The day after the Prime Minister’s announcement that, in a nutshell, enough was enough, we had to all go home and stay at home and never leave home (the one with the 26 million viewers and Boris just looked knackered and beleaguered, before we even dreamt that our great leaders would go and catch the virus), I nipped out to Tesco.
This was the first time that I had ventured out since what will forever be now known as ‘The Great Panic Buying of the Great Coronavirus Pandemic of 2020’. I hadn’t dared to go out in days. I decided quite adamantly that we had enough (the emergency chicken was safely in the freezer) and we would stay away. The pictures posted on the TV of endless queues, fighting over the loo rolls (in what will forever be now known as ‘The Great Loo Roll Shortage caused by The Great Panic Buying of The Great Coronavirus Pandemic of 2020), the shelves being stripped bare and the film of a poor critical care nurse sobbing into her mobile phone and telling us all to stop it because we would all be needing people like her to be healthy and well fed in our hour of need, filled me with horror and fear. I could wait. We could live on one packet of spaghetti for as long as it took.
If there was anything that we needed, I sent my husband instead. He in turn took our 9-year-old daughter to protect him.
Tesco that day was eerie. There weren’t hoards of people there and there was plenty of room in the car park to adhere to the ‘don’t go near anyone’ rule. I went inside and found people very studiously looking at each other with total suspicion and distrust whilst avoiding any form of contact. I felt relief. I could manage this.
As we now know, shopping has got a lot weirder since. Now you have to follow the arrows. Now, being two metres apart is compulsory. Now you daren’t stop to browse and if you miss something as you go round, you must go around and around again… on the very few occasions that I have braved it since, it’s made me dizzy.
On that day, I had needed to go to try to buy some sort of pain killers. I had been having migraines for days by this time and we were running out. I also needed paper and notebooks for the kids. Day one of home-schooling and very quickly highlighted our weaknesses; I didn’t have anything for the kids to write on, not one single functioning glue stick and we would need to print things out. I ventured up to the first floor of the shop and found what we needed (though, can I just point out that I have no idea how we will ever afford all of the printer ink – where’s my government subsidy for that expense?) and put it in the trolley, ready to go on my next mission to see if there was any Anadin. Just as I turned around, over the loud speaker system came the message about staying two metres apart. This was followed by ‘The Final Countdown’ blaring out across the shop. My eyes met those of the only other shopper in the aisle with me; we shrugged at each other, and shuffled off uncomfortably in opposite directions. Really Tesco?
It must have been my lucky day because I found a packet of Anadin and 9 loo rolls. Buoyed up in hope, I explored further and found the tea bags that we like (extortionately priced; clearly Twinings are seeing an opportunity) and then wondered if I should try the home baking section as we were nearly out of plain flour.
The shelves were empty of all but a few lonely looking bags of strong bread flour. Absolutely nothing. I know that from my husband’s limited trips out, other shops were completely without flour either. I’ve got to ask this. Who the hell has all the plain flour and why???? Seriously, how much pastry can you all possibly be making? What are you doing with it? Making face masks?
It really is the strangest thing – but for two reasons. Firstly, just where has it all gone but secondly, why is it that, when it’s been 12 years since I made shortcrust pastry, and have bought the ready-made stuff ever since (life was always way too short for faffing with that), have I had feelings of complete and utter panic about the fact that we only had about 500 grams of plain flour left? Never have I wanted to make pastry more.
Disappointed, I left. The plain flour hunt has now been left for another day. I actually haven’t seen any since. All of those pastries and my new career as a Patisserie will have to wait.