Back at Home with Iona Whishaw

A Note from the publisher

We’re living in an unprecedented moment in history, and it’s been amazing to see how people are pulling together to support one another. Here at TouchWood we’ve decided to ask our authors what has been keeping them busy during a time when we’ve all been asked to stay home to Flatten the Curve.

Remember Iona?

Way back when, at the beginning of self-isolation, Iona Whishaw, author of the Lane Winslow mysteries, kept a diary of her first two days of GOSHing. Now she’s back with a bit of an update on her daily life:

Government Ordained Sequestration at Home (Part II) 

Day eleventy-one

6:09 Wake up.  Go back to sleep.

6:10 Garbage truck outside window. Bin apparently loaded with blasting caps.

7:10 Stagger in to kitchen for tea. Open cutlery drawer. Horrible smell pours out. Give it accusing eye. Slam drawer shut.

7:20  Take tea back to bed, and find interesting NYT science item on Siphonophore. A 150-foot-long string of creatures that attach to each other and clone themselves and have furry underbellies and whirl through ocean hunting.  Hunting?? Find other worrisome article that no garbage for rats, so they are coming into houses. Think of cutlery drawer. Google: Can rats clone themselves?

8:40 Get back to work on latest book. Character A takes Character B’s hand and begins to raise it to mouth to kiss it. Am horrified by this demonstrably unsafe behaviour. Character A now stands on other side of garden fence and raises suggestive eyebrow at character B.

10:00 Think about breakfast. Have only written fifty words. Stare blankly at page. Character B in rebellion. Thought was getting a kiss and now isn’t. Has sat down and is refusing to do anything.

11:00 Get dressed and prepare to set table for breakfast. Open cutlery drawer again. Horrible smell pours out. In frenzy, pull out drawer, dump cutlery, wash drawer with soap and water, wash cutlery with soap and water, reassemble, slam drawer with satisfactory brushing of the hands. No rats.

12:00 Open cutlery drawer to complete breakfast preparations. Horrible smell pours out.

1:30 Open fridge to find disappointing completely empty milk bottle. Level accusing gaze at husband. Gird up with gloves, mask, and attitude, and venture out. Line up to get into grocery store is around block. Settle in to have muffled conversation with stranger six feet in front of me. Intellectual repartee was hoping for does not materialize.

1:45 Shuffle forward. Suddenly line freezes. Some maskless reprobate has coughed. Cougher lifts reassuring hand. No one reassured. Shoppers flee. Line suddenly much shorter. Yay! Buy milk but forget to buy dinner.

3:30 Warm enough to have afternoon tea on deck swaddled in blankets. Enjoy email from cousin in France, where, exhausted with monitoring by government drones, she has traded last bag of flour for two bottles of wine.

4:30 Settle in to read mystery where people carelessly shake hands with their bosses and throw large boozy parties and hug.

5:00 Crestfallen, must now think about supper. There seems to be a supper hour every day. Am sure that wasn’t true before COVID. Freezer yields bag of blueberries from two summers ago. Also limp carrots in fridge.

7:00 Supper: Break out glass of wine, then remember only drink at weekends.  Then remember there are no weekends. Prepare toast and runny blueberry jam for dinner. Leave carrots, possibly for rats. Recommend Pinot Noir to support blueberries.

10:00 Drift off to sleep dreaming of being siphonophore, floating lazily in ocean using hair to capture plankton. What wine goes with plankton?


Day eleventy-two

6:40 Wake up. Remember 7 senior hour at grocery store. Dash through scarves to find suitable bandana to make mask, as yesterday’s mask disgusting. Settle on balaclava.

7:05 Senior crowd outside still-unopened store becoming restive. Am at end of line, miss first round. Finally get in. Socially distanced behind old party hesitating over carrots, then cans of identical tomatoes, then eggs laid by identical organically raised chickens allowed run of farm. Exasperated, dart past her at final package of bacon, only to be shot back by angry shopper pointing at one-way line. Frazzled. Forget dinner again.

8:00 Check fridge. Limp carrots and blueberry jam still in good supply.

8:10 Brew tea, read science section in NYT. Learn neutrinos made matter possible. Thank you, neutrinos, for coronavirus, rats, and freak 150-foot-long siphonophore. You couldn’t think of some other use for your obviously amazing talents?

9:00–2:00 Writing time. Lose plot. No characters prepared to cooperate under new conditions. Lie back on couch with Facebook in one hand, opposite arm dramatically thrown over forehead, in grip of self-pity.

2:00 Notice everyone posting no-knead loaves of bread. Why? No time to knead? Also high-school graduation pictures. Why? Finally look for COVID-based humour. Find dog playing piano. Now worried virus altering dog genome.

5:00 Notice sun over yardarm and sit down on deck with little can of fizzy pink wine. Too late remember not weekend. Interested, look at calendar and see weekend still five days away. Breathe sigh of relief. Little can of fizzy wine can be attached to last weekend. Decide pink fizzy drink possibly best pairing with blueberry jam.

7:00 Consider second can. Clean up from dinner, and notice writing on side of can as am recycling. “Two servings.” Snort derisively.

8:00 Zoom with family. Teenaged grandsons in bathrobes. Have been in bathrobes for four weeks. Both wearing hats. Ask their father what happened. Kids bored, cut each other’s hair. Now must stay in hats and bathrobes at least two more months.

9:00–10:00 Netflix. Husband tunes in Scandinavian detective story where it’s dark even in the daytime. Was hoping for soothing romance with no-name actors. Watch documentary on paper production. Am reminded of lyric from My Fair Lady: “rather than choose either, they choose something else that neither likes at all.”

11:00. As drifting off to sleep tell husband need brand new kitchen because of possibly rat-infested cutlery drawer.



In case you missed it, Iona used some of her first few days in quarantine to imagine how an outbreak might affect Lane and her little community. Read all about it in Lane Winslow and the Outbreak at King’s Cove.

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