around talking about one book while trying to finish the next and drawing up a proposal for the one after that. I was looking forward to being flat out and boasting (modestly) about how much in demand I was and how well the book was selling.
It is good for the soul to realise (with a bang) that life isn’t all about oneself after all. It’s not even about #MeToo. It’s about us. There used to be a sit-com on TV, years ago, featuring a ridiculously earnest couple who went around the village in matching fair-isle tank-tops and sandals with socks, helping people whether they liked it or not with a steely cheeriness. Was it something to do with a neighbourhood watch group? Or Reggie Perrin? Can’t remember. Anyway, that mortifying fear of interference has never quite left me: people will think I’m a busy-body if I bother them, or somehow hoity-toity.
Now things have changed. I'm really trying to stop looking inwards and start looking out. My husband and I have signed up to a couple of local WhatsApp groups to volunteer practical help and moral support to friends and neighbours who could do with some (virtual) company. I’ve also offered to send regular emails to people who feel lonely or cut off.
Meanwhile, I can’t write - as in work-writing - all the time till summer… Captain Oates is keeping us occupied to a certain extent in his own inimitable way. This morning I came downstairs to find he’d nicked the rather generous supply of dog-treats we keep for walking next door’s Irish setter. When I questioned Captain about this greedy breach of good manners, he glared fatly at me and growled.
I know: we’ll do more gardening. Dig for victory and all that. I might even start knitting (unlikely, though I did make some jam at the weekend which has the consistency of tarmac). Or sewing outfits for Captain like the ones Ruth’s duck Rosa wears in Louise Penny’s wonderful Inspector Gamache books. If you don’t know them, by the way, you’ve a HUGE treat in store.
In fact that’s it: I’ll catch up with the whole series, like a bookish box-set. Then I’ll start at the beginning again with my beloved Commissario Brunetti volumes (hope he and Paula are OK in Venice). Then I’ll learn the names and songs of all the birds in our garden. Formal names, I mean. Obviously I know Blackie the Blackbird, and Bobby the small beige one and Kevin the jackdawy-crow-rook-raven. And then – any other suggestions?
The novelty’s going to wear off soon, especially for those of us with vulnerable or far-off friends and family. But I’m convinced we’re going to learn a lot from this episode, both individually and collectively, that will stand us in good stead when it’s all over. And it will be over.
Enough for now. Good wishes to everyone. Captain Oates says it's time to leave his desk and make lunch, so I'm off. Jam, anyone?