Bishop's Stortford mum Cate Wilson does her best 'Peter Shilton on a skiing holiday' impression as she braves the supermarket for the first time in lockdown
In the latest instalment of her lockdown diary for the Indie, Bishop's Stortford mum Cate Wilson dons her son's goalkeeper gloves and a woolly face muffler before heading out on a food shopping expedition having forgotten to book that all-important online delivery slot...
If there's one thing the Wilsons have excelled at during the lockdown, it's food. Not just the vast consumption of it, although top marks to the family there, but rather the purchasing and ordering of it.
While others in Bishop's Stortford were still wrestling multi-packs of toilet roll to the ground at Aldi and standing forlornly in supermarket queues stretching back to Stansted, we had secured a rolling programme of weekly supermarket deliveries and, until this week, it was all going very nicely.
But then, in the wee small hours of Monday, disaster struck with the dawning realisation that I had tragically failed to book a supermarket delivery slot. Despite a mad scramble to the online booking system, it was clear there was nothing in the way of delivery until sometime mid-century. There was nothing for it. I was going to have to brave the shops.
It was apparent from social media that some planning was going to be needed before leaving the house. Pictures of home-made face masks, made from the sort of material scraps we don't seem to possess, flooded my timeline, as well as handy tips suggesting the use of disposable plastic gloves and 'best time to go' tracker apps. This was clearly going to take some serious thought.
A fingertip search of the house managed to uncover little in the way of suitable protective gear with the final shortlist consisting of two pairs of washing up gloves, some oven mitts, a skull and crossbones bandana and a woolly face muffler purchased for a recent Nordic trip. I opted for the latter teamed with the last-minute addition of goalkeeper gloves located under the teenager's bed.
Looking less like a shopper and more like somebody about to brave a snowstorm in the middle of a penalty shootout, I set off and was pleasantly surprised to find just a short queue of people politely lined up at two-metre intervals about 400 metres from the entrance. The glazed expression in their eyes should have pointed to an obvious rookie mistake.
This was not the queue. This was the merely the final home straight of the queue. Stretching out into the far distance, occasionally broken by the curvature of the Earth, was the queue. Gulping slightly for air, prompted by the now suffocating heat from my Icelandic wool muffler, I grabbed a trolley and joined.
The queue protocol seemed to be less Dunkirk spirit and more sullen boredom punctuated only by the occasional squeak of a trolley wheel or somebody loudly inquiring into their mobile phone whether a wholemeal bread roll would make a fitting substitute for flatbread should the need arise. One hour and three levels of Candy Crush on my phone later, my trolley wheels finally crossed the threshold and I was ready to navigate the one-way system.
Despite steamed-up glasses, thanks to the muffler, my mission to the fruit and veg aisle was a success and by the time I'd skilfully traversed bread and cakes I was clearly on a roll. The egg section, however, was quite a different matter. A vision of empty shelves lay before me, reminiscent of a 1970s Soviet food market, until, out from the bowels of the storeroom, came the thundering rattle of a giant cage bearing fresh egg supplies. It was here that the legendary British Bulldog spirit took hold. Faster than a chicken could pass wind, shoppers appeared from nowhere in a mad scramble for eggs and it was now that my recent keep-fit and sporting prowess came into its own.
Like Peter Shilton at his finest and with goalkeeper gloves poised to cushion the eggs landing, I did a quick sideways dive towards a box of Happy Valley free-range and nailed it. I'd cracked it and thankfully not any of the eggs.
Giddy with success, I unfortunately then managed to travel the wrong way down the next two aisles, falling foul of the supermarket by-laws and resulting in a lost opportunity to secure long grain rice. Fearing a further diplomatic incident if I attempted to reverse the trolley back down the one-way aisle, there was nothing for it but to plough on towards meat and poultry, wondering if rice pudding would make a passable accompaniment to tikka masala.
Some time later, having been hastily directed towards an open till by a store assistant clearly alarmed by the sweat dripping from my muffled face, I emerged into the light of the car park and headed home ready for a cold shower and a tub of moisturiser to combat the wool rash now covering my neck and lower face.
Mission accomplished and a number of valuable lessons learned, not least the need to book an online delivery slot for the following week. Omelette anyone?