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  • iaindryden1

Merry Midwinter!

(somebody's had fun withtheir hedge...)

We are still reeling from our first supermarket visit in months. Not only was the bill vast, but the entire event was edgy. Although it was late evening, supper time for most, there were enough people to bother me as I’ve mostly been isolating since March. People were generally good at keeping their distance, but there were some who reached across you, who slipped beside you, who stood in a family huddle blocking isles as they discussed what to buy.

At one point, I heard myself saying to a decent woman who wasn’t too close, “It’s scary, it’s hard to keep our distance, supermarkets aren’t made for Covid, and the ventilation doesn’t seem adequate.” She took it personally but was gone before I could change the situation.

Still young in love, they walked around discussing every item, he eager with his curly blonde hair and red cheeks, she bushy dark eyebrows defining bright eyes, a beaut half hidden behind her mask, long blonde locks spilling down her back. “It’s Christmas so we ought to have mince pies,” her voice lively. “Ugh,” he, caught out, “err, yup. How about these….”

“Look, there’s loads of choice….” “Yea, until now a mince pie was a mince pie, but from now onwards its’ a minefield….”

“Yup, the choice! There’s those with butter…..

“Those with a Heston surprise inside, what’s a Heston?” “He’s some famous chef…” “Don’t fancy eating a chef…” chuckle….

Giggle, giggle, “Hooo, he might taste lovely!” “Hey!” Laugh, chuckle… and they fought there before the stacks of mince pies.

Even from a distance, her tight puffer-jacket, stretchy jeans and the cut of her hair spoke money and as you progressed along the aisles, entitlement poured from her stance, her expression and the way she assumed she had more right to items on the supermarket shelves than the rest of us. That she was utterly aware with every calculated move and posture that she was super stunning, gorgeous, made her ugly, but that didn’t dent her narcissism. At the checkout I was waiting for my card to connect to my bank when she began pushing her goods towards the cashier, who politely explained that I was still being attended to. But that didn’t stop the woman in her thirties from saying, “Hurry up!”

I ignored her. When my bank finally let my card go, I thanked the elderly cashier with, “Happy Christmas!” The young woman saw this as an imposition on her imagined right to rush.

The carpark illustrated that we’d been shopping out of our league (a few Christmas treats =‘d well over twice our weekly expenditure) - there were smart sports cars, top of the range saloons, big fat 4x4s with not a speck of dust, let alone mud in this rural area where locals vehicle aren’t clean. Londoners, by the accents flung between vehicles as expensive as apartments, Londoners who’d escaped last Friday’s midnight lockdown. Help! Not only was our wallet compromised, maybe our lungs?

Many will no doubt be dining in the next valley, at Mark Hix’s new pub where we greeted chefs from his collapsed London empire as they prepared lunch for a fully booked house. We’d gone to collect smoked salmon Mark had prepared specially for us, a touching gift from this world class chef, and I to give him a painting. As we drove from the supermarket, his country gasto-pub would have been filling up . I worry for these hard working people whose work exposes them to the virus…

The medieval town’s handsome buildings adorned with subtle, charmingly soft white lights, looked enticingly Christmasy. As we left this neighbouring town families stood on the kerbsides, children waved, we waved back. Turning the corner we saw why. Red flashing lights, men and women shaking coins in big buckets. We tooted, we wound down our windows, we greeted, “Merry Christmas!”

They bellowed back, “Merry Christmas!”

Their voices bounced between the Victorian terraced houses and so did those of the children and their parents and that of Santa in his light-flashing sleigh high upon a trailer pulled by an old, well cleaned, Landrover.

Oh Christmas in England! How generous people are. The kids rushed to toss in money for charities. Only four days ago loud carols had pulled us from our own home clutching hastily found coins, a rare thing in these Covid days when only cards are accepted, and we chucked them into Santa’s buckets held by cheery volunteers we knew. The money went to the food bank, yes, here in rural Somerset some people who’ve lost their jobs are struggling to make ends meet.

Merry Christmas to you, where ever you are in this world we share.

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