Learning on the Job

How many of us started Lockdown 3 with Dolly Parton in our heads 24/7 singing ‘Here You Come Again’? I know I should be grateful it’s finally exorcised the Kylie Minogue earworm that’s been there since Glastonbury 2019, but oh…

I’m writing this from the far end of the dining table, pausing to issue a librarian ‘shhh’ every few minutes. In front of me, Dora and Winnie – in Year 8 and 9 respectively – sit on opposite sides, headsets on and laptops open like a customer service call centre. Or at least a centre whose teen workers wear slippers and PJs with hoodies, occasionally mumbling French conjunctions or sniggering ‘you’re on mute again, sir’. This is a vast improvement on our first week of home-schooling, throughout which they out-shouted each other while teachers on Microsoft Teams bellowed ‘Who’s just altered my PowerPoint?’ The headsets have proved a life-saving purchase, but there’s no escaping the fact that my peaceful writing days are once more gone…

Like oh-so many parents, I’m now flexing the day job with the roles as teaching assistant, tech support, dinner lady, referee and font of all knowledge.

But I promise I do have book news to share, which I’m going to announce in my blog here next week, by which time I hope this Warwickshire home education call centre will be a haven of silent academic absorption and that I’ll have remembered all my social media passwords.

For now, this end of the dining table is officially in The Comptons and I’m not leaving them until I’ve galloped the Saddle Bags up a few more hills far from interior angle calculations, the rise of fascism and Caliban’s monstrous legacy. Admittedly I’m having to dismount and hand them my fictional reins regularly to reboot the router or Google the effect of pressure on particle movement, so I’m not getting as much written as I’d like, but the fact there’s no lockdown in my imagination’s landscape makes it all the more important to keep going in the belief that life will imitate art one day soon.

I’ll be back with book news next week, but meanwhile I do hope everyone reading this is bearing up, that you and your loved ones are safe and in good heart (and staying sane if you too are supervising home learning) and that you’ll forgive me for writing the next Compton novel so slowly. Right now, I can’t quite bear to leave…

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