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Opinion

Michael Morpurgo on the days we’ll remember all our lives

Beloved children’s author Michael Morpurgo shares his lockdown diary

Days I’ll remember all my life. That’s the line of a favourite song of mine sung by the wonderful singer Kirsty MacColl. I’ve been playing it a lot recently. In times like this the familiar is comforting to me, reassuring. And I will remember these days, because these days, these times are like no other.

I am lucky, in that I’m a writer, and I’m used to imposing a routine on my day, because I have to, and I want to get on with my story. I have a time and a place to do it, and so I’m used to being inside, four walls around me and a closed door. So these days of self-isolation are much the same for me. Except I can’t see family and friends, except the news of the virus stalking our world out there is always in the back of my mind. But I do my best to keep it there, to get on with my writing, to get through each day and to get used to a slower way of being, less urgent, more thoughtful. Every day is more precious now I’m finding, every hour felt more deeply. They are days I will not forget.

My day. 8.15. Up, do teeth, get breakfast. I was unwell a while ago [Morpurgo was diagnosed with laryngeal cancer in 2017 but has since recovered], and a dear friend said I must have kale every day. So I make a kale smoothie, toast, coffee. Clare is up, and we talk through the day over breakfast, make the list to email to dear kind neighbours who are fetching our shopping for us. I feed the birds, go to my bed to get on with my writing.

I always write sitting up, a pile of pillows behind me, my writing pad on my knees. It relaxes the arm and shoulder as I write. I copied this from a photo I once saw of Robert Louis Stevenson. My favourite author. He looked so comfortable. And he wrote Treasure Island!

At the moment I’m retelling the plays of Shakespeare. Just done King Lear. He wrote that play just after a plague. Reminds me we’ve been here before.

Coffee midmorning, 11.15, then another couple of hours scribbling away. Lunch, which we make together. Discovered stir fry, so I cut up everything and Clare does the wok end of things, the creative side. Delicious. Shave and shower – yes, I’m still in my pyjamas and dressing gown! Rest after lunch, obligatory for oldies like us. Then pilates exercises for 20 minutes, before we go off for a walk down over the farm. All alone but for the cows and calves, the sheep and lambs, the herons and ducks and crows and buzzards – a sparrowhawk yesterday – and the wood anemones and the primroses.

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Tea when we get back, fetch in logs for the fire, read through what I’ve written earlier, correct this and that. Reply to emails and letters. Phone calls too, really important to hear the voices of those we love.

At 6 we light a fire. Make supper, scrambled eggs maybe, or sardines and salad. Eat it in front of the TV news. Channel 4. Switch it off if it makes us too anxious or sad. Watch a film, often a familiar film we’ve loved before. Clare writes her diary, knits the lovely scarf – Shetland wool spun in Yorkshire – that she’s making for me for next winter, or the winter after! Walk out to listen to the owls across the valley.

Lock up. Bed. About 11. We drift off to bed and off to sleep, lulled away by our lullaby, the BBC World Service.

Tomorrow will be another day, just like today, just like yesterday. Days I’ll remember all my life.

Keep well, dear reader. We’ll get through. Let’s do what the birds do. Sing!

Boy Giantby Michael Morpurgo is out now (HarperCollins Children’s Books)

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