We revisited an old haunt for a takeaway.  It’s another Italian restaurant and has been closed for many weeks, so it was lovely to see the owner back there again.  He said it was “crazy-weird” how he had had to close down so suddenly, but that there had been some positives to be had from lockdown; not least spending more time with his wife and young daughter. Some things are more important than money, he said. We agreed and I said my biggest positive was having the OH around all the time (though he may not entirely agree with this sentiment).


On the way to our favourite supermarket, we spotted a policeman taking down the numbers of cars parked alongside the main road. It seemed a bit of a fruitless thing to do. He would have been better off patrolling the heaving riverbank and green spaces in our area. Someone complained on our local facebook group about the number of people not social distancing. They said a police car had pulled in to one of the car parks near the river, looked at the crowds of people there and driven straight back out again!  Not very reassuring. However, it could simply be that there just aren’t enough police around to deal with all the crowds.

In Waitrose, I overheard one assistant saying to another: “My hayfever’s really bad atm.” Mine is, too, love. I expect a lot of people are suffering with it at the moment.  We’ve had no real rain for weeks, now, to tamp everything down. Local honey, as supplied by the beekeepers’ association nearby, helps a bit and I’m always recommending it.

The young assistant busily restocking the shelves looked blank when I asked him where the fish paste was. He asked if I’d bought it from them before, and could I give him a brand name to look up? Of course, my mind went completely blank at that point. I probably looked like a fish myself, as I stared at him, gaping, while waiting for the few remaining cells in my brain to kick in and supply the answer. Finally, I remembered two names and he was able to locate them for me. “Now you know what they are!” I said cheerily, barely believing he’d never heard of the stuff. It’s delicious on hot buttery toast, of course, or try Jack Monroe’s cheap and cheerful fish-paste-and-pasta dish some time. It’s yum. Anyway. It reminded me of the time, in Wickes, when the OH asked for putty and the young and very bored female assistant said: “What’s putty?”

I saw a post on Twitter recently, from someone in the music business, who said his mind always goes blank whenever anyone asks him what music he enjoys listening to at home.

Something similar used to happen to me, when I was working in the fiction department on my old magazine. People would ask me what I was reading, and what could I recommend? The best I came up with on the spot was: “Maeve Binchy.” Now, as it happens, I’m a fan of her work and would most certainly recommend her books – Evening Class and The Glass Lake being my top two favourites – but I just wish I could have come up with a few more names at the time! And please don’t ask me now, either. I’ve barely glanced at any fiction in the (almost) three years since I left my job. I can only dip in and out of non-fiction titles at the moment. Although, since lockdown began, I haven’t been able to do even that. I’m struggling to look at magazines, as well. So unlike me, a lifelong book and magazine addict! It hasn’t stopped me compiling a list of books I’ll be buying just as soon as I can get into my nearest bookshop, however.

If you’re interested, I usually tell people that Gone With The Wind is my favourite novel of all time. It has everything going on and, when I first read it around forty years ago, I stayed up until three am to finish it. It also has the best opening line – look it up.

Well, I say it has everything – it doesn’t have vampires. They may not have been around back in those days, or, if they were, they probably liked to keep themselves to themselves more than they do now. You can’t leave the house without tripping over vampires, these days, it would seem – or certainly judging from the selection of stories I’ve just read and reviewed for a prestigious annual award for new writers.

My theory is that the young writers whose stories I was reading (16-21 years) need to feel they have some sort of special power over a world that increasingly appears frightening and out of control; run by older people who, worryingly, seem as clueless as the rest. I’m scared for the world, as well, but I’m not a fresh-faced teenager with most of my life ahead of me. Most of mine is behind me, now, damnit.

The young writers had created new worlds and given themselves special powers in order to survive. It made for pretty bleak reading, in some cases, but at least it was of their own making and, like I said, they had some control over events. Even stories set in the past included characters with special powers. I’m sure we’ve all wished we had those, at times! Mine would be invisibility and teleportation. Together. Think of the fun I could have! Though I ought to try being a bit more imaginative – so far, I’ve only made it back to my old office, where I’ve been rifling through all the lovely freebie books that come in for review every day. How I miss those!

Talking of books, I noticed there were far fewer than normal on sale in the supermarket. They don’t have a very large selection at the best of times, though they really should, I think, but it was noticeable how few they had left on this occasion – unless they simply aren’t reordering any for the time being? Whatever, I’m pleased people are still buying “real” books.

The young girl at the till I chose was dreamily staring into space. In fact, at that time, there were several empty tills and I hesitated before disturbing her. She looked quite happy to be left alone.  I said to her: “It’s bliss, shopping like this. I don’t even mind the queues outside. Do you find it boring, though, not being so busy?” She replied: “Not really. I like to daydream and can keep myself entertained.” Sweet. I suppose they’re not allowed to look at their phones.

On my way out, I unthinkingly started to put my trolley back with all the others, only to be politely chided for doing so. It had to be cleaned first. Of course! They have an impressive system in place. Wishing I could be invisible, I apologised and scuttled off.









Author: Hampton Caught

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

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