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Keeping Mum: Long walk to freedom

Wednesday was a momentous day for some of us Age Spacers this week – the chance to meet up again for the first time since September.  The entire day was a bit surreal – as any similar “first” meetings are going to be for millions of people in the coming weeks.  But, the joy of wearing proper clothes – and shoes – and heading into central London rather than once again scrabbling for the zoom link on some email sent days ago…..

Time travel

The surrealness was around so many aspects to a regular day I used to take for granted.  First off was actually arranging to meet; it seemed a very odd thing to be doing.  How on earth did we ever manage to go to even a single appointment and work all in the same day?  Exhausting for a start, and it took up so much time what with the travelling etc.  Not forgetting the 45 minutes spent looking for my Oyster card in pockets of coats I may have been wearing either in September or indeed last March.    But I had also forgotten that lovely feeling of “suspended time” getting out provides, the chance to think or ponder as the tube/bus or train takes the strain.

The most important aspect of our plans to meet was the venue, and it took quite some time.  The key ingredients were outside, with all-weather provision, seating that was available, and something that passed as an alternative to a working environment.

The new office normal

A picnic table in Carnaby Street couldn’t perhaps be further from the criteria, and would probably have failed the selection process before Covid, but it certainly sufficed. We had a weather watch update first thing before leaving home to check that rain would not stop play.  And a clothing check – coats or jackets?

The moment of actually meeting was probably the most surreal of all.  Work colleagues for whom I have enormous respect; infact I almost hugged them and told them they’d got taller; then wondered about shaking hands or perhaps just the elbow thing.  Dear reader, none of the above, resulting in a rather socially awkward hello on my behalf.

Our meetings were a joy – bringing home the fact that making decisions on zoom is laborious and difficult; so, so much easier to actually have a conversation, rather than what can sometimes feel like entering a gladiatorial arena that is Zoom.

And at the end of the day, home again, and a sense of achievement I haven’t felt in months; a combination of being out in the world, seeing people, getting stuff done that a day infront of the screen never gives you.

Rules for engagement

All of this made me think about families meeting up again for the first time in the coming weeks.  There may well need to be some stages to the plans, and having learnt a few lessons myself this week, here are a few things that might help:

  • It’s chilly still – so if you’re planning to meet outdoors, wrap up appropriately!
  • Zoom is brilliant, but it is also a very difficult communication channel – all you really get is information, certainly no actual sense of the person you’re talking to; so be prepared for changes – but perhaps filter your thoughts on hair/weight/height/other before you speak;
  • Ensure that the venue you choose has an all-weather option
  • Public transport, certainly out of rush-hour, seems to be fairly empty and well socially distanced;
  • Maybe hold back the hugging, or at least think about that first moment of meeting;
  • If you can’t find your travel pass, it may still be in the pocket of last summer’s favourite jacket;
  • Wear comfortable shoes😊
  • I felt quite emotional meeting up with colleagues; meeting up with family will no doubt be a million times more so;  be prepared – and enjoy!

It was absolutely fantastic to be doing normal things again, even in a facemask.  Liberating, energising.  A long walk to freedom.  Have a great weekend.

Annabel James is founder of Age Space.  Her views are her own. keeping Mum blog

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