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Notes from the sick bay

“Ah! There is nothing like staying at home, for real comfort” – Jane Austen (allegedly). Although she didn’t have to endure the harassment of up to five phone calls a day ‘reminding’ her to self-isolate. Perhaps it’s assumed that if you have Covid, you’ve lost your memory and wits as well as your sense of smell.

Reader, I have contracted it. All for a few luscious days away on my birthday, not a moment of which I regret. We went to Bristol on the train, revisited Nick’s old university haunts, explored the Georgian terraces and the harbourside, had a lovely day in Bath, ate and drank well. We’re now two days off finishing our ten-day quarantine. We’re both feeling tons better than this time last week, even the sense of smell is gradually creeping back (starting with smells I’m not keen on, like coffee, maddeningly!)

Royal Crescent, Bath
Royal Crescent, Bath

Someone on Twitter commented that ten days enforced isolation gives you all the time in the world to write – but frankly I haven’t really felt like it. I have done some reading and research in preparation for the forthcoming collection. At the moment the difference between a planning a pamphlet and planning/producing a full collection feels like the proverbial yawning chasm. I can do this! And yet I keep printing off my notes, usually with headings that might motivate me, like ‘Why I’m interested in writing about X’, and ‘Key themes and identifying the gaps’, then staring at them with nothing to add. Meanwhile all the new poems sit there looking up at me like baleful dogs desperate for a walk. I try to tell myself they have promise, even though they seem tired or lacking in originality. And then I go back to reading, avoiding Twitter or wondering if I need to just do a bit of yoga.

Woops, this has gone a bit negative – apologies! There have been some good things too – last week I really enjoyed Live Canon‘s performance of the ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’, not a poem I was familiar with apart from the odd quote. Apparently they plan to tackle Paradise Lost next – yikes! I struggled with Milton at school, although I suspect that was just part of my general immaturity and lack of stamina. Far easier to get to grips with a Ted Hughes poem about a pig than hundreds of pages of 17th century hellfire.

St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol
Before the ‘Mariner’: here’s where Coleridge married Sara Fricker in 1795. St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol

Actually I do have something big to celebrate/express, and that’s my gratitude to all the lovely email subscribers who bought me a cup of tea as a thank you for the quarterly magazines submissions updates. I was thrilled and touched by all the support.

Right… onwards and upwards.

Published inAngstBlogEventsMags & Blogs


  1. That was bad luck but sometimes we have to do what we have to do. my eye situation has threatened to defeat me several times recently and know about baleful dogs waiting for a walk… But good luck. Get well soon ❤️

    • Robin Houghton Robin Houghton

      Thanks Ann, feeling much better now! Rx

  2. Grainne Tobin Grainne Tobin

    That’s very bad luck, Robin. May you be restored to normal health soon. Meanwhile, nothing for it but to wait it out. I’m amazed that you are up to a blog post at all. Mind yourself.

    • Robin Houghton Robin Houghton

      Thank you Grainne, I’m pretty much over it now. Hope you’re well! Rx

  3. Thank you for posting this., Robin.

    Well, here I am isolated in a bedroom on day 6 of my own Covid adventure. I have written a little, but I seem empty of words at the moment, so I’ve resorted to reading ‘stuff’. The saddest episode was the other night when I just couldn’t read and resorted to watching Reels on Instagram. It turned out to be a bad idea. I turned off Jimmy Carr in full flow, talking about his sex life!

    It turns out, that when you can’t write and no longer wish to read, you should just go to sleep!

    Stay healthy.

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Robin Houghton 2021