It feels like a lifetime ago, but it was the first week of March. I still recall my shock, seeing the long shelves of my nearest hypermarket-sized Sainsbury’s empty of pasta. At first I assumed they were re-organising the aisles, or something equally mundane—until I overheard a conversation between two customers about “stockpiling.” The realisation dawned slowly—this is really happening.
Within days, many of us were doing a bit of panic buying, although we told ourselves we weren’t panicking, just buying. As the Covid-19 clouds gathered and darkened through the middle of March, I cycled between the largest supermarkets in south London to see which stocks were the first to go. To begin with, it was the store-cupboard staples disappearing—pasta, rice, pulses, tins of tomatoes—and then, a kind of retro-wartime rationing kit: flour, vegetable oil, eggs, tinned fish, tinned fruit, tea and coffee. As lockdown finally neared, fresh…
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