independent multilingual writer


Tired, sad and ready to take on the world

I’d say the first 40-odd years of my life, I was far too busy shooting the messenger to ever fully grasp the message, whatever it might have been. Don’t get me wrong – I’m hardly the only one. I’ve met plenty of people of varying ages and genders who seemed intent on wasting ammunition until the cows came home. And then shoot the cows.

Lessons rarely wait until you think it’s the right time for you, wisely realising that if humans can postpone something difficult, they usually do. There have been some truly hard lessons for me this last decade. Slowly I’ve come to accept that there are many things I cannot alter – not with good intentions, or kind words and empathy, not through my writing, not with frustration, impatience, tears or anger. All the good intentions, anger and agonising in the world could neither alter nor improve my mother’s dementia e.g. and would have had no effect whatsoever on my parents’ aging and ill health. I simply had to live through that time, going through the ups and downs as best I could, accepting that I could not alter what was happening around me.

These lessons should have come in handy when covid-19 struck, but they’ve taken their time about coming to the fore in this new context. Throughout my 40s, even when times were tough on the personal front, I still had access to the wider (and wilder) world and I took full advantage. Sometimes I suspect I stayed in travel writing for so long because it provided an excellent antidote to what was going on for me outside of work. When commuting to Sweden to help my parents felt too much, or when the drama of some of my more complicated relationships was threatening to engulf me, travel was a god-send. Suddenly in 2020 that god-send was gone. Even though I had moved on from travel writing, I had no intention of giving up travel. Quite the opposite. I was looking forward to finally travelling more on my own terms, without constantly being on assignment and, callous though this might sound, I was also looking forward to travelling without the fear that one of my parents would have a new medical emergency that would force me to drop everything and dash off to Sweden. But it was not to be…

When it became obvious just how much covid-19 was set to alter our lives, I did the whole range – denial, rage, frustration, despair, impatience, a bit more anger, some more despair, apathy, lethargy and everything in-between. 2020 was, at least partly, meant to be my chill-out, relaxing travel time and no way was I accepting defeat. But of course I had to, and that made me miserable. It has taken me a large chunk of 2020 to reach some kind of acceptance of the status quo. Not peace necessarily, but acceptance. All those hard-learned lessons about the things one cannot alter got buried in the whirlwind of this year’s bad news, but after much cursing and struggling, I now feel a little better, less resentful and less ready to waste more ammunition. Yes, I miss travel, I miss seeing friends in person, live music, hugging elderly relatives – the list goes on – but there are also many things I love doing that are within reach right here at home, not least my writing, which is somehow still going strong and refusing to be repressed. At the end of 2020, I am indeed tired, sad and ready to take on the world, even if that world current feels like it’s roughly the size of my writing room here in London.

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