Posted in Uncategorized

So Can This Be ‘2020: Take Two’ Then?

An excerpt from ‘Comet’s Quiet Christmas’ by… well… me 😛

It’s another year. 2021. After all we’ve been through in 2020 it’s hard to be optimistic about the future. I could count the numbers of bad things that have happened to me personally on more than two hands, but hey, I’m still here. I’m alive which means I still have the potential for good things or, at the very least, a few more stories to tell. So, instead of counting the bad things I want to use my new year to think of all the good things that happened in the past year (no matter how small the list could do). I could joke around, as I usually would and end the list right here but, you know what? I’m not going to do my usual and hide behind jokes. I’m going to be honest with myself. Positivity let’s go:

  1. I successfully opened a business on the 13th March 2020. I did this in a different language, in a different country and I’ve kept on top of looking after the website etc. even after the disheartening lockdown that happened (and continue to happen) since the 17th March.
  2. In the first lockdown of many, I successfully finished a short novel from initial idea to editing. I may have done this for a competition that I then went on to not win but I actually did write again. More importantly for me, I finished it, which is rare on a normal year.
  3. I created a picture book in a month about a Christmas day under Covid regulations (a Christmas Lockdown) and I put myself out there on Amazon. Again, it was unsuccessful as it didn’t sell any copies (I’ll admit I’m still not good at marketing) but I actually did something towards gaining a career as a writer. And, unlike my usual negativity towards my work, I’m actually very proud of the drawing and the writing. It may have cost me a thumb for a month as I got a massive cramp from working so hard on it but it was 100 percent worth it.
  4. I started working on cookbooks and other picture books. Although they won’t be ready/up to my own self-prescribed standards for a couple of years I have started to compile a selection of my own creations. As anyone who saw my limited creations on this site (or it’s predecessor Literary Onion, which I disbanded because of money issues) I have a high amount of creativity and I throw them into my cooking. Hopefully I will be putting more recipes up on this blog this year, but I’m not holding myself to it because… well, hopefully new year, new me will mean something to me this year.
  5. I got through my depression. I’m not a-okay by any means but the fact remains that I don’t feel like staying in bed and staring at the floor anymore, which is a major win. As anyone who follows my Twitter may know (all two of you), I lost my dog a couple months ago. This is a big deal for me. We got her when I was fourteen. I wanted a dog, not just because I loved them, but because I had a fear of them. Kimi helped me to get over that fear and because of her I got myself another dog after I graduated university. On top of how much Kimi had helped me, it also came as a major shock when we lost her. She was well. She wasn’t young but she wasn’t old (according to the vet). She was bleeding, so we took her to get checked out. We gave her medicine and a week later we took her back, as she seemed to get worse. They gave her more meds and again we waited to see if anything would happen. Again, she didn’t get better. She started to become a rag doll, not able to lift her head to drink. We went into another lockdown, shutting down everything but managed to get through to the vet and agree to an emergency appointment. She went in again. The vet drained her and gave us more meds. It turned out we never had to use them. By the next morning, Kimi was gone… And I’m crying as I type that. So that’s fun. What followed was utter misery and, unfortunately, I’m still unable to sleep properly, but I’m starting to accept that she’s no longer here. I’m slowly starting to be able to remember all the good things that happened with her. All I want to tell her, and I am as I let loose in this blog, is thanks, Kimi. Thanks for helping me get over that fear. Thanks for being a good friend and loving me, despite all my faults. You were the best.
  6. Okay, on to more positivity. I started to design the gardens. You’re most likely going to see more of this in the future as it very much suits the theme of my blog. Our new house, which we moved into just before the first lockdown and is the basis for our business has a lot of land. We have woodland we’re slowly climbing our way through and three fields to work on. My plan is to turn each of these fields, slowly, into book-themed gardens. Unfortunately, it won’t be very fast at this rate as we’re lacking majorly in the money department but we’ve started our first two at least (Merlin and Beatrix Potter). I’ve also helped my sister to design her garden in England so, all in all, I’ve got to start doing something I truly love and haven’t been able to do in years (this time on a grander scale so… yay).
  7. I taught my first class on Creative Writing and I actually managed to help a fellow writer. When you’re a person as low on confidence as me all the time, it’s hard to think of yourself as anything but an idiot who doesn’t know what you’re talking about (even if you know you do) so it’s nice to have someone to talk to who does think you understand the things you love. It turns out I’m a smart person. Weird, huh? All joking aside, I’m glad to be able to be of use for someone and to help them. I’ve only managed one class so far, as we went into another lockdown straight after, but hopefully I’ll be teaching a lot more in the future (is this the point I shamelessly plug my courses on my website: www.lestylonoirretreat.com ?).
  8. I successfully helped somebody I loved through a panic attack. As someone who has them a lot it hurt majorly hearing someone I care about experiencing the same but I managed to help them out of their panic and taught them a bit about how to manage it next time. I guess there are benefits to having so many problems with anxiety? Who knew?
  9. Although we lost one dog, we did gain two new troublemakers into the household. Two little rescue kittens called Clio and Trixie (Beatrix for long). They are both little terrors and cuddle buddies. Pepper (our other dog) absolutely adores them and will rush to see them whenever she can. So far they’ve climbed everything they can see, got stuck underneath the stairs (which is blocked off), chosen Dad as their lord and saviour (the man who didn’t want them in the first place) and successfully infiltrated every place they shouldn’t be going. But they did it all with a cute face and purring so we forgave them.
  10. I didn’t want to leave it at nine, so here’s a tenth. I started writing and preparing a project for YouTube. Basically for me this was the year of Percy Jackson. It was the year I decided to read the books and then buy the next series and then buy a shirt and then think obsessively about a Percy Jackson themed plate of food. So, with that in mind (with many things on my mind), I decided to write a Percy Jackson-based audio series and record all of it with my own voice. It will explore a previous generation of Camp Half-Blood campers, before any children of the big three, came around in Percy Jackson. In other Percy Jackson related news, we found a natural archway in our woodland that we have now declared to be the entrance to Camp Half-Blood (picture below). This is the first and only time you’ll probably see a picture of me so… well… enjoy, I guess.
I seriously hiss at any pic of me like a vampire in the sunlight…

Overall, 2020 has been a horrendous year. It’s a year where I feel like I shouldn’t complain because I am still alive, and everyone I care about (bar one, none-Covid related) is alive too, but I still feel like screaming. I opened a business in an industry that was set to self-destruct four days later. Every other industry I have any skills in is crumbling as well and all I can do is watch because, well, I’m in it too. I don’t have any money to help them. I’m barely able to get up in the morning and I can’t sleep at night.

            It’s a year in which everyone, ironically, got a glimpse into how I think on a normal day. A year where everyone had to experience anxiety, misery, low confidence and over-thinking in a way that I wish they never had to. I wouldn’t recommend living like me as a lifestyle choice, just for your own sanity. But I’m glad I could find some positives. It’s highly unusual for me.

            I hope you’re all doing okay. If you actually made it to this sentence then thank you. Thank you for reading my rambles. I can’t promise anything for the future of this blog, especially as money continues to be an issue (it costs to be a blogger, unfortunately, especially one with food etc.) but I really do hope I can get up the courage and the motivation to write again because when I do I’m at my happiest.

            Have a great 2021. Let’s find more positives, shall we?

Dedicated to one of the best friends I’ve ever had, Kimi/Kimbo/Kimboo-a/Dig-Dog
Posted in Uncategorized

COVID-19: The Wrong Time to Open a Business?

Front of the Retreat– Believe it or not, this picture was taking in Winter.

It was March 14th. A lot of milestones were happening, a lot were yet to happen. I turned 25, I went out to eat at one of my favourite chain restaurants in France, I went to the zoo (another favourite pastimes of mine, harkening back to my ‘Animal Studies’ days), I planned to go home and buy some kitchen equipment to use in the future, and most importantly all of the adverts I’d painstakingly paid for, written and worked on were coming out or were already out. Finally, the future looked bright; finally, I felt proud about something I’d done, something I’d created to help myself and to help other writers.

            And then, the Virus came. Yes, I realise that this all sounds like a rough draft of an apocalypse or dystopian story. I realise that even my backstory would add to a character in that world, but unfortunately it was a reality. Its name was Coronavirus, Covid-19 was its street name, and on the 14th March (although earlier in some countries) it shut down France. My birthday meal was the last time, to this day(it’s been a week at time of writing), that the restaurants in France were open. I was either extremely lucky or extremely bad luck for somebody else.

            I’d planned a blog post about my business, about how excited I was to show writers what I’d created for them, following up to the blog post I’d written for the Good Life France. Eventually, I’ll hopefully be able to put that up for real but it seems stupid to put it up now. The borders are closed, there’s quarantines throughout the world and everyone is worrying over the economic future of their country. Not exactly a time to be presenting a new business to the world.

            Honestly, of all the things I thought could put a stop to my dream: the Mairie denying us, Google not seeing our website, people not wanting to come, I never even once considered an illness preventing people from leaving their homes. It sounds so storybook, right? Like somewhere there’s a writer realising that their pen is enchanted and trying desperately to burn the pages? But, no, it’s real. It’s really here. It’s killing people around the globe and people are scared. Suddenly, there’s anxiety everywhere, and I’m sure most other usually-anxious people would agree, it’s really freaking weird.

What can I do about it?

            The short answer, nothing. I have to hope that after all this over, after we’ve finished our self-isolation and helped to continue people’s lives, people will still want to come. We’re in a beautiful, peaceful spot with plenty of fresh air and lovely views. I’ve managed to get more writing done here than I have in the last few years. I’m inspired and have helped to inspire ideas from my non-writer of a mother and even my no-imagination of a father (he’s great with numbers and has been a big help with other jobs though, so we’ll forgive him).

            It works. My place works and I’m really hoping one day writers will feel safe to come across and see if it works for them. I’m working on new recipes, made all the more difficult by the lack of ingredients in the supermarkets (the only place we’re allowed to venture to, basically). I’m getting some of the garden ready so it can look really nice by the time we actually do manage to open. All three of us inmates at the Retreat have delved into the library of books and are working our way through the different genres. If nothing else, we won’t run out of books to read.

What’s the point of me telling you all of this?

            I know, I know. Other people are having it hard to. As I said, people are dying of Covid and I’m not going to lessen that tragedy. Even the tutor I’ve booked in for teaching my summer courses is currently stuck in self-isolation (although an extreme form where she isn’t leaving a bedroom with en-suite) because she’s high risk. I worry for her and anybody else who could really suffer from the disease every day but my own worries about the future are still there, and I can’t simply make them go away.

            I’ve always believed in being honest. I’ve had a horrible habit of keeping things to myself and increasing my anxiety in the past. Okay, yes, I still do that a little bit now. But not on this. This is too serious. So, I’m telling you, whoever’s reading this, how I’m feeling. I’m trying to show you the mind of an anxious person who has opened a business at the same time as a pandemic strikes. I’m proving that your random story ideas are as likely to happen as anything else. Because anything can happen… to anyone.

            I know it’s hard to stay calm right now. The world’s pretty much telling us we should panic. But don’t give up on your writing. If you don’t feel like writing, that’s fine, but don’t lose it forever. Your story is just as valid and realistic as everything that’s going on in the world right now. And maybe, if anything happens similar to this in the future, by reading your book future generations may be able to figure out quicker and better solutions to prevent any more deaths.

            Because, as proved by the media in this wild situation, words are even more powerful than a small, invisible virus. Make your words be powerful in the right way. Make the world better one word at a time.

            Sorry for the unintentional sappiness there and, if you have any downtime, would you please consider checking out our website: www.lestylonoirretreat.com . Be safe and let’s get through this.

A Bientot, les ecrivians

Signed,

Amy Rose, The Literary Onion