2021 Done

This year has been a challenge, writing-wise.

I did start the year writing a sequel to ‘Interplanetary Homesick Blues’, and even managed to get 30,000 words written, but my heart wasn’t really in it. The concept of the story was a little flat, a little too conventional, and I realised with a shock that I didn’t really care about the outcome. Plus, my work responsibilities cranked up a notch and that affected the available mental energy for my usual post-work writing sessions. Maybe I’ll pick it up again someday. Maybe we’ll finally get Cal and Droov back together to save the day and have that long overdue kiss. We’ll see.

I don’t see this as a failure though. My goal with ‘Interplanetary Homesick Blues’ was to prove to myself that I was capable of writing a full length novel. Which I did. Yay me. But I now if I am going to write again, I need to figure out what I really want to pour myself into. It takes years to write a book. I need it to be worth it.

The experience with all the rejection from agents made me realise that the one thing that was missing from my first novel was any sort of personal stake. Any good writer, with the same ingredients, could have written something similar to ‘Interplanetary Homesick Blues’. So what does a uniquely ‘Chris Dicken’ book look like? What can I write, which no-one else can? What excites me, and scares me, and might take a reader somewhere they haven’t been before?

And that’s the project for next year.


Day 9 – The Road to Wellness

Great news. In four days my T stripe has gone from an angry purple wound to being barely visible. My immune system deserves a medal. I have almost beaten the active infection, and I can look forward to re-entering society soon as something other than a disease vector.

Does that mean I am now ‘well’? According to my Dad it does. I gave him the news he wanted to hear and he congratulated me and moved on to other topics. My disease was no longer of interest.

Except that I am not well. I am exhausted all the time, I get out of breath easily and my sense of smell is turned up to 11. My body has been wounded, compromised and assaulted. Just because the attack is no longer happening, it doesn’t mean I am ‘better’. My broken body now needs time to heal, and that process can only start now.

I am grateful I didn’t get Covid worse, but this doesn’t change the fact this has been the most ill I have ever been. It’s a mental blow as well as a physical one.

This is going to take a while.


Day 8 – The Grind of Recovery

Much the same today. No fever, no cough. Sense of smell maybe returning? Maybe? I was able to detect this morning’s coffee beyond a wash of brown bitterness.

Still exhausted though. More so than yesterday. The spare bed in the office got a lot of use between phone calls. I really hope this is me getting better because I don’t like to have the words ‘viral’ and ‘fatigue’ in the same paragraph, let alone next to each other. I’ve seen what post-viral fatigues can do to people – they can be devastating. But I can’t engage with that world of terror and fear. I will keep my recovery blinkers on and just cope with the day to day of getting through a severe illness.

Because Covid is a severe illness. I’ve been downplaying and talking about my mild symptoms, but I still got Covid. And the vaccine meant that I was merely knocked over by the bus rather than actually ending up under the tyres. The Covid bus still made contact and that bitch does not pull its punches. I don’t think I’ve ever been so poorly for so long.

Next lateral flow test due tomorrow. Fingers crossed for a clear improvement.


Day 7 – Wasted Energies

I think I’m on the road to recovery. It’s hard to tell for sure. Objectively, my temperature remains normal, the cough is largely gone, and this morning’s test took a few more seconds to scream UNCLEAN than it did at the weekend. Energy levels are still in my boots, however, and I wasn’t able to work a full day.

A hallmark of the last year has been the constant anxiety that I had Covid without realising, and could be infecting people accidentally. Every slight feeling of warmth had me reaching for the thermometer. Every bout of tiredness became a compromised immune system. During the handful of social events I’d maintain my distance, watch what I touched, worry constantly. Never let my guard down.

Now I know how Covid actually manifests in me, I can’t help but regret the vast reserves of mental energy I poured away for no good reason. I know it’s good to be responsible, but I turned into a fret monster.

Will this experience make my anxiety better or worse?


Day 6 – Track and Trace

My PCR test came back positive, so I’m now an official verified statistic.

My prize from the government was the chance to spend 30 minutes filling out an exhaustive online questionnaire about my movements. It took ages. As well as asking for everyone I might have infected, they also wanted to understand how I might have caught it. They asked me everywhere I had been, everything I had done, but yet they didn’t ask me how I travelled there. Surely that’s not a minor detail. I am sure it was the tube rides that did it, but the NHS must reckon it’s impractical to track down an entire carriage full of maskless revolutionaries.

Otherwise today I was back at work, taking calls and meetings between naps. Temperature stayed low and stable and the cough was barely there, so I’m feeling more positive. Still can’t smell or taste much, so tonight’s dinner was bland rice mush with leftovers mixed in.

Bring on the gruel.


Day 5 – This wasn’t in the plan

I opened my eyes this morning and for a second – just a second – I thought I was feeling better. But when I started moving, breathing and, well, thinking, I realised I wasn’t better. I was just the same as yesterday. Or maybe a bit worse. Maybe.

When I woke up, I had no fever. Two hours later, mild fever. Two hours after that I’m weeding the the garden in the sunshine. Two hours after that I’m laid out on the couch barely able to comprehend ‘Escape to the Country’.

All this time my absentee smell receptors and the bold purple T stripe from this morning’s test is not letting me forget the fact my body is a Petri dish, and I am sick.

I am looking for patterns. Looking for a way to make a plan, make a prediction, take control. But there is no pattern. No plan. I have to be patient. Be a patient.

And all this time I am not in intensive care. All this time I am not dying in a car outside an Indian hospital.

This is fine.


Day 4 – The Worst

Cough was bad this morning. So much so that I took myself to the spare room as neither Donny or I were enjoying our Saturday lie in. Still had the temperature too.

Today was a big rest day. I put down roots on the couch, watched movies, played video games, read books. All good. I even started to feel the benefits of it: my mild fever finally eased off and my lungs felt a lot better too.

And then I had a glass of red wine in celebration.

And it tasted like garbage.

All I could taste was alcohol and chemicals. It was disgusting. I thought it must have gone off, but Donny assured me it was fine. I then tried another one, same deal. I now had the trifecta of classic COVID symptoms: temperature, cough and now loss of smell.

This is the one I really didn’t want though. One thing I was looking forward to was all the lovely cooking and eating that Donny would do. It’s what got us through all the other lockdown periods, and would help alleviate the frustration of this one.

And now everything tastes like chemicals and bitterness. It is the worst.


Day 3 – I Told You I Was Ill

I’ve had a 38C temperature all day today and feel like warm garbage. Also starting to cough a bit. Not much, but definitely dry. Like my lungs are full of ash.

Had a crisis at work today so had to do quite a few meetings, but signed off early (with the blessing of my colleagues) and spent much of the day in bed.

My Lateral Flow Tests are so positive. I mean, SO positive. The T band is glaring accusatively at me, like it’s blaming me for this.

But people are being nice and supportive. Even had a few messages from my brother (although, weirdly, he also messaged Donny – perhaps he thought I was putting on a brave face).

But I’m doing OK. It’s COVID, but it’s mild. I just would really like it done. Or at least to show some sign of improvement.


Day 2 – Still Positive

I just about managed to work a normal day today, I but required a two hour nap in the middle of the day to keep going. So… not a normal day then.

But I’m feeling OK. I did have a 38C temp last evening for a couple of hours, but then it went away. I’m hoping that’s my immune system (and jab #2) kicking in and I can just ride this out without things getting worse. Chest does feel a bit tight, but I’m not coughing massively. Plus, Donny is STILL negative, so I think that means I’m not shedding vast quantities of viral particles everywhere.

Donny and I have decided to live life as normally as possible. I did make up the spare bed expecting that we’d try and live as separately as we can, but then he made the very good point that if he’s going to catch it, it would be much better to get it as early as possible during the self-isolation period, otherwise we could end up having to isolate for a further 10 days after my period is up.


Day 1 – Double-Jabbed And Infected

My first reaction was indignation: “I have been jabbed! What the hell? This isn’t how it’s supposed to happen.”

Followed swiftly by guilt: “I should have been more careful.”

And then generic fear: “Long COVID! Will I infect Donny?”

Donny is thankfully (and, perhaps, annoyingly) negative, but we still know we have to isolate as a household. I have dutifully notified the NHS, registered my positive test on the NHS app (so I get a nice pink radar counting down my ten days) and ordered my PCR test. We also cancelled our weekend plans and notified the hosts of the garden party, just in case.

And now we have settled in mentally for 10 days of self-isolation, while the rest of the city is opening up (possibly unwisely).

Symptom-wise, I’m still just feeling mildly fluey. Long may it last. I’ve got quite a lot to do at the moment.