Book Review – Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant

Stay in the Shallows!

I love swimming but the sea has always terrified me. I like to be able to see what’s beneath me and touch the bottom with my toes. After reading this, I’ll definitely never be venturing very far from shore again.
Grant has brilliantly and terrifyingly transformed the pretty little mermaids of fairy tales and Disney films into nightmarish, slimy, slithering monsters that will pursue you with unnatural speed and tear you apart with horrible mouths crammed full of pointed, razor-sharp teeth.
The book is well-written and easy to read, although the frequent use of clich├ęs at the end of paragraphs to create added drama is a little irritating. “They didn’t. But then they never did.” “The screaming takes longer to end, but in time, it does. Everything ends.” etc.
The plot is gripping and compelling. It moves quickly and held my interest throughout.
The dialogue is authentic and witty. There were moments of humour that made me smile, if not actually laugh out loud, but I’m very difficult to please where comedy is concerned.
Although it was technically science fiction, the premise felt frighteningly believable.
There were some scenes that felt a little contrived and threatened the overall authenticity, such as when the protagonist falls into a sea boiling with hundreds of murderous sea creatures that have been killing everyone on sight but, for reasons that are not well-explained, choose to leave her unharmed. Really?
I liked the main characters and cared about what happened to them. I enjoyed the little romance between Tori and Olivia. However, it was impossible not to notice that people from every possible diversity group were represented in the cast; age, race, culture, nationality, physical and mental ability, sexual preference etc. etc. Very correct and appropriate of course, but maybe a little bit over the top for authenticity? Almost every character exhibited at least one of the UK 2010 Equal Opportunities Act “protected characteristics”.
For me, it all came to a rather rushed and unsatisfying conclusion. All of a sudden, the boat shutters come down, the mermaids are dying, the rescue boat arrives and all the survivors live happily ever after.

Barbados Lockdown – Thursday, February 18th, Month 12 of our Covid-19 Experience.

The lockdown, or “National Pause”, in Barbados has been extended until midnight on the 28th of February.

The lockdown, or “National Pause”, in Barbados has been extended until midnight on the 28th of February. In addition, the curfew has been extended from the hours of darkness (7pm until 6am), to include weekends. This weekend, for the first time, we are not allowed to leave our homes, for any reason, from 7pm on Friday until 6am on Monday. They are also planning to tighten up their monitoring of compliance with the restrictions, and will be dishing out severe penalties including large fines and even prison sentences, to people who breach the conditions of the directive.

It is all because the numbers are not going down, and it seems that not everyone is adhering to the protocols. Several people have been arrested, and taken into custody, for running illegal parties (limes), or opening their business when they are not permitted to do so. To be honest, on the rare occasions when we have been out, on our way to and from the beach or supermarket, we have been surprised by the large number of cars on the road and people that are about. But, you could argue that we were contributing to these large volumes ourselves!

Sadly, deaths continue to rise. A couple of days ago the country lost their first healthcare provider, when a nurse succumbed to the virus. Tragically, on Monday a 9-year-old girl died from Covid-19 related MIS-C (multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children). This has shaken the island community to it’s core. Especially as it was also revealed that around 40 other children are seriously ill with similar symptoms.

On a more positive note, the island has started it’s vaccination programme after it was gifted a batch of the AZ/Oxford vaccine from India. M has registered for his, as a citizen with a serious underlying health condition, and we are waiting to hear when he will be offered an appointment.

As expected, the past couple of weeks have been very different to our lockdown experience in the UK. We get up at 5am every day, and leave the house at 6am to head to the beach to make the most of our 3 hour permitted exercise slot. We walk, jog or swim, and are usually back home just after 9am for coffee and breakfast. When we need to, we pick up some groceries on the way home.

Sunrise on Bottom Bay

I use the term “picking up some groceries” very loosely. Shopping has been the most challenging aspect of lockdown in Barbados. We tried to stock up as best as we could before the Pause but, by the second weekend, we were running out of a few things and fresh vegetables in particular. With all shops being closed on Saturday and Sunday, we thought we’d do a little shop on Friday. Well, it’s fair to say that we were well and truly shocked by the length of the queues, or lines, as they are referred to here. Every shop we tried, had long lines of people outside, winding around the block and down the street. Rather than stand in the blazing mid-morning sun for an hour or so, we decided to make do with what we had in the house and try again the following week.

We tried again on the Tuesday. We still had to queue but it wasn’t as bad as it appeared and, when we made it inside, the shop was uncrowded and well-stocked. Once we got ourselves into the right mindset, the soothing background tunes and the air conditioning helped to make it a relatively stress free experience. Nevertheless, we did a fairly big shop to avoid having to repeat the experience too often!

Other than going to the beach and the supermarket, our days have been spent sitting on the balcony, writing, reading, sewing, and listening to audiobooks and podcasts. In the second week, we were entertained by Mia’s (the Prime Minister) dulcet tones being broadcast from vehicles touring the island, reminding everyone of the need to stay at home, wear a mask and wash their hands, and motivating them to “beat Covid” together. It was quite strange and all felt a bit Orwellian, but doesn’t everything these days?

The upside of it all is that I have got lots of writing done. I have been so encouraged by the feedback on Wait for Me, that I have decided to write a sequel rather than re-visit The Ice Factory or start something new. It’s great fun writing about life in a Zombie Apocalypse and people seem to want more so why not? I have already written 6347 words! At this rate, I’ll have finished in a year or so! Well, we’ll see …

It’s my dad’s 93rd birthday today.

Happy Birthday Dad!

Barbados Lockdown – Tuesday, February 3rd, Month 12 of our Covid-19 Experience.

So, in the final month, of the first year of our Covid-19 experience, we have entered lockdown for the second time! This time in Barbados! I somehow think that this one will be a very different experience to the dark days of March and April in 2020.

Who would have thought that the past year would have been such a strange roller coaster of new and frightening experiences, scary and exhilarating choices and decisions, and the adventure of a lifetime!

Last year, on Monday the 3rd of February, we had just returned from a 3 week holiday in Barbados, and were looking forward to going to the pantomime in Birmingham with our grandson, the following afternoon. Little did we know that the next month the whole world would be in the grip of the pandemic, and that we were about to begin the strangest year of our lives. Nor had we any idea that we would be back in Barbados by the autumn, this time for an extended stay.

On the 12th of January I wrote about the second wave that Barbados had been experiencing since Christmas. In many ways they appear to have regained some control over the surge of infections, but the situation remains worse than it was back at the start of the pandemic for them. They have now had a total of 1585 cases and, sadly, 14 deaths. They have admitted that the virus is now spreading in the community and that some cases of the highly infectious UK variant have been detected.

For this reason, a week or so ago, the Prime Minister announced that there will be a “National Pause” (aka lockdown) from the 3rd to the 17th of February. The hope is that this will serve to eradicate the last traces of the virus on the island.

The basic message is “Stay at Home”, unless you have to go out for medical reasons, to buy food or to exercise between 6am and 9am.

The existing curfew has been extended to 7pm to 6am, during which time it is forbidden to leave your home for any reason except a medical emergency.

Masks are mandatory in all public places.

Parks and beaches are open between 6am and 9am only.

All shops, bars, restaurants and street vendors, except for a few large supermarkets and bakeries, are closed. Supermarkets are open for restricted hours only from Monday to Friday, and are closed at weekends.

It’s not going to be so bad though. It’s warm and we can sit outdoors. We have a pool. We can still do our exercise in the early mornings. The freezer is stocked up. Mia (the PM) has suggested we all use it as time to Rest, Reflect and Renew and that is exactly what we plan to do. I’ve been taking a break from writing since I published Wait for Me, so it seems like a good time to get going again!

On a lighter note – 2021 cozzies come with matching masks!

Testing here remains an issue, particularly in relation to travel. Many countries, including the UK, Canada and the US, now require negative tests before people are allowed to enter the country. In addition, many people are rushing home before prolonged and costly “hotel quarantines” are introduced. This has placed an excessive demand on the testing services, and obtaining results before travel has become an unpredictable and stressful experience. There are many stories of people who have not received their results in time and have not been able to board their flights.

The big story that broke yesterday is that Captain Tom (now Sir Tom) the great British icon of positivity and stoicism in the face of the virus, has died from it! It is not just terribly ironic that the very thing that made him famous has killed him. It is also, for me, symbolic of how, at the moment, it very much appears that all around the world, the virus is winning the fight.

RIP Captain Tom.