One Thousand Paper Cranes

In my last post, I touched upon my initial thoughts about my experiences in lockdown. But, I also want to document how the Guernsey community is adapting and reacting to the great unknown of isolation – or what many are referring to as “the new normal”.

This particular post explores the tradition of one thousand paper cranes and how one local facebook group is using the legend to inspire others in the community to share positivity.

When I think back to life on the island this time last year, there were a lot of exciting cultural events taking place. Hauteville House had just been reopened by the Mayor of Paris after an extensive renovation and the planning for an exhibition delving into Guernsey’s history with Japan was well under way*. As a novice Japanese language student with time on my hands, I found myself swept into enthusiastic planning for a supporting event run in conjunction with Floral Guernsey. It was at this event in the Summer of 2019 that I met Naoko Mauger, who alongside Kayoko Rowson, put on an amazing programme promoting Guernsey’s links with Japan featuring Japanese Cuisine (Okonomiyaki & Onigiri), Ikebana flower arranging, Sake tasting and Origami paper folding. With both women aided in their quest to bring a small corner of Japan to Guernsey by an army of supporters, locals and tourists alike were entranced by the various samples on offer. All visitors also had the opportunity to walk away with their own little piece of Japan – an origami crane of their very own.

The Significance of the Paper Crane and the Story of Senbazuru


A souvenir from Floral Guernsey’s Japanese Seafront Sunday Event 

The crane is a very important symbol in Japanese culture. Origami is a traditional art of paper folding and the paper crane – Orizuru – has become synonymous with this art form.  Orizuru is derived from Ori (to fold, just like in origami) and tsuru (crane). There’s even a noun for a collective of paper cranes, Senbazuru, which means one thousand cranes. What you may not know, is that for many Japanese people, the Orizuru has come to represent hope in challenging times. In fact, there is even a tradition in Japan that if you fold one thousand paper cranes (one crane for each year of a crane’ s life, as they are said to live to 1000) and make a wish, then it will come true.

The story of Senbazuru achieved prominence globally through the real life story of Sadako Sasaki, a young girl who was a victim of radiation poisoning from the 1945 Hiroshima bombing. During her illness, Sadako was inspired by the story of one thousand paper cranes and used whatever materials she could find to reach her goal – achieving a wish through making Senbazuru. Sadako sadly passed away at the age of 12, but her hope for a better future lives on. Her statue now stands outside the Japanese Peace Museum in Hiroshima, holding a golden crane, the symbol of peace and hope, aloft in the air. Children regularly visit from all over Japan to leave chains of Senbazuru, which are displayed as messages of peace, harmony and a promise that such atrocity will never happen again. Together, despite how bad things may seem at times, we will create a better future.


The statue of Sadako Sasaki and Senbazaru of Hiroshima

Guernsey Together – Chain of Cranes 

It’s this message of peace, perseverance, as well as the promise of recovery after challenging times, that is now being shared through Naoko’s Facebook group Chain of Cranes. Through video streaming, weekly tutorials are held on how to fold a paper crane and together, the members of the group are folding strings of Senbazaru, to support each other through distance, making wishes to protect their communities against harm from COVID-19 and to share the sentiment that you are not alone. With group members sending in their pictures from New York, Japan, the UK and of course, Guernsey, the numbers of cranes (and group members) is steadily rising, with the story having now being picked up by the Japanese news. Naoko (founder, Chain of Cranes) has created cranes in the colours of the Guernsey flag, the colours of the NHS and has even used copies of the local newspaper to inspire others to take part. 93430314_559746841594198_3611184553739157504_n

Photos courtesy of Naoko, Chain of Cranes

Starting origami as a beginner can feel quite daunting. After all, the folding of a paper crane starts with the ominous shape of a mountain, so the thought of reaching 1000 can seem unachievable at first. In the words of the Chain of Cranes group, however, in life, tackling any new experience can make you feel like you are climbing a mountain, but the more you climb, the more accustomed you become to taking on the challenge.

During this period of isolation, it may feel as though we are climbing mountains everyday in being separated from our friends and family – but it is important to remember that we are not alone. By supporting each other as a community, through connecting with each other, it’s much easier to get to one thousand – and climb that mountain!

If you find yourself with a spare moment, or feeling overwhelmed by the current situation and in need of a break from news stories, you can maybe try folding a paper crane of your own. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it’s the sentiment that counts.

Head over to Chain of Cranes to learn from the experts!

92874466_624813968074778_2926154003219742720_nCranes can come in all colours and sizes 

*To cut a long (albeit fascinating) story short, Guernsey’s Saumarez Park was formerly home to James De Saumarez, who served for many years as the British Ambassador to Japan. He used Japanese structures and flora in the gardens of his property, as well as owning an extensive collection of Japanese art. The Japanese fishing pagoda and gardens can still be seen in the grounds today.


If that’s all there is…

7th April 2020 marks two weeks since Guernsey went into “lockdown”.

I’m writing this introduction on Easter Sunday, sat by an open window listening to church bells, birds (that includes melodious song birds and gulls calling after fishing boats) as sunlight streams into my lounge. Life feels tranquil and relatively still. Here’s my initial thoughts – the lowdown – on life in lockdown.  
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Isolation 101 

Staying indoors is a requirement to keep everyone in the community as safe as they possibly can be. As a bit of a bohemian who thrives from having a packed agenda, being on enforced lockdown is hard to adjust to, but I know that I’m not alone, as it’s difficult for everyone in different ways. 

I am relieved to be in a beautiful island setting as I’m aware that my circumstances could be much worse. The fact still remains though, that for Islanders, this is the strictest curtailment on civil liberties since World War 2. There’s been a collective feeling of sadness. There’s the frustration of not being able to be close to those you love and care about, as well as dealing with cancelled holidays, plans and a loss of control. 

But there’s also been togetherness and solidarity expressed through random acts of kindness. There have been public service announcements declaring the Easter Bunny to be an essential worker. Crayoned rainbows are being displayed in street windows. Applause on a Thursday night has reveberated round the neighbourhood for key workers for the past few weeks. Hour long phone calls from friends, Zoom chats, virtual pub sessions and bonding over Tiger King memes (don’t even get me started there) is the new normal. In the grand scheme of things, we cannot complain about sacrifice. My heart really does go out to everyone affected by this horrific virus. I hope that I can see my family abroad once borders are lifted, who knows when that day will be. 

Do I still feel a pressure to emerge from this having used all my time wisely? Yes, but I accept that I am not going to achieve the writing of a debut novel, the baking and subsequent photographing of several instagram-worthy loaves of banana bread (that’s definitely not going to happen because I really can’t get my head around this trend) all whilst looking like the epitome of a ’90s supermodel. On the other hand, I definitely want to be as productive as I possibly can be in my solitude.

Because in the words of Peggy Lee, if that’s all there is, my friends, then let’s keep dancing. 

1) Making the Most of The Great Outdoors
Finding motivation when you’ve had to drastically change your routine can be challenging. The sun shining through your window pane can seem like a taunt from outdoors when you have to stay home, but on the bright side, just think how grim this would have been had the lockdown taken place in Winter.
Guernsey provides a really stunning backdrop for walks, cycling and sea swimming (though that’s been too cold for me to date). Whilst we are under restricted movement, we have the go ahead to take up to two hours of essential exercise and you can fit a surprising amount of outdoor activity into this time.


When lost in beautiful views, apps like Strava and Apple Health can help bring you back down to earth and keep you disciplined and motivated in terms of route planning and timing – or in my case, just bring you back on track when you get lost.

2) Essential Exercise Indoors

Ironically, although my go to form of dance exercise (salsa) is a no-go due to social distancing measures, self-isolation is the perfect time to work on those body isolations. Every cloud has a silver lining.
Online yoga classes are also keeping me active when I feel barricaded in by my four walls. For other disciplines, I’ve found that Sheerluxe has a wide variety of recommendations for online pilates and barre, that can be downloaded on demand, which I just might have to try out. 
My secret weapon for indoor ennui is Just Dance – perfect for raising serotonin levels and reminding me to maybe not take life so seriously every once in a while. And if that gets boring, WELL, there’s a whole lot of TikTok dance shuffles to be learning. 

3) Dreaming about Travel

After a long year of studying, I was planning on travelling during the Summer of 2020, plans which have, of course, been scuppered due to ongoing travel bans. However, there are some great travel groups and accounts that keep me inspired. From Slim Aarons’ poolside French Riviera photography to Facebook groups such as Japan Travel Planning there is ample material out there to fuel new daydreams. 
The travel bans also mean that if there’s really a destination you want to go to, technically you have a lot more time to prepare for it – oh yes, I’m talking language learning. Time to dust off that dictionary or head to Duolingo to take on a new language at a manageable and fun pace!

4) Book Bingo

I have a backlog of Kindle and Library books to read and did not know where to start until I wandered into my local library just before lockdown. Step in Book Bingo to make short work of decision making. To participate in a book bingo, you select some interesting sounding themes (aim for between 6-9, your local library may even have a pre-defined list available on their website or social media channels), draw a grid and work your way through at your desired pace. Here’s a small selection from my isolation list to date.

  • Set in a Place You Know Nothing About / China Dolls – Lisa See
    This is a Historial fiction set in 1938 – featuring Showgirls and San Francisco’s Chinatown. San Francisco is on my bucket list of places to visit. 
  • Adapted into a Film / The Shape of Water – Guillermo del Toro and Daniel Krauss
    This novel is described as “a haunting, heartbreaking love story”. I actually own a copy of the film and haven’t seen it yet… to be brutally honest, I am still haunted by that eyeball hand creature from Pan’s Labyrinth, but am looking forward to this. 
  • Foreign Language Novel / Millésime 54 – Antoine Laurain
    Antoine Laurain is one of my favourite contemporary French authors. I actually don’t own this one, so was pleased to be able to borrow the 2018 French language edition.
  • Book You Love / The Strawberry Thief – Joanne Harris
    A loose interpretation here, as this is a book I *think* I’m going to love. This is one of the sequels to Chocolat, which was an all time Easter favourite of mine growing up. Who doesn’t want to spend their days reading about chocolate, mystical fortunes and houseboat nomads? Plus, I really want to know why the books have moved from chocolate to fruit and who exactly has been stealing strawberries. 
  • The Book Everyone’s Been Talking About / Daisy Jones and the Six  – Taylor Jenkins-Reid
    I am very intrigued by this 2019 New York Times Bestseller, which also featured as a must-read in a lot of fashion magazines.

If you want to make your own list, then you can mix it up and be as outrageous as you want – Book You Hate, Book from the year you were born, Non-Fiction – if you’re feeling especially brave, a book recommended by somebody else….

5) Art & Music

I usually spend between 2-4 hours a week in an art studio drawing, so this activity is something I really, really long for at the moment. It isn’t just the process of being at an easel and having to draw to deadline that I miss, it’s seeing how other people have tackled the same subject with different perspectives and techniques, laughing together over failed attempts and sharing compliments and critiques in a relaxed environment.
Each taught session I attend is guided by a particular theme – for example, structure, continuous line or movement. In recent classes, I have been pushing myself to use alternating colours and tools, so have set myself some homework to do a bit of research on art styles and tonal palettes to see if I can incorporate this into portrait work. 
Talking of homework, I’ve also set myself the task of learning guitar (again). My last attempt was when I was a teenager going through a grunge phase, so this one is a slightly more ambitious task, but I’m determined to see what I can do and pleasantly surprised by what I can remember.


There’s a lot I haven’t covered within this post – we are living in such strange and uncertain times and we can not predict what the future holds. As lockdown continues, I am sure, however, that I will be back with further updates.

Keep smiling and stay safe.