Thursday, November 19, 2015

Grocery Delivery and the Smell of Quince


I've been sick. It hit fast and hard - the kind of sick that brings you to your knees in both the "God please make it stop," type of way and the, "I'm too weak to walk to bed, so I might as well crawl," type of way.

The past day or two I've slowly been coming out of it, and as I went for a walk today - the longest I've taken in two weeks - I was thinking about how my flat had kind of become my entire world.

My orbit was my bed, to read and sleep; the couch, for watching a movie (or Real Housewives) (the Spaniard: "Is that show benefitting you in any way?" Me: "I am learning about human nature"); the stove, for making another mug tea.

My husband would call everyday on his way from work, asking if I needed anything from the grocery store or the pharmacy. But, bless his heart, as he is the type to forget half the list, and get the wrong things from the other half of the list, and - horror of horrors - bring home diet coke which he is NOT supposed to drink, I did my grocery shopping online and had it delivered.

When I really needed some supplements and other things that only the health food store would have, I discovered that they, too, do delivery.

Thinking it might help a bit, I decided to get a massage, but because I didn't trust my ability to be out for very long, I had the masseuse come to me.

One evening, as my appetite began to pick up a bit, I had a craving for a favourite thai soup. Warm, creamy with coconut milk, full of soft vegetables. It was the first sign of appetite in a while, and I wanted to stoke it. And, so, what do you know? There is a delivery service which goes to any restaurant of your choice, to pick up whatever food you have ordered.

I needed my medical charts sent from Canada, and my doctor's office did it immediately, as soon as they got my email request. I found a doctor here who does phone consults if he has my previous charts, will prescribe what I need, and is getting a pharmacy in Glasgow to mail me a prescription, because they are the best at compounding it.

Everything I needed was done with my laptop, as I was lying on my couch.

We recently put a deposit down on a flat, and as the Spaniard has less than negative interest in picking out the furnishings, other than that there be "an armchair that is soft, has a high back, and feels like it is hugging me," that task has fallen, in its entirety, into my eager hands.

As the flat we are currently in is rented, fully furnished, we have not a stick of furniture to our name. And as we are hoping to move right before Christmas, and as most of the furniture takes between 2 and 6 weeks to arrive.....choosing everything from our couches to beds to tables to lamps has been of pressing importance.

Even that, I was able to do from my couch. With the floor plans at my disposal, and multitudes of windows up on my laptop screen I was able to fill a living room, dining room, two bedrooms, and a kitchen with the necessities of life.

Even the chair that feels like a hug. Yes, even that.

I was contemplating all of this as I walked today. How grateful I am, that everything I needed could be ordered with a few clicks and swipes, as I lay on the couch. What a gift.

And yet.

Isn't it strange, perhaps, that everything from groceries to pharmaceuticals to a masseuse could come to me, without my lifting more than a finger? That I could furnish an entire flat without once setting foot in a store?

These systems don't exist just for when you are sick and can't move. They exist because people, in the way they live their lives, have created a demand for them. If we wanted to, we could live almost our entire lives outside of work, never venturing from our own little homes.

Living this way was an utter revelation to me.

Typically, on Thursdays I go to the Borough Market. I stop in at Olivier's Bakery and get a loaf of sourdough rye from the sweet French girl with the incredible dreadlocks. Then, I walk to the Hook and Son's Dairy, and get two litres of raw milk. One of the guys is from Calgary, of all places - he used to live down the street from where my family used to live! -  and the other one keeps trying to convince me to buy a bottle of colostrum. "You've gotta take advantage of it when we have it. The calves normally get it!" I've told him I'm not ready to try it.

Perhaps not ever.

After that, I go to Chegworth Valley and get whatever vegetables and fruits are in season and fresh, and always wonder at the strange variety of employees that they have. I am pretty sure a TV show could be filmed there.

My last stop is generally Neil's Yard, where I get the most amazing lemon yellow butter that tastes like no butter that is available in North America. Sometimes they give me apples that have been shipped from their orchards that day, and last time the saleswoman gave me two quince - "to make your day brighter!" - and told me to put them in a bowl, because the colour is beautiful, and the smell is like a fresh summer's day. She was right.

Before heading home, I will generally take a break at Monmouth Coffee, and spend twenty minutes being entertained by the hipster conversations floating around me. If I have run out of coffee at home, the guy with the amazing tattoos will always make a great recommendation and grind me up a bag to take away.

I love my Thursday morning ritual - not just because when I get home I have amazing, nourishing, food for the days ahead, but because I treasure the small interactions, the growing friendliness, the wave of recognition, the "Coffee is on us today, love!" that comes with frequenting the same places and getting to know the people who take such pride in what they sell, and who also take an interest in me because I love their products.

These types of relationships are important. They are what make our neighbourhoods feel safe, and our cities feel like home. They keep us connected to those around us, if only because we share a common interest in good quality butter, game meats, and unpasteurized cheeses. That connection, that shared interest is important - it encourages is us to care in a small way about the world outside our small circle, to take an interest in something or someone we might never normally come across.

These connections ground us and remind us that we are all, in some way, reliant on each other. They humanize our chaotic daily life.

So while it might have been gloriously convenient to have the world delivered to me with the click of a button, it will only ever be something I do from necessity.

The world needs more connection, more awareness of the lives of the others, and I'll continue to do my small part. In fact, perhaps I will cancel my arm-chair order now that I am feeling a bit better, and go to the small shop on the King's Road, with the old man who is so proud of the beautiful chairs he designs. I think he might be glad for a chat. I know I will.

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