The return back to some sort of normality is underway! After 16 weeks at home, I ventured out to the shops for the first time last weekend. In pre-COVID times, one of my most favourite things to do was window shopping and who doesn’t love a mindless wander around the random aisles at Homebargains or ALDI but now even the thought of doing this comes with mild anxieties especially for those of us who have been housebound for such a long time.

I had worked myself up over the course of the week for that moment where I could go to the shops and buy some much needed clothes for my kids. Whilst the option of online shopping has been great, it hasn’t been the same as physically doing the shop.

It almost seems comical but this trip, which once was done on autopilot, now required extensive organising. “When was the best time to go? When would it be quietest?” I wondered. I decided that going super early, before the shops opened, would be the safest option.

Next, I thought about what I would take with me. Never did I ever imagine this to be a thought process but here we are in 2020 where going to a shop requires forward planning.

I emptied out my oversized handbag which hadn’t been used in months and reviewed the hundreds of random things that had accumulated in it. One thing this pandemic has taught me is about living more practically and mindfully. So I took out a bumbag and put into it the following essentials for my big trip out:

  • Hand sanitizer
  • face covering
  • plastic Ziploc bag to put my used face covering in
  • keys
  • debit card

I no longer needed lipstick – face coverings would sort out any bad face days and I wasn’t handling cash anymore so the wallet was no longer needed. Simple.

I parked up feeling all smug that I would likely be the first in and first out only to find that lots of other people had thought the same way! There was a queue of 25 people before me and the shop wasn’t even open yet. Thankfully, because lockdown has made me a neurotic “staying alert” kind of being, I had considered this potentiality and I was prepared to wait! I had put on layers with a waterproof jacket on, had an audio book playing and had even made myself a coffee in a disposable cup.

Now, I reflect from the dual perspectives of someone who has been in the vulnerable category but also as a doctor who knows too much and who has been hearing horrific frontline stories from friends and colleagues, not to mention watching the news everyday. Being super vigilant about self-protection is therefore very important to me and I feel this should also be the case for every person out there too.

However, as I looked at the people queued alongside me, I found myself questioning whether I was the only one who had been living through a pandemic because the majority

were not wearing any face coverings and social distancing didn’t really seem to be a thing!! Whilst in the shop, I had to keep moving away from others who seemed to ignore the rules and to my horror, even some cashiers weren’t complying either.

The ethos behind face coverings, physical distancing and respiratory hygiene is to help prevent the spread of COVID. I especially felt worried for the elderly who were walking around the shop. Many who cannot wear protective coverings need us to take care of them by ensuring that we wear ours.

I will be honest and say that it did feel weird wearing a face covering and having to watch my every step whilst outside but it was lovely to finally get out of the house and see real people again. It will certainly take time to get used to doing things so differently but I am grateful that measures like wearing face coverings are now mandatory in shops.

I do hope to start getting out more and maybe even start enjoying my mindless wanders around the shops again but for now, we are to remain alert and continue to do our bit – even though it may seem comical at times!