Sunday 5th of April 2020, another day opening the blinds to look out upon a locked down world. How different the landscape has become since I returned from New Zealand at the beginning of March, in reality it was only a month that has passed but it feels an awful lot longer, a sentiment shared by many of us. Withdrawing from the window to the sanctuary of the kitchen the kettle is flicked on, boiling water to make yet another cup of tea, a slight pause as I amuse myself that PG won’t be struggling at the minute at the rate I’m going through their bags. I found myself under an especially melancholic cloud on this particular morning, as instead of brewing up in my kitchen, I ought to have spent the weekend sat in the old W.O. today chasing the podium in this year’s Flying Scotsman! As the kettle bubbled away noisily, my mind began to drift and the noise distorted into the unmistakeable thump of a pre-war, large capacity motor car, thundering over hill and dale. Memories of previous events happily filled my mind, until I was bought back to reality, by the disgruntled voice of Mrs Stelvio shattering my illusions.
She’s right, I am, and it’ll do no good. The boss isn’t one to accept any notion of moping about, and even if I wanted to, with the list of jobs I’ve been prescribed to prevent boredom this weekend, there’s no chance I’ll be getting even a second to myself to enjoy any sort of self-pity. As it transpired, I may as well have been on a rally, as whilst the list was fairly simple, in the climate we are living in, each item became a regularity in itself and this, is the story exactly how my re-routed Flying Scotsman went, one day at a time. Buckle up if you can, it gets tricky in places…
You may have already guessed that I’d lost time instantly on the first regularity, as Mrs Stelvio’s tea was most definitely late and I’d also neglected to feed the cat along the way, so cue a wrong slot and much back pedalling to rescue that one. These two mistakes would also leave me in the bad books of the clerk of the course as well, particularly the feline error, how dare I forget her royal whiskerness, especially as she’d endured such a rough night’s sleep curled up on my side of the bed.
No matter, plenty of time left to claw back some ground. Shopping was next up, how hard could this be? I didn’t even have to make a list myself (let’s be honest, I was never going to be trusted with that job), as one was presented to me, indeed it was even split up into the different sections of the store! The rules were simple, get to the shop, don’t go near anyone, don’t become ill and don’t miss anything on the list! It’s worth adding that our cupboards were bare at this point, being out of the country we hadn’t partaken in any panic buying, but we also hadn’t starved, however the list was quite large and I had perhaps underestimated its volume, a fact that would come back to haunt me. Shopping had also changed somewhat since I’d last visited a supermarket, since when did you have to line up like you were on the grid at Silverstone?! Hurrah I thought, a test! With this in mind I decided I had better choose an appropriate vehicle and selected on of the smaller, lighter trollies for my timed run around the store.
I began all of a bluster, I’m certain I’d left four polyurethane marks down the aisle as I began, in fact I was making superb time, and was halfway around the column of aisles before I knew it. That was until I remembered the list! Damnation! If only my navigator was with me, nothing doing except to grab the notepad and start ticking off the items in as logical an order as I could from here on in. The next tricky step came with remaining a steady two meters from everyone else in the shop at the same time, I found myself having to do multiple passes to get the items I wanted as people clamoured around the fruit and veg. The same occurred at other popular spots, the milk aisle for instance was a nightmare and don’t even get me started on the toilet roll section! The trolley I had chosen started to cause me problems as well, whilst its relative agility compared to the cumbersome larger ones on offer was very welcome to begin with, I had vastly underestimated just how much space I would need to incorporate all of Mrs Stelvio’s demands!
Before long, my shallow trolley was vastly overloaded, bulging at the seams with the foodstuffs to fill our depleted larder. There wasn’t even that much, but the capacity of this cart was particularly poor. Oh, how I wished I had chosen the deeper option, curse my obsession with speed and agility, this was a mistake. At any other point in history I could simply have exchanged it for another one, but not under the current shopping regime, leaving the store would surely have required me to queue all over again. It was a failure I simply couldn’t entertain; I would simply have to manage my way around the problem. By the time I made it to the till I was trussed up like Steptoe’s horse, my re-useable shopping bags hung about my person stuffed full of items from the list, as I attempted to cradle the overflowing trolley by draping myself across it like some sort of mad spider. The only way to accomplish this was to approach the trolley from the front, lean over it grabbing the furthest most part and edge my way slowly backwards. My behaviour had attracted the attention of the instore security guard, who had actually been a constant shadow since I had begun loading up the bags for life. As the time went on, and I began doing the ‘spider’, it must have been obvious that I wasn’t likely to be doing a runner any time soon, and he must have remained in situ just to give himself a bloody good laugh.
The relief upon getting my cargo to the till was both evident and audible for all of those around me, as I let out a cheer and punched the air at my mission being almost accomplished. It elicited lots of strange looks from the other shoppers, but I’d lost any shred of dignity once I began performing the ‘spider’ in any case, so what did I care?! ‘You needed a bigger trolley, love’ remarked the sage old lady working the register, I wondered if she had any other pearls of wisdom for me, but conceded that she was in fact correct, and I had been the victim of my own folly.
Upon returning home, some three hours after leaving the house, Mrs S greeted me in the kitchen, armed with a duplicate list to check just how well I had managed to follow instructions. ‘Wash your hands’ she said, as she checked off the items as they were removed from the bags. No other pleasantries were exchanged, until upon the last item being expelled from its bag she declared ‘you forgot the white vinegar and you’ve bought too much beer.’
The white vinegar! Heavens above, however will we cope. Car No 1 S. Stelvio retired from day one, heading straight to the final time control, but re-joined after overnight repairs. By Sunday we were heading for the podium at Gleneagles – dream on!
*The Shires host Round Two as the Challenge Increases