Chelmsford, Essex

Lockdown Shopping: A Surreal Experience

On the 23rd December, I took a trip to grab some last minute bits for Christmas and New Year’s Eve, to put a cheque in to the bank and return an item to a shop.

As usual, there’s not a lot of things going on (after all, there’s not too many things available for us to do right now), but I didn’t expect to find the whole experience pretty surreal.

First I drove the car to Decathalon in my town, to return an unwanted pair of shorts. I was a little bit puzzled to see that the car park was nearly empty.  So anyway, off I went to the shop to return my item to find that it was closed! Well I guess I won’t be able to return that item for a while, never mind. So instead, I decided to take a walk towards the town passing Riverside, the main  leisure centre (which was closed), and then passing the lovely cute river that’s there.

By the river I could see some men from the council cleaning the banks and an older man talking to them and gesticulating.  At this point, I wasn’t paying much attention, but then I noticed that on the bank a Swan lay there. I looked over to the council men who seemed somewhat puzzled on what they needed next , to which the old man had no problem bossing them about, and telling them the right way to do it.

Eventually, the younger council worker armed with plastic bags walked over to the bannister and pulled the swan by the neck whilst another swan stared from a distance. The swan was still young with his plumage , just becoming whiter.  As this was surreal and uncomfortable to watch, I hasted my pace and left feeling sorry for the Swan.


Moments later, I took myself to the bank when a young lady at the front presented herself and smiled (in all honesty, I think she smiled because she was wearing a mask so it’s a little bit difficult to know if she was actually smiling or not),  she pointed me to the machine to put my check in. And as instructed, I proceeded to use the machine to cash my cheque and was standing there. Much to my surprise, a masked woman clutching a small dog arrived, she then began to cry and between her sobs she said: “he’s not leaving me alone and I’ve had enough, he’s not leaving me alone, he doesn’t leave me alone”. After a minute or two the young assistant ushered her into a more private booth to comfort her, and from a distance I could hear the distressed women wailing and repeating the same words.  I began to question if the bank should call the police for help,as it sounded as if she had been hurt.  I didn’t dare say anything and just again felt sorry for this lady who needed support. Domestic violence? I wondered.


My next stop took me through one of the main shopping centres (usually packed full of happy shoppers), but hardly anyone was around. I  arrived at a jewellery shop that I needed to get to. To my surprise it was open, which was great for me since I wanted to enquire about returning a bracelet. And so I proceeded to make conversation with the young masked man behind the counter, to which he explained that they were classed as an essential shop since they lend money.

I replied a little bit surprised but trying to remain nice “Some people have got to do it and it’s good if you are open”. But in my head, all I couldn’t help but think about the potentially desperate people having to rely on the pawn shop to change their goods in exchange for some money in these desperate times.


Back onto the main High Street, I passed a pub that used to be called the Saracen hotel – they rebranded awhile ago so I can’t remember exactly what their new name is. Outside the pub was a large chalkboard listing  different food items for takeaways with a note  “Please, Support us”. At this point, I wasn’t hungry, nor was I thirsty and I especially didn’t want to be standing around drinking mulled  wine on my own in a half deserted town. So instead I picked up a £10 note from my handbag and walked decisively towards the young crowd standing by the board and said “I don’t need anything, I don’t want anything but here is some money to support you”.  And as I turned around to leave I could quickly feel  my eyes  swelling up with tears as they began to gratefully thanking me. 

I then quickly headed to a supermarket to buy a few last minute things for New Year’s Eve (as instructed by my daughter who insisted on some party food)

There stood a very small man putting stickers on two different reduced items, one of which was a big cake! I contemplated buying the cake but for what purpose as we don’t really eat cakes so I left it. As I was coming into a new aisle, a lady with a mask sneezed loudly so I quickly turned round to walk to get a safe distance in time for her second sneeze. I felt bad but with the virus around, anyone sneezing is a potential liability. In my head I could picture the droplets of her sneeze coming my way and i felt anxious 

Having finally done my shopping, I walked back to my car. On my way I noticed that the Swan  had been taken away much to my relief and then further up on the river I saw two young men on canoes trying to go up and down the bank having fun. I walked closer to them to watch their efforts with one of them looking up to greet me with a smile. And so, I walked away with my heart feeling lighter and happier to think that life carries despite the odds and that it is ok to have fun. With my head full of hope I went home. 

I think I went through so many emotions during a short visit to the town, sadness and fear followed by the joy of seeing the two young men in their canoes. It is ok to acknowledge your feelings and to pay attention to what is around you but leave by the hope that better days will come. 

With Love,


You can find Helene on Public Speaking from the Heart on FB.

Helene is a dreamer, a poet, a trainer, a coach, an author, a mother, a daughter.  She is passionate about helping others overcome their fears of speaking, in meetings, in social situations, in public and to speak up. She will help you to shape a presentation and to practice so that you can be your authentic self and speak from the heart.  She can help you overcome the blocks which prevent you from embracing life fully professionally and personally.

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