Some real, some online and some imaginary.
When they said it got harder to make new friends the older you got, they were all too right, but I’ve never been one to accept that rules apply to me unless I want them to. (Some people claim that I’m too stubborn to know when I’m beaten but they’re wrong. I know that I’m not beaten till I give up and I’ve never been any good at doing that either.)
So it just becomes different as you mature, because I don’t age either and neither do you. We both improve with keeping like a fine wine or a valuable antique. That goes double if, like me, crowded places are out now and forever because you’re immunocompromised. So today it’s a fervent thank you for Facebook, Skype and dogs. The first two are pretty much obvious, because when the first lockdown hit I edited and curated my Facebook feed till it was full of things that made me smile. Quilts. Cats. Groups for my favourite authors (Jodi Taylor, Kim M Watts and Mark Hayden since you’re asking…) Local history, which as I expect you’ve worked out, is one of my passions. Anything where I’d meet people who got out there and made the best of things rather than like in the news, where I keep expecting the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to turn up any time now.
And I’ve got chatting to people there, and my daily walks mean that I’ve got to know the local dog walkers and cat owners so I’ve met loads of interesting people who are becoming friends and am looking forward to our Coronation street party. And, of course, there are the voices in my head as my characters talk to me and order me to tell their stories and go with them to the places that I can’t go to physically anything like as easily as I once could.
The amazing thing about travelling in your imagination is you can go any time, any place, anywhere to quote the old advert for Martini. You can also stop for tea and biscuits, but I do sometimes feel guilty for abandoning my characters.
So I said on Sunday I’d tell you about some new fictional friends that I hope you’ll like too. There’s Kirsty, who came down to Sandbanks just before lockdown to look after her elderly godmother after she had a fall. She renovated her godmother’s house during lockdown because she was furloughed, and since then has lost a fiance and gained redundancy (don’t ask her about it because the two were inextricably linked and she’s still furious about it now) and now her godmother has got her a job doing the admin for the new sheltered living complex at Harbourside that Michael Halliday built in ‘A Time to Fight'. She thought it’d be easy because she’s a good administrator and she was sure that she’d dealt with some of the most awkward customers in the universe, but none of it prepares her for the characters she meets or the way she gets drawn into their lives.
And then there’s Lucy. She’s a widow with a gorgeous five year old daughter who’s struggling to fit in at school. She used to be a spy, and that isn’t something she can explain to her new cop friend, any more than she can resist trying to sort out trouble at the school. The problem is that her skills aren’t exactly transferable because she’s not allowed to beat up the heat teacher, or the governors, or the snobby clique of mums no matter how much any or all of them may deserve it and shooting them is out of the question. Worst of all, she’s struggling with the knowledge that you can’t make everything all right for your children, no matter how much you want to.
There’s also a new Windy Bay series starting soon, and the last Lavender House is coming on nicely. Two Amy Hammond’s are in the works, with another two asking to be written and a file of ideas.
So, on second thoughts, it’s probably just as well that I don’t get out as much as I used to, because my days are incredibly full between writing and cooking and sewing and gardening and my ongoing project to make my dream home by the sea and me into a slimmer, more elegant and fitter person. (You can laugh all you like, but I've always dreamed of living close to the sea and it was only during lockdown that it hit me that I've spent the last thirty seven years living a fifteen minute walk away. I was thinking of sea in terms of paddling, you see, but walking along by the harbour is better in some ways and definitely warmer.) So now I'm making a beachy theme and trying to make the house and our lifestyle, closer to what you do while you're on holiday because not eating out means money for luxuries at home. Like gorgeous tea and coffee and deliveries from farmers where I support small businesses at a difficult time while staying as safe as I can.
Are you working on making dreams come true? If so, please tell because I’d love to get the inspiration. And until then, here’s another beach picture from my favourite place on earth.