The Pros and Cons of Sheltering

Okay, the title is a bit clickbaitish. There’s nothing good to say about sheltering. We need rid of it and we need rid of it as soon as barely-trained medical practitioners are ready to stick ruddy big needles in my arm/neck/buttock.

Yet, as I’ve written so many times over the past months, some good has come of it. I logged onto Twitter this morning to catch up with the news and I saw the author Matt Haig asking people if they’re fed up with how long it’s been going on. The majority of people were agreeing with him.

First, for me, there’s a big city/small town difference in mentality. I live in a town that offers me absolutely nothing I want, except for relative peace and quiet. We have no bookshops, no cinema, no technology stores but about eight tattoo parlours (I have zero tattoos and even my aforementioned buttock aims to stay that way)… There’s absolutely nothing here encouraging me to step out of the house. Though I miss trips into Warrington, Liverpool, and particularly Manchester, the trains are prohibitively expensive. The next event I *really* want to catch is the Don McCullen retrospective at Liverpool’s Tate gallery that ends next spring. A break from the real world has, however, been surprisingly therapeutic. After six months of lockdown and a monk-like (I like to think David Carradine in Kung Fu rather than one of the saints) existence, I’ve even managed to get control over my finances. My godawful postgraduate debts are finally coming down. I’m saying it quietly because so much can happen between now and then but I’m aiming to be… [saying it very very softly] debt free around Christmas. That will have an effect on my mental health like little else this side of a genii in a bottle. Without the coronavirus, I’d have never managed what I’ve achieved, and I’ve achieved a lot.

Second, companies are really getting their acts together and providing a better service for those of us who work from home. I guess my mother’s arthritis has put this into context. She’s of that generation of women from northern working-class towns who spent so much of their life carrying heavy shopping over long distances through rain and worse. She (frankly) buggered up her knees, back, and neck because there was no such thing as home deliveries and we didn’t have a car. Better services leave people time to do more productive things – such as write blogs, draw unpopular cartoons, and struggle to finish writing books.

This is an evolutionary moment for businesses. Those that adapt to the virus are those that can also adapt to the challenges of climate change. Needless commutes should be a thing of the past. I saw this contrast between the old and new yesterday when I arranged a phone consultation with the doctor. My mum is (touch wood) more herself today and did a little walk this morning without vertigo. Early days but the telephone consultation was helpful. We could have done a video call instead, but this is a new innovation and I didn’t see the need to make it more complicated. The point is: for the first time in a long time, habits have changed for the better.

Lastly, lockdown has focussed my mind. I’m reading more, thinking more, and writing more. Last night, profoundly exhausted and needing something light, I picked up ‘Ready Player One’, which I found myself absolutely loving. I think I might have been put off from reading it earlier by the advertising around the film, but the book is a wonderful dive into the culture of old games. This is pure 1980s nostalgia but done in a way from the inside, with real appreciation for what the early days of gaming was like. After a genuinely tough few days, it was the perfect read.

Next on my reading list, I want to read the new Bob Woodward which comes out today but, in the morning post, I’ve just received a copy of V2, the new Robert Harris. First good thing to happen to me this week (the second: my Surface has just come back!). As you might know, I’m a huge fan of Harris’ work (loved his last one, Second Sleep) and he’s probably the only author I’ve stood in line to meet (Steadman I consider a cartoonist more than author). It was in Manchester, a few years ago, and he was stopping off on his way to Liverpool. The Manchester event had about eight people show up and Harris was left sitting at a table for ten minutes. Didn’t have the guts to go back up to him and chat after he had signed my book. One of those moments in like that I really regret, when my shyness got in the way. Which, I guess, is another reason why lockdown isn’t bothering me too much. My years of antisocial training have finally come in useful.

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It’s a cool domain name and it was available. Yes, I know. Available. Crazy, isn’t it?


Yes. It also helps that it’s also my favourite satire written by Alexander Pope, one of the most metrically pure English poets who also knew his way around a crude insult or two. If you’ve not read it, you should give it a try.

So this is satire, right?

Can’t deny it. There will be some. But it’s also an experiment in writing and drawing, giving work away for free in order to see how many people are willing to support a writer doing his thing. It’s the weird stuff that I wouldn’t get published elsewhere in this word of diminishing demands and cookie-cutter tastes.