One of the most written-about outcomes of the current pandemic, is the panic buying on toilet rolls. At first I thought, Waitrose will have some more stock in tomorrow, what's the problem? Because that's what supermarkets do, right?
I'm one of many Londoners who lives within yards of a very nice supermarket, and thanks to the proximity of delicious nosh I find myself nipping in for a pint of milk and coming out with a trolley full of goodies. Not any more.
I visited Barbican Waitrose three times today. On each successive visit, more shelves were empty. Not just the non-perishable stockpiling kind of items of food and household essentials, but the perishable vegetables, meat, drinks, even crisps and biscuits - the lot! It was an apocalyptic scene. Which in itself is panic inducing.
I took a straw poll of friends with dwellings in the west, north and east postcodes. Nope they said, aside from armed guards around the toilet rolls, all seems quiet and shelves seem normal.
I ruminated. As Barbican dwellers, are we in some historically-induced siege mentality? After all, this is a Roman fortress site, slap bang at the heart of commerce and trade for over 2000 years and defending the great City of Londinium. One friend suggested that maybe Waitrose staff had just got a bit behind on re-stocking the shelves. Another suggested some kind of dystopian experiment was being conducted by Waitrose to understand the psychological effect of empty shelves. I can only tell you that from a volume point of view, the store has looked no more busy than I would normally gauge which suggests it's the volume of purchases not the volume of customers. I remain puzzled.
Beggars can't be choosers!
On exiting with our meagre set of purchases, a homeless man was begging. My daughter, in a rage at the selfishness of panic buying decided we should give him some of our paltry rations. I watched their conversation. She offered him a choice of sandwiches, at which point I felt he took a slightly longer than necessary time to choose which packet he wanted for someone who is desperate and hungry. She came back to my side. "So much for 'beggars can't be choosers'!"
And what of ablutions?
Apparently toilet rolls are no longer required in my house. We can manage, so says said daughter. Thereby linking us to the generational gap and increasing urgency about saving the planet. In truth I thought, she's right, what a waste of natural resources. Babies used to have cloth nappies, what's the fuss.
In a world in sharp focus thanks to a pandemic, is it that the world has turned itself upside down and we have all gone mad? Or is it that the world is righting itself back on its feet and somewhere in all of this, sense is prevailing?