Jessica Farrington had sent her husband to the Farm shop in Upper Widdershin; he had been working from home this week, as coronavirus seemed to have reached the UK. She had given him a list of essentials they needed to stock the new chest freezer and he had returned, two and half hours later, with a small tray of venison chipolatas, a limp bunch of curly kale and a tin of artichoke hearts in brine.
“For Christ’s sake, do I have to do everything ...”
He had been tasked with one simple job and he had taken half the morning to fail to do it; she accepted that more effort than normal was required at the moment, the shops had been crowded with people panic-buying, but under all circumstances, especially the exceptional kind, she found it difficult to tolerate resignation in defeat. After all, if she had just given up and come home last week when toilet roll had become as scare and expensive as gold dust overnight, there would be no ‘emergency’ paper in the loft. Further to this, as a result of her determination, not only did they have a sensible reserve of something that would do, it looked hopeful that the family may not even have to use it; a couple of days ago, she had managed to source some branded 3-ply on eBay... it wasn’t white but ‘Natural Pebble’ at least sounded like it should be on the Farrow & Ball Colour chart.
Jessica’s fury in this crisis extended well beyond the kitchen; she had just heard from Mrs Nazeby-Naze that Inghams had cancelled their winter programme, so organising the last-minute ski break in The Dolomites this Easter was going to be a nightmare; a feeble laminated sign in the reception of Prettyside Health & Fitness advised members they may have to temporarily close and she would be forced to get smoothies from Costa.... but the worst of it all, she was finding it increasingly difficult to order food online, even her beloved Ocado had failed to raise their delivery charges in time to protect their regular clientele from Covid-19. The disappointment and disdain she felt towards her ‘providers’ was immeasurable; she snatched up the empty, Alpaca-yarn eco-bags, slipped in a packet of Flash wipes and took matters into her own hands.
As she drove through the village, she saw Mrs Dunne outside the church hall carrying boxes of food and Jessica wondered at the nerve of the woman to be so blatant at a time like this; it was ‘Ignorants’ like her, hoarding anything they could lay their unwashed hands on, that had caused all this stress in the first place. She asked Siri to record a reminder to advise the Reverend Curtis to include some clearer moral guidance in his message in the community column of next month’s Parish Magazine.
She turned onto the forecourt of M&S Simply Food; there was a line of people extending out of the door and a man in a nylon tunic handing them numbered tickets; she made a quick assessment and decided not to park but drove straight through the pumps and joined the queue to exit. Her phone pinged on the passenger seat; as there was only one car waiting behind her, she checked her inbox before pulling away. Nothing interesting, just a new message on My Ebay: Andrex14 will deliver today between twelve and two. No signature required. At least she wouldn’t have to rush back.
She reached the junction and paused before indicating either left or right; it frightened her to realise that her retail options were limited. The Farm Shop had been ransacked by chavs from Town, undoubtedly tempted by free parking, the ‘not-so-wonderful’ Saint Michael seemed to have employed ‘One Man and His Dog’ to herd customers around their stores and Mr Bainbridge from Bainbridge’s Delicatessen inexplicably drew down his shutters on Wednesday, half way through what must have been his busiest week since the horse-meat scandal, because his wife has a perfectly manageable heart condition!
There was no other choice, she would have to go to Sainsburys: as she waited at the junction, she bolstered herself on the memory that Mrs Forster had once served quite a tasty sun-dried tomato puff pastry tartlet at a committee lunch, which she had allegedly made from ingredients solely contained within her ‘Live Well for Less’ larder. She touched the flash wipes in her bag for reassurance and turned right onto the main road.
The aisles were full but the shelves almost empty: her trolley contained 15 jars of bun-length frankfurters, all the remaining trays of gluten-free gnocchi (presumably because the average customer didn’t know what it was), 8 boxes of Sainsburys own Cornflakes and 24 triple-A batteries. She restricted herself to just 3 bottles of Prosecco after reading the warning on the bottle which clearly said, ‘Taste The Difference’. Having paid in contactless instalments, she took the back roads home to Shire Lane, reducing the risk of anyone catching a glimpse of orange packaging in the boot of her car.
The approach to the house was narrow from this direction and she found herself crawling behind several cars as she neared the bend just before her driveway. There was probably a tractor ahead; it annoyed her that so many drivers seemed incapable of such a simple manoeuvre as overtaking. Jessica could see the obstruction now; she looked at it for some time in disbelief, before someone tooted her out of the trance, and she bumped the V60 onto the verge. Less than twenty metres in front of her, parked at an angle and somewhat blocking the road, was a tipper truck with its back fully upright and plumes of dust partially concealing the name just discernible towering above the privet hedge; she watched in horror as Andy & Rex Construction Ltd finished delivering 150 ‘quantities’ of natural pebble directly onto her beautiful front lawn.