We’d not been here for a few weeks and I was keen to see what, if anything, had changed since then. I also needed a few things I couldn’t get elsewhere.

There were many more cars in the car park, and we had to park two floors higher than usual.

We thought that more people seemed to be wearing masks, and we passed an ambulance with three paramedics guiding a man attached to heavy-duty breathing apparatus towards it. It was a scary and sobering sight.

I was over the moon to see my favourite deli-café sign outside their shop. They are open for a limited takeaway service and, to support them, we bought coffee and tins of sardines. The owner still has lots of bags of dried pasta on his shelves.  My instinct was to give him a hug but we blew kisses instead. He said the government has been supporting them and he’s not making very much by reopening, but he had to do something. He was very bored at home. He is hoping more businesses will come back into Kingston, as quite a lot of his trade is takeaway hot meals for office workers’ lunches.  If more of them adopt the “working from home” strategy, though, he may still be in trouble, but let’s hope not.  It was lovely to see him open again – not least because I could use his loo!

A few doors down, another local business has also re-opened its doors – for limited takeaway drinks, cakes and pastries only during the week, but with a few more options at the weekends. We didn’t even try to resist the delicious banana and blueberry iced cake slices and the raspberry and almond “cakies” and polished them all off as soon as we got home.

Of the 75 stores trading in the Bentall Centre, only two are currently operating: Boots and Vision Express.

The benches in the precinct behind Marks and Spencer are taped up to stop people sitting down, but there’s always at least one moron roaming around – and today’s prize goes to the man perched right on the end of one of them.

Despite there still not being that much open, there were definitely more people about and I felt so happy to see positive signs of life starting to emerge. I wonder what’s going to be opening up next?


Virus? What virus? Corona? Isn’t that a drink? Social distancing? What’s that when it’s at home? And why are all the pubs closed? Good old subversive Surbiton! Still charging for its parking, too, where other places are not.

Sainsbury’s was trying its best, with solid, tall barriers between each till station – so high, I had to be told by a member of staff that one of them was empty and I could use it.

In the street, a couple of people were wearing masks, but that’s all. As I have said before, it seems to me that people who wear masks think they’ve done enough to be safe, but they are still coming far too close to others.

A shop which normally sells flowers is now, very enterprisingly, selling fruit and veg outside instead.

We spotted two food bank dropping-off points today.

My other sort of bank wasn’t open, despite the notice on the door insisting that it was.

Workmen were playing loud music from their van and I sympathised with all in the surrounding flats who must have heard it.

As I came out of the newsagents, a man held the door open for me and asked if there were less than ten people in there. I said I didn’t know, I hadn’t counted them. He tutted but went in anyway. There was no one on the door to check.

The bike shop was open. They must be doing a roaring trade at the moment. I have never seen so many bikers everywhere. Not just the usual goggled-up and lycra-clad gangs but families out together, helmets on, wobbling all over the road and riding two abreast. Small children on busy (ish) main roads. What are the parents thinking?! I can’t look. Between them, the bicycle and running shoes companies must be rubbing their sanitised hands in glee, while praying the gyms won’t be opening up again any time soon.

We did a little detour on the way home and passed our nearest garden centre. The gates were still firmly shut but there was a notice on them: Opening soon. Hallelujah! There were quite a lot of cars in the car park and, inside, I could see some of the staff flaked out on the benches in the café.  Exhausted, they were, having been up all night, cursing Boris and co as they struggled by torchlight to unload the constant stream of delivery vans overflowing with books and bird seed, greetings cards and grow-bags, pots and pet food, scarves and sandals, scented candles, cardigans, cuddly toys and cakes. Oh, yes – and plants, of course.

Meanwhile, the owner of this particular chain is probably cursing Boris and co as well. They were only on the news the other day, saying there were no plans to be opening any of their centres any time soon. ‘Bugger it,’ they must be thinking now, ‘I was really enjoying all those lie-ins and the chance to potter about in my own garden for a change. Better check we haven’t packed the Christmas crap too far out of sight. We’ll be needing it again in a couple of months’ time…’







Author: Hampton Caught

The rants and ramblings of an ex Deputy Fiction Editor of Woman's Weekly magazine.

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