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I think I’m just realising the totality of this lockdown. I have no work, though I do have a lot of jobs around the house to keep me busy, my family and friends  are all keeping the so-called ‘social distance’ – we’re communicating by Skype and WhatsApp – and my musician pals are setting up a ‘virtual bar’ where we can all meet up and jam together online.

Not sure about that last one.

Walked past my local pub last night and it was silent. Empty. Only a few lights behind the bar.

On the whole, the world seems a level or two quieter.

lockdown companion

Angus: destroyer of squirrels, hedgehogs, toys with squeakers, labradors, St. Bernards…general, all-round canine hunter-killer. Currently sleeping.

This little scruff is the best medicine for me during a worldwide viral outbreak.



lockdown regime

Mornings: House maintenance & admin.

Afternoons: Good stuff.

Evenings: Read. Walk the dog. Meditate.

drink and be merry

To welcome the new season, and to celebrate the closing down of all pubs and clubs, our local is selling lager at £1.99 for two litres.

The place is packed.

I’m not sure that’s what BoJo intended, but there’s something magnificent about four hundred people packed into a pub on a bitterly cold March evening, drinking themselves senseless in advance of catching the virus.

This is why I love the north.


There was frost on the grass this morning.

Car windscreens were covered in a thin layer of ice. I went for cycle this afternoon and the temperature was close to zero. Checked the calendar and realised today is the equinox.

It’s Spring.

Of course it is.

That shadow on the horizon is Yorkshire.

playing across changes

Johnny sent me a YT clip featuring Denny Dias playing a guitar solo across an early version of a Steely Dan recording. It was great, listening to him roll across the chord changes, just barely keeping up. And it was the ‘just barely’ that made the whole thing so enjoyable.

I’m not a jazz player, and though I love jazz music, it’s not for me, playing-wise. It’s all a bit  ‘chamber music’ and self-referential.

Give me Neil Young’s shambolic opening to Oh Susannah any day of the week – it takes the drummer twenty seconds to find the right groove, and the rest of the band don’t make it to the party until almost a minute in. And it’s magic.

The only time I’ve ever ‘played across changes’ in a jazz style was when I did a wedding gig with Ralph and he had the band playing standards. When it came to my solos he’d sit next to me whispering ‘Ab, Bm, D#’ or whatever and I just clicked into whichever scale he told me.

Got to admit, it was great fun.


I have an aversion to complexity. If my list of phone or email contacts gets too long I have to delete all of those I haven’t been in touch with for a while. I can’t keep old texts or email messages. I have a youtube account but I never have more than 7 subscriptions.

When I was a classroom teacher all my resources had to be visible – if I ever put anything in a drawer I had no way of ever finding it again. I can’t keep a diary; I’ve tried, repeatedly. Keeping a diary involves writing stuff down on pages that I’ll never look at.

Maybe it’s not complexity, maybe it’s an inability to retrieve information that is stored out of sight.

Trying to find things that I’ve filed away pains me. It causes me distress. Instead, everything I need to think about is bubbling away all the time in my head, and I’m not sure that’s the most efficient use of my working memory.

But it’s the only system that works for me.

writing as therapy

I found myself a bit listless the last two or three weeks. A bit grumpy. Unfocused.  My plans for a writing-free 2020 may have to be abandoned.

I realised that I’m not a happy person if I don’t put pen to paper. And I have some good ideas I need to get started.

Julien Trent calls.


An elderly couple of JWs came to my door a couple of days ago asking me if I’d heard the word of god. I had to tell them that I’m pretty godless, but I added that, despite my lack of belief, I thought it was a good thing that they were doing.

Thing is, I just can’t do it. I can’t live by the tenets of that charismatic Nazarene preacher from two thousand years ago. I’m not good enough or strong enough to follow the guidelines (and they’re not guidelines, they’re iron-hard rules) laid down on the sermon on the mount.

If I could, I would.

But I will continue to read the sermon, and I will continue to fail.


Lishman said what I sort of already knew – stick to one genre. I don’t, of course, having written everything from YA to fantasy, action/thriller, books about teaching, and kitchen-sink-realism short stories.

But lately I’ve mainly been writing either YA novels or high-concept thrillers (though the most recent YA was also a fantasy story, of sorts), so maybe after two decades of scattergun writing, it’s boiling down to a couple of things.

I’m taken by the idea of writing short, contemporary, realistic, thrillers. And I’m thinking TV series rather than movie, so a series of 80-page novellas rather than a 300+ page novel.

I have an idea that I’m working on.

I was supposed to be having a rest from storytelling but I just can’t stop…