Supermarkets are one of our few shared spaces so far in 2021 | Blaise Tapp

In the new order of life in the early 2020s, going to the supermarket now constitutes a day out – even though that would be strictly against the rules.

Friday, 22nd January 2021, 5:45 pm
Shopping at the supermarket was one of Blaise's pleasures in life. Picture by iStock/PA

Unless you wear scrubs to work or are elderly enough to be vaccinated, a trip to Aldi, Tesco or, if you are fussy about where you get your falafel from, Waitrose, will be one of the few times you are allowed to venture beyond your front garden between now and Easter, If we are lucky.

I’m the first person to admit that I’m not a normal bloke – hanging doors or chewing the fat with blokes called Barry or Kev about sumps and torque are not things I either like doing or am indeed capable of.

Now that there is as much chance of me going to the match this season as there is of the EU building a statue of Nigel Farage in central Brussels, the only pastime that I am able to indulge in right now is going to the shops.

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Shopping for food is something I’ve always enjoyed doing, probably something to do with my previous life as a neanderthal hunter-gatherer, much to the chagrin of Mrs Tapp, who accuses me of sloping off for a couple of hours every weekend.

I’ve long enjoyed my weekly ‘big shop’, sometimes aided by a comprehensive, if not legible, list and sometimes done on a whim.

Either way, I’ve traditionally taken my time, carefully eyeing up the freshest produce, while working out what my slightly better than average culinary skills could rustle up.

But now the fun has been taken out of shopping, with popular opinion dictating that stocking up on groceries is no longer something to be enjoyed as we are living through a pandemic, don’t you know, meaning that it is viewed by many as a purely functional activity, one that should be done without a smile – not that anybody would know in these days of compulsory mask wearing.

Signs are now displayed outside of most essential shops, reminding those who venture in that shopping these days is now considered to be a solitary pursuit and must be done with a face covering and a commitment to not venturing a swung cat’s distance from the nearest human being.

Now that pretty much everything else is shut, supermarkets, other essential shops and garden centres are the only places left to visit during Lockdown the Third, meaning that they will be the only places that many of us will run the risk of catching coronavirus.

That fear itself should focus the mind of most people with half a brain cell meaning that anybody other than a tinfoil hat wearer will comply with the rules.

We are told to act like we have the virus and in most cases the people I have shared a socially distanced aisle with are doing just that – giving other shoppers a wider berth than perhaps they might have done in months gone by.

In the places I have visited lately, there has been a marked reduction in the amount of reaching across of other shoppers and patience seems to be a theme of the early weeks of 2021.

Yes, there is still a bit too much touching and putting back of goods for my liking but, in fairness, it can be tricky to get the right sort of fish on the third shelf up if you are not six foot plus, so I for one am trying my hardest not to judge.

With the end now in sight, patience and kindness ought to be the defining characteristic of at least the first half of this year, with the only place most of us can express this being our local shop or supermarket.

Yes, it might be irritating if the bloke in front of you breaks with convention and turns around his trolley to buy the pink lady apples he’s forgotten but we are all only human and we’ll be out of this soon.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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