Day two of my personal recce on the knock-on effects of the virus on supplies/morale/manners and stuff.
Into my local shopping centre, Kingston, and straight to Waitrose. No unseemly scrums but very few tins, no loo or kitchen rolls and no eggs. Didn’t bother to look for pasta, as we have some atm. There seemed to be lots of sugar but no flour. I bought stuff to keep in the freezer. A man working there said they were expecting a delivery of loo and kitchen rolls between three and eight am today. Form an orderly queue, though it’s probably too late by now.
When I asked about the next egg delivery, he said the hens are doing their best to keep up with demand, which made me laugh.
The woman on the till looked worried, though – she said she’s waiting to hear if they want her to continue to work, as she’s 71. She said she wants to carry on working and doesn’t want to lose her job.
After that, I went to Boots. The nice man at the counter said he felt fine and he intended to stay that way. I said he was in the right place for it. A woman in the queue behind me only wanted paracetamol for a hangover but she was out of luck. She said her sister is a gp and people are advised not to take ibuprofen for the virus, as it could make symptoms worse.
A quick look around M&S revealed slightly better-stocked shelves (plenty of bread, fruit and veg in both places, though) and I managed to get some eggs in there. Just three boxes were left. I only wanted one. A woman buying a different sort of egg – chocolate Easter eggs for her children – said she wasn’t sure if they’d like them but she could always have them instead, if not. She said it as though it had only just occurred to her. I bet she’d been planning it for days. I said, “Good tactic,” and she looked a bit sheepish.
Next, a visit to my favourite Italian café, Guiliano’s, in the Apple Market. He told me his family are in lockdown in Naples atm. He feels helpless. Such a worry when you live so far away. Being a small business, he is understandably concerned about what will happen to him if people are not coming out to shop. I bought some of his delicious fresh pasta with mushrooms, to show my support. Note for local peeps: He has lots of dried pasta atm and tins of various beans, if you can’t find any anywhere else.
I popped into the church cafe to get a takeaway sarnie from Eva, who makes such enormous and delicious sarnies, stuffed to the gills, but she didn’t have any tins of tuna today, or much else, for the fillings. The cafe was nearly empty – it is usually very busy. I felt guilty for not staying, but needed to get back home for an appointment.
A man came in begging for a free coffee – apparently, he’s a regular – and he was carrying a big bag stuffed full of packets of biscuits. Cheek! I would normally have said something pretty sharp, but felt so dispirited at seeing all my favourite places struggling, I kept my mouth shut.
An elderly lady in the church was complaining she had no one to help her with her shopping if she had to stay indoors. Turns out she lives nearby, so I said I could help her but she declined. I must have a shifty, untrustworthy look about me. Maybe it’s the slightly wild hair, baggy trousers and clodhopping boots?
The vicar came up (he wasn’t busy) and joined in our conversation about online shopping and the decline of the high street, saying he’d just heard that Laura Ashley has gone into administration. Apparently, a major problem there was that they sold all their shops and then rented them back, to please the shareholders, and this is what John Lewis did, too and, as everyone knows, they’re in trouble atm, despite my best efforts in the Surbiton branch of Waitrose each week.
My old company did much the same thing with the office block that was built specially for us, but I’m saying no more on here about that! (I’ve started to tell people: “I remember it when it was just a huge hole in the ground.” Accompanied by a soppy, reminiscing smile and slightly glazed look, recalling much happier days of yore.)
At the bus stop, a group of oldies were all yelling at each other (through deafness, not having a row), about how much more negative younger people are these days and how, when they themselves had lived through the war an’ all, they had a much more positive attitude to the current crisis. One of them was very excited to be able to tell his friends he’d found “the last bag, lying on the floor, it was, so I nabbed it quick.” I have no idea exactly what he found, or where – could have been anything, really.
My conclusion: add the virus situation to all the already closed-down shops (thanks to online shopping and higher rates) and it’s not looking good. I’m praying my favourite, independent places are not forced to close down, too, even temporarily. They will struggle to get back up again. I feel sorry for them all. I worry about how people are going to cope, with no work and no money.
My trips out are what keep me sane and connected to others. I love talking to people and I’m not the only one. Friends with mental health issues are really struggling to cope. These important daily interactions, however brief, make life more bearable for a great many of us.
It’s very, very scary out there atm but, let’s all try, as Winston Churchill once said, to: “Keep buggering on.”