Isolation diary: Paying the newsagent

Today we have gone into self-isolation.

I live with my husband, Ian, and we have not got any coronavirus symptoms, nor have we been in contact with anyone who has, as far as we know. But Ian’s immune system is compromised so we decided a few days ago to isolate ourselves at home ‘for the duration’ (as they said in the war).

Now it may surprise those of you who know my digital credentials that we still have a daily newspaper delivered. And we’ve decided to continue with it as we like leisurely working our way through the news, reading the opinion articles and doing the crosswords and puzzles.

So the last thing I did today, before going into seclusion, was to call in at the newsagent and ask how I could pay my bill in the coming weeks. (I was oddly reminded of Pope Francis who, soon after he was announced as the new pontiff, phoned his newsagent in Buenos Aires to cancel his papers).

The manager clearly hadn’t thought about it. “You’ve got to come in to the shop,” he said.  “Can I do a bank transfer, or standing order?” “No, you’ve got to come in to the shop.”

Hmmm … I do want to support the local businesses, which are very much at risk at present. I think I will phone up every few weeks to ask what I owe and then find my old cheque book (thank goodness they still exist), write him a cheque and ask my neighbour to drop it in.

And thinking about money, there is also the window-cleaner. He comes regularly and does an excellent job, but always wants cash. So how will I top up my cash as the time goes? Maybe I should sneak out to the cash machine at night, wipe it down with an antiseptic wipe, then get some out.

Finally I phoned my hairdresser and cancelled my next appointment. Then the truth dawned – what is my hair going to look like after a few months? My profile picture, although taken a few years ago, does show my hair pretty much as it is today, short and spiky. Perhaps I will post pictures as it gradually loses its great cut and flops in all directions.



* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames, where she is still very active with the local party, and is the Hon President of Kingston Lib Dems.

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  • John Marriott 16th Mar '20 - 6:24pm

    @Mary Reid
    Thanks goodness I’m not the only one worrying about what my hair, or what’s left of it at 76, will look like in three months’ time! If I do self isolate for that long, I run the risk of emerging from quarantine looking like Catweazle, if I am spared!

    It’s funny what you worry about, or what you normally take for granted. I have a beard trimmer, so no problem there; but, can I trust my dear wife to take care of my barnet with the kitchen scissors?

  • Laurence Cox 16th Mar '20 - 6:25pm

    Last week I came to much the same conclusion as you have now; my local GP surgery were surprised when I phoned them to cancel my health check (I haven’t anything wrong with me but they offer this every year if you are over 70), but it was an unnecessary journey to a place where I knew I would be close to other sick people.

    I think that if we follow the old wartime dictum “is your journey really necessary?”, that is the best guide.

    I will still be going out shopping once or twice a week at most, but choosing shops that I can walk to (so avoiding all public transport) and timing my visits for when few people will be out and about.

    PS White hair can look really good when it is long.

  • Nonconformistradical 16th Mar '20 - 6:59pm

    “The manager clearly hadn’t thought about it. “You’ve got to come in to the shop,” he said. “Can I do a bank transfer, or standing order?” “No, you’ve got to come in to the shop.””

    Seems to me that it is in small businesses’ interest to make it easy for people to pay such bills during this crisis – and accept that they may need to give regular customers who fall into the elderly/ medically vulnerable groups bank details for payment.

  • Phil Beesley 16th Mar '20 - 7:03pm

    I don’t think Mary and John should worry much. The woman running my local gents’ hairdresser became pregnant and the (absence of) business plan didn’t consider this. Over a couple of weekends, her partner learned to cut gents’ hair and he has been running the business on his own for 25 years.

    If you do not trust your partner with a pair of scissors, my mail order business will shortly offer ear protectors. Having adopted the Catweazle hair style many years ago, I have never tested my products (three per pack, in case of accidents).

    Covid 19, like 99% of viruses killed by your preferred brand of toilet cleaner, has a short lifespan outside the human body. It dies when exposed to too much oxygen or water. If you wipe your currency with a cloth containing bleach, it will be fine for the milk lady or paper girl to pick up. Or just leave it in the cold for a while.

    Social interaction with milk deliverers should always be discouraged. My teenage mum and dad chatted for so long at the front gate that the horse took the cart back to the farm.

  • @ Nonconformistradical – yes, I’m sure he will come to realise the truth of that!

  • Two women in my life have been happy for me to stay at home all the time drink cups of tea and read the newspaper. The first was my mother (my father of course didn’t think it was such a good idea. He was concerned that I went out to work and would always ask me how my job was going). Sadly my mother passed away a few years ago and that was the end of the home. The house had to be sold.
    The second of course is my wife. My job came to an end recently so now I stay home. Luckily I have a lot of old magazines to sort out so tidying things up contributes to marital bliss. Now of course with this corona-virus scare she doesn’t want me to go to church, would you believe it. However I don’t have to worry about the newspaper. That’s paid for by annual subscription.

  • Dear Mary

    If the local newsagent is not willing to receive electronic payment from you into his bank account, then he does not deserve your business.

  • Yeah…. we went into self-isolation on Saturday night. We’ve discovered it’s quite nice to talk to each other, plus there’s books, Radio 4 (Will Lynda Snell make it ?), the garden (white rose pruning), walks on the beach watching the ships go by on the Forth. We’ve set up Skype to talk to our kids – plus six grandchildren (the seventh a week old so a bit soon). Groceries to be delivered next Tuesday……

    Did anybody notice Johnson’s sweaty brow on the TV ? Not a good sign.. I bet Theresa’s pleased to be out of it and having a private giggle at his predicament. He did so want it, didn’t he ?

    How about a new elders group for the Lib Dems – the Hirsute Silver Tendency (no Orange hair dye allowed… leave that to Trump). Mary, do please allow me to say that when I last saw you from a distance at Conference not that long ago you looked pretty good and smart to me….As my Durham miner Granddad used to say, Cheer up, Bonny Lass……. there’s always The Guardian crossword.

  • Phil Beesley 16th Mar '20 - 9:16pm

    David Raw: “…there’s always The Guardian crossword.”

    It would be splendid for a few Araucaria reprints to maintain blood pressure. I never thought that a vicar could be so linguistically evil.

  • Oh Mary you do realise you have just given me something else to worry about.
    I had not thought about hair.
    It’s alright for the Husband, he just haves a Buzz Cut done by me.

    I wouldn’t trust him with a pair of child’s blunt scissors let alone a shaver near me.
    I am going to look like tom hanks in cast away by the end of all this.

    Lets just hope I don’t get a toothache and do not have to find my old ice-skates 🙁 lol

  • David Raw
    The National League of Old Liberals. No digging up cricket pitches though.

  • James Belchamber 17th Mar '20 - 6:53am

    An iZettle or Square payment device is cheap and easy to use, and for services you don’t even need one (pay online!). I like supporting local business but they really need to help themselves if they’re going to survive

    Insisting you come in to the shop is bad service. Will be be the first complaining when his business hits the rocks?

  • Cricket pitches…… as a member of Y.C.C.C. that was one thing I wasn’t over keen on…. but I was with John Arlott on the issue…. and he/we won….

    From the archive: Why John Arlott’s off the air | From the … › news › apr › leadersandreply.mainsection
    16 Apr 1970 – From the archive: On this day in 1970, BBC broadcaster John Arlott explained why he would not be commentating on South Africa’s cricket tour …

  • John Marriott 17th Mar '20 - 8:46am

    @David Raw
    Yes, let’s start an oldies’ group. We certainly need a bit of that Dunkirk spirit at the moment, even though mine may be largely confined to the remaining bottles of Single Malt in my drinks cabinet. The dilemma for me and my wife is whether we should still be taking the grandchildren to school twice a week and then entertaining them until mummy and daddy get home. Any suggestions, folks?

    Oh, and, on the reminiscing front, my granddad knew Ramsay MacDonald – and I’ve got a letter from 1904 to prove it!

  • Gordon Lishman 17th Mar '20 - 9:05am

    Whatever I do during my isolation, it won’t be wallowing in the past.

  • Gordon
    You will have the National League of Old Farts after you. What better thing to do than talk about the good old days.

  • How about a Liberal Democrats in self-isolation facebook group?

  • John Marriott 17th Mar '20 - 9:45am

    @Gordon Lishman
    Good on you Mr Lishman. That’s the spirit! The trouble is that, under the worst case scenario, “the past” may be sadly all that a significant proportion of our population have to look forward to!

  • Yes we still love having our newspaper delivered by our very good local newsagent who I have paid by cheque on a monthly basis in shop, hoping they will except payment by post for the foreseeable future although that would mean going out to walk to the post box but Boris says a walk is ok. I honestly find our cheque book extremely useful. Best wishes to all you fellow self isolaters. By the way this panic buying is very reminiscent of my family retail business experience during the three day week some things never change!

  • Sue Sutherland 17th Mar '20 - 1:49pm

    I think an isolation Facebook group would be great.
    John Marriott we have stopped all childcare and meeting up with family this week mainly because my husband has reduced lung capacity and this virus attacks the lungs and can result in reduced lung capacity. ( a very small study of survivors in Hong Kong). I have M.E and am almost completely housebound as are many other sufferers but as no one knows anything about M.E. I really don’t know if I’m more vulnerable than others. There are after school clubs which they can attend and we offered to pay for that.
    It seems quite likely that schools will close sometime soon so every parent of young children will have a childcare problem. Hope that helps you in your dilemma.

  • Phil Beesley 17th Mar '20 - 5:03pm

    Paul Walter: “I wonder whether the Postal Order might come in handy? You can still get them, but to be honest I can’t remember why we used to use them!”

    I couldn’t quickly find a consistent figure for the number of UK adults without a bank account, but one million plus is regularly cited for the 2010s. Or 5% of working adults.

    ‘The Sweeney’ repeats on TV should remind us of our reliance on cash in the last century. The programme ended along with payroll robberies when businesses started to pay employees with cheques.

  • It’s little things that are taking my attention…like “Do I take my library books back”, etc?

    Business as usual they tell me.

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