I was in the physically-distanced queue for the post office today, sending some paintings to the States, (luckily people are still buying my work,) when I realised someone was standing right next to me. Surprised, I turned around to see the old lady who lives next door. I was surprised, not least because I thought she would be stringent about ‘the rules’ about 2 metres, and I was actually delighted to see an old Tory lady deliberately breaking the ‘rules’ of the new abnormal. She said she had to get back home to pay the gardener and didn’t have time to wait in the queue and asked if I would pick up a copy of the Telegraph for her. I said that of course I would. I sensed that I was the first person she had stood close to for a long time and that just my proximity was fulfilling a basic human need. When I dropped the newspaper off to her, I realised how starved she was of conversation and I duly stood there and let her go off on a tirade of how much she hated the lockdown, how exhausted she was because of simply doing nothing, how sad, lonely and unhappy she was. I told her she was always welcome to come and have a coffee in the garden with us, and commiserated with her. Normally she attends all kinds of groups and clubs and talks. Now all she has is the Telegraph.
I find that I will do anything for anyone at the moment. I will leave bags of organic veg outside my vulnerable friends’ door. Kindness actually gives us endorphins, and so to give is a kindness to ourselves as well. What is so strange is that my friends, one of whom is battling cancer, are struggling on their own, and their friends are unable to see them, to support them in their darkest hour. It is so utterly counter-intuitive. I want to hug them, to show I care, to touch and talk with them.
I will go on walks with anyone who wants my company. Yesterday I crashed my daughter’s ‘distanced’ picnic in the park just to hang out with two young people for a while. We laughed as instead of hugs, I did a sort of hybrid ‘namaste’ bow.
I miss…. everything. Just everything without guilt or constant fear of judgement, or self consciousness about how to behave. I realise how sociable I really am, when I had thought I was some sort of semi-hermit. I miss the joy of big groups of friends laughing and chatting. I have a sense that there is a tipping point coming.
The past few days I have walked with my sister and picked elderflower to make elderflower champagne and drank turmeric sun tea. I hugged a tree grown from a pine cone from the Garden of Gethsemane in Battle church yard. I went to see my Mum and she simply said, ‘It’s so lovely just to talk isn’t it?’ as we sat on her garden swing chair and she regaled me with stories about the neighbours.