I think I have mentioned already that I have been keeping a jar of coloured notes during lockdown, all stating people, things or experiences that I have been missing most. My aim – when I am legitimately able to empty the jar – is to remind myself not to take ‘things’ for granted again. Well, that is the plan.
If/when we do return to some kind of normal, I will need to prioritise these colourful reminders to ration my urge to go and hug, embrace and resume all these people, things and experiences in one mad frenzy of hedonism. I am not sure that the post-Corona world is ready for Mama J flying from relative to friend with arms askance with or without PPE. I am assuming that a bit of British reserve will be needed rather than full on giddy kipper.
Of course the key flaw in my plan is that there will be no grand reopening of life, but a gradual fraying and fading of lockdown until one day we just realise that there are no longer bars on our cages and that we have been flying without wings or style for weeks.
Anyway that aside, clearly a reunion with Favourite Son and Favourite Daughter (FS and FD respectively) will win any kind of lockdown jar game of Top Trumps, so I have been spending the last few weeks fantasising about a reunion. So giddy was I about Boris now allowing me to sit on my mother’s patio and to catch up on the last 12 weeks, that I almost didn’t notice an invitation come in from FD to meet up – socially distanced – in a country park.
In the days before Corona, FD and I would have chosen a meeting point for its shops (mainly Zara), restaurants (mainly Wagamama) and possibly cinema (it would have been a chick flick or costume drama); now that we enforced to declutter and simplify in this Covid world, we are able to look at a map and search for a picnic site. End of. We are over the moon to discover that the public toilets will be open at our chosen destination – a take-away cafe would be riches beyond our imaginings, so we don’t even dare to check that out.
Being an over-thinker, once we have agreed on a venue, my next concern is how I can meet FD without giving her my customary sweep-her-off-her-feet-bear-hug. ‘It is all in hand,’ she tells me. Like a woman who has been dieting for weeks (my waist band reveals I haven’t), I feel in need of a blow-out feast. I decide that even though I am not a rule breaker in any shape or form (ah, forgot that I told you about my speed awareness course) if push comes to hug, I decide to just launch in with both arms. I will hug as though no-one is watching.
If I had any misgivings, by the end of the Bank Holiday, Cummins has reassured me that any rule has a little flex in it. I decide to leave the fine detail of our meeting to FD and agree to her being hand-delivered (ok, driven) by her Favourite Man (FM) and FM’s mother to the aforementioned picnic site (not in Barnard Castle). I spend the rest of the week gasping rainbows of excitement and working out if there is any way we can kidnap FS to join us.
The only time I have ever been apart from FD for this long was when she was off on her round the world travels. At the end of that trip, I was so excited to be reunited with her at Heathrow Airport that I took the discovery of her gap year tattoo relatively calmly; I think I may have foolishly suggested that I get a matching one. Thankfully FD never reads this blog and she will have forgotten by now anyway. Like Judy Dench I intend to wait until I’m a little older before I get some inking done.
Back to present day and back to bear hugs. Typically for Mama J, I arrive at the agreed location ridiculously early. I have time to check that the public toilets are open and I am literally relieved to discover that there is no queue. I spread out my 2m picnic rug and have a little sun bathe while I wait. I am rudely woken from my cheeky nap by what, from the corner of my dozing eye, looks like a wild bear coming towards me. I realise I may have had a little too much sun on my head as once focused, I see that it is a human- looking bear holding out a jam jar of handpicked flowers.
Yes, on the hottest day of the year, it is indeed FD dressed in a bear costume onesy complete with brown PPE mask. Bear hug, as she promised, has been well and truly sorted. Well, melting bear hug sorted for FD is in danger of wilting inside said costume. Immediately I am concerned to learn if she has travelled for the whole car journey in this fleecy get up; I worry that the RSPCA has been negligent about a poster campaign reminding drivers that ‘bears die in hot cars’. FD is having none of it, ‘Mum, get in here and let’s hug it out so that I can stop being a Care Bear and change back into my fit flops’.
So there you have it, my best day of lockdown so far started with a PPE bear hug and ended with a few hours of socially distanced picnic. Distanced even further away from our picnic rug were FD’s FM and his mother – this is the most people I have spoken to in one group in 3 months. Thank goodness I relish a chat; people who know me will not be surprised to learn that I did not draw breath for four hours.
As FD points out, ‘ Mum you treat everything in life as one of those magazine quizzes you love so much. How I have missed your, ‘so, what has been your biggest challenge of lockdown?’ questions. Or, ‘on a scale of 0-10 (10 being totally maxed out, I have no more to give ) how proud are you of your lockdown behaviour?’ or ‘with what shape would you denote your lockdown behaviour – circle, triangle or square’?’ . ‘I can’t help being interested in people,’ I mutter, thankful that at least FD’s FM agrees to answer.
I start to warm towards Boris just slightly (very slightly) on the drive home; I hear on Radio 4 (so it must be true) that from Monday we are officially allowed to extend our social bubble to a meeting of six. Great news, I will be shaking the crumbs off my picnic rug and inviting FS and his girlfriend to our new secret meeting place (listen, I like you reader, but I am not giving the venue away; it was quiet and there was NO queue for the toilets. This is lockdown pure gold). I am not sure yet with all these recent Cummins and goings whether any hugging will be allowed for this new form of gathering but I am guessing not. FS had better start working on his socially distanced costume for self hugging will look slightly ridiculous and there will be 4 other people watching. Whatever the hug, it will be worth it to see FS in a onesy. I am wondering if he kept that Woody the Woodpecker outfit from his 18th party. Now, if he wears that I promise to get a tattoo just to mark the occasion. Ha-ha-ha-HAAAAA HA!