Bruce is an NHS worker. Like all his colleagues, along with hundreds of thousands of other key workers, he has given his all throughout lockdown in these strangest of times. He’s a fellow allotmenteer and was down there the other morning, the day after the latest easing of restrictions, which saw the doors of non-essential shops open for the first time since early January.
As I walked past him, I was struck by how serene he seemed, sitting there in front of his shed smiling to himself. ‘If I could paint portraits, I’d paint yours, you look so happy,’ I told him. His smile got even wider as he announced he’d had a haircut and a beer on the first day that he could. ‘Happiest day of my life,’ he said. And he meant it.
I know how he felt. A trip to B and Q today almost reduced me to tears as I stepped inside a store that wasn’t a supermarket for the first time this year. Oooo the colours, the smells, the sounds, the people, real people with legs and backs of heads, features you don’t see on Zoom. And I was with Noel, two of us together in a store, that’s not happened for more than a year. I was so giddy I wanted to waltz down the lighting aisle, pirouette through the paints and wallpaper and do a quickstep past the drills and boring tools. I never thought I would be so excited by a DIY store, especially as I don’t have a great track record there, having spent far too much time looking at bags of bolts or lengths of 2×4 to check they’re not warped. Oh the sheer joy of doing something normal, albeit while wearing a mask, I could have burst into song, fortunately for all concerned, I didn’t.
The reason for this sensory treat was to buy the modesty screen for my weeing place down on the allotment. There was a lot of internet searching for a suitable screen, as there has been for every little thing for months and months, before it occurred to us, we could go to a store, a real, live actual store, with a car park and everything. We could have gone anyway as DIY stores have been open throughout, but we didn’t feel comfortable to do that while the virus raged through communities. I felt like packing sandwiches and a flask, a trip out, with Noel, to another city, even if it is only three miles away!
We entered together but Noel made a beeline for the boring stuff, so I went to look at plants, seeds and gardening tools. I have to confess, I may have fondled a few spades, rakes and hoes, it was so good to be in a 3D world. I walked through the garden centre and touched the plants, smelling them through my mask, exclaiming loudly at the prices. ‘How much?’ my voice muffled by the mask, bounced off the over-priced begonias.
I couldn’t leave empty-handed, and picked up a packet of pea seeds, even though I already have quite a collection. And a shiny watering can, OK, two watering cans, you can never have too many of those. As we packed the car, Noel with the makings of a weeing place and me with my watering cans and seeds, I felt a little light-headed with all the excitement of the adventure. Unlike Bruce, I hadn’t had a haircut and a beer, in fact my hair is so long I can hardly see, the Great Cutting be my next outing to a big city. It may not have been the happiest day of my life, but right now, it’s top of the lockdown pops.