Two Penny Blue – A Novel in Lockdown


Two Penny Blue is the sequel to Aden to Zanzibar and the second of the Plain Sight novels – Watermark will be the third and last.

The broad sweep of the plot was already in my mind (as it is for Watermark – but more distant, as yet) when I started chapter by chapter planning in late 2019. The characters had been established in Aden to Zanzibar, the track of their lives set by events and their circumstances preordained. What next for them? In January 2020, I began writing. In chapter four or five, lockdown began. Everybody’s world became local and compressed.

I live in the countryside. My shed where I write looks out on green fields and rolling hills. To see the sky and to have an unconfined horizon, punctuated only by the landscape, is a privilege.

2020 was a summer of silence. We started walking miles every day, finding public footpaths we didn’t know existed, along canal towpaths, rivers and through fields. The roads were empty. We walked down the middle of them. Sometimes we didn’t see anyone. The weather got hotter.

A routine established itself: write for a couple of hours, walk for a couple of hours, eat, and then write some more, with all the windows of my shed open in the heat and a cold beer from my little fridge in the corner which I kept well stocked.

The days grew longer, tipping over the Solstice and the half way point in Two Penny Blue. Pages were written, struggled with as I walked, resolved or unresolved, changed, scribbled out and were rewritten and slowly the novel progressed.

Writing is a world alone and it can be frustrating when it won’t let you in, but I can lose myself for hours there. I’m glad I had it to escape to.

Two Penny Blue is now in the final stages of editing and not a great deal has changed since the early days of its beginning except it is winter and summer seems a long way away and the windows of my shed are black in the evenings.

But another summer will come. In memoriam for those who will not see it.

I am grateful I had a novel to write.