Lockdown by Susan Price

Crack A Story by Susan Price


It's over now. Isn't it? Is it? What's the R number?

You might still be in lockdown or partying on the beach -- I suppose it depends on how susceptible you are to brand new viruses that no one has any immunity to. Or how many susceptible people you love. Or how much you believe we're 'all in this together.'

At the very end of January, to celebrate his birthday, my lodger went on an outing to Cosford Air Museum. Exactly one week later, in early February, he became quite ill: fever, headache, joint aches, tiredness and a terrible dry cough that went on and on for weeks. He doesn't remember his senses of taste and smell being affected, but he certainly lost his appetite and says that he can't remember being so ill for, well, decades.

At the time, we'd barely heard of Covid-19. Even if we had, there was no effective way he could have isolated himself from me. Many members of this Tory government will be astonished to learn that we only have one kitchen, one upstairs bathroom, one hallway and one staircase.

I remained annoyingly healthy in any case, without so much as a sniffle. When it started to become
I had a little nut tree...
apparent that many people had been ill with Covid-19 as early as January, we wondered... But, if the illness had been the plague, wouldn't I have caught it, since I would have had no immunity? It must have been 'flu, we reasoned, because I've had the 'flu before, so had at least some resistance to it.

Now, it seems, that many people who catch the plague show no symptoms at all. Maybe I caught it but I'm asymptomatic. Who knows? Anyway, having anti-bodies doesn't mean I'm resistant to the disease now or that I can't pass it on. With this in mind, I've done all I can to make sure that I don't pass it on.

I'm starting to think that household items aren't immune. Lockdown had hardly begun before the shower stopped working. Quick, where's the plumber's number -- but no! Lockdown. So it's been baths or make-do showers with the hair-rinsing attachment.

And then the oven conked. It has one of those irritating safety features, which means you have to hold the gas knob down for a long time after lighting it. Now you can hold the gas-knob down for 30 minutes, an hour, all day but as soon as you release it, the gas goes out. Quick, where's the plumber's number? He could fix -- Oh. Lockdown.

So no coronavirus baking for me -- no casseroles, no roast taters. Only food that can be cooked on top of the stove is available. (We don't have a micro-wave.)

And then the bread pan from the bread machine sprang a leak. Luckily, couriers and postal workers have been out and about throughout the Lockdown, even more than Tory MPs. I'm grateful to the delivery workers because they come to my home, carrying my packages, instead of driving long-distance to their family piles, carrying Covid. A new bread pan has arrived and is in use.

And then my credit card decided to self-isolate. I'd been using it, contactless, to buy groceries at the local Coop. I'd completely forgotten that you can only use it 30 times before you need to use your pin -- which is exactly what I didn't want to do.

I am lucky to have a garden, but my garden is currently a building site because next door needed access to rebuild their house -- not cosmetically but to make it possible to look after an aged P. The builders started in February and, optimistic as ever, planned to be finished by this month, at least in my garden, but -- Lockdown. I have to edge around scaffolding and piles of breeze-blocks and bricks. Going up the garden path means clambering over builder bags of the earth from my emptied raised bed. My 'big box' for storing tools has been emptied (into my kitchen) and the box now stands on part of my garden, making it difficult to climb the central steps. I'm trying to grow potatoes and tomatoes but -- never mind. Next year, Covid allowing.

I can't see my partner or go to the pub. Can't play scrabble and talk politics with my aunt, except for the occasional Skype call, when I can catch her (she's busy filming the goldfinches in her garden.) Can't garden much. Can't go the Hebrides, as would normally do in spring. Because, after all, I'm not Dominic Cummings, am I? Be reasonable.

Still, I know I am very lucky. My garden is still there. I have a computer and can talk to friends online; I can order shopping to be delivered in a couple of hours by people still working, using Prime Now and Amazon. And I've always been reclusive and happy to work from home.

So I've just carried on, with KDP and Photoshop -- thankfully, the computers don't yet seem to have caught the virus. Not that virus anyway. They have had their Norton vaccination.

So, at the top and bottom of this blog is the cover of Crack A Story, a collection of retold folk-tales:

I had a little nut tree and nothing would it bear but silver nuts and golden nuts…

And nuts of glass and nuts of brass, nuts of china, nuts of paper, nuts of copper, iron and bronze; nuts of every kind and colour, nuts of every scent and flavor.

   Supple as springs were its trunk and branches and its leaves of bronze turned green and chinked and clanged and tinkled, chiming with the nuts that grew among them.

   And in this nut tree lived a squirrel, a stone squirrel, a red squirrel; a stone squirrel of red carnelian; and all that squirrel did all day was to run up and down the tree, among the chiming, jangling branches, picking the nuts and cracking the shells.

   The shells she flung to the ground, where they shone or rusted. The kernels she ate, and for every nut she ate, she told a story.

   Here are some of the stories the squirrel told.

   You can choose whether you will have the story the squirrel told when she ate…

The Sherbet Nut in the Shell of Bottle-glass

The Topaz Nut in the Shell of Bronze

The Poison Nut in the Shell of Steel

The Rock-salt Nut in the Shell of Gold

The Moonstone Nut in the Shell of Silver

The Flint Nut in the Shell of Platter

The Sulphurous Nut in the Shell of Sugar
The stories can be read in any order -- just choose the nut you like the sound of. In the ebook, hyperlinks are built in, so you can jump from the list above to the story you choose, and then jump back to the start again, to choose another.

Crack A Story by Susan Price, paperback edition

Crack A Story by Susan Price, Kindle edition


Sandra Horn said…
Oh...I can't remember if I've said this before, but if so I'm saying it again. You are a poet.
Jan Needle said…
Lovely that, Sue, At least you've probably escaped the sourdough tsunami though. It's all anyone ever seems to talk about these days (not me; what's sourdough? I wonder if Dirty Desmond spells it doe! Up here in th'north, all the bakers seem to be open anyway. Is it a geography thing?) My question remains open though. I'd love to reread yesterday's post, or the day before etc. Has that facility been irrevocably removed?
Susan Price said…
Jan, I've with you on the sourdough. Even the name is uninviting... As for reading the post from yesterday, just scroll down AE's 'landing page' and click on the title of the one you want to read.

And Sandra -- Oh, I'm blushing. From a real poet, too. Thank you but no, I'm not, I know I'm not.
madwippitt said…
Oh I love this! And so weird as I've been muttering the "I had a little nut tree and nothing would it bear" rhyme to myself all week without knowing why, but now I do! You have psychic as well as poety powers! (And sourdough is the creation of the devil - or possibly those who have developed Covid Anosmia symptoms - along with savoury muffins!)
Peter Leyland said…
Hi Susan - I liked the build up but now I’m tapping on the nuts for the stories and nothing. Have I misunderstood something here?
Yes, just about everything has broken in my house since The Virus Stopped Life... lots of battery issues, weirdly, from the combi-boiler timer to my car, including several clocks and other gadgets. Question for SAGE: are you absolutely sure batteries can't catch/spread covid...?
Umberto Tosi said…
Can't wait to get a copy "Crack A Story:! I love your cover as well! Congratulations and thanks for a most engaging post!
Bill Kirton said…
I'm speechless with gratitude, admiration and (appropriate) feelings of inadequacy before such a tour de force. I'm also sorry at how nasty lockdown has been to you - and yet you've turned it into such entertainment for us. Thanks.
Jan Needle said…
Thanks Sue. Got it!
Rituparna Roy said…
Congratulations on your new book! The cover is delightful!

Sorry to hear what you went through... but you gave me a good laugh - a rarity these days! Thank you!

I can totally identify with it, as it's amazing how many things have gone bust in my home in the last 3 months - a clock, a laptop, the flush of a commode, the washing machine. Thankfully, I have 2 laptops & 2 commodes! And the good news is, the washing machine started working a month after it wasn't... both for reasons beyond my comprehension! But I'm not complaining :)
Eden Baylee said…
Hi Susan, sorry to be late to comment. I'm still trying to catch up.

Funny how things happen at the most inconvenient times! My toaster oven broke during lockdown and I've not replaced it. I have the oven on my big stove so it's fine. I don't miss it most of the time, so now I wonder if I will replace it at all.

Love the concept for your book. It's nutty to say the least!


Popular posts


The Dead Can't Give Permission by Julia Jones

Write What You Know? I Don't Think So! by @EdenBaylee

O Solo Knee-O: Bond Gadget Recovery for Bachelors--by Reb MacRath

'Writer's Life - Getting Real' by Wendy H. Jones