Laura Pannack, ‘Escape the Isolation’

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March 2021

A beckoning invite to housesit by the coast arrived and I snatched it with enthusiasm. The dark grey walls of London seemed to be closing in on me with haste as the January days lumbered on with ferocious repetition .
I sensed butterflies as the date approached and realised I had grown all too familiar with my routine . That feeling of anticipation; perhaps almost dread of travelling was now alien to me . I adore roaming to new places, I was born to explore but I am also a creature of habit and a resenting control freak. The unknown is essential but anxiety tags along for the ride . I rationalise and get excited but usually have a small storage of irrational worry buried in the pit of my stomach .
Little risk came with this venture but knowing I should be staying at home and behaving did play on the back of my mind.
Giles and I have a special friendship. For the past 5 years since our first physical meeting, we navigated the world like chess pieces , grazing past each other. Often we would find ourselves replacing one other, missing a collision by a mere few hours.
Lockdown was a wonderful check mate. In early December I headed to Hastings to meet him 3D for the second time in over 5 years. However, our friendship had grown greatly in that time. A religious email chain of stories and heartfelt sincere exchanges aimed at making one another laugh had delivered a kinship I feel privileged to belong to. I rarely really connect fully and commit to others. My barriers are often up and immersing myself vulnerably isn’t customary.
The genius of voice notes also helped propel our exchange during lockdown. Instead of an intermittent soliloquy arriving in my inbox I would chuckle along to the rambles of Giles’s lockdown stories. My favourite being when he attempted a walk in a storm . The realisation his life may end not on the war-torn fields of Sudan or hectic streets of Kabul, but 10 foot from his door, as he clung desperately to a lamppost paralysed by the ferocious British gales.
As spring sweeps in to save us I recall the freak snow that hit the beach. Apparently in the last 6 years he hasn’t seen a snowflake touch the Hastings seafront. Beautifully this time our exchange was a surreal switch. As I messaged him a snap of the snow crusted pepples outside his house, he replied with a sun-soaked image from the Congo.
As I switched my routine to coastal strolls and working my way with glee through his book collection I was sad to leave. I departed leaving a home-made Sheppard’s pie in the oven and soaked in the view of the waves on one last stroll.
I’m looking forward to our next exchange; it may be a voice note or a flat swap- either way it’s a friendship I appreciate and I’m grateful it’s blossomed when we were forced to sit still for a year.