A Week in the Life of a Locked Down Blogger

A major disaster happened to me this week. Not an actual disaster like a car crash or anything but for a writer and blogger it was the blogging equivalent.

I spent a few days at my mother’s house as usual, checking the mail, tidying the garden, giving the heating a good blast in this cold weather and so on. It’s also good, especially being a writer, to have some time alone to work on my various projects like my blog, my books and my videos. Last week I did just that. I added a few more pages to the two novels I’ve been writing and tinkered with some of my videos as well as creating some new ones.

I added a couple of my new videos to two Facebook pages, one for amateur video makers and another for YouTubers. They both did quite well there and brought in some new viewers. All my videos have a link back to this blog and all these blog posts have a link to my books, Floating in Space and A Warrior of Words so with a little luck these new video viewers might even add to my sales which in turn will add to the Higgins coffers.

The crazy thing about the pandemic and the resulting lockdown is that just lately I’ve been spending less money so I’ve actually got a little more in the bank than usual. My usual spending on restaurants, pubs and taxis has stopped completely and I do wonder how all those establishments are faring without me.

This Valentine’s Day, instead of dining out we dined in. We ordered in a full restaurant meal, including wine and settled down in front of the fire to await delivery. I’d ordered the meal a few days before from the Birley Arms, a pub I haven’t visited for many years but it does have a restaurant with a reputation for great food. The day after I ordered the food my phone rang and someone came on the line asking about my order. They didn’t say they were from the Birley Arms, in fact I didn’t actually catch their name but they started talking about my food order so I guessed it was they. All was in hand but apparently I hadn’t specified when the food was for. Now as I’d ordered the Valentine’s Day special I thought it was pretty obvious we would be wanting it for Valentine’s Day. That thought hadn’t occurred to my caller until I mentioned it but he quickly recovered, said something about just making sure and he was off.

What else has happened to me this week? Well, for a long while I’ve been after an eye test; it must be over two years since I last had one. Every time I called the opticians they gave me a date weeks into the future and as I wasn’t sure which shift I was on I always declined and said, I’ll get back to you. I tried again recently as now I have a brand new app on my phone which shows the days I am working. Great! I’ve had the app for a few months and it works fine. I tried it the other day, one hand on the app and the other poised to call the opticians and of course, it wasn’t working. Nothing I could do would get it to work again, not uninstalling, reinstalling, pressing force stop, updating my mobile phone software; nothing.

Anyway, diary at hand – manual diary that is, you know, the old-fashioned type made of cardboard and paper – I went online to the optician’s eye test booking app and lo and behold, there was a free appointment the next day. Presumably a cancellation but what the heck, I grabbed it anyway.

The opticians had changed considerably since my last visit but of course everything now has been affected by Coronavirus. Masks were mandatory as was hand sanitising. I was gradually moved to various socially distanced seating areas, finally ending up with the optician. My eye test was a traditional one using those special glasses where the optician drops in various differing lenses to adjust your vision. So much better than my last eye test at Specsavers. No offence Specsavers but I really do not like having my head in an electronic headset where the lenses are changed at the touch of a button.

Later I decided to order my new glasses from Goggles4U, an online site that I found and have since bombarded me with various offers. The new specs were cheap and were made even cheaper by various discounts. I had some problems getting my order through and then heard from somewhere that my new eyewear would be coming from Pakistan! Was this a con I thought?

Well as it happens my new specs arrived and they are just great. It always feels so good to have a new set of lenses. Everything looks so good and so sharp. People with 20/20 vision probably take perfect sight for granted but as a spectacle wearer since I have been a child, I assure you, I do not.

Okay, let’s get back to Valentine’s Day and there we were, waiting with bated breath and dangling tongues for our food. The appointed time came and went. Knives and forks had been deployed and the plates were warming and just at the point when I was searching for the pub phone number to complain, our Valentine’s feast arrived. There seemed to be quite a lot of it but then again, the meal consisted of appetisers, starters, mains and puddings. We slapped it into the oven to keep warm before nibbling on the appetisers and then it was on to the starters. One big mistake was when we put everything in the oven, we had forgotten that one starter was pâté. Warm pâté was new, not something I’d tried before but I liked it.

Round about then I realised the delivery guy had not left any wine. A quick call and happily the driver was nearby with an order for someone else so the wine came shortly after. Luckily, another bottle of red was already warming by the fire but with so much food, that second bottle came in pretty handy.

Just to make your mouth water, we had various appetisers including crab on toast and belly pork fritters. Starters were smoked salmon, prawns and scallops for Liz and duck spring roll and chicken liver pate for me. Mains were Beef Rossini for me and Rack of Lamb for Liz and a bevy of desserts, all for me as Liz isn’t a lover of sweet things.

We enjoyed the meal although I have to admit, being served at a nice table in a restaurant doesn’t really compare to a take away, even a restaurant standard one.

So what was the big disaster you might be thinking? Before I get to the main one here’s another. Back in January I bought a bundle of six CDs. They were advertised for £25 and I offered £18, the seller declined but they failed to sell and the buyer came back to me and finally accepted my offer. I waited and waited but they never turned up. I contacted the seller and she asked me to wait a little longer in case Covid had affected the Royal Mail. The CDs still didn’t arrive so ‘sorry’ I said, ‘I want my £18 back’. The seller duly refunded me and the very next day, what should turn up but the CDs!

I’m not sure PayPal understood when I asked how could I refund a refund?

Finally, back to the disaster I spoke of earlier. At my mother’s house I had done some writing and fiddled with my videos. After staying for a couple of nights I tidied up, took out the rubbish and gave the place a hoover. Outside in my car I began to wonder if I had forgotten anything but it was cold and whisps of snow were in the air so I drove off. Later I realised I had left behind my iPad and laptop! Nightmare!

Luckily, I updated my iPad a few years back and still had my old one so this blog post is my first written completely on an iPad. A number of my apps were missing so apologies for the lack of graphics.

Hopefully I’ll have my trusty laptop back for next week’s blog instalment, as long as I don’t suffer protracted symptoms from laptop separation syndrome of course!


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How to deal with Laptop Failure and the Rules of Writing

quotescover-JPG-23Take a look at the picture just below. Not a particularly outstanding picture I know but that house is the one where I grew up. I took the picture a while ago after a sort of nostalgic drive around the old neighbourhood. Yes, the house with the white door, that’s my old home. It’s changed a bit since I lived there. The privet hedge has gone and the car space is new. One amazing thing I found out on that visit is that the walk to my old junior school, which seemed to be a heck of a walk as I remember it; surely at least a thirty minute walk, was actually more of a ten minute walk: Well, it was a long time since I walked to my junior school. I stopped in the road, took my picture, became lost in thought for a moment as a thousand memories crowded my mind, then drove off.

14nuffieldThose memories and other ones always come back every time I look at that picture. I happened to be looking at it because my new laptop finally arrived and all my files had been moved over by the guys in the computer shop and I was just checking through them. It’s been over a week since my trusty old laptop overheated and expired and I’ve missed it. I’ve not been separated from my e-mails because I have a tablet, actually a Blackberry Playbook which is good but there’s a lot I just can’t do on a pad. Writing is difficult; in fact, it’s not unlike writing a text on a mobile phone and there’s no way I could write a blog post using it.

It was quite a shock, my laptop failing as most of my digital life is stored there. Luckily I have a portable drive on which I store my files although I mostly save completed works; fully edited videos, fully written blogs, that sort of thing. The half-finished ones, and believe me I have plenty; half-finished scripts, fragments of poems, ideas for blog posts; they were all there on the hard drive of that old laptop.

I felt a little like Carrie in Sex and the City. Remember that episode when Carrie’s laptop –an apple mac actually- conks out? Her boyfriend Aiden vainly hits the control alt and delete keys and makes things worse and Carrie, a writer with a column in a New York newspaper had lost all her work. Now I know how she felt.

Just looking at the clip above brought it all back. I was just as wound up as Carrie. My laptop couldn’t be repaired but not long ago I’d picked up a laptop that had a broken screen at a car boot sale. It was a sort of impulse buy but at least the computer guys could fix it and transfer my data over. I’d had the other laptop four years and it lasted longer than my previous two laptops. Wonder how long laptop number four will last?

One more connection with that picture and it’s to do with writing. Creative writing. I subscribe to a lot of blogs and groups and on Facebook there’s this writer’s group I’m a member of and members are always, naturally, posting stuff about writing. One post I read recently was ‘never start a novel off with the beginning of a day.’ Why the heck not I thought? It seems to me a pretty normal way to start a novel: The hero wakes up and the writer describes the surroundings and introduces the characters naturally as we meet them and so on. In fact, my novel, Floating In Space, starts off in exactly that way with my main character, Stuart Hill, waking up and getting ready for work.

Another thing you see on this writers’ page are graphics. You’ve probably seen the sort of thing I mean all over the internet. This particular one was about rules of writing. Rules? What rules? Well it said that if you’re describing something, some incident, your description shouldn’t last longer than the actual event! Now that just sounds bonkers to me on a whole lot of levels. Where did the writer get that information? Who decided on that ‘rule’? The only rules that I stick to as a writer are the rules of grammar, and believe me, a lot of the time, either accidentally or on purpose, I bend those rules too! One more thing; did Dickens and F Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway and all the other great authors adhere to these ‘rules’? Did they even know about them? I doubt it!

Anyway, I decided to comment on this graphic. I said that it didn’t matter whether the real event was long or short-lived, it’s the importance of the event to the narrative that matters, and that all depends on the author. The person who posted the item replied by adding a comment that included a link to a police report that showed that when shocking events happen, people don’t always take much in. Anyway, what that meant I don’t know so I added another comment about how the writer should take control of the reader and make events either important or unimportant depending entirely on his vision of the novel.

Straight away another comment came back at me saying it was the reader in charge, not the writer. Well, of course the reader is in charge as to whether he reads your book or not, but as soon as he does decide to read, it’s the author who is in control, it’s the author who shows the reader what he wants to show him, hides what he wants to hide, and reveals in whatever way he wants, whatever he wants to reveal. Anyway this annoyed the other guy no end and a sort of internet argument began. The sort of thing you’ve seen before probably. After a while I stepped back before things got nasty. I do hate those internet arguments you see in the comments section of posts and anyway, I’m convinced I am right and the other guy was a complete plonker. Tempted as I was to say that on the post, I’m happy to say I resisted!

That of course brings me back to the picture of my old home. The photo only took a moment to take but it’s nice to think about that house and all the happy times I had there. Not only that, my Grandma and Grandad lived there before us. They moved to Prestatyn in Wales and my Mum and Dad took over the house when they were first married. I could go on and on about that house: about how I learned to ride a two-wheeler bike just in front of it: About the soap box cart I made with my friends with some wood and parts of an old pram and how we careered through the streets with it. One time my friend Gary Chapman was given a set of walkie talkies by his dad for Christmas and he and I used to chat to each other at night as our houses were pretty close together. I could tell you much more but the thing is, if I did go on and on I’d go over my allotted time.

Dear me, can’t go breaking the writing rules can we?


If you liked this book, why not try my novel, Floating In Space, set in Manchester in 1977? Click the links at the top of the page for more information or click the image below to go straight to amazon.