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I'm Jane McIntyre, a voiceover and writer, formerly an award-winning BBC radio newsreader and producer. My blog covers life, love and loss; travel, coffee and chocolate; with some heartfelt pieces in the mix about my late dad, who had dementia. Just a click away, I'm half of the team behind - two empty nesters who whizzed round the world in 57 days.

Monday 22 June 2020

Hug-free. If it's that or nothing--we'll take it!

June 21st. It was the longest day: and it started at 02.48.

I'd woken with a jolt; worry-dreaming about how to take socially distanced selfies at that day's planned family reunion.

I'm not, by nature, a worrier, but this lockdown had been taking its toll; most acutely --the inability to see my daughters. One's 100 miles away; one, 160, so it's not as if we can pop round for coffee on a whim. Even so, it was knowing that a meet up was all nigh impossible, that hurt the most. That, and the missing.

Word spread, and unbeknown to me, a plan was agreed. We'd meet at a National Trust property more or less equidistant from the six of us, have a picnic, and stroll around the grounds. Inevitably; there were questions. This was all outdoors. What if it rained again? How well would Jake cope in the back seat for ninety minutes with two, travel-queasy dachshunds? And, above would it all be without the hugging?

Only days before, a small group of family members had been allowed to attend the funeral of a dearly loved uncle. That in itself was strange: we're a huge crowd, and we fill funerals, and weddings and parties to the rafters, normally. And we hug.
I'd watched the funeral service online, gulping each time a precious cousin came into view; sobbing at the beautiful readings and the song choices; and mourning the cruelty of Covid. If ever there was a need for cousinly hugs; this was it, and I could only imagine how tough it was for them.

But now it was Sunday, and here was our corner of the family, six of us, plus Chester and Chip, at Calke Abbey in Derbyshire--a circle of camping chairs, picnic rugs, and portable feasts, grey clouds scudding above us; hug free, but together. This was the first time my daughters had seen each other in six months; the first time their partners had met.We had lunch, laughs, face to face conversation, and a wonderful meander round the grounds.

Yes, it was the first time in nearly 30 years I've been with a child of mine without physical contact. It was so odd: a feeling, almost, of senses unsated. But the sight of them? The 'being together' ? The chance to eat, and stroll, and laugh at the antics of Chester, 'playing dead' when it was time to leave? It all made my heart soar.

June 21st: the longest day. When time flew so fast; it felt like the shortest. But forever, one of the sweetest.