spaced out

toes standing behind a marked safety line

Whether you think of it as a habit or a hobby, queuing is often seen as quintessentially British. And now, with social distancing a must, long lines of people waiting patiently have become a common sight outside the few essential shops that are still open.

Not only are such shops limiting the number of customers allowed in at one time, they’re also insisting customers shop singly. Which means that partners and housemates hang around the shop entrance alongside security guards, supermarket bouncers and trolley fetchers in disorderly groups that contrast greatly with the orderly, wide-gapped queues.

And, of course, there will always be exceptions. The too-close feet in the photo below belong to a daughter who had accompanied her elderly father to the supermarket. His inability to use a credit card clearly put him in the age group where she should have been doing his shopping for him while he was “shielding” at home. But no one complained. Which is also quintessentially British.

Queuing at the supermarket. safety distances marked

I am a bit concerned, though, that we’re getting so caught up in the petty details and being so closely monitored and nannied into doing the right thing that we won’t actually remember how to do anything for ourselves when all this is over.

Instructions unclear

Should we stand behind the line
or on the line? Heel or toe the line?
We tune in nightly, do our best
to follow daily updates, interpret
recommendations Chinese-whispered
from the international experts
to officialdom, to press, to web,
to social media feed… But when
the wasp-striped taping has unpeeled
from concrete squares and drifted
into curlicues and knots,
then what?


Queuing at the supermarket. safety distances marked

Author: don't confuse the narrator

Exploring the boundary between writer and narrator through first person poetry, prose and opinion

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