Tag Archives: shopping

COVID-19 (the Corona Virus) – my Experience of Living and Working in London

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


How much would you pay for a book?

How much would you pay for a book? Or, to put it another way, how much is a book worth to you?

A couple of weeks back, I was chatting to an acquaintance about books. During our conversation my acquaintance stated that many ebooks are overpriced (he mentioned that some cost £7 or more), and given the low cost of producing electronic versions they should be more reasonably priced. He also went on to state that he bought many of his books in charity shops, with many retailing for as little as £0.50.

The above conversation made me consider the question, what is a book worth? My collection of poetry “My Old Clock I Wind” retails for £2.99 (for the ebook) and £10.99 (for the paperback). Turning to a comparison with the demon drink. I enjoy a refreshing pint of Fosters. In my favourite local the price is £4, so anyone drinking there can enjoy two and a half pints of my favourite tipple at a cost of £10. Alternatively they could (with the addition of £0.99) purchase the paperback edition of “My Old Clock”, or three copies of the ebook (and still have change from a £10 note).

While beer is refreshing it is, by its nature here then gone. In contrast a book can be read many times (whether in electronic or paperback/hardback format). So, weighing my work against the cost of a pint in my favourite local, my book is, in my view value for money. In fact why not do both (I.E. purchase a copy of my book, in any format and enjoy a pint while reading it)!

The above comparison is intended to be read in a light hearted manner. There is, however a serious point to all this. Some individuals who complain about paying £10.99 for a paperback (or £7 for an ebook) will think nothing of buying several rounds of drinks on a Friday evening. Anyone who drinks in central London will know that (depending on the number of people in the round) that this can leave the person paying with a bar bill of £50, and on occasions considerably more.

All this is not to say that some books are not overpriced. I do, for example find it odd when I see ebooks costing similar amounts to their paperback/hardback alternatives. While it is right that authors and publishers need to make a living, there is much less cost entailed in producing an ebook and all things being equal ebooks should (in my opinion) reflect the lesser cost entailed in their production.

As regards books in charity shops, everyone loves a bargain and most people get a warm feeling knowing that there cheap purchase is helping to support a worthy cause. However (to state the blatantly obvious) authors and publishers could not survive where all books to be bought and sold in the second-hand market. Someone has to buy the book fresh off the press, otherwise the whole show will grind to a juddering halt!

In conclusion, books are, in the final analysis (as with any other product or service) worth whatever the purchaser is prepared to pay. A person who is caught up in the social whirl may think nothing of spending £70 or £80 on a night on the town, but ask that same person to buy a paperback for £10.99 and he protests that it is overpriced. While it is undoubtedly true that some books are overpriced, the vast majority certainly are not.

As always I would be interested in my reader’s views.


Supermarket Aisles

No trumpets play,
‘Just the same musak as yesterday,
Sounds down supermarket aisles
Where rictus smiles
Tally the cost
Of loves bought and lost,
And there is no sun
Behind the frost,
Merely a kind of fun,
Wherein shopper and purveyor are soon done.


“He’s dead”
She said.
What to say?
Meaningless words
Of sympathy, by her probably only half heard
While thinking “I must get away,
The shop will soon close
And heaven knows
I am out of milk. Well nearly so.
Poor lady how will she go
On without him?”
A short walk and I am in
The shop where once they together went
And spent notes that crumble into dust.

A Nation of Shopkeepers

Is it just sour grapes
When the lover of England exception takes
To the portrayal of his land
As a place where shoppers stand
In fractious line,
Oops, sorry I mean having a rare old time,
Getting and spending
In the never ending
Consumerist dance?

If by chance
One ponders on Elgar
Or Churchill with his cigar,
The lover of his country surely does think
How this ad would turn them both to drink.

Forget ancient oaks that russle,
In the fresh English air.
No one seems to care
And it is consumer muscle
I fear
That is celebrated here.


She Stood Upon Her Head

“I don’t like rules” she said
As she stood upon her head.
“I agree with thee
‘Tis good to be free.
Now do take tea
With me”
I said with glee.
“But the manager is looking.
Soon the shop he will be shutting.
I hear him shout
“You two, get out”!
She replied with a pout


A lack of musak.

No ghost, for spirits are immaterial as the wind

and here is a material world.

Aisles empty as the minds of the robots who patrol

for security has no soul.

Automated tills say

“have a nice day”

in a voice as caring

as the check out girl who is inwardly swearing

at her bloke,

“the guys a f..k joke”!

“Big Issue?”

the girl outside the store asks.

it’s a hopeless task

For the issue has been lost

and tossed

with the needles and dodgy cash

into the trash

Long ago.

Clubbers admire the snow, so pure and white.

It will be a delightful night.

Out of mind, out of sight