Tim Key: 'I'm a big fan of holding hands. But the opportunities are dwindling as I get older'



I was in the queue for the zoo this week when a situation arose. A little boy – maybe six years old, with orange freckles – reached out and held my hand.

It was unintentional, I presume. This lad was American and we'd never met. He'd merely reached up vaguely, found a hand, presumed it was his father's and grabbed on. Had he looked up, he would have seen a columnist with a battered cap and a long beard – and that would have been that; he'd have unlinked and moved on. But he didn't look up. And so that was us. Me and this pleasant young chap from the States. Hand-in-hand. Queuing.

I'm a big fan of holding hands. Always have been. I used to love it when, at small school, we were asked to hold hands. Off we'd waddle to some nearby pond or spinney, two-by-two, all holding hands, and I found it very reassuring. As we approached crossings and dogs, the teachers would reiterate that we must hold hands but I really didn't need telling. Sinead Cahill, Tom Clarke, whoever I was linked to – I was in my element. I was also one of those small boys who would gravitate towards dinner ladies at playtime and cling on to their hands for dear life. I guess holding hands, at that age, makes you feel safe.

Whether you are actually safer holding hands, I don't know. I'm no scientist. But I imagine more people perish while they're not holding hands than while they are. I've certainly never met anyone who's died holding hands. If you're plummeting to your death in a dream you can wake up and prevent the impact, and I sense that hand-holding might have similar powers. I know if I was ever lucky enough to join the Army I'd be constantly nagging other soldiers to hold hands. I'd feel much safer, and we'd still have enough spare hands to wield a gun and a shield.

These days I don't get to hold hands as much as I'd like. I've got my nieces and nephews, of course, and I will hold their hands when I'm helping them cross a road or if they've found something interesting to balance on. I'll also hold my mother's hand if we are out walking. I'll hold my agent's hand, and my accountant's hand and, if I meet someone famous, I'll hold their hand for as long as possible. I once held hands with a guy from Hot Chip for perhaps 20 minutes across a table in a curry house. But what I've found is, as I become older, there are less opportunities.

A lot of my friends are less into hand-holding than I am, and they tend to flick me away with their fingers. My Dutch friend Jelson, for example, doesn't like it. But I do, so what do you do? Nowadays we use a stick. It's a compromise that he certainly finds more acceptable. It's about 18 inches long and we hold an end each. He's happy because I'm not touching him, and I'm happy because I feel like I'm not going through life on my own.

One day I'll settle down with someone who has as great a thirst for hand-holding as I do. Historically, I have found girls are open to the prospect of hand-holding in places like bluebell woods and cinemas, but I've encountered problems when I've been trying to hold hands with them while they cook, drive or shower. One day I hope to find my hand being held unconditionally by a girl who wants to make me feel safe and who doesn't have any other commitments or interests that need two hands.

Until then I'll take it where I can get it. And that's why I didn't mind my young American friend reaching up to me.

It wasn't until we were at the penguins that his mother noticed her young son's mistake. She laughingly unhooked him and they headed off towards the pigmy hippos. I walked around not knowing what the hell I was doing for a bit, and then grabbed a middle-aged lady's hand, and after an exchange of views we went and had a look at the camels.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: UI / UX Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

Recruitment Genius: General Processor

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Day In a Page

Read Next

i Editor's Letter: Our representatives must represent us

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
MP David Lammy would become the capital’s first black mayor if he won the 2016 Mayoral election  

Crime, punishment and morals: we’re entering a maze with no clear exit

Simon Kelner
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot