From John Matthews

From John Matthews

  • Posted by Stefan
  • On 13. April 2021

Highlight of the week.  Trip to the supermarket

It was a big day, the highlight of the week.  The decision being made by the domestic authorities that we needed to restock on the vitals of life and someone had to go on the danger mission to the supermarket. Naturally, ignoring all the normal soldiery adages of  ‘Never volunteer for anything’, I volunteered.  This was going to be a mission to the supermarket like no other. Normally, if you buy a few things for home, you’d drive to the shop, pop in, get your stuff, pay and drive home. Now it’s turned into something more akin to a military campaign.  The amount of planning that goes into the trip is off the scale.

Timing, this is everything.  You have to get there before the essentials that have been restocked overnight sell out, but how soon do you start joining the queue. The shop opens at 8 am, do I get there for 7?, 7:30 or even when it opens at 8?  If I leave it too late, how big will the queue be?  After all, you don’t want to look too keen, or be one of the many videoed people queuing around the block, guarding the shopping trolley and their place in the queue.

Then there’s the list – what’s a list?  I’ve never had a list for shopping in my life, I’ve known roughly what was needed, my wife being very good at reminding me before I went, me being very bad at remembering and a real sucker for an impulse buy.  After all, pigeon breast with pate was an absolute bargain!

Then there’s the safety aspect of the trip.  Face mask? Easy decision, we don’t have any.  Disinfecting wipes for the trolley handles, gloves?  What about disinfecting the hands when you’re back in the car and preventing virus spread on the steering wheel or, even worse, on your face.  The more I thought about it, the more likely the chances of cross contamination became a possibility. Realising this was going to be more hassle than it’s worth, I decided to not bother with anything.  Danger, after all, is my middle name!

So, at 7:30 armed with only some carrier bags and a shopping list, I set out on the mission.  The first thing that struck me was how quiet the roads were.  On any normal weekday at this time, the road to the supermarket would be heaving with traffic, barely moving above the standard walking pace.  This morning, the old car didn’t know what had hit it, as we sped along at 60 mph. Mulling over this write up, I did wonder if the roads in Germany were equally as quiet and had a little smirk to myself, visualising all the pedestrians walking to Aldi and dutifully stopping to wait for the green light before crossing the empty road.  In the UK, such lights are treated as advisory on a good day, decorative on a bad day.  There’s still something reassuring about living in a country where rules and regulations are not taken too seriously.

Car parked, germ riddled trolley selected, I joined the queue.  Now, queuing is a sport where we British are proud to excel, and today was no different.  An orderly queue had formed waiting for the 8 am starting gun, the only difference being that we were all spaced out at 2m intervals thanks to the taped lines on the floor.  I took up station.  While the rest of my fellow shoppers buried their noses deep within all the social irrelevance that seems to fill their lives, I looked around and tried to while away the time.  I invented a new game, I called it ‘Incursion’.  My new game of Incursion involved having some fun at the expense of my fellow shoppers.  The guy in front was a prime candidate as he seemed very twitchy as he thumbed away at his phone.  Let the game begin, I edged my trolley into his space slowly followed by me.  This had the desired effect, as he twitched forward, giving me the evil eye as he moved away from me.  It had a better than anticipated result, a real domino effect as the whole queue moved forward a couple of feet.  Even better than better, the people behind me moved forward as well, giving rise to another part of the game called ‘Reclaim’.  Feigning innocence of my incursion, ‘I realised’ I was in the wrong zone and went back into the right zone, effectively forcing those behind me to reverse a couple of feet backwards.  This was great fun, and the time just flew.  I varied it up a bit by getting some of the people behind me wondering what was happening by not moving forward when the queue advanced by one space.  People do get stressed when you don’t conform, even if it is for just a few minutes.  I wonder why?  We were literally going nowhere.  They were getting so stressed; at least two or three spaces behind me they came out of their phones, wandered away from the trolley to look at the empty space that hadn’t been moved into.  Who knew you can have this much fun in a queue at a supermarket?  Alas, all good thigs must come to an end and I reached the front of the queue and much to the relief of my fellow shoppers, I was allowed into the shop.

Expecting rows and rows of empty shelves, it was a real disappointment, everything was really well stocked.  OK, beans, tomatoes and loo rolls (see previous writings) were a problem, but anything else seemed in plentiful supply with some items being rationed to two purchases.  With great relish and a relatively empty soulless shop, I set about the task of restocking for Chez Matthews.  The problem with lists are that they don’t match the journey you make around the shop, so I found myself doing my daily exercise walk as I went up and down the aisles many more times than necessary.  Then I spied him, pondering over the eggs – large, small, brown, white, battery, free range etc. – Mr Twitchy.  Eggs were also on my list, so casting caution aside and ignoring the 2m rule, I leant in to get a dozen of the finest large, brown free-range eggs.  It is at this point I felt as if I must have been wearing too much man-made fabric and had built up a massive static electricity charge.  This must have discharged into Twitchy, as he leapt backwards the regulation 2m distance, grabbing his trolley in mid-leap.  He lost all interest in eggs, and scurried away giving the ‘Supermarket Nutter’ many a backwards glance.

Other than that, the supermarket was a bit of a non-event.  Arriving at La Maison, I had no idea we then had a quarantine regime.  Who knew?  I made the heinous mistake of carrying said shopping inside instead of leaving it in the quarantine zone – the garage.  Dutifully carrying shopping back out to garage and locking up, I was then informed that perishables didn’t belong in the garage, but needed to come inside to be washed and then stored in the fridge or freezer.  I dutifully returned to said garage, only to discover another crime.  I had just bunged the shopping into any old bag, not realising the new quarantine rules that were now in force.  I had to risk further cross contamination by sorting through the bags and rescuing the non-quarantine items.  Duly washed (there must come a time when we bore of this game?) and safely stored, I hear the gentle bubbling of a boiling kettle and settle down with mug of tea to recall my adventures to an enthralled audience who are slowly going stir crazy and were not man enough to volunteer for such dangers.