We went to town on Saturday. It was the first time (apart from my occasional trips into the office where the furthest I got away was the cafe next to it to buy coffee). It was me really – I was desperate to do something different and now that the galleries are open we could visit and feel more normal.
It was so far from normal.
I had to go to the post office. The member of staff didn’t know what to do with a prepaid envelope belonging the woman in front of me. A man at a different counter shouted across assistance from 20 yards away while wearing a mask because he couldn’t leave his deskto show her what to do.
I took things back to Marks and Spencer because what I really need to do is take my girls to try things on but it’s not allowed. So my longed for one to one shopping trip with hot chocolate and rites of passage can’t happen and everything I buy doesn’t fit. It was efficient, soulless and eerie. I couldn’t leave by the most convenient route as that door is now shut. Pretty much a metaphor.
The others went to Smiths where they bought envelopes and couldn’t leave the shop until they’d travelled in a spiral past every rack.
I waited for them in the Winter Gardens before finding we couldn’t go into the gallery that way. We walked round to the bottom, checked in (I’d got a time slot but we were nearly the only people there), and then spent 45 minutes wondering slowly around exhibits we’ve seen many times before because of course, hardly anything was new. I was pleased to see the egg topper scissors if I’m honest, but of course all the interactive screens were turned off and the handsets taped to their holders.
And that was it. Not really the diversion I had in mind. Town was weird. Depressed. Sad. Closed shops and masked people. Needs must but I won’t be going back in a hurry, apart from the next necessary trip to Marks and Spencers when the next set of clothes don’t fit.
The trip was saved though because I was hungry and couldn’t imagine anything better in the world right then than Wagamamas. Thank God for Wagamamas. Wonderful food, safe set up and such friendly staff I couldn’t have asked for more. Gaps between diners, dividers between tables, staff in visors, disposable menus, limited contact, very clean, but they’d managed to do it so you didn’t feel like you were on a space ship. For a brief moment while eating it felt normal.
We went to the Alpaca farm afterwards. The inside was the new normal (masks while looking at tortoises) but the outside was a joy. Alpacas don’t seem to realise there’s a pandemic, they just want some more food.
I guess this post is just a reminder for the future of the strangeness we are living through. We will so quickly forget. So here is a photo of an alpaca to make everything just a tiny bit better.