Coronavirus Chronicles 8

13 May – Day 58

PM, Boris Johnson, has reacted to pressure from the business world to ease the lockdown rules, stating that workers who cannot function remotely, may return to work; a step toward resurrecting the stalled economy. Now the slogan, ‘Stay at Home’, has been replaced with, ‘Stay Safe.’ Politicos found confusion in the message and filled many hours of TV time, and column inches, with analysis and speculation. The relaxation didn’t fit with some medical experts either.

The consequences, for me, were most enjoyable. Easing meant that garden centres, could re-open, provided rules were complied with – social distancing and staff protection. Before the relaxation of rules, only garden centres selling food, such as fruit, vegetables and meat were allowed open to sell, those products alone.

At the Garden Centre one entrance was reserved for food purchases and the other for garden products. An area of car park was taped off to form the ubiquitous zig-zag queue lines. Free standing notices stated that a ‘social distancing policy,’ was in operation and showed figures with the two-metre distance arrows between them. Further restrictions stated, that the under 16s were unwelcome and that only two customers per household were allowed in. I joined the end of the long line and read a notice that estimated the waiting time from this point to be one hour. My recent extensive experience of queuing told me that this was a little pessimistic.

A caravan of gardeners leaving the store wore Alan Titchmarsh smiles, their trolleys loaded with; bags of compost, herbs, spices, trees and bushes in pots, barbecue equipment and garden furniture. It was like the sacking of Rome. Some had the, ‘second person in their household,’ pushing another trolley and shedding spoils along the way.

Inside a one-way system operated with computer printed notices to guide us. However, this did not stop me going down blind alleys into the clothing and books areas which were still closed.

My quest was to buy three bags of compost. I had plants to plant out, hanging baskets and pots to fill. The bags of compost and soil were stacked high and plentiful, it felt like winning a prize stacking them on my trolley, after doing without for so long.

Back at home, I stored the bags for use another day- there are sure to be plenty of those ahead to fill.

The next day was Thursday and the traditional handclapping evening to acknowledge the brave essential workers; NHS and care staff, bus drivers, supermarket workers, postmen etc. So many people who launch themselves into danger each day to provide the rest of us with medical care, food and services.

At 8pm front doors open and neighbours have the opportunity to chat across the gulf of the Close. Children gleefully bang spoons on saucepans, sparklers are lit and rockets soar from behind our houses.

Watching the children performing each week, I wonder how it will sound when they tell their own offspring about the pandemic of 2020. Hopefully the events will then, only be a distant memory.


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