The lockdown diaries – Day 16: Where is all the broccoli?!

Today, when I stepped outside my front door I found a delivery by one of my most wonderful friends: two heads of broccoli! On a recent video chat I had mentioned to her that I had not been able to find our favourite veg for weeks now (good old kale is glad it doesn’t haven to play second fiddle anymore).  I know that the issue of the missing midget tree (thanks Joe Wicks) is a first world problem, but I mention enough how grateful I am for every little thing so let me indulge in this broccoli-gate a little more. Conversations going back a few weeks with friends, colleagues and a supermarket store manager who I always talk to highlighted that many people were suggesting the same thing: Stock up, buy more, we’ll go into lockdown and won’t get anything. I laughed at one comment that a friend had eaten her “Brexit” stock pile and was now buying more for a possible Corona emergency. I brushed the comments off. “They (the government) wouldn’t let us starve!”, I exclaimed passionately, but quietly checking the store cupboard when I got home. We were fine. We always have a few cans of this and that around and wouldn’t go hungry any time soon. In the coming days it turned out that “they” certainly wouldn’t let us starve, but that fellow human beings quite certainly would. Pictures of people queuing to get into supermarkets early and then leaving with multiple trolleys, bulging over the top and to the sides with food, questionable essentials and the much debated toilet paper made tabloid and news fodder, nearly rivaling the hourly updates about the virus itself. The German term “Hamsterkauf” (you can look that up yourself, you’re welcome to that little bit of linguistic exercise) became a well-known expression even in Britain, whilst the German chancellor showed her dismay quite openly about people’s panic buying and clearing shelves in a televised speech. Aside from the fact that a year’s worth supply of bog roll won’t be any comfort to you whilst battling the virus (unless you get the trots later for half a year), the panic buying mentality that seemed to go on for weeks and has still now left shelves bare of certain supplies, showed humanity in it’s most selfish, unkind and pathetic light. 
A little childhood memory from many years ago came back to my mind, in which I witnessed some people’s attitudes to food they had to share with others. It was my mother’s and mine first holiday abroad as a duo. Just me and her, on a beautiful, relatively quiet Spanish island, in an ugly high rise building as a hotel with too many rooms to count. The large restaurant on the ground floor was always full of people, and the broad buffet counters equally filled with the most delicious food at breakfast, noon and dinner time. Whilst sitting at our table, enjoying our careful selection of delicacies, we noticed that many others approached the all you can eat self-service buffet in a different way than us. The guests returned to their tables with at least two plates, full to the brim, stacked up high with anything edible that would fit on it. Had they devoured it all with gusto and burning hunger, we would have shrugged and smiled about it. However, soon after sitting down and taking a few mouthfuls of food, they left, leaving behind barely touched food which landed in the bin when their tables were cleared. My mother, who knew what it meant to go hungry and not have enough to eat, was outraged and left a furious review and suggestion with the hotel, to please put up signs so that patrons would only fill their plates as full as they could manage to eat. “There is enough for everyone. If everyone takes a little bit and tries everything, there will be plenty left. You can always have more”, she said in her sternest voice, her brows furrowed indignantly. I still use the last sentence with my own children, when they greedily eye up their favourite food and want to have more on their plate than they could possible wolf down. I also make them share their pudding. An ice cream cone cut in half may seem laughable for some but in my eyes it teaches them that they can cope with less luxury at any time. I am sure my mother was fully aware that food eaten up or thrown in the garbage in the developed would not have an impact on starving children in Africa – and I am fully aware of it, too. What does have an impact though is that stacking up your own plate, your own shopping trolley, your own fridge, freezer, pantry, store cupboard, leaves a little less for everyone else. And if you are that selfish with your tins of canned veg or packets of pasta and rice during a time where starvation will not be the reason you will die (whilst going out and not practising social distancing will certainly help spread death a little quicker to those that are most vulnerable), how selfish, I don’t dare to think, would you be in a real emergency situation where sharing resources was the be all and end all of survival of as many as possible? Don’t get me wrong, it’s not just the British. My brother has struggled to get toilet paper for his household, because he just reached the natural cycle of “being out of stuff”. Luckily, after already debating what other bits everyone could use to wipe their behinds, he was able to find some. Lots of my friends have had similar struggles, not having stocked up in advance, because, why would you? I myself haven’t seen handwash in weeks, and am dreading my son or daughter needing Calpol any time soon – because we are out and the shelves in the shops are bare. I also refuse to go to multiple shops to try and find everything I need. That, in my eyes, defeats the object of keeping away from everywhere as much as possible. So, when I will see some handwash and Calpol, for your info, we won’t be buying two or three packs of it. No, we will  stick to the one. There are others out there who may need some, too. Don’t be greedy people. There is plenty to go round. And you can always have more. 

No toilet paper was stock piled here!

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