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A Letter From Alison Stuart About How To Occupy Your Time In Isolation


A Letter From Alison Stuart About How To Occupy Your Time In Isolation

According to my diary we are now into week 4 of the Corona Lockdown. Well done, Australia – we are doing so well, but the strange world of being locked down and locked out of everything we take for granted in our lives will continue for some weeks yet so whatever it is we are doing, we need to keep doing it!

Mercifully I am not at the stage of life where I have young children, or school age children. It is just myself, Mr S and the old cat, Toby at Castle Stuart. However I am at the other end of the intergenerational sandwich with a 90 year old mother who lives close by in a retirement village. Of course everything that punctuates her week – Probus, exercise classes, village dinners etc. – even the community bus to the shops is now out of bounds. Fortunately she is quite self sufficient and seems to be passing her days quite cheerfully.

And what about the residents of Castle Stuart? The drawbridge is up, my excursions into the great wide world are confined to a couple of hours on a Wednesday to do shopping for me and my mother. I get ridiculously excited at the prospect of wearing something other than tracksuit pants and rugby jumpers (bequeathed by my once rugby playing son). I put on a pretty necklace and even lipstick and out I go into the big, rather scary, world! Imagine my delight this week to find not only shelves of toilet paper but also a precious bag of Self Raising Flour. It seems like the whole world (and me) is rediscovering home baking. Mr S. and I will need to stop all this comfort eating and start counting calories again!

I am actually amazed how well we have all adapted to this strange new world. Of course technology helps and I can confidently add ‘proficient in Skype, Whatsapp, Messenger, Zoom and several other video conferencing applications’ to my resume. We do the weekend quiz with our sons and families on Sunday via Zoom, our personal trainer runs her sessions through Zoom and I have regular drinks and coffee with writer friends.

But life can’t just stop completely, so what am I doing to while away my hours?
To begin with, I still have a job! I am a full time writer (and therefore superbly positioned to spend long hours incarcerated in a lonely tower in Castle Stuart – you’d almost think I had been training for this very moment). The process of writing and producing books goes on and even though my lovely team at MIRA are also working from home, the final, final edits for my July release THE GOLDMINER’S SISTER have dropped on to my desk. Finding the headspace for something new is more difficult – hence the procrasti-baking, procrasti-cupboard cleaning, procrasti-sewing and procrasti- jigsawpuzzle.

One thing that is important in surviving the two of us working from home, is having our own spaces. It took some persuasion to winkle Mr. S off the dining room table and into his own office but while it is important to have our own spaces, it is also important to have a neutral shared space!

Our furniture has been rearranged to allow for our exercise sessions in front of the TV and one corner of our living room now sports an impressive array of weights and mats. It is embarrassing to note that these objects have been in a cupboard for quite some time. Now their time has come. I am also doing Yoga with a perky American girl and her blue heeler dog (who isn’t?) so throw in a yoga block and strap as well. You would almost think I had been prepping!

In fact (just between us) I rather enjoy the lack of commitment outside of the Castle. Our lives have slowed to the point where I can now indulge myself with a jigsaw puzzle (I knew there was a reason I had kept them all!) and I have pulled the UFOs (Unfinished Objects) out of my sewing cupboard. I even experimented with mask making. I wore my creation out once and decided in future I would take my chances without it – hot, uncomfortable and claustrophobic!

In a curious coincidence, those of you who have read THE POSTMISTRESS will remember that the town of Maiden’s Creek is threatened when a smallpox victim enters following a visit to Melbourne. Now this fictionalised incident was based on a real incident in the town of Walhalla and the way the two doctors dealt with it is exactly as I described. The poor woman died but her quarantined family survived and their home burnt to the ground. In the meantime the entire town had been vaccinated. You can read the account on my own blog… 

In the course of researching the effect of smallpox I also discovered that plague (yes- the plague!) came to Australia in the early 1900s – and this was before the Spanish Influenza outbreak. So what we are facing at the moment is, for us, a great unknown, but as a community we have faced these dangers before and got through them and we will get through this one too.

There are no plagues in THE GOLDMINER’S SISTER, but of course, life in a frontier gold mining town in the nineteenth century was uncertain and there is plenty to keep my two main characters, Eliza and Alec, busy!

THE GOLDMINER’S SISTER is out in July and I am looking forward to finding some ingenious ways to share the excitement with you… online. I hope you are all proficient at Zoom!


Australian author Alison Stuart began her writing journey halfway up a tree in the school playground with a notebook and a dream. Her father’s passion for history and her husband’s love of adventure and the Australian bush led to a desire to tell stories of Australia’s past. She has travelled extensively and lived in Africa and Singapore. Before turning to writing full time, she enjoyed a long and varied career as a lawyer, both in private practice and in a range of different organisations, including the military and the emergency services. Alison lives in a historic town in Victoria.

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