49. Give 50 free hugs to passers by

New Year’s Eve 2016… Two challenges remaining (though one already ‘in the bag’, as blog number 50 will reveal). I had a strong urge to end on a high… and boy did we achieve that today!

‘Free hugs’ is a concept that I found out about back in May – another learning to come out of IgniteCardiff. To be honest, it sounded a little far out of my comfort zone…but when I found myself short of one challenging challenge, I decided to go for it… after all this is 50 shades of BRAVE!

The planning was brief – I chose a location and a time, enlisted some help, made some signs… and we were good to go. As we (me, both of my children, and Karen of the B52 cocktail fame) drove down to Cardiff this afternoon, I was really feeling quite nervous. I hadn’t helped myself by deciding to do the challenge wearing my onesie, which is pale blue and covered in fluffy, smiling clouds. The fact that I knew a friend of mine who is a call handler for the 999 service was manning the Queen Street CCTV today was slightly perturbing too!

No matter… there was no turning back. We parked and walked down to Queen Street.

The first hug actually happened totally spontaneously en route to our chosen hug-spot. A ‘Deliveroo’ driver saw us carrying our placards, and hailed us…’I’ll have one!’ Yay! First hug done. The next one was equally spontaneous. And gorgeous. A young lad – I’d say about 6 or 7 years old – was sitting in Pret a Manger and saw us through the window. The adult he was with gesticulated that the boy would like a hug, and so I went and met him at the door of the cafe and crouched down to hug him. It was so sweet!

Eventually we found our ‘spot’ at the junction of Queen Street and Churchill Way. We had three placards and 50 ‘be brave’ mini business cards, the plan being that I would give a card to each person I hugged and would thereby know when I’d achieved the requisite 50 hugs. It was a little uncomfortable to start with… standing in a main shopping street, brandishing placards and shouting.

‘Free Hugs! Come and get a hug!’

The reactions were as varied as you like. Some people just looked. Some looked and smiled. Some visibly changed their route in order to avoid us! Many responded with ‘No thanks’, and we were frequently told ‘I’ve had one today’ (as if there is a limit to the number of hugs you are allowed in a day), or ‘My missus wouldn’t like it’ (I was only offering a hug, I can assure you!!).

But some… HUGGED! And it was AMAZING!

The hugs seemed to come in flurries… One minute it seemed like no-one wanted hugging, the next we were busy for several minutes at a time. All four of us getting and giving hugs.

Some people gave a quick ‘arm round the shoulder and move away’ hug, some came at us with open arms. There are some really really good huggers in Cardiff – For me the good ones were the firm hugs which felt as if the huggers really meant it! And hugging kids was especially fun. I hugged people of all sizes (harder to hug tall people for a shortie like me!), colour, gender, nationality. Without a doubt the younger generation were the most ready to hug, and those of my own generation and older the most reluctant. Amongst others I hugged a girl in a wheelchair, a Big Issue seller, a policeman, and three Carphone Warehouse employees who had been watching with some amusement from the window of their store. One lad even came round for a second hug on his way back along the street!

We started just before 2 p.m. The 50 ‘be brave’ cards were gone by 2.20. We stayed on site until 3 p.m., and I reckon we had given and received well north of 150 hugs by the time we collapsed on the sofa of Caffe Nero for a well earned hot chocolate. An added bit of fun was the arrival of a photographer from Media Wales, who spent some time photographing and filming us… if it ever makes it online or in print, I’ll let you know 🙂

A most amazing experience was had today. I am immensely grateful to Karen for coming along to help ‘bring in the punters’. And I am unbelievably proud of my two children for supporting every single brave challenge – From the most hair-brained to the most demanding they have been there every step of the way, and no more so than today as they stood with me shouting and hugging. I love you both.


What a day.

I’m off to enjoy the rest of my New Year’s Eve now, and tomorrow I will blog the last blog of the 50. Happy New Year to all of my friends – the ones I know and the ones I’ve yet to meet. Bring on 2017.


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