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This Mortal Curl by Nigel Roth

Imagine you are at the supermarket with your son, who we shall call, Pierre.

You have just stopped to examine the kumquats or the kiwanos, when out of the corner of your eye you see a person gravitating toward you, a friendly smile on their face.

You can’t quite remove your gaze, but don’t want to stare either, and the stranger moves a little closer, and now has a vaguely-menacing arm outstretched with seemingly-endless fingers, and is heading straight for you.

You have a moment of hoping you know them, or that they know you, at least, or that you’re having a fever dream.

But, this is not a dream.

Now you watch the person directly, not quite knowing their mission purpose, and you quiver a little as they advance. You stiffen in a kind of fear, and they do a funny Carmen Miranda-like shimmy, then they’re suddenly within touching-distance, and you visibly grimace in anticipation.

And then, without warning or introduction, they reach out, spindly-fingered, still smiling, and touch your child’s hair.

As Britain stayed silent for a minute this week to honour the twelve months since the first lockdown was announced, I began thinking of anything that had come positively from a long year of not interacting closely with many people at all.

Certainly, it’s been one of the strangest and hardest times many of us will live through, in terms of social contact, but there are those for whom little or no social interaction was always the norm. And for others, social contact has continued via virt