Lockdown, for me, was rather inverted experience to that of many people. I normally work from home – a nice, quiet, empty home – but when lockdown hit, my space was invaded. My husband had to set up in the room directly below my tiny office, making myriad phone calls all day long. My children should have been doing GCSEs and A-levels so found themselves not only off school but finished, with nothing more to do than kick around the house making noise! To add to the fun, my stepson came home from what should have been a wonderful year working planting trees across British Columbia to find himself, aged 23, back in his old bedroom. Bang had gone all my peace and quiet!
After an initial adjustment period in which the kids went largely nocturnal and I went largely mad, we sorted out a routine. I was working hard on Iron Queen – the last in my Shakespeare’s Queens trilogy - so the kids took on all the cleaning and cooking. And did it rather well. Our supermarket bill went through the roof but we ate like kings and all I had to do was appear downstairs and take my place at the table. Marvellous!
I was free to complete Iron Queen, the story of Goneril, Regan and Cordelia as three powerful princesses in the Celtic matriarchy of Iron Age Britain. Exploring how a female-led world might have looked was fascinating and I loved having the time to really unpick many of our society’s patriarchal assumptions and prejudices for a novel set way back in 500 BC.
The only frustration was that, despite the novel being set close to home in the hillforts of Leicestershire, I couldn’t even drive the twenty miles to tread the still preserved iron age sites. Thankfully, I’d been a few times before lockdown so they were fresh in my mind. I also knew Beacon Hill from sixth form drinking sessions. I can’t say that I was musing much on the history of the Coritani tribe when I was necking Thunderbird as an 18-year-old, but I certainly did so sat in my lockdown office last year, before emerging for family-cooked food and slightly higher quality wine!
My youngsters, in the end, really stepped up and I’ve been so impressed throughout all this by the way that they and their mates have coped. They have put up with huge restrictions on seeing their friends and their girl/boyfriends, they have battled to carry on with their education and been deprived of their sport, art and music. They have stayed at home with their crusty old parents and all because of a disease that would barely even touch them if they caught it. I think the young of this country have, by and large, been amazing, taking huge restrictions on their liberty to protect the older generations. I hope they get credit for that and are allowed to pick up the sort of carefree youth that I enjoyed amongst the ruins of an Iron age hillfort very, very soon.
I studied English at Cambridge and specialised in medieval literature – partly because it fascinated me and partly because the professor was hot!...