A trip out to our nearest garden centre for lunch, yesterday. I was curious to see how the crisis has affected them (if at all). I might have known – us gardeners are a hardy lot (gardening reference intended and if I can think of any more, I shan’t be afraid to use them). It was bustling with people buying all manner of plant-related paraphernalia and was heartening to see. However, we were surprised to find the café half-empty (or half-full, depending on whether you’re a pessimist or an optimist and I’m a bit of both, so there. I enjoy confusing people). It’s normally rammed, even mid-week. We immediately spotted that there were fewer tables, spaced further apart, and we twigged (did you get that one?) that it was to allow enough space between them to avoid infection – hopefully.
A young woman came in and started videoing the half-full/empty room, just as I was taking a huge, inelegant mouthful of my chicken and salad wrap (and very nice it was, too). I was a bit annoyed and gave her my best gimlet glare, so that’ll look really pretty. (I told them – no press, it’s my day off!)
Then my fiction editor’s mind kicked into gear and I was suddenly imagining a scenario whereby, if you were getting up to something you shouldn’t, with someone you most definitely oughtn’t, and you’d both decided to rendezvous at the garden centre, certain that no one you knew would be likely to spot you there and the aforementioned young woman with video caught you at it – well, not actually “at it” obviously; those benches look comfy but there’s not a lot of leg room – you’d be in a bit of a pickle, and no mistake. At the very least, you might be looking a little more cosy than you should. You get my drift…
Anyway. After that, we panic-bought some bird food and left.
I overheard a woman telling someone her husband was a taxi driver and how quiet it was up in town. It’s true (though, as I said before, Covent Garden and Leicester Square seemed as traffic-heavy as ever on Monday). My OH took a photo of Oxford Street yesterday. He said he’d never seen it so devoid of traffic – so much so, he was able to walk right down the middle of it. He also took a photo of a huge queue outside Boots. What could they have been queuing for? If you had the time, as they clearly did, you could have joined it just to find out.
I actually did this once, years ago, in Boots in Kingston, out of curiosity and ended up buying the new wonder product they were all waiting for. Apparently, it had been raved about on the radio that very morning and the staff were limiting supplies to one per customer. Gasp! It must be good, then! I don’t know if the others had better luck with it but it didn’t appear to have any effect on me. Still, it was (mildly) fun at the time.
Now, I don’t want to start another panic-buying stampede (pun not intended this time) but, later on, we did have some trouble getting hold of stamps and had to try three places before we found any. Are people stocking up on those, as well? Are we going back to the good old days when we all wrote letters to each other, instead of abbreviated texts some of us need deciphering instructions for? (Can I be the only one who used to think that LOL meant “Lots of love”? Though those messages did read rather strangely, it has to be said.)
On a much more serious note, closer to home, local events are being cancelled and cafes and restaurants are closing down temporarily – even the big boys; not just the smaller places we like to support when we can. Some are offering free takeaways and deliveries to those who really need them, which is a lovely thing to do, but I hope they won’t get exploited. There’s always going to be some low-life scumbags who will take advantage, sadly.
People are showing their true colours. (The “Be kind” message of a scant few weeks ago has all but vanished, in some quarters, though I do resent being told to do something that comes naturally to me (and most people I know), and I even spotted a magazine with this very title the other week. I’m sure it means well but I found it insulting and irritating.) On the one hand, we’ve got the truly awful, selfish so-and-so’s who are grabbing all the toilet rolls and packets of pasta for themselves and, on the other, we have the lovely people offering to do other people’s shopping for them, pick up their prescriptions and other such heroic deeds.
You’ll have to excuse me now. I’m off to use up some of those stamps on a few good old-fashioned letters to friends. They’ll never be able to decipher my handwriting but it’s the (kind) thought that counts, isn’t it?