Days in Lockdown: 17

After the glorious day we enjoyed yesterday, today has reverted to gloomy and overcast - both in terms of weather and mood. An all too familiar outlook since the Lockdown began. It must of course be coincidental, but you couldn’t be blamed for thinking otherwise.

I’ve written about shopping before, but along with taking the rubbish out, there’s no other reason for us to leave the house, so I suppose it’s inevitable that I focus on it again.

It is starting to feel strangely normal to peruse the aisles, masked and gloved up, occasionally nodding a polite but safe distance acknowledgement to fellow shoppers – some of which might well be your friends or neighbours; there’s no easy way to tell. But it’s still nonetheless somewhat surreal.

A typical shopping outing starts with what feels like a pre-surgical scrub-up up as soon as you enter the shop. A good wash of hands with the alcohol cleaner before donning a pair of oversized plastic gloves, the type normally used for handling fruit and veg.

I, as most people do, try to avoid any aisle that is over occupied. But inevitably there will always be a time when you find yourself, albeit out of coronavirus range (if that’s even possible), in much closer proximity than you’re comfortable with. It is precisely at this point, not a minute before and not a minute after, that I without fail develop an overpowering urge to cough. It starts with an involuntary tickle in the depths of my throat. Actually, no it doesn’t. It starts just seconds before that with an involuntary but nether-the-less, stupid thought that pops up in my tiny brain shouting, “don’t cough now whatever you do, you’ll freak everyone out”. Then comes the tickle. At first, I try to ignore it, then to futilely suppress it, and then I have the second stupid thought of the day which is to just try and eke out a little cough in the hope that no one will notice. This combined with the earlier attempt to suppress it, results in an all-out chronic choking episode. The rest of my shopping trip is then usually spent largely without company.

Despite the fact that the shelves here are always well stocked, buying fruit and veg is impossible. For me at least anyway. One thing I have learned about myself during these times is that I do not have anywhere near the dexterity or patience to be able to open a flimsy, clingy plastic film bag to place the items into, whilst wearing on my hands what is essentially a flimsy, clingy plastic film bag with fingers. It’s all too tempting to break with protocol and quickly remove the glove to open the bag, but the earlier overuse of the hand sanitiser is working like glue, sticking the glove to my hand. It can not be done quickly or discreetly. Maybe that is fully intentional.

Clearly, we need to be eating healthy, but for now at least when I’m shopping, we’ll just have to get our vitamin C out of a tin.

The gloves present yet further challenges in the wine aisle, where zero friction between them and the glass surface of the bottles result in a potential devastating slip hazard. The bottle’s short journey from shelf to basket is precariously risky. But here I am much more determined. Each bottle is lifted gently from the shelf, one hand supporting the base, the other grasped tightly around the neck, and slowly placed with care and precision into the basket, as if handling a canister of volatile explosive gases. I’m proud to say that to date, I’ve not lost a single bottle on my watch. A similar exercise is repeated at the checkout.

I like the new checkout procedures. The floor is marked with tape indicating where you must stand in the queue, forcing a safe distance between you and the customer in font and behind you. An unexpected bonus of this is that it inhibits any small talk with complete strangers, annoyingly commenting on the contents of your basket, which particularly suits me when my basket is heavily laden with confectionary and alcohol in place of fresh fruit and vegetables.

It’s certainly an odd experience shopping under a lockdown. But we are incredibly lucky to have plenty of food on the shelves in our local store and they’re being constantly restocked. And this is why this evening and every evening at 8pm we clap and cheer for them and all the others who are working through this lockdown and putting themselves at risk for us.

Stay positive. Stay Safe.

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