Tuesday, 14 April 2020

An Open Letter on Coronavirus from a Supermarket Worker

Dear General Public,

I'm a Supermarket Assistant who has gone from being 'unskilled' and at the bottom of the career ladder, to being a front-line keyworker who is risking my life - and the lives of my relatives - every day so that you continue to be fed.

Some customers are grateful for the work we do. Doctors call us heroes (and we call them heroes, too.) Children bring us drawings. People come up to us as we load the shelves with more pasta and tinned tomatoes thanking us for our commitment, and others offer to knit us ear covers to keep us comfortable whilst wearing our masks.

Others crowd around us as we reduce the day's bargains, or lean around the plastic screens on the checkouts because they feel like it. Some customers make a big show of respecting other customers and keeping a distance from them, seconds before brushing against us on their way to get a sandwich. We're shouted at for trying to police the two-metre social distancing measures, which are in place to protect everyone including you. We endure violence and verbal abuse because we've run out of flour. We're laughed at for wearing gloves and masks, or for moving away from our work when you decide to come and stand right next to us, even though these are all things we've been instructed to do to protect ourselves and you. No, Sir, it's not 'funny to see how people react' to you and your wife invading my space to look at organic mushrooms, with you on one side of me and your wife on the other so I have nowhere to go. I'm not 'getting paid to do nothing' as I ask you to step back so I can stand two metres away, I'm patiently waiting for you to finish browsing so I can return to my work safely.

And yet we continue to:

  • Direct you to the items you need with a smile.
  • Train on multiple sections in order to efficiently continue to provide the services you're used to.
  • Go through the lengthy recruitment process to make sure we have new members of staff, so that there continues to be people to serve you and make sure there's food on the shelves while our more vulnerable workers take sick leave.
  • Exhaust ourselves with overtime to try and give you the best availablity of items and customer service.
  • Put essential items aside for elderly delivery customers we've come to know personally, and who have come to know us.
  • Spend hours completing rotas to make sure that our sick and vulnerable workers are accounted for, and to ensure that they are sufficiently covered by the remaining members of staff.
  • If you don't see us during the day, we're probably working through the night instead, recovering the shelves after a day of trade and picking thousands of items for your food deliveries.
  • Complete stock-counts to maintain stock levels so you can buy what you need.
  • Work as a team to ensure our delivery drivers get to you on time.
  • Take emotional phone calls from the vulnerable and elderly who are running out of food and need our support.
  • Support the local community with monetary donations, care packages and volunteering.
  • Maintain our closed-off section of items put aside especially for NHS workers.
  • Clean every single trolley handle and every single shopping basket - and we have hundreds.
  • Donate food to charity that we can no longer legally sell, and spend time maintaining this area and liasing with the charities.
  • Complete a cleaning schedule to make sure the whole shop is clean for you.
  • Date-check items so you don't get ill from buying out-of-date goods.
  • Drive 100+ miles per day to deliver your shopping.
  • Support any colleagues who are struggling with the situation or may have been furloughed.
  • Scan in hundreds of Click and Collect parcels.
  • Clean our hands between serving each and every customer so we don't pass germs between you all.

And even in the toughest of times, we continue to smile, work hard, and stay committed, because without us food availability would plummet even more and the country would be stuck.

Food shopping is not a substitute for a day out. You do not need to bring your other half or your entire family (single parents of young and/or disabled children excepted). We're putting ourselves at risk so you can carry out your ESSENTIAL food shopping, not treat our place of work like a leisure park. So please be kind, keep your distance, and stay home where possible. Behind the namebadge is a person with worries, hidden health conditions, and loved ones we are trying to protect - while also protecting you.


A Supermarket Assistant


I do not consent to the publishing of this letter elsewhere without prior permission.

Saturday, 20 July 2019

15 Essential Travel Tips From a (Vaguely) Seasoned Traveller

This post contains affiliate links.

I wouldn't say I've been to lots of places in my life, but I've travelled enough to have learned from any mistakes and nail down a system. Going away can be daunting and a little stressful, so the last thing you want is to be pulling onto the hard shoulder on the M11 at 5am in the morning because you've forgotten your passport... ahem.

Some of these tips might be obvious to you, but they're all helpful to remember.

1. Roll your clothes instead of folding them. It prevents creases and gives you a lot more room in your suitcase.

2. Take an extension lead so you only need one travel adaptor. Yay, plenty of plug sockets!

3. Unless you forget. In which case, if you're still struggling for plug sockets, you can always try charging electronics using the USB port found in the back of a TV. Genius.

4. Take a portable phone charger. I use this one from Amazon and it's never let me down. It's small and lightweight, too.

5. Get yourself a foreign currency card! I use Revolut, but there are lots of other companies you can go with. I like Revolut because it comes with an easy-to-use app, where you can see all of your transactions, exchange currencies and keep an eye on exchange rates in real-time, enable and disable security settings as you wish such as contactless and online payments, and much more. It also means you're not carrying large quantities of cash. Although if anyone wants to give me a large quantity of cash to carry, I would not complain.

6. Take an empty water bottle through security so you can fill it up at a water fountain on the other side. Then you don't have to pay ££££ for water, and you're using less plastic.

7. When you book anything, from excursions to even your flights, search Google for a promo code first. You can often get a discount on your booking, and who doesn't love a saving?

8. If you're struggling with the liquid allowance, one thing you can do (aside from buying essentials when you land) is to swap toothpaste for toothpaste tablets, as these are not a liquid and so they can go in your normal luggage. You could also swap liquid shampoo for a shampoo bar, and instead of using a spray-on deodorant, you could use a roll-on. These are more eco-friendly, too!

9. To stop jewellery from getting tangled in your luggage, put each end of a necklace or bracelet in a drinking straw, and then do it up. This prevents the two sides from tangling together. I didn't come up with this one but it's pretty damn good.

10. If you're staying in an AirBnB, ask your host for recommendations and live like a local.

11. Buy a portable luggage scale! They're tiny and it saves any awkward unpacking at the check-in desk...

12. Go to Google Maps and download a map of your local area for use offline, so when you're away from WiFi, you don't get lost and your map is always ready to use. Of course, you could buy a physical map, but that's another thing taking up room in your bag. (And it's extra effort, lets be honest.)

13. At the end of your trip, if you have a fair amount of loose change left and you don't want to keep it, donate it to a homeless person or leave it as a tip. No point taking it home if you don't want it - you might as well brighten someone's day instead.

14. Use Seat Guru to find the best plane seats. You don't want to book a seat with a broken TV screen or no plug socket.

15. Take a pen with you! You never know when you might need one. Depending on where you're going, you might need to complete a customs form, and flight attendants aren't going to have enough pens for everyone. In that situation, a pen is like gold.

What are your top travel tips?

Saturday, 13 July 2019

Italy: Day 5 | Vatican City and the Baths of Caracalla

Welcome to the last post in my Italy series! Click here to read the previous post.

On Thursday morning we visited the Vatican City. We had already booked tickets online, which included skip-the-line access to the Vatican museums and the Sistine Chapel. Skip-the-line access is a must because the lines are hours long otherwise.

When we hopped off the tram, we were immediately accosted by some dude in a hat with a map, so basically Dora the Explorer but male. He immediately told us he wasn't going to sell us anything and he just wanted to show us where to go, so, like, fine. And then he somehow tricked Alex into upgrading our tickets for €79 so that we could go on a guided tour, with skip-the-line access... I kept telling them we already had that but no one listens to me. I could've just thrown €79 down the shitter, it would've been quicker, but hey ho! Moral of the story: just walk away. Don't even enter into a conversation because that's how they trap you. Rome is FULL of people like this - more so, I would say, than London, or Paris, or any other big cities I've visited. Just walk away.