Every year, whatever the weather, I go on a snowdrop walk. It is the most memorable winter one, as if there has been a woodland wedding with white confetti scattered willy-nilly under the trees, but they are delicate white petals shimmering like bells stroked by a breeze faintly tingling in one’s ears. It is freezing cold. Few people venture out. You have the woodland to yourself with nature whispering in your ears. There are dark clumps of yew, the churchyard tree with small glassy white berries, almost unnoticeable, not the bold orange-red holly ones. It is a land of momentary magic, of whispers, mutterings even, with bursts of movement from a thrush or robin red breast. A deer pauses near a tree trunk the colour of its coat. A deserted winter wonderland.
Today more snow. It muffles sound. No sleighs as children are closeted in classrooms. It may not last until the weekend. Imagine the longing glances outside from classroom windows and the snowball fights after school, youngsters dodging the snowflakes. The snow is too soft for snowmen, too crumbly. The pause is everywhere, life suspended, our tomorrows unimaginable.
So, what is there to write about? Newscasters find it hard to find something unrelated to Covid to talk about. Everything everywhere seems to return to the same dreary topics clustered around the plague situation.
A ladybird has landed on a page beside me. How did it get here? Is there a ladybird nest somewhere? They must hibernate over winter, but how and why here in my study? Ladybirds are said to bring good luck. Is this a sign, an omen?
Everyone is wondering whether the world’s population can be vaccinated to eradicate Covid, or whether the disease must take its course. Why, one wonders, is there no record of what happened in the 1918 flu epidemic? Nothing seems to have been learnt from it. All subsequent outbreaks of contagious influenza have been contained. This year, like every year, we had our autumn flu vaccine injection, and now another one for the Covid version. Scientists are racing to keep up with all the variants emerging in different parts of the world and now in London and even closer. The unbelievable must be believed.
So now, in lockdown, there is more time to think.
Some years ago, I remember being irritated by readers who assumed that, because the main person in my last book, was female, she must be me. Consequently, I decided that my next novel would have a male protagonist, and he would be an inventor. What might happen if he invented a way of creating inexhaustible and unpolluting energy by ‘mastering the sun’ in a near-future world? It is published now, just when there is much to wonder about what our future will be like after the plague.