It hardly needs to be said that this has not been quite the year many of us expected six months ago. I went into own personal lockdown about a week before the government’s announcement, and my wife and I have been isolating as well as we can ever since.
In hindsight, we were extremely fortunate to be able to spend a few days in Madrid in mid-January, principally to attend an exhibition on the exodus from Spain after Franco’s victory in 1939. My wife’s family history is indelibly intertwined with that story, so it was fascinating and instructive to see such a well put together collection of photographs, diaries, books and other historical materials, all of which reminded us that 1939 is not so very long ago, and that the forces of nationalism and authoritarianism are only ever waiting for the next opportunity to turn ordinary lives upside down.
Madrid was beautiful, a little glimpse of spring in the middle of winter, but by the time we returned to the UK the warning signs around Covid-19 were already becoming harder to ignore. By the middle of February, social interactions were beginning to get a bit more restrained – there was no handshaking at Parkrun – and by the end of the month it was starting to feel just the tiniest bit reckless to go out at all. But even then, I didn’t dare imagine that our supposedly well-prepared government would make such a monumental, world-beating shambles of its response. I’m not in anything like the vulnerable brackets of some (including close family members and friends who have cancer and who are either receiving or waiting on treatment) but I am a lifelong asthmatic and that particular lung condition has had a couple of good goes at killing me, although thankfully it’s been a good couple of decades since I had a serious attack. Still, I was in no hurry to see how my own respiratory system coped with the virus, and in the subsequent months I’m grateful to have lived under the constraints of the relatively sensible and cautious Welsh government, which has taken a markedly different line to Westminster.
I can’t lie: it’s not been that bad. My normal lifestyle was only a few steps from lockdown anyway, so a slight modulation from “don’t go out very much” to “don’t go out at all” was not that great a jolt. The hardest part has been not being able to visit family, but aside from that (and my wife’s heroic weekly trips to the shops) life has been, if not normal, then easily bearable. I was writing quite well at the start of the year and managed to carry on that impetus through lockdown, to the point where I’ve written more than a hundred thousand words since the middle of March. I don’t want to say too much (or indeed almost anything at all) about the new book except that it’s set in the Revelation Space universe, and that the foreground events (other than a few flashbacks) take place after the last chapter of Absolution Gap, but before the events of the prologue and epilogue of that book.
And for now, that’s about all I have to say. Wales is easing out of lockdown to some degree, but we’ll continue keeping ourselves to ourselves and enjoying the local wildlife, and the last few snatches of peace and quiet before noisy normality reasserts itself.
My best wishes to all for the rest of the year.