He rummaged through the broken pencils, bits of chalk, rubber bands and old receipts to find a thin ring-bound notepad. He took it and the only working pen to the table. He looked out beyond the dripping tap, the empty counter and checked the sky. Grey but not black. He’d be dry at least. The rhyme, Old Mrs Hubbard came to mind as he reached in his pocket to find his money. He pulled out two 50p coins. He had half a loaf of bread and a scrape of butter so that was enough for today. If he got one other thing, that would last him for nearly a week. He didn’t need any more than that. Best to leave the rest for others.

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A pocket full of posies

That nursery rhyme has been stuck on repeat in my head for at least a week now. Did you know that it was only in the mid 20th century that people associated it with the Plague and Black Death? When it was originally sung or chanted in the 17th century, there was no such dark association. Fake news and misinformation again! Anyway, it was the title line that I’ve been fixating on. What do we do at a time like this, when fear, dread and isolation are pressing in on us? Apart from buying so many tins and toilet rolls that the basket-carrying few get nothing?

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Have a go hero.

My daughter is scared of heights. It took her at least seven months to jump off the edge into a swimming pool. Up until that point she stood, knees bent, ready to go. But she always changed her mind at the last minute. It took the swimming instructor putting his hand out for her to grab to persuade her in. The days he tried to let her do it by herself, she always put out her hand, needing him to give her his. Then one day, when no-one was looking, she did it. I heard the splash and there she was. The instructor had been at the other end of the pool, and with no hand to grab, she did it all by herself.

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Swing from the chandelier

I heard that song by Sia yesterday and felt incredibly sad. You would think that the thought of swinging from anything would be an exhilarating thing…

Since November I’ve been having a health blip and all the self-pity that comes with it. I have watched my life shrink, my steps shorten, my movements slow, my mouthfuls of food become tiny. My ambition and creative ideas have just flopped. It’s very hard to explain this feeling. It’s a bit like climbing into a big cardboard box and not being able to get out. Or trying on new shoes with the opposite laces still tied together. Or moving through slow-drying cement.

Right now, I long for a brisk walk in the fresh air or the ability to glug down a tall glass of water. It’s funny what you miss when you can’t have it. Swinging from the chandelier is definitely not on that list! But maybe it should be. When days become about solely surviving, maybe that’s when we need to have the courage to dream big.

When your life is shrinking for whatever reason- illness, family commitments, financial constraints, anxiety, fear, what’s your chandelier? Mine used to be to wear high heels again. Now it is simply to get myself to the top of a gentle hill, or the edge of the sea and just. stand. there. With my poles of course. Otherwise it would be a different swaying experience altogether!

If you look up the lyrics of Chandelier they’re actually about a socialite who is trapped by her circumstances. A bit like Lily Bart in The House of Mirth. When I listened to it yesterday I was feeling sorry for all the things that I can no longer do. But when I heard the news about Caroline Flack, and read the lyrics in full, I realised that all the high heels, physical achievements, fame and fortune in the world can never ensure happiness. Or love.

These two precious gifts are right here beside me. I’m ashamed I ever forgot that.