New rules for living in the hybrid life of post-lockdown world.

Good Morning. Someone shook my hand this week. It was awkward.

It happened so quickly — I was too late to turn it into a fist bump or nimbly pirhouette and brush them with an elbow instead.

We were both a bit embarrassed when we realised what we’d done.

But things are about to get more awkward.

‘Hugging to be allowed in England’ as the headline puts it.

Several of my friends are taking comfort that it is not yet to be compulsory.

So nuanced is our new social…

On how our descendants are willing us to repent and do the right thing.

Good morning. Although we’re now in late-stage lockdown, our restricted lives have introduced some new habits that will endure.

In our house we started getting milk, in bottles, on the doorstep — taking me back to when I was a kid and the blue tits pecked open the foil tops. Now, our foes are marauding urban foxes.

The bottles come and go, mysteriously, in the small hours, a discreet vision of an alternative invisible economy. A non-disposable world.

This week a report found that since the…

On salvation in vaccination and how none of us are saved until all of us are saved…

In some traditions of Christianity, those that are a bit more touchy-feely than the Church of England, you come across the testimony meeting.

This is a chance for the new convert to stand amongst the people and announce that they’ve been born again. ‘I was lost, but now I’m found….’

It’s a pivot in their life, it’s their salvation story.

The 18th century Methodist Charles Wesley captured the experience in a famous hymn,

‘My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went…

Walking past our local pub the other day I was stopped in my tracks by something I couldn’t explain.

It was a sort of ache and it took me a moment to diagnose it. I was suffering from an acute sense of wistfulness. I’ve been in that pub with my friends every week for twenty years — but not once in the last year. I realised how much I missed it.

Partly the ambience and the drinking… but mainly the hanging out with these people who make me laugh and wind me up and support the wrong football team.

This painful sense of longing is more frequent as lockdown drags on. At the funeral of a friend on Thursday…

On greeting the quiet relatives all around us.

Good Morning. Earlier in the week several tabloid newspapers reported on a breakfast TV feature in which presenters Holly Willoughby and Philip Schofield undertook an exercise in… tree hugging.

The programme introduced a hypnotherapist who claims that in working with people to alleviate lockdown loneliness, trees are the perfect prescription. While nothing, he said, can compensate for the absence of human contact, inviting people to share a moment with a tree is helping his clients.

So… on my daily pandemic perambulation yesterday… I stopped, several times, to greet a tree.

At first…

Good Queen Wenceslas

Winter upon us, the end of a year more unsettling than most of us have known, I sent some lyrics to a good friend, the singer-songwriter Martyn Joseph.

I’d tried to see the carol ‘Good King Wenceslas’, a C19th hymn drawing on thousand year old tales about an altruistic European nobleman, through the lens of our day.

A day when those vulnerable people who were ‘gathering winter fuel’ may now be risking their lives to cross the world, hidden in trucks or crammed into boats, in search of a safe haven for their loved ones.

Recording at…

‘His name is Abdulfatah Hamdallah and he is the young man from Sudan whose body was washed up on the beach near Calais on Wednesday morning.
Abdulfatah had tried to cross the Channel to Dover in an inflatable dinghy, using a pair of shovels for oars.

I learned of his name and saw his photo — wearing his football shirt, he loved football — the next evening, when I was playing football with Hassan.

Hassan, who is built like Diego Maradonna, and has the most powerful left foot shot I’ve ever seen. This week I saved a shot from…

I was not able to give you the gift of mathematics
The gift of music,
The gift of patience and kindness.
They arrived from somewhere else,
In the family gene pool.
Or maybe that was nurture not nature.
But I like to believe that one of my genes
Has leapt from my generation to yours.
A sweet right foot.
A shot like no other.
Bullet into the top right hand corner,
Unstoppable volley from half way up the pitch,
Rasping screamer from impossible distance.
Leaving opponent, and team-mate,
Quietly respectful.

A sweet right foot.
Treasure it. Enjoy it.
It will comfort you on many days.
Give thanks.
That came from me.

Publishing this to mark the return of our weekly football match, after the longest break in our near twenty five year sporting odyssey. (I wrote about that here. )

Front Door

It’s 7.49 am.
You’ve just gone out the front door.
You pulled it hard, to catch the lock.
It didn’t catch, so I walked towards it
To give it a push.
As I reached out to push
You reached back, to give it a pull.
I saw you through the stained glass,
Reaching back, even as you were leaving.
You pulled it shut
Before I got there. I smiled.
You were gone.

I’ll always be reaching for the door
That you’ve gone through.
I know you have to leave,
But I’ll always be hoping you might return.
I’ll always be looking for…

I lift up my eyes from this lockdown….

(Text to borrow, below)

Martin Wroe

‘Trying to get to heaven before they close the door.’

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