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Friday, 22 June 2012

A Simple Thing.

My quick sleep had deleted all
Of intervening time and place.
I only knew
The stay of your secure firm dry embrace. 
            From ‘The Hug’ by Thom Gunn

It is two days after my 30th birthday party. We are standing on a platform at St. Pancras Station, waiting for the train that will take mum to the airport, and back home. My heart is full and heavy, as it always is when she leaves, or when I leave her. I am wearing my favourite coat, a silky blue-green patchwork affair that I hesitated to splash-out on, but have never once regretted. The ticket inspector let me though ticketless, knowing that she will recognise me on my way back out, alone.

A train has just departed and the platform is almost empty, but to our right are a group of six-or-so middle-aged men with small suitcases. They are sober but jolly, and I guess that they are going on a stag-do. As a voice announces the next train I slide my arms around mum and abandon myself to a hug. We hold each other hard, properly, and let the seconds tick away. When we finally pull apart, both smiling, one of the stag-do detaches himself from his group and jokes: “me next!”  Mum laughs, but the man has kind eyes, and I am so full of thankfulness for the wonderful weekend I have just experienced, that – without thinking for even a second – I step towards him with open arms. For the first time in my life, I am hugging a total stranger. We do not hold back and the hug is perfect. Not to long or too short. Not too firm or too weak. A simple, spontaneous act of comfort and mutual kindness. It ends at precisely the second that it should, a few moments before the train pulls into the station.

Mum boards the train and I run down the platform waving as it pulls slowly away again. I make the other people in the carriage laugh as I flutter my tissue at her. I don’t notice where the stag-do got on, I don’t see them again, but I wonder if they spot me, a flash of blue and green as the train picks up speed.

I carry that hug home with me, as I carry all the hugs I shared with mum over the weekend, and with all the wonderful friends and family who came to celebrate my birthday. I feel, for a little while, like the richest, luckiest girl in the world. I don’t remember anything about my hugger's  appearance, apart from that he had a small, neat beard. Perhaps he remembers my curly hair, or more likely my coat. But I feel absolutely sure that he will remember me to the day he dies, and keep our hug somewhere, as I will, in a little corner of his heart. A simple, precious thing.

Three down, twenty seven to go…


  1. As witness to that spontaneous, simple, precious thing my daughter did for a stranger, I feel the need to share what I experienced as she hugged that man on the platform, and also later on as my train pulled away.

    Yes, we had had a great time that weekend, everything had happened smoothly. For me it was incredibly fulfilling to see that so many people love and admire my JoJo. But the party was over and the time had come to say goodbye. I feared that I would be so very sad…

    Well, I wasn't! The man's cheek asking for a hug made me laugh, JoJo's reaction and seeing them hug (to my absolute amazement and that of his companions) made me laugh even more, seeing her run down the platform in a way that would have cause the envy of John Cleese and his ministry of silly walks made me cry with laughter... I wasn't sad at all... I was really happy, and extremely proud to have such a marvellous, wondrous, brave girl as my daughter...

    I’m reminded of the day I asked JoJo «If you could have chosen a mother from a catalogue, would you have chosen me?» Her reply, without hesitation: «Yes, although I probably wouldn’t have chosen the turbo version!»

    Well, I have some news for you baby JoJo: My turbo is nothing in comparison with that magnificent force that drives you!!! ¡Eres fantástica!

  2. I love you both!
    Jojo you write so beautifully!