A Very Pandemic Letter

April 2021

Dear Family in Australia,

It’s still pandemic season, but I’m on a holiday. It’s been a year of fear and death and change and challenge and a winter too deep to imagine. Restrictions are lifting and now I’m in Cornwall, right by the sea. Staying in this caravan has reminded me of you all. The 80s style décor has sent me travelling back in time to childhood; to every holiday I ever took with you all; my brother and my cousins; we are many.

There’s something about the detail of it all – towels drying on window ledges; sneakers flopped down by the creaky door; jumpers strewn across bench chairs; boardgames jenga-style piling up on the floor; argumentative scorecards abandoned next to beer glasses; swimmers drying inside a too-small shower cubicle.

It all takes me back to times together, times we would meet in tents, caravans, red brick apartment blocks along coastlines more stunning than we would ever know. When the sun would bake us; when we’d cycle around campgrounds making friends we’d never see again; when we’d capsize boats we couldn’t steer; when we’d stay out late and kiss boys we’d just met; find the nudist beaches to waterbomb from above. When we’d play cards so loudly that the noise can still be heard in space; when our feet were always grubby. We’d play beach cricket French style with plastic cricket bats; give the younger ones “a chance”; body board until it hurt; jump waves all afternoon. When we ate breakfast in bikinis, when we ate lunch in bikinis and when we ate dinner with glowing red shoulders covered in aloe vera, amongst the constant chatter.

When we were always allies.

We’re allies still, I know. But now we’re allies in this distant way; in this Zoom arena, in this Whatsapp land; in a dreamy way as I drink my morning cup of tea and pause before starting work, wonder how you all are doing; really doing; in your hearts. I miss you; my never-ending, boisterous clan.

I have the most lovable ally here with me. We swim in the 9 degree sea and play boardgames and we’re letting our feet be grubby. We haven’t eaten any meals in our bikinis, it’s a bit cold for that, and he looks much better in a wetsuit if I’m honest. But we laugh and swim and cook meals in the one-person-only-galley-kitchen; and somehow this 80s caravan has given me the space to share my pain of missing you with him, properly share it. I’m quite certain if I asked him to eat breakfast in a bikini that he’d consider it; for me. Or maybe we’ll save that for when you get to meet him.

The pandemic still rages across the globe, restrictions tighten and then lift, tighten and then lift again. Our countries oscillate and there is always a part of my heart under government grasp; never a complete exhale; constantly quietly waiting for this to end. The barriers between us are high, expensive, unpredictable. But they, unlike the décor in this caravan, will change. This too shall pass.

When I see you next I expect the loudest card game we’ve ever played.

All the love and all the hugs

Kerryn x

Vaccine Day

It may have been divine timing or just my perception, but I’m sure it became instantly sunnier the morning I received my Covid-19 vaccine.

As I started the fifty minute drive home afterwards I could have sworn that the sun was warmer on my skin, the music louder, the roads wider and the air cleaner. It was a chilly English February day but I put the windows down to enjoy the rush of fresh air against my skin and took big gulping breaths. I hadn’t really breathed deeply for nearly twelve months.

Twelve months ago, on 12th February 2020, I had driven to work as usual, sat in my clients house for a few hours, unrestricted and unaware of what was to come, and drove home thinking about the local gig I had been to the night before. This day, twelve months later, after my vaccine I hightail it directly to our local GP to hand deliver the forms for my boyfriend’s registration, determined more than ever to get everyone in line for the jab.

The vaccine had made me feel different. I didn’t cry with relief, I didn’t whoop with joy, I didn’t crack open a bottle of bubbly or hug every person I saw in the supermarket on the way home… although I felt like it. But I did feel different.

It all softens:

The distance

The disconnection

The monotony

Four walls and

A video link: be gone!

It all softens

The relief comes to me quickly

One by one we will get there

Safety and sanity are nearby;

I can hear them whispering

I exhale and it all falls away:

The fear

The dodging

The flinching

The ‘you’re too close’

The tight chest

The friends who test positive

The friends of others’ who passed away

The stats quickly mounting

The worry

The waiting for our turn

It all softens

I exhale

One by one we will get there

Safety and sanity are nearby;

They are made of science

It all softens

Now I allow myself to dream into the future again; just the simple things. Maybe there will be that time again when I will perch on the arm of a sofa in a pub, wedged between my friends and a table of strangers and a friend will arrive unexpectantly, tap my shoulder and I’ll squeal with surprise and delight at her face, all glittered and glossy and glam. I’ll fall into her embrace, one glass of bubbly leaning me into a tight wonky hug and the strangers will glance over, not in judging suspicion but in warm recognition. Then we will sit two of us on the same arm of the sofa where moments ago was just me already squeezed and we will share our simple stories of why we were out that night – me: a friend’s birthday at the yummy new Greek restaurant and I’ll rave about the dolmades, you: leaving drinks for a colleague you barely knew. We will gossip of unimportant treasures of our lives; the moments which matter least and count for the most. We will keep it light because the heaviest days are past and because the bubbly sparkles in our eyes, and well, because we’re giddy just to be there. When they ring the bell for last drinks there will be a communal groan across the whole pub yet secretly we will all be happy to return home to bed as we’re still re-adjusting to the new-familiar-normal. As I leave the pub I will see a friend leaving with a new bae, met that very night, and I see her skin electric with expectancy; touch, finally! I will share a taxi with strangers going in the same direction, fall asleep in my man’s arms, content with all the tiny unimportant memories of the night. I will sleep deeply, dreaming of open borders and seeing my family again.

So, yes, maybe there will be that time again; that time when it’s all soft again.

It all softens and I exhale.