Cut off at the Needs~~by Mark Huntley-James

Did someone say lockdown? It’s not something we can all get together and talk about, but for writers it has to be one the greatest natural resources of our lifetime, albeit one we’re not supposed to go out and exploit…

In something I’m currently working on, one of my characters has a deliberate catch-phrase – I don’t get out very much. Oddly enough, that was my experience before lockdown. I’m not the most social person, and we live in a rural location, in one of the most sparsely populated parishes (ignoring the sheep), and my main social interaction is driving into town to do the shopping. So lockdown has had very little impact on me, except for the way it has touched everyone else…

So, put your mask on, check you’re not on the at-risk list, and go watch the more social members of our species go to pieces when their world changes.

Quite by chance, not long after Lockdown One started, I happened to be in a supermarket in Plymouth on one of our very rare major outings. I’d seen jokes online about toilet paper shortages, and there it was, for real, right in front of me. It took a moment to sink in that the long aisle that should have been piled high with paper products was completely empty.

I remember a sugar shortage when I was a kid, and likewise a potato shortage, which meant my mother exploring new and exotic things, like pasta and rice. Up until then, pasta was not a word I knew and I had no idea that Heinz Spaghetti Rings were in fact pasta in a tomato sauce, or that rice could be used for anything other than rice pudding. Now, suddenly discovering that we had a toilet roll shortage was a timely reminder of that delightful quote – “Every society is three meals away from chaos”.

(Until I wrote this, I could not have told you that that comes from Vladimir Lenin.)

So, welcome to lockdown, where suddenly no-one can find toilet paper, flour or baking yeast, the scammers come out in force to prey on anyone they can get their claws into, and various high-profile individuals are forced to resign (or not) for breaking the very rules they devised or imposed.

You couldn’t make this stuff up, and even if you did, it would sound insane.

We’re not evolved to wear masks, keep our distance, or live in isolation. So, get your mask on and go watch the upright monkeys in their unnatural habitat, fighting over the last sheet of toilet paper, then you can tone it down to something more believable and write a story.

OMP Admin Note:  Mark Huntley-James writes science fiction and fantasy on a small farm in Cornwall, where he lives with his partner and a menagerie of cats, poultry and sheep.

He has two urban fantasy novels out on Kindle – “Hell Of A Deal” ( ) and “The Road To Hell” (  ) – and is working on a third.

He can be found online at his blog, his website (, and occasionally on that new-fangled social media.

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