Ellen adores shopping and the hardest part of lockdown for her has been the fact that she has been unable to go to Milton Keynes and visit her triumvirate of joy; The Disney Store, CEX and HMV. Every time she asked to go shopping I explained to her that a virus had closed all the shops. She asked this question repeatedly for the first few weeks of lockdown and then to my relief, stopped mentioning it. Some people have talked about how lockdown has enabled them to connect more with their families and nature and to enjoy an enforced slow down. For me, not going shopping, and in particular, not standing for hours in HMV whilst Ellen chooses a DVD without even the most microscopic tear in the cellophane, has been bliss.
Despite appearing to have no understanding of the Coronavirus situation, or to even be listening during the daily briefings, Ellen suddenly announced ‘today is June 13th, the shops are opening on June 15th, so we can go shopping.’ I was completely flabbergasted and interrogated the family at length but no one admitted to telling Ellen this fact, so once again I appeared to have under-estimated her. But I still had another card up my sleeve to avoid going shopping – the need to wear a face mask.
The Government have advised that as well as face masks being mandatory on public transport, they are recommended in enclosed spaces where social distancing is difficult i.e. in shops. Disabled people are amongst those exempt from this rule, but whilst I knew Ellen would find wearing a mask difficult due to sensory issues, I also felt that she would be motivated enough to give it a try and that if she could wear one it could be of benefit in other situations too.
A local group craft group have been making a range of face masks, including some with animal designs, so I let Ellen chose her own. Again she confounded my expectations by rejecting the mask with tigers on it and instead picking a dolphin design. It only took two attempts before she managed to tolerate the cotton loops over her ears. Ellen looked at me with triumph over the top of the mask, and with no further excuses available, we set out for the shopping centre.
Ellen wore her mask in all the shops and queued up to get in without too much impatience. Of course the mask was flung off each time we came out of a shop and in some of the longer queues, she became extremely fidgety and I wasn’t sure that she would wait. Shopping is going to be a challenge, because each shop has different rules, some required a mask, some didn’t. Queues of differing lengths form outside the shops. Some had perspex screens at the tills and some required the customer to retreat behind a yellow line (Ellen didn’t get this at all). Despite being pretty quiet, the whole expedition took longer than it normally would.
But Ellen had a wonderful time. She ‘found’ Simba and Nala in the Disney Store, her favourite DVD in CEX (of which she has multiple copies at home) and had a long browse in HMV eventually selecting a DVD which didn’t rattle and had intact cellophane.
The only downside was that McDonalds in the shopping centre is still closed, as only their drive-throughs are open. However as Ellen pointed out, we would pass a drive through on the way home…