Remember When The World Paused, the book published a year ago to raise funds for NHS Charities? On the day the second instalment is published, editor Michelle Gant explains why she’s done it all over again
When The World Paused Again began life as a blog in March 2020, launched to capture people’s thoughts as the first lockdown began. A total of 75 people took part, and the posts were subsequently published as a book in October 2020, raising around £600 for NHS charities.
Michelle Gant was the founder of the blog and the book. She says: ‘Writing has always been cathartic for me, and it’s something that I have been able to turn to during difficult times, and journaling particularly has helped me to process thoughts and emotions.
‘Which is why I thought an online journal – a blog – would be a fantastic way to help make sense of what was happening way back in spring 2020.
‘I decided to open the blog up to others who might find it helpful too – and I was overwhelmed with the response. By the end of it, we had enough content for a book that we could publish to raise funds for our NHS heroes.
That book was the first instalment of When the World Paused and Michelle thought that would be the end of the project. But when lockdown was announced again this year, she decided to reopen the blog.
‘For many people it seemed that this winter lockdown was more challenging than the previous one and once again, I thought that writing could be a useful tool to help people process what was happening.
‘This time, I wanted to look ahead more, and the focus was on what a pandemic taught us about living, helping people to find positivity in an uncertain and hugely challenging period of our lives.
‘I invited last year’s contributors to take part again and many of them were keen to do so, capturing their reflections one year on from the last time they had written.
‘But it was also fantastic to see so many other people who hadn’t previously been involved want to contribute. When I closed the blog in June, 84 of us had taken part and shared our thoughts and feelings.’
This included contributors from Norfolk and Suffolk as well as from across the UK, from places such as London, Manchester, and Tyne and Wear. There were also writers from as far afield as Holland and Abu Dhabi.
And the youngest contributor was Michelle’s daughter Thea who was aged five when she recorded her latest reflections in May this year.
‘When I started the blog, I was conscious that I was also capturing a moment in time for my daughter. She will only have vague recollections of the last year and I wanted to record memories for her. But I also thought she would have something to say on this time of her life.
‘And so, I interviewed her – both this year and last – and I wrote down verbatim what she said. Her reflections, like so many in the book, moved me but made me laugh too.
‘I am enormously grateful to all of the contributors who have taken part and shared their thoughts quite so openly. Reading their reflections was certainly a highlight of an uncertain time.’
When the World Paused Again: What a Pandemic Taught us About Living: Various Contributors, edited by Michelle Gant, is on sale on Amazon, priced £9.99 – with all profits going to NHS charities.
Extracts from the book:
Thea Gant, aged 5: When I can see everyone, I’m going to play catch and I’m going to play bat and ball. Maybe I will have sleepovers. And maybe I will play board games with my aunties. I’ve missed everyone. So so so so so so so so so so so so so so much.
Claire Findlay: It has certainly been a year for reflection and adapting to a new way of living. For me there has been so much new learning and new opportunities that may not have occurred if it hadn’t been for the lockdowns and restrictions. For this, I am grateful.
Anna Tydeman: When I look back over the year just gone, I feel a mix of emotions. I am moved by people’s acts of kindness towards one another, inspired by their resilience, thankful to the NHS and frontline workers and to everybody who made sacrifices for the good of others, and proud of us all.
Martin Hales: Perhaps now there is light at the end of this long tunnel, and we can all start to move forward. What the new normal will be is anyone’s guess but the one thing I take away from this year is that I now understand that as I grow older it isn’t about the material things… it’s about what’s in our hearts and who we care for. We have to cherish every single moment where we are able to be with the ones we love. It’s over all too quickly. In the words of C S Lewis ‘You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending’.
Michelle Gant: The pandemic has taught me that life can change in a heartbeat so just go with it and let it be whatever it’s going to be. I have spent a lot of time trying to mould and shape things the way I want them to be rather than just accepting life, warts, and all. I’ve kidded myself for years that I’m in control – not a bit of it. I’m just going to deal with whatever gets chucked at me. Because I’m ready for anything. As we all are.