More jottings from notebooks: this was a note for the story that eventually became ‘Duck Race’. I was just writing down any random thing with the word duck. It didn’t get used, and looking at it now, I can’t remember what “seeing that” vs “seeing as” means, other than the duck can also be seen as the rabbit.

I’m not a great planner when writing, it’s more like a soup of ideas and half thoughts (or much smaller fractions) stirred until something bubbles up. ‘Duck Race’ in its final form was about a woman visited by her ex and his pregnant wife. An early version had started off (in my head) as a story about two sisters, both living as neighbours in Tyneside flats, one of them downstairs and spinsterish, the other in the larger upstairs flat with kids and a husband.

Now I’m writing it down here, it still sounds like a workable premise. Maybe I’ll return to it one day. I’m trying to think of how the story morphed from two sisters into a woman and her ex, but I cannot trace the steps back. I am fascinated by sister-sibling rivalry (I have no sisters) but the relationship between the two women changed, in the way characters just do sometimes.

They had different names too. Grace and Marisol. The location remained the same. The ducks came later. There were never any rabbits.


Be more Leo

I was flipping through a notebook today and found this cryptic instruction to myself: Be more Leo.

I don’t know when I wrote it, or why, or what it meant. So I’ve tried to draw a lion 🦁. Unfortunately I can’t draw, but I am quite pleased with the lion-plant-vampire that turned up.


Now that’s what I call escapism vol. 1

My box set of choice is currently Fear the Walking Dead. I’ve contributed to Contagion becoming one of the most popular films to stream at the moment. My husband has the opposite impulse and can’t understand why I would want to watch anything similar or worse to what’s happening in real life right now.

Although not eager for the end of the world, I’ve always liked apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic fiction. I believe at least part of it must be generational conditioning – Generation X grew up with the doomsday clock at 3 minutes to midnight. It’s the perennial fear of disaster striking when you’re unprepared, encapsulated in childhood instructions to always wear clean underwear in case you get knocked down by a car.

Now I’m reading. I read for work, and have to do so quickly, but the pace of my personal reading gets slower and slower. I’m finally approaching the end of At the Mountains of Madness by HP Lovecraft, a thin book of 123 pages that I’ve been reading on and off for at least 6 weeks, maybe longer. But it’s the right moment for it. The strange Antarctic landscape of the Old Ones feels like the right kind of escapism for now.


On measuring

I’ve been watching the daily briefings from No. 10 on the news mostly every day, in an ad hoc way: I might miss the beginning one day, or switch off before the end on another. I think it was at the weekend that Simon Israel for Channel 4 asked a question about the reporting of number of Covid-19 deaths. The official figures say one thing, hospital staff apparently say it is higher.

Dr Harries, deputy chief medical officer for England, said it was a matter of time lag rather than a transparency issue. I would make a guess that what’s happening is that some deaths of people in hospital who have the coronavirus are being attributed, not necessarily in any suspicious way, to something else. There is the example of the 18 year old boy who was originally reported to be the youngest UK death from the virus, but then it was reported that he had died of something else, no less of a tragedy but not part of the pandemic death rate as it is currently being measured.

My personal opinion is that it would make sense to keep a parallel record of number of deaths where something other than Covid-19 was not deemed to be the cause of death, but nevertheless the virus was present. Apart from the potential usefulness of such data, it would also go some way to ward off paranoia and conspiracy theories. I don’t like conspiracy theories. However, it does feel as if there is a measure of under-reporting. And of course, the government decision not to test and contact trace assiduously in the first place has no doubt led to a general under-reporting of the spread of the virus through the population.