We decided, for a change, to visit a local Italian deli, taking in the reclamation yard just down from there as well. Both are on the outskirts of Walton. (We haven’t tried the town centre itself for months.) It’s a small yard but I’ve managed to find some lovely old garden pots there over the years. I like that they’ve all come from local houses, as well – or gardens, rather, if we’re being pedantic. I was pleased to see the owner, forever referred to between the OH and myself as “Matey”. We chatted from a distance, with the high-wire fence between us. He lives nearby but I suspect he just needed a change of scene and everyone who walked past said hello to him.
He’s been talking about selling the business and moving to France for years now, but he’s still here. He has a very close-knit family of ten – children, grandchildren and now great-grandchildren too – and says he loves them all “to bits”, misses them hugely at the moment and just wants to hug them. I have a feeling France may have lost its chance. He’s also that much older, of course. He’s in his eighties, though he looks in his sixties to me. In fact, all the antiques dealers I know look a lot younger than their ages – it must be all that physical labour. When a friend I’ve known for over thirty years ran her antiques shops on Richmond Hill, she was a one-woman-band and did all the lugging and lifting of the furniture herself.
Inside the deli, nobody appeared to be social distancing, despite a few people wearing masks and it felt slightly chaotic in there, so the OH waited outside. I wanted to support them, though, so I bought bread, sardines, fancy biscuits and pasta – none of which we really needed.
In the field next to the deli, we spotted a random emu in amongst the cows and sheep. It seemed a bit odd. Perhaps it had escaped from Chessington? Perhaps the other emus were hiding? Perhaps they were disguised as cows and sheep, for a laugh? Or perhaps it was one of the cows or sheep, dressed as an emu, for a bet? (OK, that’s enough perhapsing.)
A shorter trip, here, to pick up a copy of the Metro at the completely deserted station, a quick look at and sniff of the river (I love that smell) and a brisk walk back home again, via the high street, where a few cafes are open for takeaway coffees and pastries, etc. The OH bought a coffee, which came with a free biscuit. They were selling crisps, bars of chocolate and cans of drink as well.
Two more local favourites have just announced their reopening for takeaways only. I’m pleased, though we will definitely be avoiding one of them, since it has an idyllic location down by the river and we haven’t been there since all this began, as the towpath is narrow in places and there are far too many cyclists and walkers (we have heard).
In a clothes shop, the window display was unchanged from two months ago and a top I rather liked the look of back then is still there, of course. By the time we come out of this, we will have almost certainly missed out on my least favourite season for buying clothes – summer – and will be looking at autumn clothes instead. Hooray. It’s certainly saved us all some serious money, though it’s not so great for the businesses concerned, or their suppliers, of course. It makes a bit of a mockery of all those: “What’s in and what’s out” magazine features, doesn’t it? “What’s in this week? Same as last week, and the week before…” “What’s out? Nothing…”
On our way to Waitrose for our weekly fix of the moneyed and posh Surrey gentlefolk. Two enormous trucks are still blocking the entrance to Sandown racecourse, though the car parks of the notorious local woods have now reopened and are, predictably, chocker. (I suspect it will be business as usual come sundown, as well – no social distancing going on then!)
We joined the very long queue outside Waitrose, where a sign helpfully announced we had a twenty-minute wait ahead of us. They weren’t far off, but the antics of the elderly lady in front of me kept me entertained for some of it. I’m not sure exactly what she was doing: it could have been a mixture of ballet and pilates, with perhaps a bit of hip-hop and Northern Soul thrown in for good measure. (I’m joking, though she did look strange; in her own little world, bless her.)
The handle of the trolley was wet and I remembered they are very good at this branch (and probably all branches, as far as I know) about washing the trollies down each time they are put back. I’m impressed, as I haven’t seen any other supermarkets doing this.
The majority of people inside weren’t wearing masks, but those few who were seemed to think that made them immune to anything and everything and were not social distancing at all. Another poor soul, who had unwittingly tried to queue-jump earlier, was wandering around, too close to everyone else, with a perplexed and bemused look on his face, as though he had just been beamed in from elsewhere and didn’t know what the f*ck he was doing there.
A cross-looking woman rushed up to the ready-roasted chicken counter, which was completely bare. “Oh, no! Oh, no!” she kept saying, eyes widening with horror at the realisation she might actually have to do some cooking that evening. I really wanted to direct her to the birds you can roast yourself but she looked so annoyed, I thought she might take a swing at me, so I didn’t. However, as I already had one of the aforementioned DIY chickens in my trolley, I suppose I could have walloped her back with that. But no – we weren’t in the Surbiton branch now, I reminded myself sternly.
I waited patiently for assistance at the cheese counter. No staff to be seen, but at least the counter was open for business, which is more than can be said for the large branch of Sainsbury’s just up the road. Their cheese counter is closed and, just to make the point, covered, as well. I don’t get why there should be any difference, but perhaps cheese isn’t so high on the agenda of your average Sainsbury customer.
Finally, a nice lady came bustling up. “I’m multi-tasking, today,” she confided. I pictured her racing around the store on turbo-charged roller-skates, lobbing loaves of bread, jars of pickle and dried pasta packets at the shelves, as she swept past and on into the storeroom, to pick up armfuls of fresh fruit and stuff tins of baked beans in her overall pockets, before gutting fish, slicing ham, straightening magazines and watering all the plants outside on her way to (wo)manning the Customer Enquiries desk in her lunch-break. The woman’s a saint. Someone give her a medal!
The OH fancies making bread, so he bought proper bread flour – yes, it was there again, people! – and yeast. I don’t remember ever making bread before, though I’m sure I must have done at school. The memory of it is probably so ghastly, I’ve blocked it out. He’s on his own with that one!
Waiting for the lift with our trolley, the young staff member waiting with us cheerily announced he had had the virus but had had the tests and was all clear, now. I took the stairs. On the top floor of the car park, he exclaimed in dismay: “That’s a lot of trollies!” as he saw the used ones people had put back. I think he had been looking forward to his tea-break…
After packing everything in the car and returning our trolley to the aforementioned, now resigned-looking staff member in charge of the hosing down, the OH turned to me and said: “They do click and collect, here, you know.” “Yes, I know,” I replied, “but where’s the fun in that?!”