Dear Tesco Delivery People, Thank you! Thank you for continuing to bring me most of what I put on our shopping list. Thank you for smiling and putting up with my same-as-everyone-else-conversations about Tesco slots being difficult to find and who has eaten all the linguine and toilet roll. Thank you for taking the risk. To be honest, I can order toilet roll easily now and I think most pasta is also available. But those first few weeks of lockdown were pretty frustrating. No pasta whatsoever in the online shop, no tinned tomatoes and only one (expensive) brand of toilet wipes-instead-of-paper. (And there was one very low week when even the wipes were unavailable.) Adapting the online list and adopting their suggested substitutes was somewhere between frightening and hilarious.
Initially I became angry with the cannelloni collectors, shook my head at the macaroni magpies. I questioned their actions, their judgement. I had ill words for the toilet paper takers. However, it became apparent that if I judge them for that, there are plenty aspects of my own behaviour that could be found wanting.
Princess of postponing, sultana of oversensitivity, at the top of my list of stupid behaviour is my readiness to conform in some ridiculous ways. It seems that we choose, almost randomly, what it is we will conform with and what we will rebel against. Obviously there must have been some background set of reasons that led me to rebel in my late teens and early twenties, with Jane Austen type petticoats trailing beneath long empire line dresses, my feet striding out purposefully with army boots and Doctor Martens. That might not sound rebellious, but I was the only one doing it, as far as I could tell, at Glasgow University at that time. And, although I often now choose to wear slightly quirky garb ('Mum, I don't really get the whole dress-over-trousers thing...'), I somehow have drawn a line at wearing flowers in my hair, except for special events. What set of background dice-throwing led me to think I can't adorn my head with flowers if I want to, and walk to the Village Hall with them?? Fear. Anxiety. Herd mentality. All of these play some part in the decision to buy twelve packets of toilet paper and twenty-two tins of tomatoes. Fear and anxiety of the unknown might lead the irrational brain to take charge of the sensible two-packets-a-month brain. After all, who knows really.... And can you actually have too much?? And then there is the fact that others are doing it. Are they doing it because they know something? Is everybody doing it? Should I be doing it? Just as these play a part in the decision to over-buy, they also are at the root of my hair accessory dilemma. Fear of what others might think. Anxiety that they will be thinking negative thoughts. Copying the norm not to. (This I really do find bizarre, because, as I said, in other ways, I am happy to buck the trend).
Control is also a large part of the panic buying. Along with the fear, the anxiety, the unknown and the what-if.... there is the necessary what-can-I-do-about-it? Is doing SOMETHING not better than doing nothing? I can buy. That is SOMETHING. There is also that definite feeling of comfort that many of us get from the very act of spending some money. (For me, I get it more when I have found a bargain, especially charity shop bargains.) With my hair flowers, I can have control over my worries about other people's thoughts, by not wearing them. It seems stupid to be bothered with such trivia as hair accessories. I know it is wrong, in the scheme of things, to be frustrated with items that are unavailable for a few weeks, when other things do come in a van with a man (more often), with a smile. It is wrong and I am sorry that my mental blind eye is turned away from parts of Africa, where there are winding miles of long queues for basic food parcels; and from parts of India, where thousands of workers are queuing up twice a day for bread and fried vegetables. I am blind to the red flags that people hang out in Columbia, to show their status as 'hungry'. It is good to take off the blinkers and remind oneself of other places and other people.
So I am sorry that I did get angry and I am sorry that I wrote a song about toilet paper. It is too low for my voice and it is necessarily a dirge - this was before I stopped being so angry and judgemental. I imagine Leonard Cohen singing the very negative final section - a repeated drawn out No.... I am also sorry for thinking too much about what people might think of me. My hope is that at the end of lockdown I might worry less about these things. I much prefer my lockdown hair, anyway. Not matted, it is messier, less considered.
My lockdown hair was about all I was wearing on the 2nd May, whilst training the mange tout to their poles. That was a definite flouting of convention. You just know that you shouldn't be out in only your chives and welly boots. Saturday the 2nd of May is World Naked Gardening Day and, while I've had a laugh at the idea before, this year I wanted to take part, just to see what the deal was. Fortunately it was sunny, so not totally bonkers. Also, with lockdown, there are not so many wanderers in the woods at the bottom of our garden. A quick look up to the caravans beyond the wall to check that I couldn't see them and they couldn't see me..... A couple of intense listens down the way to see if we could hear anything other than the woodpecker and his friends...... And then some quick running, some ducking just in case, some obligatory poses with the watering can and not really very much gardening at all.
I think I might be a secret semi-naturist. I think many of us are. I love naked swimming and did experience the joy of being nude in the garden - and not only because I was doing something that I know is actually slightly mischievous. There is a liberating feeling of being outside without clothes. In the garden, as well as experiencing exhilaration from the ducking and running, I felt a sense of extreme relaxation and calm. I looked up the British Naturism website to find out what they have to say. 'Being naked is good for you!' Obviously they would think so. And here is why:
'The human body was not designed to be wrapped up in clothes.... More and more people are realising the significant benefits nudity brings to mental, emotional and physical health, body image issues, and their ability to relax and escape the rigours of daily life.... When you shake off your clothes, you do more than just peeling away the layers of fabric. It often feels like you are removing your worries, stresses and particularly any hang-ups you have about your body. If you’ve yet to try it, there is no greater feeling of freedom than giving your whole body – and in fact your entire ‘being’ – a good airing.' I do wonder would we all become less judgemental if we saw each other without our wardrobes first announcing us to the world - 'I am quirky' 'I am a business woman' 'I am wealthy' 'I is cool'. I would like to think, like the promoters of naturism, that nudity is a leveler. I suspect though that 'I am human' will possibly find another way to rate ourselves and rank ourselves.
Locals would be pleased to hear me say that I am sure I do not want to air in Applecross. We have had a streaker in neighbouring Kishorn a number of years ago, and there certainly was a naked cyclist hurtling down the Bealach once (!!). For me, that level of exhibitionism is several steps too far! I plan to stick to the odd skinny dip on secluded beaches, hopefully with sea thrift in my hair.