Article 46 : As restrictions ease ...

Hello everyone.  How are you and how have you felt with less government restrictions to follow?  Has it been a mad dash to socialise or are you playing it cool, one step at a time?  Has it been a chance to meet family and have that longed for hug? I guess we can have a whole range of emotions at this point!

My week began with ‘a first’, as I was able to sit down at the health club for my favourite breakfast for the first time in a year.  Not only that, but I was their first customer since fully re-opening.  It was delicious and I savoured every mouthful.  I had another ‘first’ later that week; first visitor to cross the threshold for a lesson in macramé.  Best to go to the expert.  What a delightful hour.  Given the weather, it was definitely an indoor kind of day.  My sister was pleased too, as I finally made use of her lovely Christmas present to me.  Macrame instructions are not written in English – I am convinced of the fact!  I now have a lovely plant hanger in my kitchen window.

Guest passes had accrued through lockdown so being able to go swimming with another family and their offspring, some too big to be called children really, was yet another first.  Fun to share isn’t it.  Mind you, the decision to sit outside the big ‘M’ for supper after may have been a trifle ambitious.  Despite the sun, it was freezing.  The current climate is not always conducive to outdoor eating.  I used the rest of the passes up later in the week, but it was strictly inside to swim and for coffee!  Still, it is lovely to spend time with friends, lingering over meals and chatting once again without fear of getting soaked.

Friendships and hospitality have definitely been the theme of the week.  A visitor from London, tested of course, took up residence for the weekend.  We had our first meal out and lots of laughter.  There were a few tears!  Little Man was totally overwhelmed by the restaurant and had to be rescued and taken to his cousins!  Limited access to others has had its effect on him for sure, but nursery is helping and if our visit to the dinosaurs at the Winter Gardens yesterday is anything to go by, they will soon be giving him a job as the most enthusiastic guide in the world as he pointed the stegosauruses out to every visitor with the biggest ‘WOW’ he could muster!  Museums could be added to the week’s themes as I met up with a girl friend at The Laing on Friday.  She was there to write a review of the current exhibition, which I can recommend.  We did however, spend longer over the coffee than the exhibition as there was much on which to catch up. 

When you look back on the week, it sounds very busy but that is because I haven’t written about the spaces in between, of which there were plenty.  I enjoy company but I enjoy my own company too.  I remember when the first restrictions eased and people began to discuss a return to ‘normal’, a friend commenting that she did not want to lose the spiritual intimacy she had gained as a result of less outward activity during lockdown.  Another girl that I walk with told me that the whole process had made her more content and less inclined to be rushing here, there and everywhere.  My art friend emailed me later that day to say how much she had enjoyed meeting me but noted how tired she had felt that evening and how she would need ‘some social re-entry training before starting to do this on a regular basis’.  A close friend after a day with friends, which they’d loved, described being ‘socially exhausted’ and ‘recharging in the greenhouse’ with a little solitary re-potting.

I’m writing this in my new local coffee house, in a cosy armchair with a panoramic view of the cricket pitch.  Chatting to another customer, there for a meeting of Sunderland Art Club, she mentioned that it was the first time she had been out in a year.  It was caution not intimacy that was keeping her inside yet displayed on the wall behind her were paintings by members of her group, each one a landscape.  What would she paint now?  As a lover of the outdoors and a firm believer of the benefits of time spent in natural surroundings, I was reminded of how restrictive this year has been and how much rehabilitation it may take for some people to venture outside and in company again but also of the balance we need to find to keep the spiritual intimacy we may have gained.  Let’s not forget to ‘dismiss the crowds’ and ‘depart to a solitary place’.

To complete my plant hanger, I had to wind the string tightly around sixteen dangling threads and make a tassel.  According to the dictionary, the word ‘restriction’ has its root in the old Latin ’stringere’, meaning to ‘pull tight’.  Maybe the plant hanger is a useful metaphor and the beauty of the design comes together in the ‘restriction’ of the final part of the pattern, holding every other strand in place.  Not all restriction is a bad thing, eh?
by Jean Wilson #5, 28/05/2021