My dear friend, Jo, tells me that she hasn’t been inside a shop since the middle of March.
It is a little while
into our telephone conversation before we start to discuss shopping, because when she first answers the phone all I can hear is the sound of her little dog barking. Apparently whenever the phone rings she (the little dog, not Jo - please keep up, won’t
you?) thinks it is somebody calling to offer to take her out for a walk. In the early days, when everyone was in Lockdown and only allowed out for essential purposes such as dog walking, Jo had so many people wanting to take her little dog out for “walkies”
that she took to cowering in a corner at every knock in the door. No, no, no - it was the little dog cowering in the corner, not Jo who is just about the last person you would ever see cowering anywhere and definitely not in a corner.
Anyway, eventually she calmed down (I leave it to you, I have given up...) and we started to talk about shopping. I was delighted to find a willing listener to my tall tales about my own shopping experiences,
somebody who didn’t know all about the New Normal on the Shopping Front, having been out and about with their shopping trolleys and bags for life throughout Lockdown. Jo, on the other hand, was all ears. As, possibly, was her little dog but I was on
the end of a phone, not there in person, so I can’t be sure.
Being, as regular readers know, one who chooses wherever possible to Shop Local, I am
in an excellent position to comment on the fact that every establishment on our local shopping parade has introduced slightly different rules and regulations. They are all, to be fair, on the same lines of social distancing, face masks, sanitisers and being
polite to each other - but there are individual requirements which the regular shopper needs to absorb. It’s mind boggling, believe me.
At the butchers,
the number of shoppers allowed inside depends upon the number of shop assistants behind the counter. So, if there is only one butcher weighing out the lamb chops and best mince, only one person can enter - the rest have to form an orderly queue outside. The
problem with this, from my point of view (and I mean that quite literally), is that from outside the shop it is impossible to see the contents of the delicatessen counter situated at the rear of the shop. This means that, if it’s slices of gammon I’m
after for example, I don’t know whether to wait in the queue or not. Should I continue to queue, risking disappointment if, when it comes to my turn to enter, the counter is as bare of ham as Mrs Hubbard’s cupboard. Jo suggests maybe she should
lend me her binoculars next time I shop at the butchers...
I tell her about the morning when I was standing outside the butchers at the head of the queue outside
while the customer ahead of me was inside taking ages over her shopping. I had my eyes on the one remaining packet of six lamb chops on special offer, displayed in the front window where I could see them - please, please, don’t let her buy them, I pleaded
to myself, as she nabbed first a chicken, then some steak, followed by several pounds of mincemeat (which she asked to be divided up into separate parcels, presumably for freezing), sausages, and a couple of steak and kidney pies. I breathed a sigh of relief
as I saw her reaching into her purse for her debit card - then she paused, reflected, and indicated the packet of lamb chops as her final purchase....
In the hardware
shop, three customers are allowed in the shop at any one time, but you have to stand at a certain point to be beckoned in - a bit like waiting to be seated in a restaurant. In the bakers, it’s only two at a time please, like the animals on Noah’s
ark. Outside the Co-op a polite notice informs me that the shop may feel the need to restrict numbers in the store and hopes we will be understanding. So far I haven’t been denied entry but one never knows and I am quite prepared to be understanding.
At the post office (which is a post office within a shop, if you know what I mean) only one person is allowed at the post office counter at any one time, though three people can be in the shop which is more than a little confusing. A notice outside tells us
we must wait on the pavement, hugging our packets and parcels, and wait to be called to the counter.
Incidentally, Jo’s little dog may like to know
that the pet shop only allows two customers at a time to peruse the shelves of bird food and dog biscuits - but there’s absolutely no mention of any limit on our four-legged friends.
In shopping, as in so much else, it’s obviously a dog’s life...