Going Shopping…….

By Bernie Bell

I had an adventure.  We’ve needed a few things from Wellpark Garden centre, for a while. A new watering can – a passing dog ate the handle – some bird nuts and bird grain, potting compost, and a few plants.

For some time now I have avoided places with people, but we thought it should be OK to go to Wellpark, as it is very big, and open-plan, and a lot of what we wanted is out doors anyway.  So, wearing our masks, I went to a place with people in it!  Wellpark does have it all very well organized, with hand sanitizer at the door, and a very clear one-way system.

What was most strange, for me, was seeing all those people wearing masks.  They should be wearing masks – it’s a good thing that they are wearing masks.   It just looked so strange to me, who hasn’t been out among the populace for about six months. When friends came to visit – separately – we wore masks, indoors, but that was just one person at a time.  Talking with neighbours is outside – keeping our distance.

At Wellpark, they‘ve separated the café from the main shopping area –  a very good idea, but, again, for me – very strange.   In the shopping area, everyone was wearing masks, following the arrows, seeing notices reminding folk to keep a 2 metre distance etc. Then you can look across to the café, where, once sat at the tables, in their discrete groups, folk took their masks off. It was like looking into another world, or the recent past!  People sitting together, chatting – the babble of many voices, was something else that I’d become unused to.

While we were outside, getting potting compost, a young woman passed us, and she smiled, and I smiled back, and I realised that you can tell when someone is smiling, even when they are wearing a mask!  Something about their eyes, and a lifting in their face.

Then, we went and parked behind Bruce’s stores, and I sat in the car while Mike nipped into Sutherland’s pharmacy – and I sat and watched all those people, wearing masks, even outdoors. I suppose it is in the centre of town, and so, very sensible to keep covered up.

And then to the Kirkwall Co-op, where I sat in the car park again, while Mike did our weekly shop, and, again, I watched all those people, coming and going, wearing masks.  My overall impression from the day, was of being in some kind of Science Fiction movie – some kind of dystopian futuristic world where we all have to wear masks.  Though, in some parts of the world now, people have to do so as the air quality is so bad.

And then we went home.

It was a bit of an adventure for me, and I was more tired than usual, but I think that was probably due to un-recognized nervous tension at the prospect of going out among folk, after all this time.  I’d become a bit of a hermit, and then – suddenly – there were lots of people and I was engaging in a very different kind of activity.  It was interesting, though, and a step in the right direction. As long as people continue to do the right thing, and Orkney stays safe, the more vulnerable folk can assess the situation, and take sensible steps – maybe being aware that it can be a bit of a shock to the system, and so, a good idea to give some thought to preparing yourself for a slightly different world.  Something which I had failed to do!

I don’t think we’ll be eating out for a while, though – tempting though it was, seeing people enjoying themselves in the Wellpark café!  Too many un-knowns involved, for me, just now.

One last word on this – it occurs to me that someone, somewhere is making an awful lot of money out of masks – and are they channelling any of it to the NHS?

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