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To The Bins And Back. Part One In An Occasional Series About Life In Lockdown

By Alix Ramsay

Britain is coming to the end of a third week in lockdown and this weird existence is becoming more normal. Well, not normal exactly but at least we are getting used to it.

We are just back from the highlight of the week: taking the recycling down to the bin room. Woo-hoo. A real, bona fide reason to leave the flat. Breaking no government rule but still on high alert for fear of someone coming within a two-metre radius, we ventured forth; we recycled, we paused for a moment outside and we breathed deep of the fresh air (having had the presence of mind to move well away from the bin room – it can hum a bit down there) and we relished our freedom. And then, all too soon, our adventure was over. We are now working our way womanfully through as many bottles of gin and tonic as we can in order to refill the recycling box and so have another excuse for another expedition: to the bins and back!

However, one bonus of the enforced isolation is the huge reduction in air and noise pollution. With no cars, planes or people to bother them, the birds and the beasts are having a field day. In the last week, we have had red kites moving onto to our patch – and when they fight in mid-air it is hair raising. They are big buggers, red kites – while this neck of the woods seems to be the residence of choice for woodpeckers. They have been knocking seven bells out of every tree in the neighbourhood for weeks.

The other species enjoying the space and sunshine is the MAMIL. This creature was well established in Surrey before the lockdown but now, with almost no known predators, the population of Middle-Aged Men In Lycra has burgeoned. They are everywhere, mostly on bicycles, and their numbers are beginning to cause a problem.

Allowed out for their one hour of exercise a day, they stagger their trips from dawn until dusk so that there is never a time when a road or a side street is free of a MAMIL on a bike.

As the lockdown has gone on, so they have become bolder and now they wobble uncertainly down the middle of the road blocking all other traffic. And while it may be quite an achievement for a gentleman of a certain age and proportion to puff his way uphill at 12mph (especially when clad from head to foot in skin-tight, manmade fibre), it is damned annoying for the motorist stuck behind him in a two-litre turbo.

At the same time, life in the Brockley Bunker (the place we call home) has developed its own new rhythms and routines. This being the Easter holidays, all attempts at home schooling have been abandoned and the neighbours are trying to keep the kids entertained.

Little Wayne and Chernobyl next door (the names have been changed, obvs, to protect the smalls from infuriated neighbours) have invented a new game: who can scream the longest and loudest while, simultaneously, running around the apartment bumping into the furniture. It has kept them amused for almost three weeks now. It is driving the rest of us to drink.

Their mother, meanwhile, sits quietly staring at her phone. She only admonishes them when the screaming reaches the point of hyperventilation and hysteria and then only with a gentle “shhhh boys”. She is either as deaf as a post or on some form of medication (official or otherwise).

Food shopping has evolved into a military operation. The old days of popping out for a pint of milk when you needed it are but a distant memory. Yes, you can go to get what you need but you are supposed to shop as infrequently as possible. Now you have to be organised; now you have to have lists. You also have to pick your moment to shop.

In the mornings, the shops are full of stock but they are also full of people. Or, rather, they are as full as is deemed safe while everyone else waits in long queues – two metres apart from one another, natch – outside. If you don’t want to spend ages in the queue, you go later in the day. But by then, there is not a loo roll to be had nor a vegetable to be found. It is a difficult food-life balance.

Dealing with this, though, led us to stumble on the answer to the $64,000 question. For years, the medical experts have been wrestling with the problem of Britain’s obesity crisis. Millions have been spent on public information campaigns persuading us to eat less processed food, munch more greens and take more exercise – all to no avail. We get fatter and lazier by the month. But now we have the answer: reconfigure the search engines on the supermarket websites.

Trying to organise the weekly shopping trip, it seemed wise to check what shops had what on offer. We were looking for hake (just a whim – we love fish and are fond of hake). We tapped in hake to the search box and were mildly alarmed when one shop offered “no results found for hake. Showing instead results for cake” followed by page after page of sweet baked goods available for purchase. Another shop returned “no results for hake, showing hare instead” with a lovely picture of a bottle of Hopping Hare pale ale while a third came up with a range of “take and bake” pizzas.

So, 10sballs.com is pleased to announce that Britain’s obesity crisis can be solved by rejigging the supermarket websites so that they do not default to popular but unhealthy fare and by putting the nation in lockdown: the people of my damp little rock were, as a rule, not big on exercise before all this started but as soon as they were told they had to remain indoors, there has been no stopping them (see MAMILS above).

But now it is time to pour a gin and tonic in order that we can empty a few more bottles. Soon, the recycling box will be full again and it will be time to sally forth. To the bins and back!


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