Everything Change Everything

The past 2 months, or is it 3, have seen some enforced changes to life that will endure long after the current pandemic has passed. This is a personal perspective so doesn’t necessarily apply to everyone out there. This is the story of my experience of maintaining our household during the last few weeks.

The rude awakening for the stores and for people like me happened before the Lockdown was implemented. For a number of years I have habitually gone to my local Waitrose supermarket to do the family shop at around 08:30 on a Saturday morning. It’s a ritual that a small number of us religiously carry out – I’d guess there are around 30 of us normally in store at that time. Mostly we are on nodding terms and, in a few cases, happy to have a chat. So that first Saturday was a real shock to the system 😦 There were people there rushing around our usually calm environment, stripping the shelves of everything except the paint! Locusts had nothing compared with the hoards of panic buying selfish fools. On that day I got around 1/3rd of my normal weekly shop – it was enough. Fortunately, we have always held a stock of essential supplies to cover around 4 weeks of not being able to go out – because, well, you never know. The most galling thing about that experience was that many of the ‘Locusts’ bought perishables that they then didn’t use before the goods went off. A lot of meat and vegetables ended in the bins – selfish and disgusting. Meanwhile I have an image from an overheard conversation between staff – ‘There’ll be nothing left when I go off duty’ – clearly the staff were already worrying about their own family situations given the influx of panic shoppers.

I decided that day that I’d not be going to the main supermarkets until things calmed down – I don’t need the stress and I certainly don’t need the exposure to this virus given that my Wife is high risk. There are some good small retailers close to us and I usually give them some custom – notably fresh produce and milk. So I went there. It took around 5 days for the locusts to find them too. Things could have become very difficult but fortunately the lockdown came into force. With the Police empowered and guidance issued some form of order replaced anarchy. Most stores introduced security personnel to control entrance and limit the number of people present to allow social distancing to be maintained.

I continued to diversify my shopping, utilising my daily exercise as a way of getting to the stores for essential fresh goods. Our local Garage, BP / M&S proved to be a good reliable source of milk along with some vegetables and bread. The Little Waitrose also proved to be a good option in those early weeks when the main supermarkets were stripped bare. My local corner shop was a useful source for some vegetables, and some of the many canned items that were not available elsewhere. Some of the prices were really odd – chopped tomatoes £1-20p a can while tinned peas were 49p. I guess it was all about supply and chopped tomatoes were hard to get at the time. Shock-horror, the price of beer went up too! However, all this shopping in various stores was good for me because I was walking everywhere!

There are a number of things that I have taken from these shopping expeditions that I think will continue into the future. M&S at the garage do a rather nice stir-fry mix that will continue to be part of my shopping into the future. There’s also a couple of nice cereals that I probably wouldn’t have tried had this not happened. The sliced cheeses have also proved to be a useful stop gap. My local corner shop does nice bananas – though there is an element of luck about when they’re available. He also easily beats the supermarkets on garlic for quality and price. Tins of chickpeas and black beans are well priced too. I’ve just scratched the surface here. Suffice to say, some things will be bought locally now rather than from the main supermartket.

Last week I finally visited my main Waitrose again and things are getting back to normal although there are still gaps on the shelves. I haven’t been on a Saturday morning yet because my usual 08:30 shop is reserved for the truly elderly, NHS and other essential workers, and people classed as at high risk. Technically, I could go to shop for my Wife in that slot but I really don’t need the hassle of jumping through the hoops to prove it. Instead I go mid-morning, midweek and that seems to be a good option currently. Oh, and I haven’t used cash for a very long time – I guess we won’t need notes and coins in the very near future!

That’s a brief ‘how it was’ from me… How was it for you???

Sharing Sounds

It’s been a difficult few weeks… Few? Actually, I went out with my camera today for the first time in 4 months! I hope to share some shots from that very stunted outing, as I did my best to obey the revised lockdown requirements, with you later this week. However, I have spent some time sharing sounds with my Son and I’m going to share a couple of songs that he didn’t like very much. The overarching reason may have been that they were too sad although the first is perhaps too poignant a commentary on relationships. Here’s Peter Hammill…

And this one from Marillion was ahead of the game about climate change – it brings a tear to my eye every time and had the same effect on Alasdair…….This terrible pandemic experience has given us a moment of pause, a chance to understand the effect our activites have on our planet and on our future as a species. We have the opportunity to fully understand and to step back from the precipice.  I just hope we take it!

The Scream – 2019

With the Chimes at midnight fast approaching and which I’m sure many will stay up to hear, I contemplate 2019 and what sort of year it has been. Frankly, it’s one I’m glad to see the back of. There have been many bad things on a global scale happening, of which the bush fires in California and Australia stand out as true tragedies – not least because of the clear correlation with global warming and our contribution to climate change. Then we had the culmination of the Brexit debate and a victory for a very right-wing Tory party. Makes me wonder how far the Uk is from where Germany was in 1933 – not very I suspect after a Leave campaign that played on people’s hate and prejudice.

On a more personal note, this has been a year of medical issues for me during which I have often felt that I was not in control of my health as I waited for the right type and dose of medicine to be determined through a process of trial and error. As a part of that and by pure chance I was found to be pre-diabetic. In some ways that’s a positive – because it is something that I can do something about and take control of in 2020.

Epi being knocked down at the start of December reallly put a final seal on the bad side of the year. While she is a lot better, it will be a while before she is fully fit and the anxiety I have been through in the intervening period has been very disruptive. I wonder sometimes… Why do we get married when so often it brings such pain. But then I remember all the love and caring for each other, the warmth and friendship, and the occasional passionate rows! Yes – that’s why we have long term relationships and that’s why they make life worth living!

My football team survived being relegated back in April. That should have been a positive but here we are back in the same position at the end of the year with the very real prospect that last season’s do or die effort was just a preamble to the inevitable drop this season. Currently, Wingate & Finchley are in a group of 5 teams from which 3 will be relegated – the teams above that group already have a 5-point margin. It’s frustrating watching as the team score a couple of goals to lead a game only to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory – we’re leaking goals at the back and it’s hard to work out why as we have a pretty good set of defensive players and one of the best keepers in the league! Things have to turn around as of our game on New Years Day or it’s a downward journey for Wingate & Finchley. I think Charlie’s face in this photo sums up the feelings of fans at every game currently…

When I look back at 2019 all I feel is negatives – at least I think so. I was looking for some positives and intitially all I could come up with was the marvellous releases of simulation games on pc! I’ve had so much enjoyment from ‘The Hunter – Call of the Wild’ and ‘The Fisherman – Fishing Planet’, the latter releasing in 2019. And SCS Software have continued to provide new content for the excellent Truck Sim games. It’s coming to something when computer simulations are your highlight of the year! 😦

However, The last few months have seen Alasdair take on a lot of responsibility for his own future – arranging visits to potential universities if he gets the required grades. He’s suddenly grown-up over the last 9 months. He’s been working part time in the club kitchen for a year now and I have been very pleasantly surprised by the praise from the bar manager – he’s creating a very good impression. So that’s one big positive from 2019!

That Was The Year That Was – I hope 2020 will be much better!