the corona chronicles – the late edition

nothing to do with karate, but i’m bored, so here goes anyway. it definitely has to do with the corona virus.

on monday i want to the supermarket. more concerned about avoiding crowds than actually buying anything i went an hour before closing time. the place looked like any other supermarked on a typical day. that is if you were living in soviet russia sometime in the 70’s. rows and rows of empty shelves. and i’m not talking about toilet paper. there wasn’t even a single pack of chicken of any kind left.

ok, that i can understand – you can freeze chicken – but no bananas? ok, i suppose you can bake banana bread and freeze that. explains why there was no flour of any kind either.

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i did find some duck. just the last one. but then you begin to think “what’s wrong with it that nobody wanted it?”. i boughted thinking that if i cooked it the next day it’ll probably be alright. it was.

anyway, i loitered around knowing that staff start stocking up the shelves at that time. they obviously work through the night, so i could not hope to get much in the short time before closing, but i remained optimistic. sure enough they brought out some baked beans. i even managed to get a four pack of reduced sugar baked beans. just because there is a pandemic raging doesn’t mean i’m going to stop looking after my waistline.

feeling pretty lucky i headed to the checkout just as the announcement came to urge shoppers to do the same. then home.

today i went again. in fact i’ve only just come back.

as much as it’s hard to imagine it was actually worse. the place was stripped bare. it was as if the store had only just been put up and and was still waiting for the first delivery of goods. other shoppers like myself were roaming the aisles with empty trolleys looking for something remotely edible they could purchase. on and on we went like lost souls searching for a hidden aisle that had somehow escaped the swarm of shoppers that in the hours previous descended upon the place like a cloud of famished locust. as if somewhere in that place there was an aisle from a harry potter film. a magical aisle number 9 and 3/4. you just needed to know which wall to ram into.

“did somebody discover that over-eating is effective against COVID-19 and forgot to tell me?” i wondered. it was as though the population was planning to eat its way out of the pandemic.

a polite announcement came reminding people that they were now restricted to a maximum of three units of each product. if the person making the announcement was taunting the shoppers then their tone, devoid of any irony that was clearly present, did not betray that.

still, i managed to pick up four lemons and some fresh figs. that’s the sort of thing you can still find – stuff you can only have in small quantities or over-priced luxuries. so couldn’t find ketchup, but there was plenty of tabasco sauce and marmite if one is so inclined.

anyway i kept strolling through the empty aisles waiting for the trolleys to come out. like a vulture circling above a dying animal waiting for it to take its final breath. on my way i passed by the gluten-free section, which had somehow survived the onslaught. if you are unfortunate to suffer from coeliac the good news is that at least you can get some food. and all those people who are “on a gluten free diet because it’s healthy” – liars!

finally they started to come out. the trolleys. i quickly scanned one – some uncle ben’s red sauce of some description and more baked beans. having no interest in the former and having already bought some of the latter on the previous visit i quickly moved on. i only had a few precious moments before closing time.

i moved from aisle to aisle looking for basic necessities. they brought out some super strong flour which i needed, but it was all the way at the bottom of the trolley and i knew they wouldn’t get to it in time, so i moved on. tissues? could be useful, but i had enough.  nappies? thank god i don’t need those.

then i struck gold. PASTA! yes, of course it was italian pasta. the other stuff only looks like pasta. admittedly it was de cecco and being something of a snob when it comes to anything to do with food i usually only eat barilla, but desperate times. moving nonchalantly, so as not to attract the attention of other shoppers who might beat me to it i moved towards the prize. like bilbo sneaking up on the sleeping smaug, i made my way towards the single carton of fusilli pasta glistening in glorious isolation against the desolation of the otherwise empty shelving unit. having finally got there i quickly grabbed two packets. yes, i could have taken a third, but i’m a snob, not a pig.

one final scan to see if there was anything else and then to the checkout. on the way i had an itch in my nose and instinctively i gave it a good rub. i rubbed my nose with the same hand that was grabbing the trolley’s handle a moment ago. the same handle that had been touched by scores of people in the hours before. could this be the most expensive pasta i’ve ever bought? well, at least i won’t die hungry.