“Armageddon! Ahm a getting outta here!” was once a gag in a Carry On film. But KEN TOWL, right, has opted to keep calm and carry on as he shopped around Addiscombe as the coronavirus shut-down begins to bite
The only eggs in the Addiscombe Co-op were Easter eggs.
I had seen the pictures of assertive shoppers queueing outside supermarkets and heard all the stories about stock-piling of toilet rolls, but I was not prepared for this.
I could not find eggs or pretty much anything else I wanted. There was no bread, no pasta, hardly any meat and precious few fruit and vegetables. And of course no toilet paper, not for love nor money, as Oscar Wilde would no doubt have said.
There was a sign up on one of the shelves, the one where the toilet rolls used to be. The Co-op was being responsible, it told us. Customers were limited to not two but just one of a list of popular products. Very virtuous. The trouble was that there were none of any of these products anywhere in the store.
“How are you?” asked the always friendly woman behind the till.
I’m all right, thanks, I replied, but what’s going on with the eggs? How many eggs can you hoard?
“Ah,” she said, “They have quite a long shelf life.” She looked into my basket: a bottle of wine, a pack of vacuum-packed cooked beetroot and a bar of Imperial Leather soap.
She took pity on me – I was surely a pitiable figure – and told me that a customer had told her they had seen a Co-op lorry outside, meaning that a delivery was being made and a re-stocking was imminent.
Hanging around in the sanitary products aisle in the Co-op, vulture-like, seemed to me to be an undignified pastime. I decided, instead, to try the local Sainsbury’s Local, a few doors down where, a decade ago, Woolworths used to be.
There were no eggs, but there were queues. Perhaps, I mused, somewhat idiotically, that it’s subliminal. The end-of-days vibe has infected people. They are freezing their eggs, a survival strategy.
But Armageddon, it turns out, is not here yet.
A couple of doors down from Sainsbury’s is Freshco, which Inside Croydon’s loyal reader will remember from our report of its arrival back in 2018.
As a small trader, Freshco, can’t compete on price in the same way as the supermarkets. It simply does not have the buying power. But there are bargains to be had there and, praise be, a lot of eggs.
The sign limiting customers to a dozen each was more meaningful than the one in the Co-op. And it turns out they do have quite a long shelf life. The half a dozen I bought will be fine till April 13. They also have plenty of tinned tomatoes, something else that seems to be in short supply in the bigger shops, and a great big pile of penne and macaroni, as well as an impressive range of fresh vegetables.
The customer behind me bemoaned the selfishness of those who buy more than they need. I just get what I am going to eat, she said. I looked down sheepishly at my (albeit modest) hoard of chickpeas (a bargain at three cans for 99p) and hoped she wouldn’t notice.
The restrictions are having an effect, though, and not always perhaps always the required one. The Croydon Nightwatch charity is struggling to buy the food it needs for its nightly soup kitchens – the usual purchase of nine loaves and large amounts of fillings and spreads for sandwiches just isn’t allowed by supermarkets at present, at a time when the people Nightwatch are feeding need the help as much as ever.
In days like these, there is scope for people to show the full gamut of human behaviour.
Some people are prepared to clean out the supermarket shelves with no thought for those who will go without, and supermarkets appear to want to virtue signal by appealing to their customers’ better nature rather than limiting what those customers can take. Some of the larger chains have started having special one-hour opening slots early in the day for the elderly and infirm.
Meanwhile, the lovely people at Fresco are using benevolent rationing to ensure that all their customers have a chance to put food on the table.
Two of the borough’s MPs, Sarah Jones and Steve Reed, are working with Croydon Voluntary Action and building a database of volunteers to help out as the coronavirus sets in and shuts Croydon down.
It is the worst of times, but we can get by if we try to be the best that we can to each other.
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