How to Hug

It’s almost ten weeks now since lockdown began.  Last Sunday a neighbour’s son asked me (through the fence) how my week had been.  All right, I said, much the same as last week, and the week before, and the week before that…. The garden project, including rehabilitating the pond, is almost done.  I have painted a broken mirror which I found buried under ivy and used it as a backdrop for fairytale figures collected in my time as a dramatherapist.  I can change the figures and the story.

THE FALLING TOWER is my Tarot card (chosen at random from the Major Arcana) for today.  Another transitional card, signifying change from an outside source (lightning).  Some figures are safe inside the undamaged part of the tower which can be seen as a refuge.  Others leave, acrobatically or stealthily.  We can leave home now, visit family and friends, within strict limits, but the Covid threat is still out there.  Contact tracing may affect anyone. The other night we clapped for carers – the woman who instigated the Thursday night ritual had said this week should be the last time.  It felt a bit sad, although I did feel it was right to stop.  It has been a focal point in the week for neighbours to emerge from isolation and meet at a distance.  But it is time to move on. I have taken down my rainbow picture from the window. Many of the children’s drawings put up in the first weeks are fading now. 

I’m interested in how children are reacting to things. Locally, some have been painting stones and leaving them on walls and windowsills for people to take. I saw an exceptionally lovely one in the next street and went back with a thank you note. It will always remind me of this time.

The other day, on my usual walk, I saw two examples of social distancing. A wee girl, maybe four, on her pink scooter, flattened herself against the fence, shouting ‘Mummy, a lady!’  On the cycle path, an older girl leapt onto the verge as I approached. Her mother, pushing a pram, called, ‘On the grass!’ Indignantly the girl replied, ‘I am!’ A four year old was reluctant to leave the house (like Wee Boy) so her mother explained that the Government said everyone had to go out once a day for exercise. She accepted this and went out for a walk. Later that day, another outing was mooted, but the four year old was adamant that she had obeyed the rules and was on no account going out again. Wee Boy distracts himself by building walls and killing zombies and ghasts on Minecraft, with myself or Cannyrob sharing his progress on Skype. ‘Live’ bedtime stories have joined the video recordings of favourite books as another way of keeping in touch.

I heard someone on the radio talking about explaining to her young granddaughter about not hugging. For lots of us this is going to be so hard. This woman came up with a simple idea. You each put your hand to your heart, hold it out to the other person. Then, still maintaining eye contact, hug yourself as the other does the same. Younger Daughter met a friend with a three year old who wanted picked up and cuddled. She explained the virtual hug idea and the wee girl was very taken with it! See below.

My adult children have coped remarkably well with different experiences of this strange time, keeping in regular contact.  Younger Daughter juggles home schooling with her jewellery business while Older Daughter has been working very hard from home, but finding distraction in her windowsill garden, growing tomatoes, peppers and herbs for cooking.

Son has given permission for me to include some of his photos emailed to me over the last nine weeks recording some moments from his Life in Lockdown.

Visit to doctor’s surgery today for tetanus jab and removal of rose thorn from sole of my foot.  Large older man in waiting area on seeing doctor in PPE remarked, without irony,  ‘You’d think there was a plague or something’

Cannyrob found a review of The Cabinet of Calm by Paul Antony Jones, a book about archaic language. There were two words I particularly liked – worldcraft – ‘the cumulative wisdom of an aged person whose long life has given them unique and much venerated insight.’ I’d definitely like some of that.   Supernaculum – a drink ‘so appreciated that it is savoured to the very last drop’ describes the Italian rosé La Jara we enjoyed in the garden this afternoon. Books continue to be a distraction and a pleasure. Having just emerged from post Roman Britain in Rosemary Sutcliffe’s Eagle of the Ninth trilogy, I am now in 1920’s Calcutta with Abir Mukherjee’s Sam Wyndham in Smoke and Ashes, his third crime novel. I have a stack of books bought online for lockdown, as well as another dozen on my Kindle, so I am unlikely to run out of reading material. Hamnet and Girl, Woman, Other are next on my list.

I had rather expected to be binge-watching Netflix and stuff we’d recorded but we haven’t spent much time in front of the telly recently. Apart, that is, from the brilliant Sex Education, which should be compulsory viewing for teenagers and parents (not in the same room). And old people. New favourite song from the series is Ezra Furman’s Love you so Bad. I’m still singing with B on a Saturday. We are actually meeting up for real today! As well as the Beatles and the Beach Boys, we’ve been doing some Bob Marley. I’m practising Redemption Song.

I feel unsettled by the easing of lockdown. The comforting routine of video meetings with friends each week will change as we begin to go out again. Making decisions about where and how to meet safely, negotiating greater numbers of people, wearing face coverings all make life more complicated. Staying at home was simple. I spotted this in our second hand furniture shop. It’s almost identical to the dolls house I got when I was four. I loved playing with it, even turning it upside down to simulate disaster. When I was eleven my mother said I was too old for it and it was refurbished and given away to the ‘poor children’. I mourned it for years. Does that relate to my reluctance to leave home now?

How are you doing? Are you hopeful that tracking and tracing will work? Are you keen to get out and socialise? Let me know in whatever way suits you. Lots of friends use WhatsApp or you can leave a comment below. But anyone can email me privately at It’s lovely to get feedback. A friend emailed recently, ‘You cover such a range, imaginatively and intellectually which is wonderful’. A few new drawings (Pilates inspired) have been added to My Recent Artwork. You should be able to subscribe by email (see ‘follow this blog’ below) and get next post sent directly.