In these strange days, I’ve been heartened by the examples of kindness and community spirit I’ve seen.
Whether it’s been neighbours discussing home schooling, postcards offering help through my parents’ letterbox, or images of Italians on balconies singing, each time I witness this kindness in action it helps me to focus on hope rather than fear.
I’ve seen how inventive people are – Rhymetime sessions for babies and children that my friend Esther Steward held in Bristol can now be live-streamed so that families can still enjoy them – anywhere.
I’ve listened to Oliver Jeffers reading aloud from his picture books (he’s doing this each weekday until it’s safe to go out again). My children claim to be too old for this now but I’m not!
Singer/songwriter Emma Wallace is singing a cheery song or soothing lullaby everyday on Instagram (and taking requests!) – she has the most beautiful voice.
I’ve been trying to think what I can offer, apart from in my local community, and I thought some cheering images to download for free might be welcome.
So if you can’t hug someone for the time being and would like to send them a Fox Hug card, you can download one here! It’s an A4 sheet with an A5 image on so that you can fold it in half.
A couple of years ago, my youngest fell over and hurt her knee.
As I cuddled her, I whispered ‘You’re a big strong girly!’
She replied ‘Elegant and burly!’
I had no idea why – although I think it was because she’d been watching an Ice Age film where a character was described as ‘Elegant and hairy’. Anyway, I thought to myself that it would be a good name for something. A shop, maybe.
So when my friend Sarah Lowe and I decided to set up a shop on Etsy selling Handmade Things, we decided to call ourselves Elegant & Burly. (In fact our first choice was Lightfoot & Lowe, but that already existed! And I’m glad now that it did).
We realised that Elegant & Burly could also mean a certain balance… beauty with just enough burliness to stop it being overly refined. We thought of a few examples (the bearded fisherman, who wears glittery nail varnish; the hefty rhino in a delicate fascinator; or the divine opera singer eating a great big pasty).
We even invented a word – Burlegance: 1. The state or quality of being both elegant and burly, whether it be hugely hefty with a hint of elegance, or exquisite with a touch of burliness. 2. Something that is burlegant.
We chose The Secret Garden as a theme for our first range, as we both loved Frances Hodgson Burnett’s book when we were little.
Sarah has made some beautiful jewellery, including pendants of silver leaves cast from leaves from her garden (she is an amazing garden designer).
The other day I was spending the morning drawing wolves in my studio. As I stood by the door washing my paintbrushes a beautiful fox walked past right in front of the studio.
I opened the door quietly so as not to disturb it and then suddenly wanted it to look at me – I wondered what it’s reaction would be.
The only thing I could think of to say, rather foolishly, was ‘Fox! Fox!’ as if I was calling a pet cat.
It carried on walking up my sloping garden, then turned and looked back at me.
Then it did a wee in the grass and sauntered off.