On a recent trip out, we spotted Woody and Buzz Lightyear toys dangling from the back of a campervan on the motorway. No doubt “To infinity and beyond!” was the joyful cry of so many, as soon as lockdown rules eased.

The services were fully open again; the car park fully crowded to prove it and, sadly, the road kill numbers had increased dramatically from our last trip out, with dead baby deer, badgers and foxes around every corner, it seemed.

We noted a flower, fruit and vegetable stall had changed to a burger and fries shack, which was proving to be a lot more popular. Another place was trying to cover most eventualities, by offering: Fresh eggs, potatoes, face masks.

One of our local stalwart cafes, who have been supplying us all with basic foodstuffs and even delivering them if needed, have now stopped providing fruit and veg boxes, as other places are slowly opening up again and, of course, there’s always Kingston market just down the road, which has kept trading throughout lockdown. Farmers’ markets are starting to open up again, as well.

More and more local restaurants and cafes are opening up again, although we are probably going to continue to stick to our “new normal” of a Friday night “date night” takeaway for a while longer, until things settle down.

Outside a local farm shop, two middle-aged men were using the hand sanitiser provided before they were allowed in. “We don’t even have to do this in Waitrose,” one of them joked.

Smell is so evocative, isn’t it? I mean, some hand sanitisers smell delightful, while others smell really strange to me.  The OH likes the hit of alcohol he gets with some, while I hate that particular smell. Ah well. I’m bracing myself for the new rule of wearing masks everywhere, from this week, and have already seen stern notices outside some shops: Not wearing a mask? Bugger off, then! Or something like that.

Talking of evocative smells, a greengrocer shop was doing a brisk trade in a nearby village as we passed it the other day. I didn’t need anything but I stuck my head in the door and inhaled. It’s such a poignant, nostalgic smell for me. My godparents ran a greengrocer shop in my home town of Henley for many years. One whiff and I’m right back there.

On passing the job centre window, I wondered how many of the jobs advertised would still be relevant…


On notices in shop windows everywhere: Welcome back, Kingston! We’ve missed you. Judging by the long queues outside T K Maxx, Vodafone and the Apple Store, we’ve missed Kingston, too.

It was good to see my favourite two cafes back in action, albeit with reduced numbers of tables and chairs. I bought lunch in one and our supper in another, to show my support. My third favourite café, in the church, was due to open the week after, so I will be making a beeline for that one first, next time.

Hoorah, the loos are open again in the Bentall Centre! As are most of the shops, though I was saddened to see one I used quite a lot, run by a lovely helpful couple, has vanished forever.

In Smiths, the assistant informed me he used to order in 70 magazines but has been told to order in just 40 from now on. That’s a BIG difference! I wonder what the unlucky 30 titles are? I’m worried for them all: the free Tesco magazine was painfully thin this month and Sainsbury’s (paid) magazine decided to have a joint July and August issue instead of its usual two separate ones. The Waitrose food magazine has produced an illustrated edition this month.  What will they do next month, though? I’m wondering which titles will survive and what they are all going to look like, if still around, a few months from now.

I couldn’t wait to get into Waterstones – my first foray into a bookshop since lockdown began. I have a long list of titles I want to buy but was so overwhelmed, I bought just the one – Jack Monroe’s latest, if you’re interested.  Very good, as all of her books are. The rule is to put any books you handle but don’t buy into a designated trolley. In my excitement, though, I’m afraid I forgot to do this (I only handled one or two).  I hope it’s not on CCTV and I’m banned from there forever. That would be too cruel. Their café isn’t open yet. I hope it’s soon – I’m rather partial to their cheese straws and am hankering for them again after so long.

Waitrose had a very strict system: in one way and out another, with staff checking you in and out at either end.

Some poor soul had painstakingly painted large “social distancing” dots on the pavements around town, although nobody appeared to be taking any notice of them. Interestingly, though, people were giving the tone-deaf busker quite a wide berth…

Talking of social distancing, I went into a clothes shop and out of the corner of my eye, I saw someone standing close by, so thought I’d better social distance from him. I waited –and waited – before eventually realising it was a mannequin. I do hope that’s not on CCTV, either…

In Sainsbury’s, I stood behind middle-aged twins at the till.  One was born three and a half (the all-important half!) minutes before the other. “Once she was out, I had to follow,” the (barely) younger woman joked. “She’s so bossy, she ordered me to!”

I’ve always wanted to be a twin. It would be wonderful to feel that someone is on your side and will always be there for you.  At least, I’m assuming that’s how it works. Do let me know if it isn’t! In any case, if you were identical, think of the fun and pranks you could play on people. Life would never be boring with another “you” around. Though God help everyone else.

We paid our last visit to The Medicine Garden in Cobham.  It closes forever next Wednesday.  You’ve still got time! The shop owners are on the lookout for what they call a “destination” place where they can all continue trading under one roof. One of them must be feeling very optimistic, as I heard her telling a customer she was starting to order in her winter stock. I wish them all lots of luck and am thankful I got to experience such a special, unique place for a few years, at least.

Finally, an alert for all those Dr Who lovers out there: a much-loved vintage shop in Penzance is closing its doors for good – another sad victim of the Coronavirus.  A Dalek has resided in its window for as long as we can remember, with a Not For Sale tag attached. Steady on and form an orderly queue, folks (drum roll): it IS now for sale! Can we dare hope that, once released from the confines of the window, it can help us “exterminate” the virus for good? Watch this space…










Author: Hampton Caught

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

2 thoughts on ““Exterminate!””

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