Clap, clap, clap… It’s not only heroes who deserve applause

Eva Wiseman
·5-min read
<span>Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA</span>
Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA

Clap for carers, clap for heroes. Clap for teachers, clap for bin collectors, clap for postmen, clap for chemists, clap for shelf stackers, clap for police. Clap for neighbours dropping off medicine for former enemies, leaving the bag only slightly in the rain. Clap for freelancers working eight days a week to prevent their old routines of pornography and fretting being exposed by a flatmate. Clap for the woman trudging out into the world on a daily walk where every footstep is another curse uttered. Clap for the couple crossing the road, veering away from oncomers as if absolutely pissed at breakfast time.

Clap for the snack makers, busy every 45 minutes with new ideas for crumpets and the end of the cheese. Clap for the dishwashers, initially excited by all the attention received – the detritus from three meals a day at first an exciting challenge (“A plate stained with Nutella and sriracha? By God, I’ll give it a go!”), now an insult, every rinse cycle a slow crawl towards electric morbidity. Clap for the man in the flat over the road who does Yoga with Adriene every morning at 10, then spends the rest of the day playing Fifa in a towelling-robed rage. Clap for the houseplants that have refused to die, despite the new experimental watering regime. Clap for the scented candle, infusing the house with the memory of grapefruit in order to cover the stench of five people’s fears.

Clap for the footballers doing more in their free time for hungry children than politicians for whom it’s their actual jobs. Clap for the parents making half a tomato and a coin bag of grated cheese last a week. Clap for the strangers feeding those who can’t afford to feed themselves. Clap for coffee, clap for aspirin, clap for Calpol, clap for gin. Clap for pictures of other people’s houses on Instagram, built in hot countries in the 70s out of wood and concrete and filled with small, exquisite things one can zoom in on in the night. Clap for the nights, which mark another day completed. Clap for small things done well, like a pencil beautifully sharpened, or a slice of toast unburned. Clap for an untantrummed hour of homeschooling, for a book not thrown. Clap for the person who hasn’t left the house for months, their bedroom a running track, their window a mirror, their phone a window. Clap for the Tweeter who has chosen not to share a video warning about microchips in the vaccine. Clap for the dogs, fried with attention.

Clap for the teenager who last summer missed their first kiss, with tongues and hands in the shade of a tree. Clap for the teenager’s mother, forced to share a sofa with their hormones. Clap for the moments of connection so rare and gorgeous they sparkle like a sequin in mud. Clap for the time passed, all the hours we haven’t died, all the weeks and all the months, clap for another virtually pain-free minute, and again, and again. Clap for the couple that found love in lockdown, and clap for the disgusting habits they each continue to hide from each other in dark corners of their one-bed flat. Clap for the lady with the litter-picker, removing face masks from the bush. Clap for the person telling you their anxiety dream, even though it exposes far too much truth for this time of day. Clap for oven chips, edible even when forgotten overnight. Clap for to-do lists, for their glittering potential. Clap for the promise of snow.

Clap for the boy responding correctly to his friend’s sudden grief. Clap for meal-planning, and a pasta sauce eked out over a fortnight. Clap for the girl who has extended her cleansing routine so masterfully that she is now able to stifle her panic for upwards of three hours a day. Clap for the nephew in the chat group who unpicks all his aunties’ forwarded hoax messages without once taking a patronising or exasperated tone. Clap for that very large tree in the park that has surely seen worse than this. Clap for the ex who elegantly dismisses a drunk midnight text. Clap for unlimited data. Clap for the beds that transition at daybreak into offices, and the kitchens to schools. Clap for the cat, unimpressed by it all. Clap for weather, something else to talk about. Clap for the bit of thumbnail that valiantly held on, despite being worried by its sister hand almost constantly for 11 whole months. Clap for the teaching assistant on Zoom doing all the voices at reading time, and the recorded assembly explaining Brexit with binbags.

Clap and clap, your twice-washed hands slapping drily against each other with the force and intensity of a baby that’s seen ice-cream. Clap until they chafe, then continue clapping and, when the blood threatens to come, clap louder still. Clap until you can feel your knuckles, clap until it feels you will clap your hands down to the wrist. Clap, to show your respect, to show you’re alive, to show you are a witness to these many small glories. For something to do, and wordlessly say, and it slightly hurts, but somebody hears you, not waving but clapping.

Email Eva at e.wiseman@observer.co.uk or follow her on Twitter @EvaWiseman