The jackbooted WH Smith

From a purely personal point of view, the hardest thing about lockdown is the change to routine. The routine, built over many years, to make housework easier and the important things in life more enjoyable.

I have the ability to slot the mundane into little parcels of set time each week, making them almost disappear. This didn’t happen overnight. And it tends to work around Mirinda because she works occasional regular hours.

Along comes lockdown and suddenly, my routine is sent into freefall. I have to readapt everything I do. The shopping, exercise, cooking, everything has to change.

Then, just as I feel like I have things approaching a better system, a big chain tramples on it as if it didn’t care about the ‘little people’.

I have a hate/hate relationship with WH Smith. I know I’ve written about them before. I have moaned about their shit service, their crappy layout and the fact that the footpath outside their Farnham branch is minute. Okay, that last one is clearly not their fault. Still.

Today I needed to buy Mirinda some double sided sticky tape. In order to minimise my interaction with other human beings (just like the majority of the fearsome wants) I figured I’d buy it at Waitrose along with the rest of the shopping.

Unfortunately, Waitrose didn’t have any double sided sticky tape. The only alternative then was Smiths. I wheeled my trolley down the Lion and Lamb and out to the more or less deserted West Street, passing the sad reality of a boarded up Cote on the way.

Asked the other day what I missed most about lockdown and I quickly answered “Going out to dinner.” Sights like the above just make me sad.

Anyway, I headed along to The Borough and turned to walk into Smiths. Like some Star Trek horror movie, the doors didn’t open automatically. Narrowly avoiding concussion, I stepped back to be faced by a hastily hand written sign giving a new set of opening times.

Being old and infirm, I get to shop at Waitrose from 8-9am each morning. This is fair and reasonable and makes for an easy trip onto town, swift shop then return. If I have to go to Boots, like I did last week, I can easily go via the chemist as well because they seem to have the same sort of system. (Except at Easter, which was annoying.)

And the dreaded Smiths used to be the same. But no longer. They are now opening at 9am rather than 8. How an hour makes much of a difference I have no idea but what it does to the population of Farnham is force them to either hang around (there’s no where to sit in The Borough) or make a second trip later in the day.

How is this helpful?

Of course, it’s not at all helpful and leads me to believe that WH Smith doesn’t care about its customers. Clearly the new opening time has something to do with its staff salary or insurance premiums or alien overlords or some such.

The upshot of these new opening hours is that, once I reached home and unpacked the shopping, I went onto Amazon and bought a big box of double sided tape. Is it any wonder, I said out loud to Freya, that people shop online? It’s the service. Every time. It’s just shit.

(By the way, it’s reached the point where the only one in this house who will listen to my ranting is, unsurprisingly, Freya.)

The rest of the day was not shit, however, as I busied myself around the house, cleaning the bathroom, washing towels, the new Wednesday usual. I also made a shepherd’s pie for dinner.

Mirinda had booked in to attend a Zoom seminar thing with the Hospital Club (How Gaming Began or something similar) which didn’t end until 8:30pm so I decided to make dinner early in order to warm it up for a late serving. This also meant a delightful washing up deficit given I’d already done most of it.

For our daily exercise, we popped up to Crondall where the world is full of skylarks, people are few and far between and a big structure is starting to appear.

Years ago there was an old derelict barn at the end of our circular walk. It had seen far better days. At the beginning of the lockdown, we discovered that someone had removed the old structure and started to redeveloped the site. We feared it might be for houses.

Now our fears have taken another route.

The building is going to be some sort of storage facility to replace the old one. That’s fine however, it’s all metal and we are worried that the roof might just wind up being a huge expanse of steel. Possibly covered in photovoltaic cells.

This might seem like a small worry except that you can see the structure for most of the circular walk and, in the sun, it could be bright and dazzling.

Still, I shouldn’t moan about it. After all, it could have been a small, tightly regulated, isolated, country branch of WH Smith.

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