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  • Writer's pictureJanette Frawley

Out at last!

24 December 2021

The negative result of my PCR test arrived last night, which means that my forty-eight hours of isolation have officially ended.

Christmas Eve usually means endless cleaning and cooking, but today, we are simply taking our time to visit the supermarket and decide what we are going to do for Christmas dinner tomorrow. We want to make the day special!

I badly need a walk and we do exactly that; me following Natasha's lead as we wind through narrow streets, a muddy park; meandering and catching up on three years of gossip.

It's not as cold as I first feared it would be. More like a Melbourne winter's day; grey and around 11 degrees Celsius. The brisk pace means that I warm up quickly and start to jettison some items; gloves first then beanie.

The first shopping strip we visit is busy; a myriad of people from diverse backgrounds pick over fruit and vegetables sold from impromptu market stalls in laneways, laughing and joking with vendors as they purchase their items. We continue to wade through the crowds, masked and keeping our distance as we head for a specific supermarket, where we find the items on the list previously prepared. Despite the threat of lockdown in the coming days due to burgeoning COVID infections, there is plenty of festive food (and toilet paper) on the shelves. Finalising our purchases, we walk to the bus stop, where we wait for a few minutes before boarding a bus. London Transport now accepts payment by credit card, so I no longer need to purchase a special ticket and load it with funds. It appears easy but I'll monitor the card to review the real costs over the next few days.

Unlike Australians who tend to drive to a shopping centre and make all their purchases in one location, Londoners move seamlessly from shopping strip to shopping strip by bus or by foot. They know inherently which store has the best this or that and as we alight from the bus in a completely different setting, we set forth to purchase our Christmas meat of choice. Inside Marks and Spencer, we find turkeys already dressed in bacon rashers; deliciously fresh and waiting eagerly to be purchased. However, we decide on ham and continue exploring the supermarket for other exotic festive fare. Wines from Chile, Argentina, Spain, and other exotic places are reasonably-priced and we choose some French sparkling wines that are not from the Champagne region, but we are assured they are very tasty. I also find a perfectly reasonable bottle of cognac for a price never seen in Australia.

Shopping complete, footsore and a little weary, we decide to have a typical London pub lunch and with pints in hand, we settle down to peruse the menu.

This is why I'm here. I want to explore this local area in southeast London, honing in on the senses; the smells, sights, and sounds, and really experience it from a grassroots perspective.

This trip will differ from all those taken before COVID as uncertainties surrounding restrictions will determine where and whether we can go further afield. For now, I am happy to be here to blend with the crowds and to enjoy the day.

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