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  • Heather Haylock

Another Shop, Another Sock

Updated: May 5, 2020

Captain’s Log 5-5-20

Covid-19-Date 40

Shopping has become a military operation during Crisis-Covid.

In times of war, women have knitted socks. There are photos of them knitting in the street, knitting at home, knitting at meetings, knitting everywhere. And kids learned to knit socks too, as did wounded soldiers. It was the patriotic thing to do, and special patterns were published for the kind of socks that would be comfy and hard-wearing under soldiers’ boots. This was something that was done all over the world throughout the last century or so, and probably even before that, no matter which side you were on. In fact, if your hands were idle while you were out and about, you were seen to be unpatriotic. There were posters printed about this.

I have been knitting socks while standing in supermarket queues. I’ve finished the toes on one pair, mastering Kitchener Stitch in the process (no mean feat – applause requested here). I’ve begun on another pair. I even have a little bag with my sock knitting in, tucked into my reusable shopping bags so I don’t forget to take it with me.

There have been odd looks. Some smiles. Some confusion. And one dear old chap who nearly broke the 2 metre distancing rules in the queue to touch my knitting and reminisce about the socks his dear mother used to knit for him when he was a boy. That was a day I was really, really happy I’d remembered to take my knitting, and I was thankful the queue was long.

There are other aspects of shopping that remind me of a military operation, too. Not just the knitting.

Covid-shopping requires some forward planning. Strategic decisions about which of my two local supermarkets are likely to have the shortest queues at any given time of day. There is even a handy feature on Google Maps that helps me gather this Intelligence.

List-making. And no lackadaisical, throw-a-few-things-on-the-back-of-an-envelope, list-making here. Oh no! This list-making has the precision of the innards of a Swiss watch.

First, deciding on the menu for the week and what ingredients are required. Write those down. Checking of the pantry and fridge (empty, mostly - we live with teenagers – just call me Old Mother Hubbard). Write down what we don’t have. Find the bit of paper on the fridge where we write a haphazard list during the week. Time to head out the door? No! Time to re-write the list, in the order the items will be found on the most strategic route through the supermarket. Fruit and veggies first, meat, breakfast cereals, baking supplies (yeast and baking powder are items that just roll over from week to week on the list – they are never on the shelves), etc., ending with frozen items.

Okay. List made, it’s time to head off.

The obligatory waiting in a queue, knitting.

Then we enter Supermarket Territory. It’s the Wild West in there.

Proceeding with caution around the aisles, the military operation changes into a driving test. Keep to the left of the aisle, people! Before turning into a new aisle, come to a complete stop (first check the trolley driver behind you has left adequate braking distance). Check both ways, proceed with caution. Treat it like a Stop sign at an intersection. And before diving across to grab a tin of baked beans, indicate, check your blind spots, and carefully steer across the aisle.

I think licenses to drive trolleys should be required. Some people have no idea. Does that look like a good idea, parking your trolley in the middle so nobody can squeeze past and remain socially distanced? No flush medians here. And, Oi! No squeezing the fruit! You picked up that bag of cat food. Into the trolley it goes – NOT back on the shelf! What? You don’t have a cat? Never mind. You touched it, you take it. Just like at birthday parties.

The actual checkout and bag-packing aspects of the shopping experience seem to be pretty well executed with military precision by the supermarket staff now. At our local New World, the manager stalks the aisles, keeping order in the ranks like Major Williams on that classic piece of television history, It Ain’t Half Hot, Mum. “Oh dear, how sad, never mind.” He occasionally prowls the queue outside, laying down the law – it goes something like this, “No loitering in the aisles, no talking to my staff unnecessarily, no meeting and chatting to friends, if you touch something, you buy it. And be kind.”

Now I’m home, the next phase of the operation begins. Wash hands. A sink of soapy water and cloths. Wipe every package. Wash all the fruit and vegetables. I now feel a bit bad eating the fruit and vege, after getting to know each piece quite intimately, washing all their little nooks and crannies, bestowing on them the personal cares normally reserved only for the very young or the very old.

Hiding of the good snacks is the final phase. I have a teen-aged son. I have had to develop some quite inventive hiding places. (I swear my children will find a packet of chicken chips and some peppermint chocolate hidden away somewhere odd after I die.)

And that’s it. A cup of tea and a lie down.

And you can call me unpatriotic, but I’m not knitting anymore today. It was a long queue. I’ve filled my quota.

Pass me the peppermint chocolate.

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