Published On: Sat, Jun 27th, 2020

Save our shops and high streets says columnist Mindy Hammond

Loving life in lockdown

Loving life in lockdown (Image: Susan Hellard)

There’s no doubt every household has changed over the past few months and we all have a new “normal”, whether it’s playing the role of teacher as well as parent, resigning ourselves to a life of isolation for the sake of our health, working from home or providing desperately needed care, support and services during lockdown.

At Christmas, none of us would have believed the world would be locked into a real-life sci-fi movie a few months later, yet here we are, all hoping for a vaccine, or better yet, a cure to set us free. In the meantime, we simply have to make the best of it – of course we do, we’re British.

Spending more time with the family

Spending more time with the family (Image: Susan Hellard)

And even though we had to wait a while before being allowed to visit parks and public spaces, how much did we appreciate them when they were reopened? Goodness knows, it’s a treat to blob on the sofa in front of a film occasionally, but when serial TV-watching had turned so many eyes square, the sun was shining and the great open spaces calling, the nation crowded to them.

And it made me think… isn’t it human nature to want what we can’t have? And isn’t that particularly true of children? How often have we heard of kids addicted to computer games or begging their parents for the latest electronic gadget? But now, maybe like many adults, their eyes have been opened to the world around them; the world we all took for granted as being accessible, even though many of us didn’t take advantage of it?

People flocked to beauty spots, went for long walks and began to recognise their neighbours in the street, when previously they might have spent an hour in the gym, never so much as glancing at the person on the machine next to them, let alone thinking of saying hello.

I heard that more people are expected to work from home permanently. And because so many meetings have been held by video call, everyone has embraced the technology and it has become the norm. So, even when we hear the all clear, hopefully we will carry on tapping into meetings on-screen (who doesn’t love looking businesslike from the waist up, while sitting in shorts and flip-flops?).

Spending more time with pets

Spending more time with pets (Image: Susan Hellard)

Will that influence the billions set aside for new, superfast rail links? Who knows, but surely it will affect the number of commuters using trains, planes and automobiles?

And if you can work from home, you can work from anywhere (as long as you have Wi-Fi), which will undoubtedly be welcomed by so many folk whose home was chosen primarily on proximity to the office.

It saddened me a little when some of the experts predicted a hastening of the end of the high street as we know it, because we will all be conditioned to buy everything online. I had a nightmare about Ross-on-Wye being swallowed up by a hypermarket, with only the church spire preserved, sticking out like a dropped ice cream cornet from the centre!

But then I thought back to my childhood. In our village we had a butcher, a baker, a grocer, a hardware shop and a newsagent-cum-post-office. And a trip into town to the supermarket didn’t include shopping for bread, meat, fruit or vegetables. The milk was always delivered (as were the groceries until the horse was retired), and the only food the pub served was pickled or in a crisp packet.

We have all appreciated our diet more than ever over the past months, so who wouldn’t embrace a local high street that offered fresh, local produce? Maybe we don’t need a huge variety of shops, just quality ones.

Mindy revived her baking skills

Mindy revived her baking skills (Image: Susan Hellard)

The French have that element of life well covered; fresh bread each day and a healthy respect of quality ingredients in every meal. We didn’t hear of quite the same supermarket queues in France; admittedly, cheese was popular on shopping lists, as was wine, but supplies weren’t exhausted because most French households usually shop daily for their food and are very particular.

You can’t beat fresh produce

You can’t beat fresh produce (Image: Susan Hellard)

I hope our new normal will be, in some ways, better than before. I hope we will look after the country we love with a little more care, eat the food our farmers have toiled to provide for us, remember to smile at our neighbours – and always wear flip-flops during meetings. 


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