“Batten down the hatches!”

This is an English expression that means to prepare for a difficult situation. The origins of the saying is from old sea-faring times. Hatches or hatchways were commonplace on sailing ships and were normally either open or covered with a wooden grating to allow for ventilation of the lower decks. When bad weather was imminent, the hatches were covered with tarpaulin and the covering was edged with wooden strips, known as battens, to prevent it from blowing off. Not surprisingly, sailors called this ‘battening down’.

To limit the spread of the Corona virus, COVID-19, we are all being advised to “batten down the hatches”. The effective lock-down is aimed at curbing the spread and buying time to find a cure. The restrictions of movement is not only in Belgium, but applies more or less globally. In my life time, this universal approach is unprecedented. Thankfully I have all the means to work effectively: laptop, VPN, VOIP, mobile phone, conference tools and more.

Given the rate of infection and the fear of mutation, the measures are understandable and supported. Thousands have already died and we can only hope that measures prove to be effective and that vaccinations can be found quickly, limiting the deaths to follow. Given the necessary measures, the economy will most certainly suffer and individual well-being will probably be impacted, both physically and mentally.

And yet, in terms of writing, the lockdown is secretly a Godsend. For the time-being at least, no travel, no commutes, no sports distractions, no coaching, no nights out and no parties. Aside from work, family board games and Netflix, there will be loads more time for reading and writing. But herein lies my dilemma: The timing is all wrong.

Currently I’m finalising my third novel ‘DEATH IS A CHALLENGE’ and I need to consult my editor from time to time. Not only that, but my head is in finalisation mode. This mode requires discipline and order, which usually comes when I’m busy. The periods when I have time on my side, such as during holidays, are better suited for a more artistic frame of mind; when one can escape, imagine and create.

For me to decide a global halt will never be an option – and thankfully so – but ideally if I could, I would pick a lock-down period when it suits my cycle of writing. Having the choice of time could be very convenient for me, but probably only for me and not for anyone else. To have such a global power would be mightily scary, catastrophic perhaps, as I’d get so lost in thought that I’d forget to reverse things again…


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