People used to tell me that I should get out more. For the past few years I’ve been working from home as the sort of writing that is my day job means I don’t I don’t need to be in an office. If a client needs me to, I can log into their servers and work from my tiny office. For about four years now I might go for a week without seeing anyone other than my lodger (regular readers will know him as C3PO from my R2D2 blogs) who keeps himself to himself. In the winter I’ll not step into the garden and between November and March the shed is right out of bounds. I once found a particularly stinky bottle of ouzo in my drinks cabinet (it’s a long story but if you are not a fan of aniseed you will understand). Wanting a quick solution that didn’t involve me drinking it I put it on the patio in December and it was still there in the spring, though the aniseed odour seemed to have evaporated along with half the contents.
I’m a person of the asthmatic variety, prone to colds in the winter and hay fever in the summer. I’m allergic to quite a lot although I’m determined not to be defined by my condition. Needless to say, I’ve probably got a compromised immune system. Therefore, staying at home is both necessary and something I’m familiar with. However, last night I ventured out as I needed to deliver my signed accounts back to my accountant. It was either deliver them by hand or stand in a queue at the Post Office and I knew which I preferred.
Having posted the papers, I took a stroll along the usually busy Old High Street of my home town. At 7pm on a Saturday night this would normally be the bustling centre of restaurants and bars, a couple of live music pubs, a kebab shop, that sort of thing. I won’t say it was eerie as it wasn’t. This wasn’t like an episode of Survivors as some people might be beginning to imagine but, then, there’s no indication we are moving into that post apocalypse state. Neither is our current crisis nearly so sudden. Many people would do well to remember that. But it was quieter than even a Sunday night.
Most of the pubs were dark and closed up, although one of two had lights on behind the bar with a couple of people inside, presumably those who live upstairs. Almost all the restaurants were dark with, perhaps, some illumination coming from back rooms or kitchens. The kebab shop seemed to be trading with a few people queuing but seeming to keep their distance even if somewhat half-heartedly. Suddenly I was surprised to see someone emerge from one of the darkened restaurants but the large insulated bag gave him away as a food delivery driver. The restaurant had repurposed itself as a takeaway.
Stopping further down the road—close to the White Hart and the Rose and Crown opposite, where normally bands would play in each with a throng of bouncers and rowdies stumbling back and forth all dodging the taxis—I paused to gaze into a tailor’s shop. If… sorry, when civilisation returns to normal, I might see what their hand made suits would cost.
Occasionally I would encounter an individual coming the other way. Giving each other a wide berth there was an unspoken acknowledgement that everyone was leaving everyone else alone.
An everything shop at the bottom of the road stood out amidst the darkened windows, glowing brightly like Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks. The street was undeniably a scene of light and shade. Now I wish I’d taken out my phone for a picture. Looking in from the opposite side of the street it seemed there was no shortage of food in there and I considered stopping in on the way back rather than going on to the supermarket as I had intended.
Further on, opposite where they had knocked down and rebuilt the old sixties college campus, the row of takeaways and estate agents were largely dark with the occasional lit counter but almost no people. Everywhere is takeaways and estate agents these days, are these the only business models able to survive the onslaught of the Internet? Walking back along the parade I heard voices. Looking around there was nobody near and I wondered if the isolation was playing tricks on my mind. We often don’t look up but, in this instance, it was the only other option. Two guys were leaning out of a first-floor window chatting, in much the same way we would have done years ago when we would smoke a joint and pass it between us while we watched the world go by. I suppose that’s had to stop now. A wet roach is an infected roach might be the new parlance amongst the pot head pixies. I guess they were just watching the quiet street in the absence of anything more interesting on TV. My experience in Wimborne is a case in point.
Passing Hopper’s everything shop I popped in for supplies. I could get milk and coffee for myself and C3PO and save myself the chance of being infected at the supermarket. The place was deserted so what’s not to like. I kept my woollen gloves on while picked things up, the door was wide open so it was cold inside. Milk, coffee, a couple of tins of emergency macaroni cheese (junk food has never been so desirable), naan breads-they’ll freeze, all handled with gloves.
We still don’t know how the Covid-19 virus survives on hard surfaces but I hear it’s not good news. I’ve heard all sorts of estimates from two hours to three days on materials like stainless steel. Even cardboard might harbour it for 24 hours. Please do bogart that joint my friend!
At some point I had to take off my glasses, which meant I took off my gloves because I’d been handling potentially contaminated stock, then I picked up the naan breads without my gloves and had to put my glasses again. This is ridiculous!
After browsing the strangely broad selection of beers from across the globe—welcome to international Britain, the world that Brexiteers hate—I found no craft ales but picked up a couple of bottles of Leffe, but there was only two bottles so what to else to buy? There, at the back of the shelf, as though there had been a run on them, were three bottles of Corona. Apparently, they lost 132 million dollars at one point in the run up to the pandemic. Still, it seems people are happy to buy it locally and I was doing my bit to help.
Back in The Truck I sanitised myself as best I could. Did I touch the steering wheel? Should I sanitize the outside of the sanitizer bottle? Am I being a little neurotic? Is this neuroticism a Darwinian selection trait in favour of survival? Yes, to all of those is okay with me.
I decided to head over to the supermarket, even if only to make a comparison and to pick up some fresh vegetables, as the everything shop was a bit limited.
The supermarket was quiet for a Saturday night not that I’m in the habit of shopping on a Saturday night but Google said it would be quiet. It seems they can tell in real time how many people are in a particular shop so, I guess, they are tracking our mobile phones in the same way they use mobile phones to track traffic.
Whole swathes of the shelves were empty, whole aisles in some cases. I cruised around looking for the important stuff like paracetamol, no; tins of anything, no (macaroni cheese notwithstanding); sanitizer (you must be joking); etc. But there were plenty of fresh fruit and veg so those who actually know how to cook will be fine. I’ve been making various types of carrot soup recently (carrots are cheap and nutritious) and it’s a skill I’m beginning to think might stand me in good stead. In fact, buying fresh food and saving tinned supplies for when you can’t get out might to be the way ahead. By all means buy a few cans, enough for a week would be okay, and live off fresh food all the while you can get out. If you don’t know how to cook fresh food then use the University of You Tube. But don’t buy more tins than you need for a week or so.
At the till they’d established a taped off area, with hazard tape on the floor at the entrance to each till area, the idea being that you don’t enter the area until the previous person has left. Well it works a whole lot better than box junctions. They also had a sign asking people to pay by card. I’ve not heard this officially but someone said the virus can survive on the new polymer notes.
Leaving the shop I walked back to The Truck. now where was that hand sanitizer?