What does essential really mean?

There’s a Shakespeare quote that’s been on my mind a lot lately. It comes from Act II, scene 4 of the tragedy King Lear, at the point where the title hero, having been asked by his calculating, cruel daughter Regan why he still needs knights and servants, explodes: O, reason not the need! Our basestContinue reading “What does essential really mean?”

Easter music

I grew up in a church choir and throughout my twenties and early thirties I sang in various professional ensembles in London. Apart from the Christmas period, this time of the year was always the busiest, with churches packed for the Holy Week and Easter services and some of the most sumptuous music of theContinue reading “Easter music”

The gender politics of social distancing

One of the last events to take place in Folkestone before social-distancing restrictions were introduced to prevent the spread of Covid-19 was the Take Up Space Festival. The latest in a series of extravagnazas held in the town every March to mark International Women’s Day, it encouraged those who attended to think about what itContinue reading “The gender politics of social distancing”

How coronavirus is infecting our language

A few days ago, a friend sent me a message: There’s a whole vocabulary that has come to the fore because of the events, words which you never think will apply to you: infection. Ventilator. ICU. Mild to moderate. Asymptomatic. Heavy droplets. And also some weird calls to action: stay at home, wash your hands,Continue reading “How coronavirus is infecting our language”

Clap for carers

Last night, for the second Thursday in a row, hundreds of thousands of people in the UK leaned out of their doors and windows at 8pm to applaud the medical staff and other key workers combatting Covid-19. It was the first time I had heard clapping and cheering for this initiative in our part ofContinue reading “Clap for carers”

Why we’re not living in a dystopia (yet)

One of the things that’s been most shocking about the early weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic is the speed with which life has changed. Within a matter of days, millions of us have lost many of our freedoms and found ourselves confined to our homes, under pain of arrest if we flout the government’s instructions.Continue reading “Why we’re not living in a dystopia (yet)”

Terror in the supermarket

On Friday, for the first time since Covid-19 lockdown measures were announced in the UK, my daughter and I went shopping for food. Although we arrived at the supermarket relatively early, the socially distanced queue already stretched down the side of the building and around the back of the neighbouring (closed) McDonald’s. As food shoppingContinue reading “Terror in the supermarket”

What’s going to happen to publishing?

This week, I finished the first draft of what I hope will be my next novel. Normally when this happens, I treat myself to coffee and cake at Steep Street Coffee House, a delightful, book-lined café on the Old High Street. With the country under lockdown as a result of Covid-19, however, this time IContinue reading “What’s going to happen to publishing?”

Lockdown begins

What a difference a day makes. Yesterday, in front of a television audience of some 27 million people, the prime minister announced that the UK was now on lockdown. People would be allowed out once a day to exercise alone or with a member of their household and for food shopping. Public parks would beContinue reading “Lockdown begins”

Don’t mention the war

I live a short walk from Folkestone Harbour station. One of the world’s earliest international rail hubs, it played a key role in World War One, when some 10 million troops and auxiliary personnel passed through the town on their way to the frontline. Now closed and restored as a public park, it serves asContinue reading “Don’t mention the war”