Hobbies In Quarantine

Can’t go out. Going to the grocery store feels like I’m putting my life at risk. I can’t just watch Netflix or be on Facebook all the time. They’re about to outlaw going for walks, and in Toronto they are now handing out $7500 fines for going to the park…not that we should anyway.

In times such as these hobbies are important. People are learning to sew and are making face masks. People are learning to bake for themselves in huge numbers. There is something very comforting in homemade bread and buns. If there is one good thing that comes out of this crisis – and I think there will be many good things, actually – is that people are re-learning how to make and bake and do things for themselves. The kind of things our grandparents always did for themselves, but we’ve found it easier to just go shopping instead.

That’s changing now, since shopping for anything but necessities has been cancelled, and the necessities are getting hard to find.

Keeping yourself occupied with hands-on, practical things is important to maintaining ones sanity while in isolation. I’ve been learning to work with leather and make knife sheaths. I’ve also been learning to make knives.

Here’s a sample of what I’ve been making. Made from bulk, raw materials, not from a kit.

Handmade knife with leather sheath made by the author.

I used to find apocalyptic books entertaining. I don’t anymore.

Does anyone else feel this way?

Some of my favorite books over the years have been: Lucifer’s Hammer, Alas, Babylon, Childhood’s End, and One Second After. And who will ever forget great classics like The Day of the Triffids, On the Beach and A Canticle for Lebowitz. I loved these post-apocalyptic books. I’ve read them all more than once. I even wrote one myself about 4 years ago: The Girl With No Shoes, about time travel and a civilization ending plague.

And some of my all-time favorite movies have been The Quiet Place, The Bird Box, Signs, and I Am Legend, to name just a few. I own the DVD of Signs and binge-watched The Bird Box three times one week on Netflix about a year ago. I loved it.

But now that I feel like I’m in one, I no longer find them so entertaining.

I’ve had a few co-workers make comments along these lines (over the phone, of course, while on con-calls). One said that he “feels like he’s a supporting cast member in a sci-fi movie.” Another one said that she “feels like she’s been dropped into a sci-fi plot.” These comments all came unprompted, without a leading question. I found it interesting because I was feeling the same way. When I commented on this to my brother, he quipped: “What took you so long? I’ve felt like I’ve been in a dystopian nightmare ever since Trump got elected.”

I was really looking forward to the release of The Quiet Place II this March in movie theaters. But I never got the chance. All the theaters closed due to the virus the same week it was released. (Does anyone else see the irony in that?) Maybe Netflix will stream it, but I no longer care. It’s going to be a very long time before I’ll be in the mood to watch it.

In the past I’ve had to watch these movies alone or with a friend or one of my adult kids, because my wife doesn’t like them and will leave the room if one is on. She much prefers stuff like Call the Midwife, Doc Martin and Downton Abbey. At Christmas time she binge watches cheesy Hallmark holiday romances. Shows that usually put me to sleep before the opening credits are done.

Like everyone else around the world, my wife and I are in self-isolation at home. Fortunately we both have jobs that are suitable for work from home. My work sent us all home with our laptops two weeks ago and told us not to come back until further notice. My wife’s employer sent them home with their computers and telephones last week. She’s setup in the dining room and my ‘office’ is now in the living room.

We won’t be going out anytime soon, and there is suddenly a lot of time after work to read books and watch TV. And I have absolutely no interest in apocalyptic books and end of the world movies. My wife found out that Julian Fellowes, the creator of Downton Abbey, has a new series on Netflix: The English Game, about soccer in the 1870’s. She wants to watch that.

Sounds good to me Honey. I’ll make the popcorn. And after that’s over, I’ll even watch Call the Midwife with you.

** I would like to give credit where credit is due. The idea for the muli-coloured circles isn’t mine. I saw something similar posted on FB, only it used very old movie references like Logan’s Run and Soylent Green, that few people under 30 would recognize. The original FB posting wasn’t shareable, and the person who posted it wasn’t able to tell me who made the original. I took the liberty of re-drawing it and using up-to-date movies. Please excuse the colouring outside of the lines.

Handmade camp knife

Okay, this is has nothing to do with my latest novel, but it’s still fun. I made the blade from 01 tool steel and used brass for the bolster. I grind and polish the pieces by hand using a belt sander and files. When I’ve finished shaping the knife, I heat treat it in a small forge. Heat treating the steel after the knife is shaped makes the steel really hard so it will keep a tough edge when sharpened. After the heat treat I cut out the handles from slabs of micarta and attach them using brass pins. Then I give the steel blade and handle material all a final polish by hand using a very fine grit sandpaper. I finished this last week.

When I get stumped on a plot point or where to go with a character, it helps me clear my mind by going out to the shop and making a knife.

Camp knife with brass bolster

Summer Fun 2018 Promos

Summer fun

I’ve got a promo running this month for a couple of my books, The Girl With No Shoes and Aliens, Spaceships and the Occasional Latte. The picture to the left with the cute pink flip-flops has nothing to do with anything, but I like it for its winsome cheerfulness.

The fun starts this week. I’m giving away the Kindle version of The Girl With No Shoes for free, from August 6 to 9. You can download it from Amazon here. After that, it goes on sale for 99 cents for the rest of the month.

Aliens, Spaceships and the Occasional Latte will be free (Kindle version) starting August 7 through to the 11th. Then it goes on sale for 99 cents to the end of the month or longer if the promo is going well. Download it from Amazon here.

Be sure to get your copy! I hope you enjoy the books as much as I loved writing them.