Over the last few months, I’ve meditated into a coma, self-helped my life to death and run myself into a hatred of exercise. I’ve also tried the antidote of mindless screen watching, dereliction of household duties and couch potato-ism. Now I find myself basking in blasé boredom.
The initial fear of catching and passing on Covid has, wrongly or rightly, disappeared. I walk freely around the streets, no longer diving into the bushes at the approach of another human. And I allow friends into my outdoor space without first subjecting them to a track and trace interrogation and a hosing down with disinfectant. And all was fine and dandy when the sun shone and garden get-togethers kept my spirits high. But no one wants to shiver with me in the cold, and there’s a limit to the number of romcoms I can watch in one sitting.
On a pre-quarantine, rainy afternoon, I’d hang out in a café, go swimming, catch the latest film or hit the shops. But none of these have been possible until now and so I’ve had to make do with the occasional grunt from the teenager whilst awaiting an exciting summary of the Nearly-Beloved’s day at his empty office.
What joy then to discover, in the latest Corona update, that non-essential shops are opening, along with zoos and theme parks. With a sudden attack of panic, I realise I’m not ready for this onslaught of entertainment and need to train myself up quickly. You see, I’ve restricted my weekly shopping to a store whose layout is so well-known to me that I’ve honed my trolley dash skills to perfection. So, what I need is a mission to explore strange, new supermarkets, to seek out new products and new lockdown shopping habits. I will boldly shop where no post-Covid shopping has been done before.
But for this I need moral support and asking the Nearly-Beloved is out of the question. There’s been enough drama with his self-check-out shoplifting and vigilante policing of fellow customers. No, it’s time to get Grunting Teen involved. It’ll be good for him and relieve my guilt at pursuing a parenting style of benign neglect.
I mean I do worry about the ratio of time he spends studying to the time he spends on the PlayStation. So, it’s no surprise when I receive a letter from the school this morning. What is surprising is how it congratulates him on completing all his assignments. I roll my eyes in disbelief. Could Grunting Teen be a closet genius or do his teachers just have incredibly low expectations?
Whatever the answer, he’s already been glued to a screen for over four hours. I decide to take action, so inhaling deeply, I poke my head into the pungent fog of his adolescent den. ‘Ineedyoutocomeshoppingwithme,’ I gasp, conserving as much breath as possible. He looks up from the screen. His eyes narrow. ‘Where?’ he asks and when I tell him, a crafty look flits across his face. ‘OK,’ he says, wrong-footing me with the ease of his acceptance.
Arriving outside the strange, new supermarket I notice a jungle of sunflowers and cut-price pot plants, where a pair of silver-haired pensioners are browsing peacefully in their natural habitat. There’s no sign of any other wildlife gathering as we enter this unknown territory. However, ahead in the distance a lone carnivore has made a lion’s kill of salami, chorizo and sausage. Best to leave a safe distance. But Grunting Teen’s in charge of the trolley and has switched into full fairground mode, spinning like a Waltzer through the unsuspecting shoppers. I rush after him muttering apologies to the fallen victims – the elderly gentleman upturned in the freezer cabinet and the toddler face down in the snacks.
I eventually catch up with Grunting Teen in the fruit and veg section where the flora and fauna have changed dramatically. Here, clean-eating herbivores graze on 2-for-1 organic oranges or forage for fennel in the undergrowth.
‘Give me the trolley,’ I hiss at my son and he retreats a safe, 2-metres away whilst I wonder what a kumquat is and whether it’d go nicely with my signature corned-beef surprise. And I find myself enjoying the novelty of this different shop with its changing landscape and lesser spotted seasonal aisle, where blow-up paddling pools mingle with disposable BBQs.
Suddenly five bumper packs of Monster Munch helter-skelter their way overhead into the trolley and, like a Ghost Train skeleton, Grunting Teen jumps out at me with yet more inadvisable fodder. ‘Muum,’ he says, ‘I’m starving! Maccy Dee’s drive-in is open opposite. Can we go? Pleeeaaase!’ I’m about to give him a categorical ‘no’ when his Bambi eyes meet mine and, as I so rarely catch a sighting of this gentle faun nowadays, it’s hard to resist.
Twenty minutes later, after a dodgem ride twice round the car park, I finally pick up my trophy. I’ve bagged a Big Mac and double fries. Grunting Teen is waiting open-mouthed for his catch and swallows it down whole before we even reach home. All in all, it’s been a bit of a roller-coaster outing, where I’ve discovered my son has got a cunning-fox streak but that zoos and theme parks no longer hold any fear for me.