Away Awhile

There is only one word on everyone’s minds at the moment. It’s on the news, on our phones, in our conversations, check-pointing us at supermarkets, schools and airports. It seems uncomfortable to talk about other things when the whole world is gripped in crisis, so the other option is to talk about the very same thing in a more comfortable way.

Here is a story: it is the semi-fictional journal entries of a child, based on what is happening. Unable to engage in the ‘war effort’ in many ways, here is one in which I can. The stories will come in chapters, or snippets between the episodes of breaking news, for calmer reading amidst the panic of the pandemic.

Things are moving faster than the chapters can keep up with, but let’s see how it goes. The story will take inspiration from real life scenarios; a little of the sad and grave aspects, a lot of the uplifting, rallying together aspects, all told from the voice of someone who kinda does and doesn’t get it at the same time.


Suitable to read to kids. Each chapter is around 400 words, with original illustrations.


Chapter One
No Spring in Sight

It has been storming for weeks, even though we are now in the middle of March. Spring is due but neither the garden nor the continuing need for blankets and heaters are giving me any sign of that. The only indication of the changing season are some pale blossoms which appeared on a few trees on the pavement – though those have been partly blown off by the winds.

But that is not the reason that I am sitting inside right now. I am quite happy to be out in the cold as long as I am wrapped up, and I’m not scared of the rain (not since I got my fancy new umbrella anyway). My friends and I might be sitting in Dally’s right now, admiring the volcanic clouds from the warmth of our lamp-lit table. Dally’s – Dalliance – is a shop run by Mrs Shawwal, an old Egyptian lady who dresses something like a Russian doll. She opened Dalliance as an alternative to coffee shops and patisseries, for those of us who aren’t very sweet-toothed, and who can’t quite hold the flavour of coffee beans. Her desserts are all savoury and the most popular drink on her menu is boiled honey water.

My friends and I are not there though. We are all sitting by our windows on a group phone call, lamenting our house arrest. Our parents say we can’t go out together. School is also closed now for the most part. It’s because of this new virus that’s been going all around the place faster than anyone can stop it. It’s the first time I’ve actually felt a bit bad for the Prime Minister, because he’s been on the news every day, looking so stressed and tired that he might even be sick himself.

We can go outside, just not to places with other people. Even Jumuah has been cancelled. I’ve never known a Friday when Dad hasn’t gone to the Mosque. The countryside and parks are alright; trouble is, all of our parents are too stuck to the news screens to actually take us there! It’s very disruptive really. I can only imagine poor Mrs Shawwal opening her shop and wondering why there are no customers (because she doesn’t have a tv, so she might not know about the virus). She needs to be careful though because it seems to be worse off for the older people. My neighbour Uncle Brian also needs to make sure he stays in because he’s the oldest person I know (nearly 80!). Dad is going to check on him later when he gets back from work. It’s his last week out before he’s set to move into the office at home.

Chapter Two coming soon…