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Lockdown brain, reading badly, & a lettuce

Lovely people, how are you doing out there? How are things where you are?…

Lovely people, how are you doing out there? How are things where you are? Are you doing okay?

I ask that seriously, because I think an awful lot of us are not doing okay at the moment. I mean, we’re okay, as in we have roofs over our heads and food in the fridge (even if, in my case, it’s tilted heavily in the direction of chocolate and cake), and maybe life hasn’t changed a huge amount, or not in a way that is insurmountable.

But we’re not okay.

We’re tired. We’re worried – about friends and family and neighbours and acquaintances and people we’ve never met and income and jobs and homeschooling and social distancing and virus variants and vaccines and just the world. We’re sick of not being able to hug the ones we love, or even see them. We’re fed up of yet another weekend – or weekday, or day, because they all feel the same – of not going anywhere or doing anything. We miss going to cafes and movies and restaurants, miss holidays and being able to just pop to the shops rather than planning every trip out like a military operation.

Maybe we’re not sleeping. Maybe we’re eating too much, or not enough, or the wrong things. Maybe we’re fractious and nervous, snapping at our family or crying over a torn bin bag. Maybe getting up feels too hard, or going to bed does. Maybe any number of things that are really, really small in the grand scheme of the world and the pandemic, but are plenty big enough in our own lives, lives that have grown smaller and tighter over the months of lockdowns and precautions.

self care, mental health, pandemic, lockdown, reading,

By The Latest Kate

And yet we still say we’re okay. Because we can’t complain. Because we know so many people have it so very, very much worse.

We’re right to be aware of that. We’re right to look at all the things in our life that are, if not good, at least manageable and tolerable. We’re right to count ourselves lucky in all the ways we can see. This matters.

But, you know what? We’re also right to say, no. No, I’m not okay. I’m exhausted and fed-up and want to scream at someone – anyone – and this just plain sucks.

Because we can’t pretend to be okay all the time just because we know it could be worse. Because sometimes we need to recognise when we’re struggling, and ask ourselves genuinely and kindly what we can do about it, even if all we can do is crawl onto the sofa under the largest blanket we can find and eat three packets of chocolate hobnobs while watching utterly rubbish TV.

It’s okay to know that right now, your best isn’t particularly good. It’s okay if your best is just getting by. It’s okay if you’re not being creative, or productive, or “using your time well” (whatever that means). You’re surviving. You’re getting by. You’re keeping yourself and the ones you love as safe as you can. This is enough. We do not have to be upbeat and positive all the time just because we know we could be in a worse position. That helps no one.

When you extend empathy and kindness to others, I hope you extend it to yourself too. Because you deserve it.

You’re doing brilliantly.

And you can complain.

self care, mental health, pandemic, lockdown, reading,

By The Latest Kate (

So this was actually a book chat post, but my reading patterns are horrible at the moment, and I can’t seem to focus very well at all. Every night I end up going back to what I read the night before because I’ve forgotten who a character was, or what happened, or why I picked the book up in the first place.

Which I think is rather more to do with my lockdown brain than with the books I’m reading.

All that aside, I have picked two books that I did manage to remember, so I shall pop my normal tea and cookies ratings below the vid. As well as an explanation about that lettuce thing …

Nine Goblins, T Kingfisher. A funny, warmly observed novella about a squadron of goblins who are accidentally whisked out of battle and dumped behind enemy lines by a wizard. Includes a scruffy elf veterinarian, skeletal deer, and very few humans but a lot of truth about humanity and our faults. A large pot of tea, a plate of cookies, and all the cake.

“He had no particular opinion about the war, except that it was probably a shame. In his experience, people were usually people, even the ones who were four feet tall and lumpy, and if you treated them well, they mostly returned the favour.”

― T. Kingfisher, Nine Goblins

Before and After, Andrew Shanahan. A less action-packed (although still fairly squicky in places) zombie-ish apocalypse tale, revolving around Ben, a man who hasn’t been out of his flat in nine years and currently weighs 600lb, and his dog. Entertaining, sympathetic, and I really want to know what happens next. A large pot of tea and a pack of bourbon creams.

“There will always be problems, all I can do is to focus on what I can solve now.”

— Andrew Shanahan, Before and After

And that is it for this month’s books, as I’d only be rude about the others, and I actually think it’s not their fault that I couldn’t enjoy them. Or not entirely their fault, anyway.

Oh, and about that lettuce thing … Back in October I dropped the SO off at the airport and did a shop on the way home, including my usual supplies for salad, because I mostly live on salads while he’s away. Or I did. I ate salad that night and promptly got myself a spectacular tummy bug, which means I have not had a salad since (I also went off muesli for some reason).

The remaining lettuce lived in my veggie drawer, unchanging, until last week when it finally went brown enough to throw away.

I suspect it was an alien lettuce, and hence the stomach bug. But somehow I felt this strange little snippet of lockdown entertainment was worth sharing with you, and then couldn’t stop talking about lettuce.

I blame lockdown brain, and if that’s not a thing, it should be.

As promised in the main vid, here’s the link to the article regarding pandemic burnout. It’s not the only one I’ve read, but it is a really good summary of how I think a lot of us are feeling. I found it really helped, seeing all these things I was struggling with laid out as, this is not unusual. Maybe it’ll help you too.

And, lovely people, I hope you’re looking after yourselves. I hope that you don’t feel you can’t complain, that you have to keep a stiff upper lip and soldier on. I hope you can have a right good whinge when you need to, and come back from it feeling better.

And if you need to whinge, the comments are always open, as are my messages on social media. Share away.

books, lockdown, mental health, pandemic, reading, self care

  1. stewart russell says:

    Thanks for sharing your lockdown thoughts, thought you’d hit the nail on the head when you talked about reading and concentration issues… Though sometimes (only sometimes) I find some authors have a few too many characters with some similar sort of name genre going on, and I have to keep going back to work out who is who and then actually question whether I even care? (not yours though I hasten to add… sniveling creep that I am).

    1. Kim Watt says:

      I accept any and all compliments – thank you very much! 😉 And yes, I did think that maybe I was just reading too many books that were just a bit meh, but when I couldn’t even focus on Diana Wynne Jones I knew it was something far more serious. Sigh. Never mind – reading always comes back, or I always come back to it. Just another part of the strange times we’re living through, I fear. I hope you’re doing what you need to look after you!

  2. Carolyn says:

    Lettuce? Who’d a thunk it? Was it one of those pre-washed jobs in a bag with the weird chemicals? They are known to start exuding nastiness if getting past their best.

    For the first time (or second ,maybe) I am finding it hard to concentrate on my reading except when tucked up in bed at night. I find an incredible urge to do crosswords.

    1. Kim Watt says:

      The lettuce was most odd! It wasn’t a bagged salad – I don’t often buy those because they go brown and gunky so quickly. It was a baby gem lettuce, and I know they last well (also why I like them), but *months* is a little worrying. I was about a week off naming it and giving it its own shelf when it finally went a bit brown and manky…

      It’s so odd how I seem to be doing all the things but reading at the mo. I need to stop reading the news before going to bed – I find myself doing that rather than proper reading, and I’m sure it’s contributing to my bad sleep.

      1. Carolyn says:

        Clearly the lettuce was just malevolent – send for the P.I. Reading in bed should only be funny/about dragons and cats/memoirs from funny people (not celebrities but normal people writing about daft experiences, especially moving home abroad)

        1. Kim Watt says:

          I’m certain that remaining lettuce was only a day or so off gaining sentience and exacting revenge for the death of its packet-partner. It’s probably a good thing that I threw it away eventually…

          And I think fun books are all I can handle at the mo! Although the current science-y horror is proving quite interesting at the mo.

  3. Thank you. Just thank you. Because a lot of us need to keep hearing that it’s okay not to be okay right now.

    Oh, and apropos of a former comment about books I’m reading: I managed to find and purchase a reasonably-priced copy (i.e., $24, not $400!!!) of my girlhood favorite, Kirsti, by Helen Markley Miller, and it was every bit as wonderful as my child-self recalled. I don’t know why assembling and rereading these books from my way-too-long-ago adolescence has comforted me so during pandemic, but, there you have it: I have, and they did. So, my point then, is, whatever helps you survive this unimaginably dreadful time–go with it, bless it, and be grateful for whatever it is, even if it’s not chocolate cake.

    1. Kim Watt says:

      I think I’m writing this to remind myself as much as everyone else at the moment. It’s such a difficult time for so many, and it’s so easy to just not take the care we need to. I hope you’re doing okay – and how wonderful that you found an affordable edition of your fave! I’m so glad it didn’t disappoint, too. These are good and lovely things that are even bigger than they’d normally be at the moment.

      Yes for ALL the things that help us get through <3

  4. Marie Cordalis says:

    It’s such a difficult time. The last couple months have been really hard as I try to settle into my “new life on Dialysis”. Normally reading (especially books with dragons and cats!) is what helps me keep going but I can’t seem to read right now. I can’t concentrate and so even when I’m hooked up to the machine that’s keeping me alive, I can’t read. I find myself avoiding the news because it just makes me cry whenever I see it. Although it also gives me perspective, because yes, so many people have it so much worse. Thank you for the reminders to be good to ourselves. I think we all need that right now. So glad you’ve recovered from the wonky lettuce disease! I got sick from one of the bagged varieties and so haven’t had it since. My kingdom for a lettuce that’s healthy and keeps a looong time! I think I’d need some magic for that 😉

    1. Kim Watt says:

      Ach, that must be so tough. I hope you’re coping as well as you can, and that you soon find a way of making your new “normal” manageable and tolerable. Sending you all the dragonish strength in the world.

      And definitely be kind to yourself! You have an enormous amount on, and stepping away from the news and doing exactly what works best to keep yourself healthy is the most important thing. Look after yourself, and know that you’ll come back to books. They’re always there for us, and they’ll be waiting when you’re ready <3

      1. Marie Cordalis says:

        Thank you so much! It’s amazing how much it helps hearing that from someone else. It almost feels like what I imagine and out of body experience feels like. I just feel like I’m standing there watching myself do stuff, but I’m not really involved. Weird! And thank you, I’ll seriously take all the dragonish anything that I can get. I really need dragons and snarky cats in my life. Now more than ever. And it makes my day, week, month, year to hear that more Gobbelino is on the way 🙂 I also live for your newsletters so please keep them coming!

        1. Kim M Watt says:

          That just sounds horrible 🙁 I sometimes have the most disconnected feelings, as if my I’m only going through the motions of whatever I’m doing rather than really being actually present for it (especially at the moment, when everything seems so unreal), and that’s disconcerting enough. Feeling like you’re having an out of body experience sounds just awful. I hope things settle for you soon.

          And I’m so glad to hear you’re looking forward to Gobbelino! That’s so encouraging. As is the fact that you enjoy the newsletters – I’m never sure if I’m invading people’s inboxes a bit too much, but that’s really reassuring!

          Look after yourself there <3

  5. Diana Flagg says:

    There is so much I’d like to say about many of the things you mentioned but I feel unequal to the task. Retired and on a fixed income I sadly watch prices soar while food containers shrink. I am okay. I’m better than some, I’m sure. But I feel isolated and let down. My country is in turmoil and the news makes me ill. I lose myself in books and movies but I’m particular about the genre and tend to move away from sadness and lean toward laughter and goodness, even with a little horror included. I felt as though you were inside my head when you described the need to scream, even while I show my best face. I worry for my son and my grandchildren. No Baby Goats! I’m surprised at myself even when you offer that it’s ok. So I read, I watch movies and I draw. Word games and anything that grabs my thoughts away from all the bad going on. Thank you for being a source for good in my universe.

    1. Carolyn says:

      Total sympathy. Life is not easy

    2. Kim says:

      I’m so sorry, Diana. Things really haven’t got much easier, even if restrictions have lifted. It seems that as soon as things ease off in one area, there’s a shift somewhere else, so that the world just keeps on feeling like a lot, just in different ways. Which doesn’t help, because it means we’re constantly trying to adjust to this new stressor, and bracing for what comes next. Escaping into books and movies can be a really essential self-care at the moment, so I’m glad you can still create the time for that. All the hugs and dragonish strength to you – it’s okay to worry, and to want to scream at the world to just back off a bit, and it’s so very okay to just not be okay. I wish things would settle down so we could have a chance at finding some equilibrium again, but in the meantime just keep looking after you, and know these comments and my emails are always open ❤️

  6. Hey Kim, thanks so much for the review. I’m ashamed I found your blog through the unforgivable vanity of googling myself, but I’m glad I did because I enjoyed your thoughts and opinions on Before and After and Flesh and Blood. I hope you’re finding reading less of a pressure these days and that your DNFs are few and far between. Best wishes, Andrew Shanahan

    1. Kim says:

      Hi Andrew – thanks so much for commenting! Reading has come back these days, which is lovely, but one of the reasons Before and After stuck with me so much is that it really engaged me when so many other books didn’t. Great stories and great characters, and I look forward to reading more of your work.

      As for Googling oneself, well – I’ve been too scared to do it myself, so I call that a win on your part. Meanwhile, it’s not embarrassing at all that the blog you found has me rambling on about an alien, dangerous lettuce. Ahem.

      Thanks again for stopping by and happy writing!

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