The longer our Covid-19 crisis goes on, the less I understand what our authorities are doing about it. I get the impression of apparent calm on the surface, with panicky, flailing legs underneath.
Let’s face it, there’s no way I would want to be in charge of the country right now (or, to be fair, any time) and I guess that at times Boris Johnson must regret his childhood ambition of becoming Prime Minister. Well, he achieved his dream through lying, bullying, cheating, bluster and his charisma. You’ve got to admit it – the guy has charisma! But organisational skills? Nul points Monsieur Johnson!
I am a little confused right now. Back in mid-March, our dear Leader told us over 70s to stay indoors for four months. A few days later I received a text from the surgery saying that I must stay away from everyone. Since then – nothing, no further instructions at all.
I toyed with the idea of food deliveries but in the end, felt that I would be better off going myself to the supermarket. It was almost impossible to get a delivery slot. And the click and collect service very often replaces items on your list. I also rejected having a regular veg box delivery because in my experience the suppliers supply what they have that week, rather than what I actually like. And, after consulting my list, my shopping method tends to be to wander round the shelves to see what’s there.
After the initial panic buying died down and the supermarkets got themselves organised so that they could maintain social distancing and hygiene I set off early one morning at the time appointed for “vulnerable” people and joined a long queue. I picked up my sanitised trolley and did a long zig-zag walk round a large cordoned-off area of the car park until, finally, I reached the supermarket door. There, the discipline ended. And I admit to occasionally breaking rules myself. Once you can see the items you need, your eyes tend not to notice other people standing nearby as you hone in on your desired product.
I eat very little meat these days and find that a family pack of chicken breasts lasts many weeks, once I have split and frozen them separately. My fish delivery service stopped at the start of the lockdown, but after a few weeks was up and running again, so I filled a freezer drawer with salmon, cod and prawns to last a while.
So, it’s really only perishables such as cheese, bread, spread, vegetables, oat milk (I don’t use much dairy) plus household items that I need and my supermarket visits are now spaced a good two weeks apart. I have also changed my shopping time to the afternoon when there is no queue to get in. More and more people are wearing home-made masks, including me. They say they don’t help, but it makes me feel better. It certainly makes me more aware of other people!
Many months before the Covid-19 crisis arrived, our village shop had closed, more for financial reasons than anything else. But the residents are now very happy that a local entrepreneur has started a pop-up shop in the same premises, where the Post Office counter had remained open throughout. So now we have a busy hub in our community. Not so busy that we cannot keep 2 metres apart, but nevertheless it is grand to see neighbours in the flesh rather than on a computer screen. The pop-up shop owner is adding to his stock every day as people ask for their favourite things. He has a selection of plants outside and has just added newspapers and magazines. And he had flour when no-one else stocked it. He’s even resumed supplies of eggs from our local organic chicken farm. Not only that, he delivers to vulnerable local residents. What a fantastic initiative, and a way to solve his own financial problems. In normal times he is a hairdresser.
I still go to the supermarket for my stock-up shop, but use the local one as often as I can.
Mentally, I keep myself stimulated with a wide variety of activities. A quiz with some members of my family, Zoom chats, club meetings, singing sessions with two separate choirs (solo singing in parts is a little tricky!), learning initiatives such as conferences, workshops, and courses, exercise to a dance DVD and walking in the nearby countryside. My days are usually filled with things to do, and if I have some free time I sit and relax with a cup of tea or a glass of wine.
Speaking of family catch-ups, I have been more in touch with them than ever before – especially the less immediate parts of my family. And pretty much every day I have a chat with my grandson. It doesn’t last too long. At nineteen months one’s attention cannot be held for more than a few minutes by a smiley face on a computer screen. But we are maintaining contact – albeit long-distance. And I have long chats with my son about the situation where he lives – Singapore.
All in all, I am extremely fortunate. I don’t feel the need to break social distancing rules by going to crowded places to seek the sun and fresh air. I have a garden where I can potter with my vegetables and flowers, and woods and fields behind me where I can escape the crowds. The other day I was out on the hills for nearly two hours and saw only three other people.
I do wonder when I hear of people queuing for three hours for a McDonalds burger. I wouldn’t queue for three seconds for one, personally, but each to his own! I hear of teenagers partying in the park. I hear of crowded beaches with no social distancing at all. I do sympathise, I really do. Especially for those people with no outdoor space of their own. And I feel for the Police who are unable to stop all this because you cannot enforce guidance – and that is all it has ever been here: guidance. And it’s why our lockdown has been so much looser than in other countries in Europe, and certainly in Asia.
In conclusion. My crisis has been something of a pleasure to me. But I am not in the “Crisis, what crisis?” mindset. It certainly is one. And one that will be very difficult to get out of as the recession kicks in. So where will all this end? Who knows? My own personal ambition is to be allowed to travel to Singapore to see my son and his growing family. It’s the one thought that keeps me going.