Silly Saturday – Essentially Essential

In Wales a two week ‘firebreak lockdown’ has started and only essential shops are allowed to open with the essential idea that these essential shops are only allowed to sell essential items, so as not to cheat on the non-essential shops who are not allowed to open. For example, you may not buy an electric kettle at Tesco, because Dai Jones the Electric in Pontypandy has been selling only electrical goods in his shop since 1937.

How are customers and supermarket managers to decide what is essential? Essential for survival or for Covid Comfort?

Tick which of the following you will buy over this weekend as the clocks go back and winter nights draw in. Chocolate of course, chocolate biscuits, bread, wine, potatoes, warm fluffy slippers, rice, cosy pyjamas, bunch of carrots, bunch of flowers, cabbage, boxed set of old black and white films, pork chops, celebrity magazine, cheese, pot plant, milk, Lego set, a free range chicken, new underwear, shredded wheat, paperback book, cocoa pops.

If you ticked more than ten ( 8 if you are vegetarian, 6 if you are vegan ) you are being self indulgent and breaking the spirit of the new rules. Now imagine the task of staff who have to police the supermarket customers.

Chains will be strung across the sweet aisle, padlocks put on the ice cream cabinets and  constant patrols to remove flagrant non-essentials from the shelves. As staff must socially distance they cannot grab that bottle of whisky out of your hands so there will be announcements over the PA system.

Will the lady in the lurid pink coat put down the packet of chocolate digestives and raise her hands in the air… now take a packet of plain digestives.

Customers are reminded they must produce their child’s birth certificate if they wish to purchase birthday candles and cake decorations.

Pet owners with a certificate from their vet may purchase one bag of pet food, but not a squeaky mouse toy.

On the ball managers may have already set up deafening alarms to beep if you pick up a box of hair colouring and there would be greater embarrassment if you have braved the medical aisle and got as far as the intimate products…

Perhaps within a few days harassed supermarket staff will allow you no further than the till where you will be handed one basket of  food essentials.

Silly Saturday – Cyber Shopping

If you have recently come out of isolation, albeit briefly before we’re all in lockdown again, you will have noticed that shopping is now very different. Perhaps you will look back nostalgically to those months of cyber shopping. I got an email yesterday from the Co Op ‘We have missed you, please come back.’

https://www.coop.co.uk/coronavirus/updates-on-our-delivery-service

I have been back, but they didn’t recognise me in real life; even with a mask on I am not quite the anonymous self who ordered twice a week. On line shopping with our local Co Op was fun, not at all like the big supermarket chains, more like a game. At the start you had to spend £15 to get free delivery, but could not have more than 20 items, this gradually increased to 30 items, but still delivered by scooter. There were always plenty of delivery slots and I though smugly of all those people staying up till Sunday midnight, desperate to get any slot with Tesco or Sainsbury in the coming week. Of course, with the limit on number of items the cosy Co Op was not likely to suit those needing a big family shop. The website was a challenging computer game; you could always get chocolate, but not necessarily what you needed for dinner. It was vital to think outside the box. Type in baked beans, no luck. It was weeks before I discovered that typing in Heinz revealed beans and such Covid comfort food as tomato soup. The website did improve over the months, with the layout involving less scrolling down, but keeping the fun of guessing whether you should tap onto ‘Get Inspired’ ‘Food Cupboard’ or ‘Bakery and Cakes’. If you forgot to check your emails with updates on how your order was progressing, there was the fun of not knowing if you would get everything on your list, or perhaps an unwanted substitute.

So what is it like at real shops now? Don’t forget the mask… the rest of the rules seem to vary from shop to shop; another game to play, with arrows to follow and circles with footprints to stand on. Don’t mix up the bottle for sanitizing your basket handles with the hand gel. Move out of the way once you have swiped you card  ( cash is out, except at the greengrocers ) to make safe space for the next person. But that little row of chairs where you used to sort out your bags and make sure your purse was put away has gone; don’t have a medical incident, that was where shoppers who had a funny turn were seated as they waited for the ambulance!

How will you get on at shopping centres? Those benches where husbands were parked while waiting for wives to finish in the shop or come out of the Ladies are gone. There is nowhere to rest your heavy bags and meet up at the arranged time. In town will department stores ever be the same again? Restaurants and toilets closed, no meeting friends or relaxing with coffee and scones while you check you phone, or if you are a writer, do some people watching and scribbling.

It is nice to once again see what you are buying, but will you be going on line or out to the shops in the near future?

Sunday Short Story – 575 – School Uniform

Freddy was glad he wasn’t Scottish; Scottish children had to go back to school in August, but when he heard his parents talking about school uniform he felt those butterflies in his stomach. September was coming too soon and the Prime Minister said everyone had to go back to school now. When he heard his parents talking to the other grownups at the barbeque he hoped maybe it wouldn’t happen.

Can’t see how it will work, bubbles, ridiculous…

Bubbles, were stupid. When they went to see Grandma and Grandad in their bubble, he thought they would be floating in a gigantic rainbow bubble and he would push and be sucked in with a loud pop. When they got to their house and went round to the back garden for a picnic, there was no bubble; Grandma and Granddad were just sitting in their house waving through the patio door. Freddy wasn’t even allowed to go indoors and play with Daddy’s old Lego. What would a school bubble look like? Perhaps they would blow bubbles instead of doing work.

On Sunday morning Freddy’s bubbly thoughts popped when he realised Mummy was talking to him.

‘Hurry up and finish your breakfast, we want to get to the shops as soon as they open, Marks and Spencer for your uniform, then Clarks to have your feet measured.’

‘I don’t want to go to the shops, it’s too windy.’

‘But you like having your feet measured on that magic machine.’

‘It’s not magic and I don’t need new shoes.’

On the way to the shops he sat in the back seat of the car while Mummy and Daddy argued in the front seat, like they usually did.

‘Sunday, who goes shopping for school clothes on a Sunday?’ said Daddy.

‘No one, it will be lovely and quiet.’

‘I don’t believe it, the car park’s full.’

‘We shouldn’t have left it to the last minute, we’re never going to get all Freddy’s stuff for school.’

Freddy’s spirits soared, he couldn’t go to school if he didn’t have his uniform and PE stuff.

‘I don’t mind if I can’t go to school.’

‘Don’t worry, even if you have to go to school in your pyjamas you are going’ laughed Daddy.

Pyjamas… Freddy imagined himself sitting in the classroom with his Lego pyjamas on and everybody laughing, especially …

‘Come on, jump out, we’ll park here and walk down the road to the shopping centre’ said Daddy.

Oh no, look at that queue for Clarks’ said Mummy ‘and for Marks, well we’ll just have to be patient, oh there’s Sarah, look Freddy, Annabel’s here with her Mummy and Daddy.’

Freddy felt shy, Annabel looked different, then she smiled as the grown ups started chatting, standing carefully apart. Freddy smiled back, but couldn’t think of anything to say.

Annabel’s mummy had plenty to say.

‘How is it going to work? One child coughs and the whole class gets sent home? Or you get to school and they take Freddy’s temperature and say too high, he has to go home…’

Freddy’s smile got bigger as Annabel started laughing, then whispering, creeping nearer.

‘Freddy, when we get to school, let’s do coughing.’

He remembered what his parents were always saying when they had that hot weather. Stop running around getting too hot. All he had to do was run around and cough a lot and everybody would get sent home from school…

Unmasked

After months of indecision and confusion from our leaders we are finally wearing facemasks – a bit. On public transport and for customers in shops it’s official, though without much hope of enforcement. Staying at home as a full time carer, the only shop I have been to is the tiny Boots’ pharmacy attached to our doctors’ surgery. Actually lots of people aren’t going to real shops; busy working couples who have been doing on line shopping for years and the ‘vulnerable’ who have discovered on line shopping and don’t trust anything the government says.

At our little chemist the staff have always worn masks and only let one person in at a time, so it feels safe, with the added benefit of privacy for discussing personal medical stuff. But I miss the jolly days crammed in with bored toddlers and having a joke with bored adults as we all waited and wondered who would hit the jackpot and get their prescription next or at all. And of course listening in to other people’s strange medical problems or listening in to the medical problems of strange people…

In Covid times we wait outside, not too many people, but with plenty of opportunity for confusion. You may think someone is pushing in, but they are making their way to the outer door of the surgery to ring the bell and report to the all powerful receptionist, who tells them to wait outside until summoned on their mobile phone; leaving them with the dilemma of which queue to stand in. The rest of us are either queueing to go in to the pharmacy or have already been in but have to wait for our prescriptions.

On my first visit with official mask wearing I got a tickly cough ( NOT a Covid cough ) as soon as I got inside – what to do? Rip off mask and take a sip out of my water bottle? NO, not allowed to touch mask let alone remove it.

One of the regular staff is always friendly and helpful, but a good while ago he was away and when he came back had lost his voice, reduced to a whisper, that was okay without a mask… I had no idea if he could hear my mask voice properly; I was there to collect new prescriptions, with either no idea what they were called or how to pronounce them and also to explain that as we were having a regular medicine in liquid form could we cancel the repeat prescription for the capsules… He checked the computer screen and the bag of medicines and the forms, but he may as well have been speaking in Martian. I understood only his last whispered words Address, post code – for a moment I thought the mask would make me forget my own address, but I managed that bit and just hoped what was in the heavy bag was all the correct stuff.

As I was leaving I did feel, in my stuffy mask, on a hot day, looking forward to taking it off as soon as I got round the corner…  I did feel at last I was part of the Covid Community.

As I was leaving, another staff member came out to give a lady her prescription and asked her address, the woman instinctively pulled down her mask to say her address…

What’s the Point?

Being in lockdown, isolation, shielding, what ever you like to call it, life has been different for all of us, some more than others; suddenly working from home, or not working at all. Even those who already worked from home, were stay at home parents or retired, still went out and about. How many of us are asking ourselves what’s the point of going out to work, what’s the point of ever leaving home at all? Will there be people who join the true agoraphobics and never leave home again?

If you live on a country estate or an outback station in Australia you probably rarely leave home; it’s a very long way to your front gate. If you live in a city centre with all life on your doorstep in normal times, you did not need to go far. But if you are among the millions and millions who live in suburbs, going out and coming home again is the natural order of things. For generations people have been getting on the train to go ‘up to town’ to the office. Cities are full of offices, new towers of offices are still being built, but why?  When I was very young I asked my father what he did at work and he said ‘write letters’. That sounded very boring so I vowed to avoid an office job and I have, apart from a temporary job when I did commute up to Waterloo station for a few months. I’m sure lots of important things go on in offices, but my little temping job involved chasing up orders that were never ready and seemed unlikely to ever get to where they were supposed to and apologising on the phone to the people that were not going to get them.

Whether you are a big or little cog in your company, we now know you can contribute from a lap top on the kitchen table. All those office blocks could be used to house key workers who at present cannot afford to live near their work and also waste hours commuting.

If the world of work has changed what about leisure and shopping? Will shopping have altered so much there will be no point? I haven’t actually been near a shop except the tiny pharmacy attached to our doctors to collect prescriptions. In our new restricted life even that has taken on an allure of adventure. But will shopping be an adventure or an ordeal now?

When our well known chain BHS, British Home Stores, collapsed, one commentator suggested it did not offer a focussed shopping experience, which is probably why I used to go there, I am an unfocussed shopper. The best buys are when you stop for lunch at a garden centre to break a long journey and end up buying a coat, new trainers and colourful kitchen items you didn’t know you needed. We did have a lovely shop in town that sold an array of colourful and very expensive items that made you want to throw out everything in your kitchen and start all over again. I only looked and didn’t actually buy anything, but they had a nice coffee shop upstairs, strewn with unhygienic cushions, where you could relax and check your social media or write. Where do writers go now?

Whether you enjoyed trying on endless clothes and sampling makeup, or browsing in the book shop before going to your knit and knatter group in that trendy LITTLE yarn shop, the shopping future looks bleak. I imagine only focussed shoppers will be allowed in, two at a time, no browsing, one way system, no turning back, straight to what they need and out again, no idling, no coffee and cake. Jumping casually on the bus, laden with bags of shopping, squashed in by people standing in the aisle, listening in to people’s conversations, observing strange people for your next short story? All that real life is gone; six people on board, strictly spaced out, wait for the next bus. You will be glad to get home and maybe never leave again, glad you have mastered on line shopping.

And what of the great tradition of visiting garden centres?  As well as our travel adventures, we did visit our local centre regularly to actually buy plants, browsing through the reduced stands for ‘rescue plants’, wandering round the water features and overpriced gift section. Then there were the very popular two for one dinners on Thursday evening, masses of people, leaving Cyberspouse with his coffee while I made my final choice of plants. Yesterday’s email outlined the latest rules. Every adult must take a trolley so they keep track of numbers and the strange line ‘We prefer one child per adult and trolley’ … what if you haven’t got  a child, do they hand them out along with gloves and gel or might you have to fit your six foot 35year old son in the trolley? I have had plants delivered by the greengrocer and have ordered some on line, but it’s not quite the same…

Are you planning to leave home any time soon? Can you see any point in going shopping?

Friday Flash Fiction – 707 – Bubbles

Vivienne looked out of the bedroom window across the road, glad to see signs of life. The little boy in the corner house was outside again after the welcome rain, playing swing ball on the lawn. Since the family moved in a couple of years ago the house had been transformed, the noise of all the building work had been worth it and with the designer garden it was a welcome outlook in these restricted days. Young Freddy was an only child, she had felt sorry for him, such a quiet little thing, not like her grandson, but he seemed happy with his own company, playing, building tents and searching for wild life amongst the flowers and his father’s strange sculptures. She wondered if a grandparent or lost uncle would be added to their household to create one of these new bubbles, more confusing instructions from Boris. Well she couldn’t join a bubble, not with James living with her, you had to be living on your own; so still no chance of seeing Jason and Jacintha. Julia and Jack lived too far away to pop round with the twins and stand in the front garden. Even if she had been on her own who would they choose to share their bubble; she felt a stab of jealousy, probably one of Jack’s divorced parents, his lonely father or his needy mother. Unless they had both acquired new partners…  Vivienne smiled to herself, she couldn’t be bothered to house train another man, even in the unlikely event of meeting someone. She imagined some dreadful man in his eighties wanting to try out Viagra, or even worse, a chap in his declining years searching for someone to look after him.

Over dinner it turned out James had his own idea about bubbles.

‘What would you think Mother about inviting Cassie to join our bubble?’

‘We haven’t got a bubble.’

‘No, but we could make one. Cassie hasn’t got any family, she’s new in the area, so perhaps she would be glad to visit us?’

Vivienne pictured having someone new to talk to, someone intelligent to chat with, not about geckos, but it sounded as if this on line girlfriend had plenty of other interests, including her new gardening adventures.

‘Or I could visit her.’

She wondered what her son had in mind exactly, how did on line dating work? It was not new, a few of her friends had had some hair raising adventures on line, or rather, when they went off line. James visiting Cassie would obviously give them privacy, surely he didn’t want his mother part of the bubble.

‘What does Cassie think?’

‘I haven’t mentioned it yet?’

‘Has she suggested you meet up in the open, now there are less restrictions?’

‘No, I sometimes think she prefers being on line, she has never exactly said where she lives. I only know it’s within cycling distance of work.’

‘And how would you get there with the ferry still being out of action, surely not on your bicycle?’

‘The boss was talking about a short term car hire. I shall have to go in to the office soon, if only to finish my assessment of who or if anyone can work in the building. Anyway, what about you Mum, you could go out a bit now. ’

‘A walk round the block is going to be my limit for a while yet, where would I go with everywhere closed ?’

‘It’s a pity you gave up driving so long ago.’

‘Because you could have borrowed my car?’

‘No, no of course not, so you would be independent.’

‘I was independent, near the town centre for my bits of shopping, meeting friends at that nice waterside restaurant, popping over on the ferry for a proper shopping day out and of course Suzanna was always happy driving me and Dee out and about on our little outings.’

‘Oh… yes, I’m sorry that must have been such a shock.’

‘…and most of us only finding out on the grapevine, Suzanna’s family didn’t know who all her friends were, not that we could have gone to the funeral. She was the fittest of all of us, the last one we expected to get Covid.’

For some pre-Covid tales, why not dip into one of my collections?

A second anthology from the author of ‘Dark and Milk,’ including recent prize winning short stories. As you would expect, some tales are light, others very dark and you will not know which are which until it is too late! Visit places you may or may not find on a map, discover the Hambourne Chronicles and meet people who may not be what they seem.

Friday Flash Fiction – Dreaming of Ikea

James peered unseeing at his computer screen. How had he come to be given this impossible task; was his boss impressed by his organising of the company into working from home or had the new boy in town been given the job nobody else wanted? No one knew when or how the lockdown should be eased and whatever the Prime Minister said on Sunday, staff at MPJ could not just go back to work as normal. The open plan offices and hot desking at the big company were not suited to a pandemic. The simplest answer was to keep everybody at home, the alternatives to bring in a quarter of the staff or half the staff on shifts round the clock. There would still need to be a complex arrangement of work practices for every part of the building. James chuckled, imagining himself with a gigantic roll of yellow tape marking spaced out squares like the little grocers round the corner.
Then there would be the lists; who could work well at home, who needed to be in the professional environs of the impressive MPJ building? Cassie in her peaceful little home with only the geckos to disturb her was hoping to stay put. Those with young children or doing home schooling would surely be glad to get back, but couldn’t until schools were open again. James himself was more than happy to go back and his mother would be very happy for him to go back. If business in general got moving again he could carry on looking for his post divorce flat.
He pictured Cassie coming round to view his new place. From what he could see on Facetime her home looked delightfully haphazard and she herself described it as a mix of her late aunt’s furniture and Ikea. They could both cycle to Ikea and she could help him choose some unmiddleage, unsensible furniture and fittings. His ex wife had been proud of the fact that she had never set foot in Ikea; meatballs, mashed potato and refillable coffee cups would not be her idea of a meal out. Cassie would probably think it a good laugh and not be offended that he couldn’t afford a more sophisticated date. Not that it would be a date, they were just friends after all.
As if she had read his thoughts James’ computer pinged into life. Cassie was calling him on Facetime, she was early.

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‘Good timing Cass, I need a break, you won’t believe what I am supposed to be doing.’
‘James, haven’t you heard? Two deaths from work, one of them the boss’s daughter.’
He tried to take in what she was saying. ‘How, what happened?’
‘Covid of course.’
‘But we haven’t even heard anyone from MPJ was ill.’
‘I think both families were keeping it quiet, it hasn’t been officially announced, one of the girls in my office called me. It really hits home, this is real James.’
It didn’t feel real to James. He didn’t know the boss had a daughter and Cassie hadn’t said who the other person was. But then it came to him that if it was someone from her department could she get it…’
‘Cassie, don’t worry, they must have caught it elsewhere, you would have it by now if… we’ve been off work for seven weeks.’
Her face cracked into the familiar smile. ‘I know, despite the figures, the hundreds dying each day, over thirty one thousand already dead and now close to us, but I still don’t think it could possibly happen to me.’
James laughed, glad to be back on lighter ground. ‘Same here and it won’t.’
‘You didn’t mind me calling early, interrupting work, I just wanted someone to talk to, it’s the first time I have felt alone since all this started. The girl that called me was just being polite as I’m their supervisor; there’s a little group of them, been there years; they’re all going to Zoom tonight over a glass of wine, shed lots of tears for their friend…’
‘I’m in the same boat, new boy who hasn’t got any friends yet.’
Cassie smiled again, a smile that always lit up the computer screen.
‘You know what James, it sounds awful and I’m not one to get excited about going out shopping, but I just have this sudden longing to go to Ikea and wander round their make believe world, eat a plateful of comforting meatballs and mashed potato.’

Just ( NOT ) Popping To The Shops

One of my earliest memories is of being seen across the busy road we lived on and walking by myself to the corner shop. I was well known by the two ladies who worked there. One of them was called Dolly, which seemed a very strange name for an old lady. Among the sweets they sold were Dolly Mixtures which I assumed were named after her. Mum could watch my progress and return ready to signal when it was safe to cross back. What I actually bought on these solo expeditions I have no recollection and I assume it was because my baby brother was asleep indoors, but it was the beginning of a lifetime of popping to the shops – until now…

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Unless you are subsistence farmers or have a team of servants, someone in the household has to go shopping. Whether you live in a beautiful Mediterranean town and gaze down from your geranium filled balcony to the daily market selling freshly caught fish and newly picked vegetables or do a huge weekly supermarket shop with no idea where the food has come from, shopping is an activity or chore that never ends – until now…

assorted vegetable lot
Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

When my parents bought their first house, on a new housing estate, there were no shops nearby, but we were not likely to starve. The milkman brought a boxful of groceries, there was a greengrocer’s van and the butcher’s boy came on his bike. It was a long walk to the new shopping centre for my mother with a baby and toddler as well as me. Her friend from round the corner had six children, so it was quite an expedition with the added excitement of a route through a large cemetery. Mum used to be amused by another neighbour who would dart back and forth between Fine Fare and Tesco checking the prices. Even in these small shops our mothers would be complaining that they were ‘always moving things around’. Needless to say there was often some vital item forgotten and I would be sent on my bike to another housing estate where they boasted a parade of shops.

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When we emigrated to Western Australia in 1964 all three of us were sent up a sandy track, the unmade section of our road, to the corner shop and later Tom The Cheap Grocer. The shops closed for the weekend at noon on Saturday, so on Saturday morning Mum and Dad would make a frantic dash in the car to stock up at the bigger shops in an older suburb. A far cry from today’s 24 hour shopping.

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Things have come full circle; having your shopping delivered is popular again, especially with busy working families. When someone says they are off to do their Tesco shop they probably mean they are going upstairs to the computer. With the advent of The Virus and isolation, Grandparents are being smugly told by their offspring that they should have learnt how to do on line shopping.

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Our local shops are so good that we had no need for on line shopping and a typical Saturday morning would be a walk along the cliff top, coffee at the Ludo Lounge, then stroll over to the greengrocers – until now…
Anyone with a 12 week sentence ( the medically very vulnerable told by the Prime Minister and the NHS to stay indoors ) or those shielding them, is dependent on supermarket deliveries or family, neighbours and volunteers. But with the sudden popularity of on line shopping you have to log on at one minute past midnight to try and get a slot.
The fun of bargain hunting has been replaced by the excitement of not knowing for sure what you will get in your delivery. Six weeks into our lock down and I think I have cracked it. The poplar local greengrocers which only takes cash, has engineered a major delivery operation using only the phone and Facebook. The free range, outdoor reared and expensive butcher up the road takes orders and payment on the phone. My latest discovery is a website for deliveries from local Co op shops. They seem to have plenty of slots, but this might be because you have to spend a minimum of £15 with a limit of 20 items and an eclectic limited choice of what is available. Type in cheese and you will find cheese. Type in baked beans and up come green beans, jelly beans and coffee beans. Put in peanut butter and up comes butter. With some outside the box thinking I did find Whole Earth Organic peanut butter and it appeared on the shopping list, but the next day showed up as unavailable in the polite e-mail update. The deliveries come by motorbike.
How have your shopping habits changed recently?

Silly Saturday – Guide Lines for On Line Shopping

Before Covid 19 you may have had a weekly supermarket shop delivered or ordered the occasional item from Amazon. Perhaps you supported your local shops and never went on line. Now many of us are adding excitement to our isolation by exploring what can be bought on line. You may not want to sell your soul to Amazon, though if you are an author who self publishes on Amazon Kindle you already have. But there is a reason why Amazon is so successful; people look for what they want, find it, buy it in a matter of seconds and it arrives when predicted, or much sooner. If you have nothing better to do, you can track the progress of your present to yourself. Then the magic moment arrives when the door bell rings and there is a real human being come to visit you, the only human you have seen all week and they have left you a parcel on the doorstep. If you are lucky, as they rush back to their white van, they will turn and acknowledge your existence as you open your front door waving frantically and thanking them profusely.

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You have bought a bright red microwave and some luxury toiletries to cheer yourself up, you can’t get a delivery slot with any supermarket, so can you actually buy food on Amazon? The only essentials that are readily available at a normal price are Tassimo pods for coffee machines. I did buy a fruit and veg box from a farm with British grown vegetables – contents may not be the same as in the illustration – I hoped we would get the bag of potatoes but NOT the boring iceberg lettuce. When the box came it was EXACTLY like the illustration, the lettuce will still be going when isolation is over…

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But be careful you know what you are getting when you order food. Fancy a tin of Ambrosia rice pudding, a bit of comfort eating and it’s only £5.99 ( what! ) for a 400 g tin. It might be handy to read customer reviews – 1 star customer review
…whilst we are facing an international crisis and people are facing tragedy, you are profiteering. You should hang your head in shame
Did they not notice the price when they ordered? To be fair, you can order a dozen tins for £24… and at least it is real food.

Here is what else you might find at your door.
Ambrosia rice pudding can earrings.
A genuine replica Heinz Baked Beans tin to hide your valuables in.
Nice fresh farm eggs that are polished wood in a toy egg box.
Rubber pork chops for a toy shop – a shop that is plastic, not a shop that sells toys…
A basket of fruit – made of marzipan.
A breadmaker instead of a loaf of bread.

What surprises have you had ordering on line?

Take your mind off shopping and pandemics with some short stories.

A second anthology from the author of ‘Dark and Milk,’ including recent prize winning short stories. As you would expect, some tales are light, others very dark and you will not know which are which until it is too late! Visit places you may or may not find on a map, discover the Hambourne Chronicles and meet people who may not be what they seem.

Friday Flash Fiction – Shopping Delivery

Tom turned into the quiet road and parked outside number nine. An old lady was standing in the front garden wielding a pair of secateurs, the only sign of life in the street. He wondered if he had the right address, there was a lot of shopping for one old lady living alone and how was she going to carry all those bags inside? Well, not his problem, Tom was just glad to have a job. What a lark, this coronavirus thing was a blessing in disguise. People assumed he had lost work because of the world wide pandemic, not because he was a loser who had never held down a job for more than a year or managed to float a business successfully. What he did have was a clean driver’s licence and enough muscles left to heft trays out of the van.

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‘Good afternoon.’ The woman stood firmly behind a large bush as if that would shield her from the virus.
Tom nodded as he pushed his barrow up the garden path.
‘Just ring the doorbell, my son will be down in a moment. I hope we have free range eggs this time.’
As Tom retreated to the front gate the door opened and a tall fortyish chap stepped out. Tom chuckled to himself, imagine being quarantined with your mother at that age, but he looked fit so surely he could get the shopping for her. The mother was still talking.
‘How many deliveries have you done today?’
‘This is my thirtieth’ he lied.
‘Oh wonderful, a true hero; not that I need a delivery, quite capable of doing my own shopping.’
‘Er hmm, well we have all had to change our routines Madam.’
‘How wide an area do you cover?’
‘The whole town… anyway I must…’
The son was hovering on the doorstep, obviously waiting for Tom to get back in his van and remove the threat of infection.

‘Mother, let the poor chap get on his way.’

11
James sighed, he supposed his mother’s only social life these days was shopping deliveries. She had practically raced to the front door when his Amazon parcel arrived, eager to wave and thank the bloke before he slipped out of the front gate and into his white van. Perhaps he should order some things on Amazon for her, just for the fun of getting parcels of her own, though he couldn’t think of anything she might want or need with a house full of books and CDs, a bedroom full of clothes and a bathroom full of toiletries. Maybe Cassie would have some ideas.
‘There’s enough shopping for a year, James.’
‘We might need it, I couldn’t get any more delivery slots, you’re not vulnerable enough.’
‘I am not vulnerable and you know I prefer to do my own shopping.’
‘We could order some things from Amazon, they never turn you down and you can get absolutely anything.’
‘I can’t think of anything I need.’
‘How about something fun for your birthday, as I can’t take you out for dinner or the theatre.’
‘James, you have never taken me out to dinner or the theatre on my birthday… or any other time.’
‘Erm, no, not when Dad was still alive.’
‘…and you were still married…’
‘Next year then, in the meantime you could take up a new interest.’
‘I have plenty of interests, or did until we all went into lockdown.’
‘Something you could do indoors, I could help you set up a vivarium for example.’
‘You may be forty four, but I can still see through you; the only one who wants a vivarium around here is you, but surely even Amazon can’t deliver geckos.’
Not for the first time James felt himself descending back into childhood, he had to get out of here, get his own place, but when were things ever going to return to normal? He envied Cassie her solitary life in her little house with the large vivarium; it sounded as if she had always been single, though she hadn’t really said. But she would laugh and sympathise with his predicament. Strange that neither of them knew where the other lived; perhaps it would spoil the on line nature of their friendship, put pressure on a perfect relationship. He looked at his watch, an hour till he could log off from work and log on for a Facetime chat with Cassie.