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When the 2-metre rule is no more, we’ll have to relearn how to hug

The time will come when you’ll put on a dress and be in a room with people. Start practising your social skills for all tomorrow’s parties

Yesterday I tried on a dress. I bought it online in the first lockdown, planning to wear it for my birthday party six months later. It’s long, black, crepe silk with rainbow panels down the side and ridiculous sleeves – it’s the kind of dress Ossie Clark would have designed if he’d moonlighted as a stylist on Strictly. I love it. I’ve never worn it. So yesterday I tried it on and looked in the mirror and imagined a future where it would see light again. I imagined the party, and then it came, a falling feeling, as I realised I will have to learn again how to socialise, from scratch.

Twelve months into the pandemic and the falls keep falling. An evening will come, won’t it, when I ring on somebody’s bell and another voice shouts, “It’s open!” through the intercom and I swish my fabulous dress up the stairs and into a party and then, I’ll stop. There will be a room of people, people inside, only one window open, oh God, and some are leaning into each other, the 2m rule now evaporated like steam, and I will step back on to the landing to take a breath. I fear it won’t come naturally, the return to hugging. To simply… approaching someone with warmth and putting my arms around their body and squeezing. I can already see the fixed-teeth smiles as we walk towards each other for the first time, our chests quietly screaming. The dead shiver as our hand brushes against the warm down of their neck, and with muscles clenched, pat, pat and retreat, to a new, personally imposed lockdown.

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