Goodnight – Tessa Waugh’s hunting diary: A new etiquette *H&H Plus*

  • While the housebound schoolchildren develop new enthusiasm for their ponies, Tessa Waugh finds herself thrilled and chastened by her weekly escape to the supermarket

    One of the things that has irked me over the years is that the ponies don’t get used enough. With Alec and Mary away at school and Jack not really bothered either way, they take on field ornament status during the term time. When Alec and Mary come home, they’re never very enthusiastic about riding around the farm. It’s all changed now, trapped at home without all the other distractions life can bring; Alec and Mary have been building and jumping fences, having races, riding around the fields daily. It’s a joy to see.

    I suppose we’ve all adjusted in some way or another. Finding pleasure in new things. Previously I would rather poke my own eyes out than spend an hour pushing a trolley around a supermarket. Since the lockdown, it’s my new favourite thing. It’s wonderful to get out, see some different faces, even the drive there is a joy. Spring is moving on apace and the trees and hedgerows are full of catkins and blossom.

    I feast my eyes en route to the Holy Grail – Lidl in Kelso.

    Where I come from down south, Lidl is full of retired Army officers stocking up on surprisingly cheap wine or bulk-buying champagne and gravadlax for impromptu drinks parties.

    “Take it home in a Waitrose bag and no one’ll know,” they chortle, congratulating themselves on getting a bargain.

    I haven’t seen any of those kinds of shoppers in Lidl here – I think they’re all in Sainsbury’s. Instead, there are mothers like me pushing trolleys piled high for the week again. Older people with baskets and trolleys containing not very much. We do the corona sidestep, edging around each other to observe the two-metre rule.

    Since all this erupted the atmosphere is subdued, grim even. There is a new etiquette at play and I’m not very good at it yet. Hazard a smile at your fellow shoppers and sometimes you get one in return.

    Sometimes you get a confused, mildly accusatory expression as if you have failed to grasp the gravity of the situation. You daren’t clear your throat in case the person beside you thinks you have “it”.

    Whatever next? As if I’d be breathing on a key worker, licking a tin and putting it back on the shelf?

    I messed up last time and left my trolley while I wandered off to get some bacon. Coming back, I absent-mindedly grabbed someone else’s. Big no-no. Within minutes a young woman in a mask and gloves bore down on me.

    “That’s my trolley,” she growled, glaring at my ungloved hands on the handle.

    I dropped the handle like a hot brick and mooched away apologising while she continued to glare. Someone nearby sniggered. Strange times we’re living in, people, strange times.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 30 April 2020