Covid Interruption

About this time I should prepare my monthly update, but I’m putting that off until next week, and I didn’t blog last week because despite doing all the right things when we could and going above and beyond, having food delivered, not having seen family since Christmas 2019, and living like hermits, we’ve had Covid.

Of course, the husband knew the weak spot was his work. His supervisor allowed someone coughing and sneezing to stay — he’d done 2 lateral flow tests, both of which said negative. We’ve since learned lateral flow tests are only for people not showing symptoms. It understandably upset us, especially as we were due to visit family on the 19th for a week, and now do not know when we’ll be able to.

And double-jabbed person to double-jabbed person, to the husband, to me. Would interest us to know what strain it is. He got a PCR test right away. Unfortunately, not thinking, I didn’t arrange one at the same time and by then it was too late to do so. I could have had one sent to my home, but I was too poorly by then to post it back, and Test and Trace had advised for everyone in the household to isolate (though we’re confused by this as the regulations are changing, and so many ‘rules’ don’t seem to make sense). As I didn’t have a PCR test, they won’t add it to my medical records. Trust me, I KNOW I had. What that tells me is all those daily figures of infections are ‘only’ PCR positive results. Anyone who doesn’t know they’re infected or simply doesn’t get a PCR (and you may not even qualify sometimes) isn’t registered. So those infection numbers must be way down.

As to the question of how they developed these vaccines so fast, I had it explained to me they didn’t. They tweaked an existing vaccine, and that is all they do nowadays. And as for those saying you’ll just get ‘flu’, I can reliably state this is worse than flu. It’s truly horrible. I’ve had nothing like this and never want it again. Our breathing was fine, which was the main thing.

My symptoms started with a slightly dry throat and a barely there headache. Then I ended up with a metallic taste, especially icky when drinking plain water, though that’s the best thing to drink. Splitting headache, sometimes migraine level, 24/7. Painkillers took the edge off but didn’t block it. Head ‘full of cotton wool’. Sinus pain. Coughing (though intermittent. Flu-like ache all over the body, but also PAIN in large muscle groups — like thighs and biceps. Pain in joints, particularly elbows and knees. Flash pain — came and went throughout the body; I had it 3 ‘flash pains’ in my right foot during one night. It’s like it attacks any weak spot in the body — if you’ve an ache somewhere, you’ll feel it more. Loss of appetite. Nausea. Vomiting. Fever (mostly the husband; though my head was hot, I didn’t perspire). Sleeping sickness. Sleep is what we mostly did around the clock. Fatigue. Making a cup of tea called for another 2 hours of sleep. We shuffled around like a pair of geriatrics.

And yes, despite all this, I believe we did well. The worst of the illness lasted about 4 days. Once we ate, we got well, so my advice is don’t let it weaken you.

Looking ahead, I don’t know what we’re going to do. If there’s a chance of continually catching this, what might it do to you? And who wants to feel lousy several times a year? Flu… I can go 5 or 7 years without catching. This I can imagine catching 4 times a year without precautions, so how we’re all supposedly going to live with it only time will tell. For now, we’re left with an occasional dry cough and our taste has diminished about 20%. The thing I can taste the most is chocolate; just a pity it’s not permissible to live on it, eh?

Update July 2021

Hi Everyone!


Not a lot to report, unfortunately. I finished my initial acupuncture sessions, though it’s hard to tell how much they helped. I’ve seen some intermittent improvement and will probably have the odd ‘nudge’ as my acupuncturist put it to see if it makes a difference. At some point, if it doesn’t, I’ll stop, but at least I will have given it a fair go. Alas, at the moment, he’s had to stop for a short while for personal health reasons, but at least I got the initial 8 sessions in. The best thing was the side excursion to the sweetie shop on my way home.


Finished re-watching The Good Place a second time, and oddly I’d forgotten how much a box of tissues is necessary for the finale episode.

We’ve moved on to re-watching Star Trek: The Next Generation, just reached the end of the first season. I remember the show got better after the first series, so it will be interesting to see if I feel the same way this time.

Watched the third season of The Rookie and though I mostly began watching because it stars Nathan Fillion, it quickly became enjoyable. That finished, we started Prodigal Son, primarily because it stars Michael Sheen, but the first episode was captivating. Hope the standard continues.

Worked through the Fear Street trilogy, which has had mixed reviews, but really for the genre and style of film, we found them highly watchable with blunt but less gratuitous in your face violence than some non-horror movies. I’d like to try at least a few of the books. Of course, these are by R.L. Stine, most famous for the Goosebumps children’s books.

But what we’ve enjoyed the most are the Rurouni Kinshin films. Originally a manga series, the live-action movies certainly live up to the ‘action’. Blink and you’ll miss something. Staring Takeru Satoh in the role of Hitokiri Battosai (aka Himura Kenshin), the series contains five films: Origins (2012), Kyoto Inferno (2014), The Legend Ends (2014), The Final (2021) and The Beginning (2021). Kinshin, originally a kill-sword, fights with a reverse-blade sword, having vowed never to kill again. The actor does his own stunts.


The Last Guardian (a Jon Shannow novel), David Gemmell

At last in this book, the sometimes wandering feel of the first novel comes together into the story Gemmell wanted to tell, making more sense of the timeframe. I’d say it’s definitely necessary to read the first two books of the trilogy as a single book to understand the whole, and while there is a book three, these first two read almost like companion books, complete in themselves. I found the second volume easier to read than the first, perhaps because Shannow comes more into his own. He’s the perfect quasi-essential anti-hero because of his imperfections and culpable past.

Bloodstone (a Jon Shannow novel), David Gemmell

This last book in the trilogy clarifies the timeframe used in this trilogy and expands upon it. As I liked the second book more than the first, I liked the third book more than the second. The arcs of many beloved characters tug at the heartstrings in this one, and leave the reader with a sense of the complexities of Gemmell’s plot. Most importantly, Shannow is an unforgettable character.

The Corset, Laura Purcell

Written differently to Purcell’s first book (The Silent Companions) in first person, so with a different ‘voice’, still, this drew me in immediately. How best to describe Purcell’s work? Victorian gothic thrillers with supernatural slants, perhaps. Some books only reveal how well the plot works at the conclusion, and this murder mystery connecting two women from opposite sides of society is one such novel. This tale didn’t disappoint and pulls at the heartstrings. Despite not wishing to take on new authors adding to my To Be Read Mountain, I’m sorely tempted to continue reading more work by this author.

Shadowfires, Dean Koontz

A re-read for me as part of a book clearance.

Perfectly plotted with an antagonist worthy of the Resident Evil franchise, the one flaw in this supernatural thriller of the kind Koontz is best known for is its length. I would call it well-written but also over-written. Although there’s nothing wrong with all the information, there’s too much of it. I can’t help feeling trimming a few passages of character background would make for faster pacing. It’s like Koontz included all the details an author needs to know, but a reader doesn’t. This didn’t bother me too much as I’m used to reading epic fantasies, but I can imagine some readers finding it a bit of a slog. Plenty will love this, though, for it’s still a tense thriller with some wonderful characters.

The Elijah Tree, Cynthea Masson

There’s a poetic quality to this book that makes me want to love it, but I don’t. It’s too abstract, scenes flitting between the players in non-chronological order. The human stories at the depth of the book, the triangles within triangles of love and loss, are as despairing as they are touching, yet the mystical beliefs of the various characters and which supposedly carry the plot didn’t gel for me. As much as I felt there’s something beautiful about the writing, the story is painfully abstract, so I found it a slog. I neither like it nor hate it.

Survivor Song, Paul Tremblay

If looking for your average apocalyptic disaster infection outbreak story, this isn’t it. Instead, I stumbled into what the first-rate stories of this genre do best — focus on the survivors, this being the tale of two women connected by the shakable bonds of genuine friendship. While I wouldn’t call this book scary, it’s more effecting than that, containing true horror of a possible reality, not your average fairy-tale monster, reflecting light on the madness of humanity and the horror we watch and read in the safety of our darkened living rooms versus true adversity. Well-paced with ingenious ‘breaks’ in the narrative (gaps on the pages) that work on the emotions. The story of ’Nats and Rams’ is unforgettable. Painfully, tearfully, sorrowful.


I returned the galley proof to Cosmic, and got the initial draft of something I’ll simply call ST for now ready to work on — I don’t reveal titles until books are contracted, and though I seldom change titles, with this one I have once already. I have edited Cosmic and added to it, especially to increase the emotional aspect, though the story remains essentially the same.

Stay happy and healthy!

Sharon x


Fate dragged me kicking and screaming into the 21st century this month, forcing me to buy my first ever smartphone. Yes, you may all laugh. The first words out of the mouth of someone we know were, “iPhone?” Hmm… no. I use a phone as… well, a phone, or more often a texting service. I send a message and make a rare call; the call service is really for emergencies. I have a landline at home; friends and family can call me on that should they feel a pressing need to get hold of me. I went for the cheapest phone that was returnable should I have problems with it.

So, how did this amazing transformation come about? My phone provider changed networks and the new sim kept rebooting my old standard phone. In short, I’m now stuck with a piece of tech I never wanted.

First impressions… why are people so obsessed with these things? Why are their lives on it? I find it extremely difficult to text on a small screen whereas I was so fast with my tiny old phone and its buttons. Seriously fast! One of the first things I had to buy was a stylus to have any chance of typing on the new phone at all, despite it being a standard size. And it’s heavy. Far heavier than the small phone I used to have, so I have additional weight to carry around. I’m a woman who likes to streamline her handbag. Some days I wish I were a man with just pockets to fill. And I’ve no interest in any of the apps except possibly the calculator.

Of course, this is no doubt because I spend way too much time on screens, anyway. Between television, writing and marketing on a laptop, and making use of an occasional game or ebook to break up a long trip (and as distractions when in pain these days), I spend way too much time in front of screens. I know my eyes pay for it, as does my body. For health, I’ve got myself moving again, and work at a sit/stand desk, a worthwhile investment.

Naturally, because of my reluctance, something occurred to me. People complain they have less time than ever in an age where we actually have more leisure time than in any era in the past. I know this because at one job we interviewed people who had worked for the company in ‘the good old days’ — an actual phrase these people used, but they worked far longer hours. Their working conditions were terrible.

Now, someone I know gets wound up because colleagues are messing about watching YouTube videos or similar during their breaks and returning to work late, or even watching at their desks when they should do something else, all while said person doesn’t mess with a phone and is working. It’s up for the employer to do something, but there’s much of this sneakiness going on everywhere. And then these people do some more of the same when they get home.

I can’t help thinking we waste so much time online and could get so much more done in our lives if we limited ourselves. Which I’ve done a lot recently. My mac reports my screen time to me. If it’s up these days, it’s because I’m writing. But social things, I’m limiting myself. I can understand playing with a phone on a long journey (if you’re the passenger), but even then when I took a long train journey every day, I used to read a book. I’m not speaking against anyone or for everyone, but I think many people have time; they simply aren’t aware of how they use it up. The internet is the great procrastinator.

Not that everything about the internet is bad. It’s enabled to me to make friends both at home and abroad, some of which I’ve met, and you’re talking 20 year long relationships. I’ve rediscovered old friends. I’ve made equally rewarding and long-lasting friendships with work colleagues. It’s possible I would never have become published without the internet. I appreciate all it’s done for me and how it’s enhanced my life, but I don’t want to find myself constantly hooked up to, or hooked ‘on’ tech, and I think that’s what the modern version of a portable phone means for me: always ‘on’. Almost always contactable, able to access the internet wherever one goes. It’s not something I want, and therefore, aside from going on Wi-Fi for updates, I most decided won’t use my phone for online.

While I’m sure nothing I’ve said here will convince most people, I still advise to disconnect sometime. Go out into nature. Take your phone — you never know what might happen and it’s a safety net. But consider turning it off. Listen to the birds singing, not the chatter on Facebook. Watch the waves breaking on a beach, not the videos on YouTube. Take some time to spend with nature. Disconnect. I feel so much better for it.

Update June 2021

Hi Everyone!


Took a break from the DIY this month, though there’s no going out and about for us. We don’t want to mingle, and at the moment I’m still not up to it. Faced with a reason to celebrate, alas, we could do nothing more than enjoy a good home-cooked meal. I always cook with fresh ingredients but made more of an effort. It’s not like I can even enjoy a bottle of wine these days, as that irritates my condition. Good news on the exercise bike I mentioned last month. I love it, and am cycling 10 miles 4 times a week.


Coming to the end of the last series of Parks and Recreation having enjoyed it, and two other series I recommend that I’ve revisited while cycling, is Schitt’s Creek, and The Good Place… a comical series that explores ethics in a way no show has done before or since. I advise sticking with both as they get better with time.

We’ve also gone through the original episodes of Star Trek, not having watched them for years, though, of course, they’ve revamped it a little, using better tech to make the planets and ship more ‘real’ touching none of the interior shots except for what the crew sees through the viewing screen. I’m sure there are some purists, but I can see that this makes the Original Series more accessible by a new audience. As much as I love some of the Star Trek series, and the original will always remain my favourite, seeing it with an eye of living in a modern era is a strange exercise. Even worse, the writer in me can’t help but pick up on inconsistencies and questionable decisions. In some scripts, I couldn’t help feeling they had characters working against their own well-established personalities. Still, nothing plays as well as the Kirk, Spock, and McCoy trinity.

Thoroughly enjoyed The Nevers on NowTV, described as a science fiction drama, made better as they filmed it in London. Although the last episode of the first series seemed bizarre and completely out of sync with the Victorian steampunk feel of the episodes which had gone before, I kept watching, and I’m pleased to say it circled around until it made sense. I had no clue this was a Joss Whedon project when I started watching, though it has his mark all over it, serving as writer, director, and executive producer. It seems to have received mixed reviews, but I hope this isn’t a series cut short before its time like Firefly was, even though it’s not as compelling.


Firefly: The Magnificent Nine, James Lovegrove

Book two in the Firefly novels. Not as enjoyable as the first, but primarily featuring Jayne Cobb, it’s still fitting, like watching an episode. Not as rewarding, but the next best thing and the closest fans are likely to get to their beloved Serenity and its crew these days. I wasn’t sure I believed one of the plot points, but am inclined to be forgiving to the books of my favourite series. I also love how they present these paperbacks and hope the quality in both writing and presentation continues.

The Walking Dead, The Fall of the Governor Part One

Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga

Whereas I felt the first two books in this series (The Rise of the Governor) added something to The Walking Dead universe, for most of this book I felt as though I didn’t need to be reading this. Having watched the series and read the graphic novels, this book offers yet a third version of the same world, that of Woodbury and the zombie fights that take place in the arena within Woodbury’s walls. In some ways, it’s bad enough when a beloved book series gets an adaptation to screen (or vice versa) and the fanbase must juggle two timelines in their minds when the stories differ. Why would I want a third? All I can say is this book as one of the most bloody revenge outcomes I’ve read in a long time. Definitely not a scene they would have got away with on the small screen or graphic novel.

The Walking Dead, The Fall of the Governor Part Two

Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga

Having come this far in reading the first three books, I had to learn what happened to the Governor. The buildup of this felt rather slow, though that’s in part because a story visited both in the graphic novels and on the show makes this feel like traversing the same ground… though the outcome leads to a major battle sequence that’s worthwhile.

The Silent Companions, Laura Purcell

This gothic chiller takes off slowly but picks up once the ‘companions’ make an appearance. I love the idea of them in this well-plotted gothic mystery. Alas, it’s impossible to tell why without giving away the creepiest part of the book. I’m pleased to have stumbled across this book. The only (small) negative is the sound the author describes as a ‘hiss’ does not appear to relate to the cause of the noise. I would liken it more to a rasp, and the narrative does indeed call it a rasping hiss at one point, which made no sense to me, and didn’t seem to relate to what the protagonist experiences. That slight discrepancy aside, I thoroughly enjoyed the story.

Wolf in Shadow (a Jon Shannow novel), David Gemmell

The book which introduces us to Gemmell’s compelling protagonist, Jon Shannow. More western at the start than fantasy, the book blossoms in a bizarre conglomeration of fantasy, western, politics, and religion which doesn’t quite seem to blend. The idea of a world changed 300 years ago, yet reflecting a life of guns and horses, farmsteads, corrupt townsmen, and tribes with little evidence of a technological age mentioned by characters leaves one feeling as though the author was feeling his way as much as the reader does. Took me longer to read than it should have; still, this makes for a intriguing and entertaining story. I’ve two more to work through.


I have finished the draft of my Work in Progress and have lined it up for an edit in the weeks to come. And I’ve now received edits for Cosmic ready for its re-release. Although the edits were basic and few, me being me, I re-read the entire book at every opportunity, so am currently going through it line by line, hoping to return it before the end of the week.

Stay happy and healthy!

Sharon x

Update May 2021

Hi Everyone!
After finishing our bedroom on the first May Bank Holiday, we moved on to sorting out the hallway. Moved one unit, got another with drawers, changed storage in the ‘coat cupboard’ near the front door and everything looks so different and welcoming. After that we took a break on the decorating/DIY, though there’s more we need/would like to do indoors and out. I started some appointments which I hope will make me feel better and got myself an exercise bike! Delighted with it. Never seen a compact bike with so many design features that folds up so easily to stand as an upright column and with a fairly comfortable seat. Maybe I’ll let you know how I get on with it.

We’ve been watching the American comedy series Parks and Recreation for several weeks and are now in season five. It’s amazing they kept the momentum going for so long and though madcap it’s a fun series. Also pleased to watch The Librarians from the start. We saw season one some years ago, but at the time our Sky box melted (seriously, we returned home one day to the terrifying smell of melting plastic), and as they wouldn’t give us a deal on a new box, we cancelled our subscription. Have been watching to see if all the seasons would appear on one of our streaming services, and at last got our wish.

Brilliance of the Moon, Lian Hearn
Book 3 of the Otori
These books certainly walk the spectrum of love, hate, hope, grief, despair, subterfuge, cruelty, destiny, and prophecy in this sweeping action series set in a medieval Japan, though I had to remind myself of this when I tired of people over the course of the books being told to, or thinking of, killing themselves to regain their honour even though it’s fitting for the marvellous world Lian Hearn has created. This world feels real, as do the characters. Though the books don’t recount all the warfare, there’s enough action for the reader to visualise an immense battle and although I felt distanced from the brutality, this is understandable when considering this series is for the YA market. Still, there’s plenty here for adults to enjoy; indeed, some may prefer the simplistic storytelling, which still ignites the imagination.

Doc Hollywood, Neil Shulman M.D.
Originally titled, What? Dead Again? first, I should stress the only similarities between the book and the film are minimal — names, doctors, some plot basics, and a few quirky stories and eccentricities of the patient cases. The romance here is toned down to the point of almost non-existence, so if anyone is looking to read this for the same experience, they’ll at least feel surprised. Both versions have their own charm, and this rare book remains delightful because of the situation — a doctor out of his depth in a rural community. It’s a sweet read, not as funny as the film.

Mr Cables, Ronald Malfi
What can one say about Mr Cables? This story is about a book which an author denies writing yet appears to scare everyone except said author starts off with a more sinister note than it ends, yet there is a chill factor here. In the beginning, it’s caused because the reader isn’t told why the book is scary. The answer is unexpected and, though bad, not as dreadful as the story initially promises. Still, something about this tale sticks in the mind. A well thought out ‘haunting’ plot.

Strangers, Dean Koontz
This book was my introduction to Dean Koontz, first read in my teens, and now, several years later, which makes it feel like a fresh experience. It’s easy to recall why this led me to be a long-term reader and how Koontz can be when writing at his finest. One warning — this a door-stop of a book, not necessarily a bad thing. While it’s true that this could edit down, as much of the story involves strange and slowly unfolding events through several characters’ viewpoints, leading to a languid revelation, I found none of it boring. After a time, there are perhaps fewer surprises leading to a questioning resolution, despite being heartfelt and warming; sadly, the reality of such an outcome would lead to an overcrowded planet, even more so than it is now, so I find this tale of hope a little tainted. This is an epic book in both length and optimism, but it may not be for those who prefer only a simple vocabulary, fewer descriptive details, and a sedate pace.

I’m just about at the end of a first draft for my current Work in Progress, which I shall call ‘ST’ for now, as I don’t reveal titles until I’ve contracted them. You could say I’ve been winging it, though I’m extremely pleased at how it’s turned out. I’m sure I’ll add even more substance on the first edit round, but it’s reading like an almost complete book. Meanwhile, I hope to re-release Cosmic asap, and return to editing ST in a few weeks with a fresh eye. Someone has also contacted me with the possibility of writing a short story — more news on that as and when, though there are no determined dates at present. (NOTE: ST turned out to be Sweet Temptations.)

Stay happy and healthy!
Sharon x

Update April 2021

Hi Everyone!

I’m a little late with April’s news this time because of two reasons, the first being that for our May Bank Holiday we were extremely busy completely redecorating and moving furniture around in our bedroom. At least we’re delighted with the result, just waiting on a couple of finishing touches.

Most of April we spent refurbishing the garden, and this previous weekend we cleared out the garage and put up new racking. As we’re choosing not to mingle and I presently find travelling difficult (waiting on some appointments which I hope will improve the situation), and the weather is less than delightful, we decided these weeks were better put to good use getting various jobs completed.

We watched Your Honor starring Bryan Cranston; always a fabulous actor and a series with an intriguing plot — that of a judge’s son who knocks down and accidentally kills the son of a mobster, so they try to cover it up. Recommended with reservations; be aware the pacing is quite slow.

Finished Black Mirror the series, which we thoroughly recommend, though found the ‘choose what happens’ film, they created a painful experience and boring. Was also a little annoyed that for some peculiar reason Netflix ran the seasons backwards and we didn’t realise until halfway through. The stories got better as they progressed, so watching in reverse, we got the opposite experience. Not that any of the stories were especially weak, and all threw up disturbing questions regarding the advancement of technology.

End of Watch, Stephen King
The last of the Hodges’ trilogy takes a paranormal twist, which for an average thriller might be one leap too great, but this is a King novel, so expect the supernatural. This begs the reader to accept a world of possibilities or impossibilities, depending on one’s point of view. The strongest parts are the fully fledged characters (especially if the reader comes to know them over the course of all three books), something King is renowned for. The weakest point for me was I’m still uncertain about the flow of tense changes. It’ll be hard to forget Hodges, or Holly, or even Jerome. Even Brady, an evil man you love to hate. All three books walk a sad, dark line, but the right tone of sadness becomes memorable.

If It Bleeds, Stephen King
Four decent offerings starting with Mr Harrigan’s Phone, a ghost story with a difference. Not exactly scary, yet there’s a little chill when that number rings… The Life of Chuck is a strange tale which may well garner split views. Still, I felt there was a fine sliver of fear at the end, touched by a sweet sentiment. If It Bleeds adds to the story begun in The Outsider. While not ‘necessary’, it’s always good to spend time with Holly Gibney, especially if one has read the Hodges’ trilogy. Like King, I love Holly. Rat concludes this quartet of stories, but will stick in my mind the most. Though not chilling, there are ‘moments of madness’ that, as a writer, likely creeped me out in a way for obvious reasons, the madness that is part of writing. I was expecting a darker ending, but perhaps subconsciously (either King’s, or mine, or both), there seems to be more than one subtext here reflecting the writing process itself. There are not the most spooky of King’s tales, but made for an overall pleasant and well worth read.

How to be Human, Ruby Wax
Told with undisguised humour, Ruby still throws an ugly light on modern day living within the first chapter, moving on to why and how we can and should be less self-critical. On the subject of Shame (page 49), she reveals with a few choice words how ridiculous our reaction to modern life and social media is now. And I think there’s a lot to be said for the thought that happiness is something less aggressive than pain, so much so, we don’t notice it much of the time, leading to the belief we’re lacking in some way, leading to a state of discontent. I was glad to see a section on compassion and the differences between that an empathy. The section on relationships is simply hysterical. I love what she says about teachers and learning. The last passages in the book also give us an enlightening insight into the author’s background. As one endorsement says, a book that makes the reader think about thinking.

The Bird Eater, Ania Ahlborn
The book truly takes off from Chapter Two because in Chapter One I felt the opening pages threw too many names and too much background at the reader, but once I got close to the end of what read like a prologue, I fell into the story. Once I got to the end, I realised how well plotted the story was, all the threads interwoven. The odd grammatical redundancy jarred me out of the story, but it’s otherwise superbly written with a proper sense of a descent into madness as someone’s psyche unravels, tormented by evil spirits perhaps of the supernatural world and of one’s own making. My first book by this author, but it won’t be my last.

Across the Nightingale Floor, Iian Hearn, Book 1 of the Otori
Listed as Young Adult Literary fiction, this certainly fits the bill. The Japanese world contains enough flavour to make it vivid without being too heavy for the intended age group. This is a good adventure tale with plenty of secrets. That the youngsters in love are so young fits a society where they are old enough to be passed over into marriage for political endeavours — such things have and still happen in the actual world. The romance again written for the intended readership is well done, though reading this as an adult I couldn’t help wincing at the ‘fall in love with a glance’. Fall into an intense attraction is the reality, an attraction that could become love in time. I also found it too easy to forget how young they’re meant to be, but by necessity, put this down to their upbringing, and what life and training had thrown at them. Perhaps not perfect, but an enjoyable book for the intended age group and older.

Hello, Is this planet Earth?, Tim Peake
Although essentially a photo album, I include this in my reading list as a must-have book. This is the closest most will ever get to seeing Earth from space (aside from documentaries and news items), and it’s a fabulous keepsake and reminder of our place in the universe. I bought this book when it first came out, but aside from flicking through, hadn’t had the time to study seriously the photographs and share a glimpse of Tim Peake’s journey. It’s amazing that even from space, I could easily spot areas of the world I would love to explore and those I would prefer to avoid. At night, the dark areas drew me more to places with fewer inhabitants and less light pollution. The photographs reveal amazing patterns it’s hard to believe are spottable from such a distance. Breathtakingly beautiful and a precious revelation of our most priceless and abused commodity.

Grass for his Pillow, Lian Hearn, Book 2 of the Otori
Certainly interesting, and one can’t help but feel for the various plights of the characters. Although not sold on the romance between Takeo and Kaede in the first book, I still felt for them in this volume, especially Kaede, whose role in life is subordinate owing to the simple fact she is female. This is a good exploration of a different culture that rings alarms for all women on a visceral level that elevates this read. This sings of women who want to be more than the society and customs they are born into. Not that the battles and ruthlessness of the males take second place. The second in the series, this book picks up pace as it continues and is a wonderful blend of conflict, combat skills, and magical ability. If one likes Japanese films or even Manga, this series may be an interesting read.

I at last started a new project and in the first week I was delighted with my word count. Alas, in the second week I didn’t do so well, simply because tidying and sorting the house took priority, but I hope to be on schedule to finish a new first draft around the end of this month.
Stay happy and healthy!
Sharon x

The Joy of Travelling

Everyone’s excited to ‘return to normal’. Whatever every individual’s version of that will be moving forward (personally, we’re keeping to ourselves for some weeks to come for various reasons), the lockdown this year and having difficulty travelling gave me cause to look through some past trips. As much as I enjoy taking a holiday, I detest the travelling to get there and back.

One of my most memorable breaks was a winter holiday taken for a special occasion. But I’m not here to divulge the highlights today. That trip reminds me of the ‘joys’ of travelling. Seriously, give me a TARDIS or beaming capability. Well, okay, maybe not; I’m inclined like Star Trek’s Doctor McCoy that way. Heavy and extremely sneaky sedation may be required.

During this holiday, we were going to have to get a connecting flight both ways and spend some time on a ship, some on land. The day had barely begun when I remembered why I hate airports. It’s not the flying. It’s the monotony. It’s the waiting. It’s the feeling of being ten years old and not understanding anything. Airports always strike me like this, probably because I choose to fly so seldom if I can, and every time the procedures seem to have changed. Self check in? Whose bright idea was that, and we’ve never used it, anyway. There’s always someone lending a helping hand and we tag on and I smile and stare in a somewhat bewildered fashion until said person takes pity on me. Note: this requires minimal acting — I really do feel rather lost. Not only do I feel ten years old, I may have shrunk down a few inches to complete the scenario.

The trip I’m speaking of, I felt relieved to jump in behind four other men to ask for assistance, as the woman ‘helping’ had trouble identifying our booking number. If she was clueless, we were even more so. In this new state-of-the-art mode of passing through security, they’d done away with tickets. I liked tickets. Tickets used to be easy. I can understand the passport scanning, but where’s my beloved ticket?

Received a comic double take from one of the security people at the airport when I replied no to whether there was any tablet or kindle in the items we’d placed in a tray to be scanned. I’m thinking the day will come when they will pull you over for NOT having electronics with you. I’m on holiday. I can’t be arsed. The number of people we saw sitting together, not talking, heads down, eyes glued to their phones… we’re just not like that when away. When I say we were entirely out of touch on holiday, I mean we were entirely out of touch. I don’t think anyone believes us. Yes, I had my phone. No, it can’t access the internet on the sim card I was using at the time. Besides, the screen is so small I wouldn’t be able to read an email on it if I wanted. Yes, my phone is a novelty — people look at it and laugh or wonder what it actually does. Amazingly, I’m able to make a call on it; I’m able to text. I apparently can take a photograph, but the times I’ve found that capability by accident has sent me into a mild panic. I don’t want to take a photo by phone. I have a very good camera that I spent far too much on to want to take phone pictures.

Now note my mention of drinks; it’s important. We had a drink before we left and a light breakfast. We picked up a snack and drink and then sat around for I don’t know how long, maybe an hour and a half. The trip out otherwise went well until we got to Copenhagen. There we didn’t have long before departure, so by the time we got to the departure gate, we’d not had much of a chance to do anything other than find a toilet. We then hear they’ve overbooked our flight by 7 spaces and they need 7 volunteers to leave the plane for 300 euros. We wait and wait and eventually they sort 7 people out. We think now that’s over with we’ll be on our way, but no. We’re still waiting.

We’re wondering what can take so long when we hear the cabin crew are on a semi-strike and they are waiting to see whether the last two cabin crew arrive. They do, but only one stays — the other goes on to a meeting. They try to get someone else… during which we wait, and when it becomes clear, they can’t find a replacement, and they are one cabin crew short, they have to ask for another 17 (yes, 17!) volunteers to leave. This takes a while, as you can imagine. We cannot ‘volunteer’ — we have connections to make.

During this time, we’re stuck by the boarding gate. There’s a toilet nearby, but not much else. Finally, enough people have left and we can board. So we queue… and we wait, and we wait, and wait, and wait to a point where my back is hurting and I’m thirsty. There’s complimentary tea and coffee on the flight, so all we want to do is get on board. Seems as they had to reallocate seats owing to removing passengers, the computers went into meltdown.

We finally get on the plane… and the next thing we know, one of the cabin crew starts counting. I knew what was wrong even before it came out of my husband’s mouth — we still had one passenger too many and sure enough, there’s 151 on board, not 150. They have to ask for yet another volunteer or else the plane isn’t going anywhere. We at last get a drink about half an hour after takeoff, but we’re talking airline drinks and that’s not really more than a cupful. Never mind. Less than an hour later, we’ve arrived at Bergen, collected our bags, and are making our way out to the transport to take us to the ship. We’re late, of course. Possibly an hour and a half or even two hours late, but the bus is waiting and we get to the terminal. There we queue and wait while they check us all in. They tag the cases and take them off us once more to be put in our cabins.

FINALLY we’re checked in and we head for the elevator. We get to the top and go walking (we believe) to board the ship… only to get stopped. There’s a safety film we have to watch before going on board and as it’s already started for some of the group… do you need to guess? We have to… oh wait for it to finish and then we can begin again. By now I’m willing to melt snow for a drink, but there’s no snow to be seen. I’ve had one cup of coffee, one bottle of soft drink, one small cup of tea, and it’s late afternoon. There’s nothing for it though but to wait! We’re in a secure area and not allowed to leave. We sit, we wait, we get in to watch the film. The ship is ready for us to board. We queue to do that… and suddenly there’s a problem. A cable has broken and they can’t let us over the gangway.

We’re invited to take a seat… while we wait. If you can imagine much gnashing of teeth and hair pulling about now, then you’d be wrong because I’m not left with enough energy. At this point I’m thinking if I don’t get to drink soon, I’m just going to die. Their 10 minutes becomes 20 and then 30. I think 40 minutes went by before we’re told we can finally get on board.

By the time we get to our cabin, by the time we can finally ‘drink’, we’d been on the go for a good 16 hours and travelling for at least 12. Shattered isn’t the word for it. We could have easily gone to America during that time.

As for the journey home, we can only say we were lucky. We heard Norwegian air had a pilot strike. We were flying SAS — Scandinavian airlines, and it turned out we were fine. Everything ran on time, but even then, connecting flights are the pits. The added time of getting off, going through some kind of check even if it’s straightforward, and then getting back on just makes for such a long trip. The staff at Kirkenes couldn’t have been kinder though — they took us directly to the airport even though they didn’t have to; didn’t have to take us anywhere, in fact, as the transfer back to the airport wasn’t anything to do with them. To them, I offer my utmost thanks and sincere gratitude for taking such good care of us. Seriously, if I ever need to write about the pain of travelling, I have this and many other experiences on which to draw from.

All I can say is for those of you dying to go abroad when able, the best of luck and happy travelling!