Coronavirus

I am doing my first Coronavirus shop. It’s Sunday noon and I’ve never seen Sainsbury’s this busy, there are no baskets, some food shelves are empty, the queues are going up the aisles. Apparently the toilet paper panic which gripped Australia has spread to the UK, so Sainsbury’s has made a statement by placing three pallets of toilet roll by the entrance. Everything is under control.

There is a middle-aged man who looks Chinese, wandering around the isles looking rather overwhelmed. It seems symbolic somehow. He has chosen to take a trolley but only has a single bottle of milk in it. I can’t tell if the other items he wants are all sold out, or if he just couldn’t find a smaller basket. 

I decide there’s no need for toilet paper as there seems to be loads of it. I start my shop: a one-litre bottle of Fairy liquid, two cartons of Soy milk, a carton of goat milk, apples and the last packet of rice on the shelf. There is no spaghetti left. There’s a woman taking a photograph of the empty pasta shelf which seems quite fun. But then her partner asks how they’re doing for rice and she say’s ‘we’re running out’ and looks more concerned.

I decide I should treat myself today because there’s a Coronavirus epidemic, so I get a family-sized packet of marshmallows. I then get some Parmigiano Regiano and a bottle of wine. 

I have now joined one of the long queues that disappear up the aisle. The queue from the self-checkouts to the far left of the store has reached the other end, so now spans the entire length of Sainsbury’s. As the self-checkout shoppers’ queue overlaps with ours we exchange irritable smiles. 

We all just stand there, occasionally taking a decisive step forwards when space clears. As we progress past the ice creams I push my basket forwards with my left foot while opening the freezer and taking one of the last remaining Haagen Dazs Salted Caramels. The woman behind me has done just the same. We may be staring ahead expressionless but we certainly know what’s going on. 

The Chinese looking man is queuing to my right and seems more relaxed now. I look at his basket which still has the milk, plus a large jar of instant coffee and a cabbage. Not much fun, but he seems pleased.

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