I’m writing this I suppose for two reasons:
- to be able to put down in words the despair I’m feeling at the vastly incompetent cretins in “charge”
- to laugh at it in a few years when this whole fucking mess is over and we’re all like WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT!?
Last week we started self-isolating and working from home full time as we’re fortunate that our “knowledge jobs” allow such a luxury, and thanks god for that, because I was keeping an eye on the Italian and Spanish news and my anxiety levels were going higher each day I had to go to the office. Was I exposing myself? Was I accidentally going to infect others? Why isn’t the UK government doing anything? Can’t they read the news as well?!
In the meantime people were already panicking and behaving in ridiculous ways. The first thing to go from the shelves was the paper. All sorts of paper in all sorts of shapes. Kitchen roll, toilet roll, tissue paper. It all was gone. You’d see people on the streets carrying four or five packets of 12 rolls, using brand new ‘bag for life’s. What for!?
We are lucky that we don’t allow things to run out before getting a new replacement item, so we didn’t have an immediate emergency, but it took us a week and a half and multiple visits to supermarketS (plural) until we found toilet paper. And then we got the last item, 20 minutes after the shop had opened. Ridiculous.
The next thing that went was the legumes, both dried and in cans. The Indian food section looked like a hurricane had wiped away all the contents of the shelves. Ridiculous. I felt really annoyed by the unnecessary hoarding and selfishness. What about people for whom lentils and chickpeas are their basics? They wouldn’t be able to get any. Different shops, the same gap looking at you in the “exotic” foods section. The cans, who sometimes even get a bit dusty in “normal conditions”, also gone. It was like something out of a nightmare: it was happening and we were experiencing it, but still we knew it was not rational. Who is going to eat that many beans in a week-end?
And the amount of people on the shop. I am fortunate that my swimming practice has enabled me to hold my breath for a long period of time and so I did whenever we got surrounded by people, but clearly this is not a replacement for masks. Which I, as a socially responsible person, didn’t get because I didn’t want to prevent medicine professionals to get them, but now I’m slightly regretting not doing.
Same for the shopping. We wanted to allow vulnerable people and those who need it the most to use home delivery services, but last week-end the situation was utterly stupid in the supermarkets and shops in our area. No fresh food left of any type. No vegetables, no fruits, no meats, no eggs. Oh, and also, no white flour. Of any kind. Organic, not organic, strong, plain, self-raising. None.
Now, as I said, we normally don’t let things run out, and I like to have a nicely stocked larder. So we weren’t going to die of starvation. But chickpeas and lentils aren’t fun without some greens as well. I honestly had no idea how to get those once we exhausted the reserves in our freezer and rehydrated all our dried seaweeds and mushrooms.
We looked at several supermarkets and shops in the area. All desolate, but hey, except the alcohol, of which were copious amounts still. In the meantime, no masks, no gloves, no separation. People behaving as if it were all normal, except there’s nothing that you actually want in the shelves.
Supermarkets had started limiting the amount of items people could buy, but it still was clearly insufficient. The government was still talking about ‘thinking about others when you shop’ after trying a stupid irresponsible experiment for a couple of weeks that would allow people to fall sick in order to build ‘herd immunity’. I mean, the idea “in theory” makes sense, until you come to grips with reality and more specially with the sheer reality of the NHS being messed up already in its pre-virus state. You just don’t want to add any more stress to it already.
In a couple weeks the infections were starting to explode and yet imbeciles were proudly demonstrating their “self isolation on the pub”, shops kept being packed, and us who were minimally sane shook our heads at the sight of these and our government “advising” some businesses and services to close, but not all of them, and dithering over everything, trying to preserve “the economy” as if it was an independent entity that was not run by actual people.
Finally, we gave up. The anxiety of going to the shops to try and get something from your growing list and returning again empty handed while being surrounded by people who clearly do not give a damn about respecting space around others was just too high.
I started looking into food delivery services.
And then I experienced the surrealist experience of… queueing virtually to enter a website to do my shopping. Basically I felt as the day we queued on a Sunday for Tesco to open and buy some ingredient for cooking lunch, surrounded by half a dozen of impatient people pacing up and down the pavement. Except that I could queue in TWO places at once in parallel! How weird and odd.
So eventually after much waiting I got a slot and then I wasn’t fast enough to fill my basked and… I lost the slot. I used the time to update my delivery data and etc. And I kept trying and eventually I got a slot for next week. Lucky me that I have a connection that still sort of works and the luxury of having time to keep trying, but what about people who cannot do such a thing?
In parallel, I was also looking at other sites and I bought a box of fruit and vegetables, all undetermined, no list of contents provided: a big act of trust, from a seller from New Covent Garden who used to sell to restaurants but, since the government had decided to finally do something and ‘advised’ restaurants to close, was on the verge of losing their business, so they pivoted to home delivery. I had no idea when it was going to be delivered and I had no hope whatsoever that it’d be any time soon, but somehow it… arrived this morning?! Except it was delivered to the wrong number on the street, and a really, really kind and honest soul saw the correct address in the delivery note and rang our door to let us know!
We were looking at the contents of the box as if it were a Christmas hamper. We were “at work” so I just placed the box in the corridor and kept back to what I was doing, but we kept peeking at the box and admiring how much fresh produce there was on it. Apples! Lemons! Cabbage! Cauliflower! Salad! Potatoes! Carrots! Onions!
So I’m very happy to eat fresh stuff, but I’m also really pissed off that it has come to this.
I would have preferred to leave food delivery for people who genuinely aren’t able to go to the shops. At the same time, going to the shops where there’s no food, and also where there’s no limit on the amount of people entering the shop and no one is wearing any sort of protective gear feels really unsafe too. But hey, “if the government says it’s OK, it is therefore safe to continue as if normal” (apparently people cannot use their brains).
Food delivery looks like a better option to minimise exposure to the virus and exposure to other people who you might unknowingly infect, as you reduce the number of interactions with people to obtain the food.
In the meantime, people in Spain are in actual lockdown, singing from balconies and pissed off at not being able to go to the bars, but they’re able to get food in an easier way. We get this ‘lockdown lite’ where you’re supposed to be ‘home’ but can also ‘go out for exercise once a day’. Like, who’s going to police this? Will they be counting how many times you leave your house and ask whether you’re doing exercise or just walking around in yoga pants for your ‘essentials’? etc
What a mess ??♀️
What is keeping my hope up: the memories of the beautiful strawberries I ate on this day last year. And specially the promise we’ve made to each other of what we’ll do when this is over and we can finally get together again: WE WILL EAT CHURROS CON CHOCOLATE!!!