Tigger was pleased about COVID lockdown. Suzie wasn't. Retired ten years ago, she had immediately found activities filled with interest, despite the naysayers who said she'd be bored to tears. She belonged to a choir, and although she was no Joan Sutherland, she enjoyed the camaraderie that singing in a group offered her. Her local book club, with its lively discussion kept her mentally alert, and the exercise class twice a week kept her limber. She saw her hairdresser and beautician once a month, keeping her hair the colour and length, she preferred, and her eyebrows neatly plucked. She met regularly in the local coffee shop for catch up with friends and loved shopping or just browsing at the shopping centre. She volunteered for meals on wheels at the local Vinnies shop. Her work at the RSPCA animal shelter was a delight, although sometimes it broke her heart to see all the discarded dogs and cats. She wanted to take them all home with her but as she lived in a block of units, she was prohibited from having animals. Not to be deterred she did manage to spirit an abandoned kitten from the shelter into her unit - under the cover of darkness she ran up the fire escape with the kitten in a covered cage. It delighted her to watch him frolic and play with balls of wool, rolled up paper and his little catnip mouse, and of course he cuddled up to in the evenings and anytime she sat in her favourite chair, he was such a good companion.

Tigger waited patiently every day for Suzie to return from one of her outings, and he'd follow her around and sometimes berate her for being away too long. Until lockdown that is and he was delighted that Suzie was at home with him all day. At first, lockdown was a novelty, she caught up with reading the books she had purchased and hadn't had time to read, with Tigger sitting on her lap of course. She listened to podcasts, played her CD's, emailed friends, watched Netflix and spent a lot of time scrolling through Facebook. However, after 6 weeks she'd had enough. She peered through the windows at the skyline and while watering her plants on the balcony looked longingly at the empty streets below feeling like she was imprisoned. She missed her friends for coffee, sipping her homemade cappuccinos alone didn't have the same appeal. Although she sang the choir's songs to an appreciative Tigger, the atmosphere and camaraderie of the other choristers was not quite the same.

The TV, once a comfort, became distressing as she attentively listened every day to the updates on the COVIDs new cases and deaths. Netflix lost its appeal and felt she would never watch another movie again. She had seen all she liked, twice. She worried about the animals at the shelter hoping they were warm and getting enough loving. Emails to her friends were not as full of news as they used to be, for like her they were in lockdown. Her zoom meetings were strangely unsatisfying as sometimes the screen froze, and sound became distorted.

Shopping online was not the same as touching the textiles or inspecting the food before she purchased. Her cleaner didn't come anymore, and she had struggled to mop the floors and get down on her haunches to scrub the bathroom floor and shower walls. Arthritis had always been there, but it was now screaming for her attention, without her exercise class she was less inclined to push her body.

At the point of desperation for something meaningful to do, she decided to clean out the drawers of her bedside table, something she always put off, as it was such a tedious job and she had always had something more important to do. Her bin quickly filled with all the flotsam and jetsam she had gathered over the years, old theatre tickets, garment labels with spare buttons still attached, old receipts, a note not to forget something, old tissues. She came across a card. It was too pretty to throw away, violets hand painted around the border and "To my Dear Friend" inscribed in gold cursive writing. She opened it and poignant memories came flooding in as she read the inscription.

"Use your five senses, appreciate what is around you and be grateful"

It was from her old Uni friend, Jane who had sent it when Suzie had just retired and Jane was concerned her busy friend would be feeling a little lost. Jane had died two years ago. Suzie's eyes teared up as she ran her fingers over the cursive script. Such a good and wise friend and although gone, she was still inspiring her. Tigger jumped up on her lap and rubbed his head on hers and gently touched her face with his paw. She looked at him and told him she would do as her friend had instructed. 'Sight hearing, touch, smell and taste', she said aloud counting them off on her fingers, 'let's do it now Tigger.'

She took a deep breath and thought about what she could feel. The air was cool, a slight breeze on her cheeks from the open bedroom windows, the weight of Tigger on her lap, she stroked him and felt the softness of his sleek fur. She was aware of her feet cosily wrapped in slippers and placed firmly on the carpet, her glasses resting on the bridge of her nose. She then listened for sounds. The distant relentless drone of traffic outside, the bell like tinkle of the wind chimes on the balcony, Tigger's throaty purring, the air passing out of her nostrils in a soft swoosh, the monotones ticking of the clock. She noticed the tantalising aroma of lightly toasted croissant she'd had for breakfast, the freshness of the breeze with a hint of jasmine coming through the window, the sweet musky smell of Tigger, the familiar floral notes of her perfume. She tasted the delicious and tantalising flavour of her breakfast coffee still lingering in her mouth and longed to taste another with new appreciation. She opened her eyes to look around the room at things she usually took for granted to see them differently. The painting of the beach hanging above her bed, evoked memories of yellow gritty sand, warm sunshine, and invigorating surf she enjoyed as a child, the lamp on her bedside table, which shone a soft golden light on her books while she read far into the early morning. The bedcovers in her favourite colour of green, with its swirls and circles which reminded her of the plants in the local park, the deep blue sky peeking through the white curtain billowing in the breeze, all seemed to be brighter, sharper, fresher than before.

She let out a long deep sigh of satisfaction and gratitude for where she was and what she had experienced. She smiled and felt so comfortable to have the things she loved around her. She gently slid sleeping Tigger onto the bed, walked into the living room towards the open balcony door to appreciate what she could see outside. As she passed the kitchen bench, an apple, red round and shiny took her attention, she picked it up, ran her fingers over its smooth skin, smelt its appleness, took a bite and enjoyed its crunch and as she chewed savoured its sweet juiciness.

After changing into walking shoes, she walked from her apartment to the lift that would take her to the ground floor and to the outside the building. She wanted to appreciate anew the wonders, the sights, the sounds and smells of being in the outdoors, she knew how much more she was going to appreciate her one hour allotted time to exercise. Her world had expanded.

Maureen Smith ©