This will be over.

And we will know when.

It will be over when we can meet again in our favourite place for coffee, searching for a table that isn’t the one next to the open door, or the loud guy on his phone.

When we can knock a pub table with our knee and, with open mouths in freeze-frame, wait for the fate of the brim-full drinks we have just placed so carefully in front of our friends.

When we can love talking over each other’s sentences and delight in the murmuration of conversation as overlapping words take flight.

When we notice the rising hubbub of a room that is full of expectation and thinking out loud, like an orchestra warming up before the symphony begins.

And when such a room can be brought to silence simply by clinking the side of a small glass.

When a slightly raised eyebrow says it all.

When we can laugh again and not have to explain.

When we can include knowing looks in our repertoire of feedback.

And if we notice that someone might not be feeling their best, the briefest touch of their arm is the gentlest means to connect.

When we do not have to take a deep breath before pressing the link for the umpteenth video call of the day, or feel the pressure to be Zoom cheerful because our concerns are not as great as the concerns that others must have.

When we are distracted by a conversation nearby that we cannot quite hear, but delight in the art and the joy of surreptitious listening.

When bumping into a colleague we have not seen for a while lights up the corridor with smiles and the fast exchange of family news.

When an unexpected shower of rain catches us without a coat and, as we drip through a marbled reception, we hope our hair suggests art-house perfume advertisement, rather more than cockerpoo for-fucks-sake-bedraggled.

When we arrive early for an appointment and can relish the quiet oasis of a few minutes with our undisturbed thoughts; and then notice the peace that comes when we can do nothing but wait.

When a stranger’s smile can make our day.

When opening a door for someone adds a drop of kindness into the world that was not there before.

When we can leave a meeting room feeling we have nailed all the points we wanted to make and someone who was there, passes us by and whispers “well done”.

When we can dash for a train we should have left more time to catch, and allow the thought to live on our smile that we are in a Bourne film escaping the crescendo of a sweeping orchestral score.

When getting home is the best safe feeling in the world and we wonder what stories we will tell and what stories we will hear.

When a hug is what happens to acknowledge the joy of connection and not the sadness of loss.

When this wretched year is a memory that we can use to help each other cope a little better with whatever future travails and injustices will inevitably come our way.

When we can reflect that we have coped damn well and be proud that all our stories matter.

When we can say out loud that this is ok, and then notice that being ok is all we ever really wanted.

When saying “I love you” is a vessel of hope for joys to come as much as it is a life raft for joys past.

This will be over.

And we will know when.

Until then please take the greatest care.

With love this Christmas, Paul xx