Touch

I have not hugged anyone since 6 March. The attention and touch to my bare skin yesterday moved me. Human fellow-feeling also moved me- texting can be beautiful- but I need reassurance of my value, and caring touch made me feel better. I will wring all the pleasure I can from the experience.

I saw my pulse was low, and did something about it: search to find if that’s a problem, phone the NHS, speak to my GP. She arranged the CCG. Then on Thursday evening I found myself thinking about it. Would I be OK? I analysed this. Possible heart problems are a thing people might be worried about, and worried people might think about the thing they were worried about. I had done all I could about it for the moment. So possibly I am worried. I’ve just looked up the difference between worry and anxiety: here it is. Worry is verbal, in the head. I used the word correctly, even though I could not have specified the difference.

Next day, I went to the surgery. Because of The Disease, you go in and announce your presence, then wait outside. Only where a physical examination is necessary do you see a professional in person at all. I chatted to a man of eighty, who arrived on an electric scooter. Someone was going to give him a lift, but had not turned up. He told me he was fed up, and made clear he meant he wanted to die. He had had a cataract operation in February, and when he went in they had told him they had to remove the lens. They really should have told him that before, as that is how you treat a cataract. Then they told him he could not drive for weeks, and now he has double vision sideways and all the opticians are closed. It is good to chat. He had been in the army for ten years, including during the Cuban Missile Crisis, a formative and terrifying experience for him.

A woman turned up in a mask. “That looks professional,” I said. It doesn’t have the vents or filters, she said, it’s from her husband’s work, and more a dust mask than an airtight mask.

I decided to identify this tree. I think it is a silver birch. Say if you think different.

The nurse, in an apron of plastic film, a hair covering, and a mask, chatted away as she fastened sticky contacts to my skin: chest, abdomen and ankles. That was the caring touch. It mattered, despite her latex gloves. She so misses touching. She is a huggy person. “Normal sinus rhythm,” she said, and the doctor confirmed.

Going without touch matters, as a human being, a primate, an animal; and it is how things are. I will accept it.

Then I went off for blood tests. I was challenged at the door: have I had a cough or fever in the last seven days? No, and not a headache, loss of taste and smell, or lesions on the toes either. The phlebotomist had to have a good dig around in my arm before finding the vein.

How can you just enjoy cycling? I realised I was pedalling along in a fury of resentment. I resented the wind, I resented the inclines, and when I was working hard I cudgelled myself to work harder. I should not need to drop a gear, here. No wonder I never want to go, though I get some pleasure when out. Yet the most memorable moment of the thirteen miles was stopped at a temporary traffic light, when I stood and looked at the trees. A worker approached the light, opened the metal box wired to it, apologised. Oh, that’s alright, I said. They may have been non-binary and I was keen to identify their assigned gender, just like a straight person probably would be. Something about the hip to shoulder ratio in the shapeless overalls made me think them female, but only the voice (goggles, hard hat) made me sure.

So today I decided I would enjoy the cycling. I looked at the gorgeous pink blossom on two trees. I looked at the many different greens on the foliage, and the shivering wide-leaved grass. I dropped a gear when I felt the need, and may have gone faster as a result. I praised myself for going up the inclines, and fully enjoyed going down. I thought of that resentment: only appreciation and love will do. “Love! Love! Love!” I cried.

I want views from another country, so tag this post Mauritania. Mauritania, in West Africa, has some fascinating rock art.

2 thoughts on “Touch

  1. It certainly looks like a silver birch. We’ve had several removed freon our section (lot/property). They are attractive – we had two weeping cultivars as well as the upright varieties – but here in Aotearoa NZ, the silver birch is the main tree that causes allergic symptoms, including seasonal hayfever, asthma, and other health conditions such as food allergies (the oral allergy syndrome). And I am a hayfever sufferer – big time!

    I think their attraction to Kiwis is their colouration. Most NZ trees have sombre dark foliage and bark and are evergreen, and the silver birch is the opposite. However, I’d be happy to have them them declared a noxious plant if the opportunity arose.

    As for hugs and touching, I’m the opposite to you. I dislike them (the wife excluded). I actually prefer being out and about now more than I did pre-COVID due the social distancing now required. Community spread didn’t take hold here, no doubt in large part because of the early lockdown here. I am now less anxious in places where there are people than I have ever been in my life. Perhaps it has something to do with “personal space”, mine being somewhat larger than what has been socially acceptable up until now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wider personal space, smaller groups in conversation. Sounds great. Yes. Though NZ has controlled the virus far better than the UK did, and our death toll is shameful, and will rise with the return to work.

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