I've been abundantly cautious during the COVID-19 lockdown, partly down to being an overweight asthmatic, partly down to "why take the risk if you don't have to?" Other than a few trips to the to get prescriptions (eventually... after queueing for 4 hours in total) or my fortnightly turns to do the weekly shopping, I've hardly left the house. Most of my exercise had been in the garden, painting fences, staining the decking, sorting out the shed, and so on.
Anyway, today, after the relaxing of the rules that came in last week, we had our first drive out to the nearby countryside get a little exercise. Where else could I go, but to the West Kennet Long Barrow, a location that features more than once in my novel, My Family and Other Ghosts.
I'd hoped to visit this again much earlier when I was in the early stages of the novel to ensure my recollection matched my words, but everything conspired against it. The first couple of times I tried, the access path was flooded, and after that, COVID-19 was writ wide across our landscape. Finally, today I made it – although I still had to walk through a few centimetres of water to get there.
As soon as I reached the top of the hill, I felt that same feeling of peace and tranquillity that Chris Parsons is always wittering on about in my novel. There's something so special about standing atop the 5,500-year-old burial mound, looking over the patchwork of fields covering landscape to the horizon in all directions.
There's a lovely view of Silbury Hill too, another prominent location in the novel. You can just see it in the (not very good) photo below, although you definitely can't see the Avebury stones behind it. If you're unsure why I said that, go read the preview of the opening chapter of the book!
As well as walking around and over the barrow, I had to go inside, of course. It's a compulsory part of any visit. That was a very spooky moment for me. In my novel, I described Chris Parsons doing the same, and when he got to the end, he found some wildflowers lying on the floor, leftover from a pagan ritual. Guess what was waiting there today? Note: it was much darker than my (too good) iPhone camera makes out in the photo!
It was only a short jaunt out today, but a very memorable one, especially after the long period of isolation. We only passed a couple of other people while we were there, very heavily socially-distanced, of course. We did get more closely studied by one other resident, however. Luckily, she kept her distance too.
I'll be getting back to writing The Muffler's Ministry within a couple of days. I've now dangled my submission packages for My Family and Other Ghosts under the noses of around ten literary agents, to see if any of them bite. Obviously, I really hope that at least one of them does (two rejections so far!), but I'm also planning ahead in case they don't. I have everything ready to self-publish the novel on Kindle and in paperback somewhere around mid-August if nothing else happens. I'm currently waiting for the proof copy of the paperback to arrive, to double-check that all looks OK.
I'll pop back occasionally with updates, which are likely to be focused more on The Muffler's Ministry, probably when I'm ready to provide a preview of the second chapter.