Yesterday, as I have already described, we went on a probably still illegal family walk. When my daughter arrived and they got out of the car, the four-year-old ran up the road with a shout of “Grandma!” and hugged my legs. Her older sister, almost 18, looked on in something like horror and asked, “Can we do that now?” She has been saying for months that she misses being able to hug the family members who don’t actually live in her house. The answer to her question is “Probably not”, but I wasn’t going to tell the four-year-old to stop. It’s the first time she has done this. For most of the past year we haven’t been able to snuggle up and read a story book or watch a video on any kind of regular basis and spontaneous hugs have been slow to develop.
And there must be loads of grandchildren and grandparents all over the country, all over the world, who have not been able to develop spontaneous hugging. And that’s one of the saddest things about the pandemic. And it’s not just grandparents and grandchildren, of course. It must be hardest for those who live alone and have nobody to hug as often as they like on a daily basis. Surely everyone needs hugs. I find myself thinking also about the young people who over the last twenty years have become much more huggy and kissy than ever they used to be. I would watch students at the sixth form college where I worked greet each other with hugs and kisses as if they had been separated for months or bid each other goodbye as if at least one of them was setting off for the other side of the world never to return. Everyone became very touchy-feely. Was it foreign travel and seeing all those French and Italian and Spanish folk kissing hello and goodbye? Somehow elbow-touching and fist-bumping don’t quite hack it. But will ever feel able to get back to big hugs?
My hero, Michael Rosen, as well as waxing indignant about things educational, has been writing nostalgic poems about things from his childhood. Here’s the start of one of them:-
“My brother and I listened to
Journey Into Space
on the wireless.
Each week our heroes went out into space
battled with aliens millions of miles from home.
We were there with them,
facing so many dangers
saving the universe.”
As I read it I was transported back to early evenings of my own childhood, listening to the same programme with my parents and my older sister. (My younger brother and sister were too small to appreciate it.) My sister and I can still intone “I must not go to sleep! I must not go to sleep!” in the correct expressionless monotone required to prevent the intrepid travellers from succumbing to the powers of their alien opponents. Great stuff! It was the best sci-fi going! Some years later, when we finally had a television, it was the series “A for Andromeda” that thrilled me and fired my imagination. I just googled it and discovered that the TV series starred a young Julie Christie. Who knew? Those were the days! Eat your heart out Star Wars and Doctor Who!
Okay! That’s the nostalgia bit done for the time being.
I was woken at around 7.15 yesterday morning with a “ping!” from my phone as yet another text message came in “inviting” me to make an appointment for my Covid-19 vaccination. So that’s an official letter and at least three text messages since I was vaccinated three weeks ago. It’s not just me, nor is it just Phil and me; one of the neighbours says it’s happening to her as well. So when I see reports of people not taking up the offer to be vaccinated I find myself wondering if the statistics include those of us ignoring reminders to do something we have already done. I also wonder how many people are quietly waiting for an “invitation” which has simply not been sent.
According to this article there is some vaccine-envy around and quite a lot of cheating the system. People are pretending to fall into certain categories to go and have the vaccine before their age-group turn works its way round. And there is a new acronym: VOMO. Well, it’s not strictly speaking an acronym. Apparently it stand for “fear of missing out on the vaccine”, and it has its name by analogy with FOMO - Fear Of Missing Out.
Now for something else. Most of us look back at our 15- or 16-year old selves with a mix of embarrassment and relief: embarrassment at some of the daft things we did and relief that we got away with them and grew up into the people we are today - hopefully less embarrassing at least. And there is Shamima Begum, 21 now I think, living in a refugee camp, having lost baby, looking back at being recruited by ISIS when she was fifteen and now being told she can’t return to the UK to appear in court to plead for return of her British citizenship. Apparently she’s a threat to national security. 15- and 16-year olds might feel very grown-up but really they are still children. I think of how much support our oldest granddaughter still seems to need at the age of 23 and my heart goes out for this young woman trying to deal with this in a refugee camp. Yes, she was foolish, more than foolish, to run off at age 15 but she surely deserves a second chance.
Inevitably, comparisons are being made between her case and that of the young man from Cornwall who became the youngest person to be convicted in the UK of a terrorist offence. He was 13 when he was recruited into an on-line neo-Nazi organization set on carrying out a “white jihad” against all non-white, Jewish and LGBT+ people. He had a collection of manuals on weapons and on making explosives. He was 16 when sentenced and he received a 24-month youth rehabilitation order. All right, he didn’t run away to Syria but he has been judged a threat to the national security. Another difference is that he is white and he still has his British citizenship.
I may be missing something but it does seem rather unfair.
Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone