Today, we decided to run the risk of the rumoured police barriers and armed guards demanding to know why we were venturing out in our car and ended up in a local branch of Waitrose. I was missing my regular weekly shop at another branch, I love their brilliant free paper (it’s so good, I would happily pay for it, but ssshhh, don’t tell them I said so) and, in any case, we were both desperate for a change of scene.
When I lived in my last flat, my nearest Waitrose was a mere five-minute walk away and I loved to refer to it as “my corner shop”. (A work colleague lived in Marylebone and would walk to Selfridges on Saturdays, also referring to that as her corner shop. OK, she wins.) Some say having a branch of Waitrose on your doorstep gives your property a healthy hike in value. Whatever – I just love it. The staff are lovely, the choice is fantastic, it’s easily my favourite shop and I’ve missed it.
On parking in the eerily almost-empty car park opposite, a man in a nearby car wound down his window and said: “Car wash?” hopefully. I said, no, sorry, several times, because I really felt for him, sitting there waiting all day (most likely). Another casualty of the knock-on effect (of the current situation) I mentioned in another blog – or, if I didn’t, I certainly meant to. There are so many, when you stop to think about it.
I joined the queue outside, which wasn’t too long, with everyone keeping a respectful distance from each other, and five minutes later, I was in! It was so lovely to see the shelves nearly all full and back to normal that I was in danger of losing my cool again. As it was, I thanked everyone I could see who was busily putting out fresh stock. They probably thought I was mad, but I didn’t care.
We were all trying our best to keep away from each other; some wearing masks, most not, but one man let the side down somewhat at the bread counter, where I was standing. He was so pleased to be able to tell his wife on the end of the phone that he had found the particular bread she had requested, he leant right across me to reach it, just inches from my face! I drew back and gave him a bit of a look, but I don’t think he noticed, bless him.
I was happy to find everything on my list, bar two items, which can wait another week or so. I even managed to get a few things for a couple of my neighbours. The lovely young girl on the till said we were only allowed two of everything, which makes perfect sense. I just wish they had implemented this rule everywhere from the word go.
The girl told me she had been working weekends only, as she was a student, at Peter Jones in Sloane Square, but that has closed for now. Staff from all the closed John Lewis stores have been moved over to Waitrose stores where possible; barring older members and those with any health problems. She added that they were all still being paid, and that the company “looked after them very well” which was reassuring to hear.
When I commented on how civilised it was in there, she said that it was still pretty manic first thing (we had deliberately gone out after lunch, for this very reason) but that “the delivery drivers had stepped up to the mark.”
I pictured said drivers pulling up outside the stores, opening up the backs of their vans and lobbing packets of sundried tomatoes, artisan sourdough bread, balsamic vinegar and fifteen different types of olive oil at the staff as, ducking and diving and weaving their way through, the latter made a heroic run for it to get back inside with the valuable supplies before the hordes of frenzied middle-class shoppers broke through the barricades and stormed the premises.
Yes, I do realise I need to get out more, but there’s a bit of a situation going on at the moment – haven’t you heard?!