I caguht the bus to Pitlochry every Friday afternoon to spend every waking hour over the weekend working in the Atholl Palace Hotel before returning to Perth on a late Sunday evening bus.
It was a precursor to working there all summer long; and I became very proficient at ducking. The Atholl Palace Hotel was a seasonal hotel in those dim and distant days, opening for the season at Easter. The storeman joined the miniscule management team some weeks before and was responsible for stocking the cellars with all the materials that the household staff would require, mainly for the first month but for the whole summer season in the case of some dry goods; he was expected to keep supplies topped up thereafter with monthly orders as appropriate. Sadly, the annual order for toilet rolls, placed in March, was re-ordered in April and again in May, by which time the place was ‘stowed out.’ For the remainder of the season, every time an employee was sent to draw supplies from the stores, he or she always added, “Oh, and a couple of toilet rolls,” before they ducked. I became very good at ducking!
Looking at the empty toilet roll shelves, the empty anti-bacterial cleanser spaces, the stripped bare pasta displays and the ‘Out of Stock’ notices where the passata should have been in local supermarkets, my thoughts turned to the situation my good friend Sandra is in; she lives in locked-down Verona in the north of Italy, a city where only pharmaceutical stores and food shops are allowed to open, where you cannot buy a bicycle, let alone a car. And, of course, the garden centres have also been shut down, as have churches, cafes, restaurants, bars, cinemas – the list goes on and on. (Mention of cinemas reminds me that Hippfest, the Bo’ness Hippodrome’s silent film festival, has been postponed; find out more on their website.) That recollection persuaded me to venture along to my greenhouse yesterday to ascertain whether any storage space was left among the stacks of toilet rolls and the shelves of anti-bacterial cleanser, pasta and passata. Hoarding? Me? No, no, merely being prepared!
After an exhausting few hours rearranging everything, including having to re-erect shelving which had collapsed under the weight of stored household essentials, I succeeded in clearing enough floor space to accommodate at least some of the many bags of assorted fertilisers, specialised soils, sand, gravel and whatever else catches my eye when I arrive at my local garden centre later today in a hired three-ton van, intent on ensuring that I shall have plenty of these essential items to see me through the whole summer. I confess that I am worried about the weather forecast for tonight, which mentioned the distinct possibility of frost. What shall I do with the dozens of packs of young bedding plants I shall have to acquire? Since they can’t be left outside … and there’s no way they can be squeezed into the bulging greenhouse … I suppose I shall have to break the habit of a lifetime and an assurance I have given the company which insures my car and leave the vehicle on the drive to free up the garage floor for plants. That still leaves the problem of where I can possibly accommodate the innumerable packets and bottles of herbicide, pesticide, fungicide, insecticide and every other horticultural product ending in ‘icide.’ Ailsa has already declared that there is no way I will be allowed to keep as much as a single bottle or a solitary packet under the bed. And I haven’t even begun to think about all the new tools I might need.
See these panic buyers? They certainly don’t make it any easier for the rest of us to find all the items we might want. Me? I’m only preparing for a summer of self-isolation!