It was rather depressing going into Bury St. Edmunds’ town centre this morning.  I had not been there for some time, and much has changed whilst we have been in lockdown.

The first thing I noticed after coming up from the underground car park was that the large HMV shop in the Arc shopping centre had closed down.  I suppose everyone tends to download music online now, but for such a big name to have gone and quite a few others around the Arc too, it brought home to me just how people’s shopping preferences have affected our poor old town centre.

The heat was savage even at 9 o’clock, and I had wanted to get started with the shopping trip early before the sun rose too high in the sky.  However, many of the remaining shops in the Arc were not yet open, and notices on the doors read that they did not open until 10am (used to be 9am).  Hmm… I sighed, followed the directions of the arrows on the pavements, and walked into the market square. Thankfully good old M&S was open, and I could get started on buying Sam’s birthday present – a pair of jeans and a tee shirt (he prefers his jeans from M&S).  Arrows were all over the floor space, fitting rooms were closed, and there was only one pay desk open on the first floor.  Face coverings were compulsory, but thankfully once inside it wasn’t too hot.

Santander did not open until 10am, and there was a queue outside as I approached the bank at 09:55.  A member of staff only let a few people in at a time, and the rest of us had to stand out in the humid heat and sweat.  Even worse was having to wear a face covering whilst sweating and waiting inside to be served at the counter.  As soon as my cheque had been paid in I made for the door and once outside I ripped the bloody thing off.

In the stationery shop the assistant doused herself with sanitiser after accepting my £5 note just in case I had given her bubonic plague.  When she gave me my change I stepped back and applied a similar dose of sanitiser and felt like throwing the hated mask in a nearby bin.  However, I took a deep breath and sailed out of the shop with any dignity still intact.

I was fast losing any enthusiasm.  I decided to visit one more shop to buy Sam a birthday card.  On with the ****ing mask, and a guard on the door directed me to follow the arrows on the floor.  Deepest joy – there was somebody standing in the spot where I wanted to be.  My glasses steamed up every time I breathed out, and there was no air conditioning in the shop.  Sod it… I’d had enough.  I turned around and walked out.

I don’t think I’ll be going back any time soon.  If Sam’s birthday hadn’t been approaching and I hadn’t needed to pay that cheque in I might have thought twice about making the trip into Bury in the first place.  However, I have Sam’s present now, and I’ll get him a card from the supermarket.  Anything else I’ll order via my computer.  No wonder online shopping is taking off at a rate of knots.  The convenience of  ordering from home is wonderful.  You don’t have to wear a mask, there is no traipsing about in the heat following arrows, and no shop is ever closed!