“It’s a needle, not a harpoon!”

A few weekends ago, we enjoyed our last pub Sunday lunch prior to the second lockdown. I wished them all good luck as we left and the woman behind the bar said she felt quite emotional. I should think she did. So did I. Their roasts are among the best we’ve tried. Seriously, though, I remember her saying how happy she was to be back working, when they were finally allowed to reopen properly a few months ago. I heard that from so many people after the first lockdown ended: how pleased they had been to get back to a proper working routine. 

I feel so sorry for all the shops, cafes and businesses who had just got going again and were starting to gear themselves up for Christmas – the busiest time of year for many – when this happened. Yet there are still people out there who are flouting the rules. The shop assistant in my local bakers told me she’d seen many examples of rule-breaking and we’ve seen groups of schoolchildren and students milling about together in the street – most definitely not social distancing!

There was, however, some sort of social distancing going on when we recently drove past an elderly couple who were chatting in the street. Standing about twelve feet away from each other, she was on the pavement and he was in the road. Perhaps it was intentional – it would potentially be a quicker end for him than catching the virus… 

At least most cafes and restaurants can still offer takeaways and the garden centres are remaining open this time around. A friend recently questioned the “essential” aspect of this, so I pointed out that many people found comfort, solace and routine in caring for their gardens and allotments, not to mention the ability (and desirability) to grow their own food. It’s been proved, time and again, that gardening and connecting with nature is good for our mental (and physical) health. Though I have to add that this is my least favourite time of year for visiting garden centres, brimful of Christmas tat and trees as they inevitably are; shoving aside most of their regular stock to make room for it all. Roll on Spring, I say!

Someone told us of a family of five who visited a local café (before it had to close). None of them were wearing masks.  When challenged by the café owner, the man said they were exempt. “What, all of you?” she enquired. “I will need to see proof of that, please.” He said, “That’s against the law.” She said, “Rubbish!” and sent the whole lot packing. What a great example to set his children!

In the absence of a hearty pub roast, we decided to make our own, last weekend. Armed with a list, we went round the store: gravy, stuffing, assorted veg, Yorkshire puddings… We were packing everything away at the till when we realised we’d forgotten the most important part: the chicken. Thankfully, there were no queues at the tills when I had to rejoin them moments later.

My bank was empty for the third week running. I do hope this doesn’t mean they will be closing down.  Three branches have already closed, in our area.  No wonder the staff always look so fed up in there. 

We spotted a rather plaintive notice outside a place selling sheds and garden rooms: “Wanted – customers. No experience necessary.” 

A trip to the surgery for my annual blood test took days to organise: their phones being permanently engaged and their appointments all booked up weeks in advance. Once allowed in, I had my temperature taken at the door, used their hand sanitiser (twice; on entering and leaving) and had to leave by a different door. The nurse told me they now have to allocate ten minutes per appointment, instead of the usual five, to allow for cleaning and wiping everything down, etc. Not much time for chit-chat, but she did mention the man who came in last week and pushed his chair away from her, right up to the door.  She told him: “It’s a needle, not a harpoon!”

I popped into my local town yesterday. I needed a few things anyway but I was also curious to see how different it looked compared to my last visit, just before this second lockdown. No buskers or beggars.  I miss the former but definitely not the latter – wonder where they all disappear to, during lockdown?  

It was busy, with queues at all the bus stops, though obviously more shops are closed than open and the cafes are back to serving takeaways only again. Perhaps, like me, people just wanted to see what was going on (or not). Several places are doing click and collect at the door, but I was surprised to see that Hotel Chocolat was properly open. Much as I like the stuff, I wouldn’t class it as an “essential” – would you?!  

Trading in the market place appeared brisk, with more stalls operating than during the last lockdown, and Smiths is open this time around – hooray! The assistant said last time they weren’t considered to be a newsagent, but this time they are. Work that one out, if you can. The last time I was in there, a woman was talking to a friend on her phone: “I’m so sick of all this,” she was saying. “I just don’t care any more.  I don’t even care if I get the damn virus!” I gave her a very wide berth (with my very wide girth), after that…

The owner of my favourite cafe said business was quiet but he was bored doing nothing at home and needed to get out. 

I treated myself to a taxi home. (The last time I was in town and took a taxi, the driver said, “Hello again…” and gave the name of my road!  I must have made quite an impression on him, ha ha, and we went on to have a nice chat about gardening during lockdown.) Yesterday’s driver told me I was only his second customer of the day and how quiet everywhere was. Like myself and the OH, he’s not keen on Christmas (or New Year) and hates all the fuss and expense and the big build-up: “All that, for just one day!” 

Some of my friends are not celebrating Christmas at all, this year, let alone New Year’s Eve. Last year, to get us out of ourselves and to do something useful and worthwhile, the OH and I volunteered to help out at a local church’s lunch for people on their own.  We enjoyed it hugely and were hoping to do it again this year but, obviously, that has now been cancelled. I wonder what those people who attended last year are going to do, instead?

Bemused, we watched a man walking backwards along a pavement, the other day. Maybe it was just his way of expressing his frustration and longing, as so many of us are, to travel back to the very beginning of this year and start all over again…

Author: Hampton Caught

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

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