On the 16th March 2020 I started working from home. There had been an odd set of circumstances in the run-up to this date.
We’d come back from South Africa in late January and I’d felt a little unwell; something flu-like and then I lost my voice and could only squeak like a chipmunk. I had to stay in bed and missed the Scotland/England rugby match (shows how unwell I must have been). On our trip a week or so after to see France play Wales in Cardiff, our brand new hire car broke down and I spent three hours in a pub car park waiting for it to be fixed. My wife spent those hours in the pub itself having sympathetic drinks bought for her (hopefully for the car breaking down and not for being married to me, but she never really said).
Then Flybe collapsed so we had to drive to Wales for the Scotland rugby game (and to see my house bound sister). Once in Wales the game was called off due to Covid. So we drove home and lockdown started a week later. Anticipating things, I retreated to working from home on the 16th and I have not been in work physically or seen my sister since. Nor have I seen a live rugby match.
One year, one whole year.
Now as I have noted here before, I/we are the lucky ones. We are in a privileged position. Others have been far less able to cope and have been far more affected by tragedy. I can do my job from home and we have been able and can afford to use home delivery for things we might need. We haven’t used cash in a year, my car has done only a few hundred miles in a year and we have basically asked the retail sector to come to us. In the main it has worked.
Destroying my knee a few years ago meant we were set up for, and using, home grocery delivery for main items and it has functioned pretty seamlessly, especially as delivery slots expanded. We added to that with visits to the local butchers (my one main regular trip out) and online purchases of fish (we have varied it and most has been great), flour as we already did home bread making (the excellent Blair Atholl Watermill), cheese (Errington, Lincolnshire Poacher), charcuterie (East Coast Cured) and wine (Woodwinters). That covered the essentials. We tried to be local and small/independent where we could but also used a couple of wholesalers who switched to home delivery. An indulgence has been croissants and speciality bread from Wild Hearth Bakery. Trips to Stirling Farmers Market added some variety when possible. Books we’ve bought from local bookshops as an alternative to Amazon and Christmas provided a chance to really seek out quirky, independent businesses for presents. Again, with two (corporate interestingly) exceptions it all worked pretty well at Christmas.
As I said, we are fortunate. What it has shown is the wide range of local and alternative businesses out there with great products. As we come out of lockdown again I hope to use that freedom to reward those businesses that kept us going during this year and not fall back to previous habits. This will be both in physical and virtual shopping.
For a while I resented the delivery charges I was paying and the cardboard generated for recycling. I am not sure I can do much about the latter, but I reconciled myself to the former as a trade-off with the lack of petrol I was buying for my stationary car. Seen in that way it is not such a bad deal. The question of the wider impacts of all this is for another time.
But one thing is clear. Being a Professor of Retail Studies and basically only doing online retailing/shopping is no way to go on. I need to get out to more shops, and that day can’t come fast enough. I am not sure I need to buy anything, but I really want to be in those spaces.
However, in the meantime a thank you to all those smaller and local businesses that have kept us going. We really appreciate it.