Yesterday evening (19 March), I received a text from a friend saying, “There is literally nothing left in the shops!”.
Whilst I have not experienced there being “literally nothing left”, I have, regularlly visited my local Sainsburys only to find no toilet rolls, canned tuna or other items which, usually fill my shopping basket.
My local Sainsburys in Upper Norwood has, as with all Sainsburys (and many other supermarkets), limited shoppers to purchasing a maximum of 2 of any 1 product so, for example I can only buy 2 packs of tissues (assuming of course that there are any tissues left to buy)!
Given the panic buying by vast numbers of the British public as a consequence of COVID-19 (the Corona Virus), I am wholly in support of Sainsburys and the other stores who have introduced limits on the number of items shoppers may purchase. However, in London I can report that this sensible (and morally correct) policy is not working.
Talking to store employees, I am frequently told how people buy 2 lots of an item, leave the store and, shortly afterwards come back to buy a further 2 of the same product. Staff are sometimes abused when trying to enforce the 2 item limit (on any one product), while families may go to separate check-out lines in an attempt to beat the limit.
Yesterday (Thursday 19th March), my local Sainsburys opened between 8-9 am purely to serve the elderly, pregnant women and other vulnerable customers. Being registered blind, I entered the store at a little after 8 am and was escorted round by a helpful employee. Whilst the lady did her very best to find the items I needed, many of them where, quite simply not in stock, which meant that I either found an alternative or went without. For example there where no rubbish sacks. I was, however able to purchase bin bags when I visited the store later in the day (although they had almost sold out of this essential item).
Whilst some people are behaving in a selfish manner, I have been touched by the kindness of other individuals. While shopping between 8-9 am yesterday, a heavily pregnant lady brought across a box of ceareal which the store employee had not spotted and thought was out of stock. I have also received offers of help from friends to assist me shop. As John Donne famously said, “no man is an island”. We all have duties and responsibilities to one another and its at times like this (the COVID-19 emergency), that we see both the worst and the best in our fellow men and women.
Since Tuesday, I have been working from home (my employer has now instructed everyone to do so). Whilst I relish the opportunity to home work once a week (almost always on a Friday), I am finding it socially isolating to work from home every day. There is much written about how technology can enable remote working and the benefits of working from one’s own home. Home working does, indeed have many benefits, for example cutting down on the carbon emissions produced by travel, however (apart from the problem of isolation) I find that I miss the convivial chats in the work kitchen. “Oh did you see my email?” said to a colleague one has just bumped into, is likely to prompt them to go back to their desk and look at said message. Such a question (put with a smile) is likely to ilicit a positive response, whilst sending a follow-up email may well just get lost in a colleague’s ballooning inbox.
Whilst this is a poetry blog, I will, from time to time continue to put out the occasional post concerning my experience of the COVID-19 situation.20