I am sitting in the driver’s seat in the car park, masked up and sanitizer close at hand. I am, I admit, a little nervous. The door to the boot behind me is wide open. I dial my phone.
“I’m in the car park in a white Nissan Qashqai,” I announce to the person who answers the phone.
“We’ll be out staightaway,” they reply.
I lean back in the seat and try to relax.
“Ó Cinnéide, is it?” I hear from the back of the car.
“It is,” I answer, responding to the Irish version of my name.
“I’ll just pop this in the boot so,” the lad says as he places a box of groceries in the car. “God bless ye now and take care,” I hear as the door to the boot slams.
Well, that’s the shop sorted for this week, I think as I throw the car into gear and drive out of the car park. It does take a village.
For ten long weeks, from March 19 through early June, the only time I ventured into town was on Tuesday mornings to pick up our groceries from Garvey’s SuperValu, our local grocer. At first, I was worried about how we would get by while cocooning. And then the phone calls started.
“Jim, it’s Jerry” –our butcher– “how are you getting on? Do you and Sara need anything?”
Derek from the greengrocer checks in, “We can run anything ye want out to the house.”
A text comes in from Mark at the cheese shop, “Can I bring something out to you? Do you need a paper? We go by that way all the time to check on relatives.”
Kenny, from up the road, is at the house to varnish the windows for our landlord. We chat at a social distance. “Ye’ll want for nothing in this village,” he says of our neighborhood. “There’s always someone who can do a proper job for ye.”
Sara sends Kenny home with cookies for his family. The next day he brings us fresh duck eggs.
And we shop by phone.
On Thursday mornings, I call Jerry or John at the butcher shop. “Could you cut us a few of those T-bones? The thick ones with the big fillet? And three racks of lamb. Oh, and two pounds each of beef and lamb mince. A housekeeper’s roast, if you have one. And next week, I might want a Boston butt. I’m thinking of making pulled pork.”
“I can,” says Jerry. “Do you want me to bring it out to you when I go to the farm later?”
“Why don’t you drop it down to Derek?” I answer. “I’m about to give him a call with my order.” The greengrocer is two doors down from the butcher.
I put in a call to Derek with my order. Cauliflower and broccoli. Roosters and salad potatoes. Green beans and snap peas. Some of those cherry tomatoes. Ten lemons and ten limes (yes, I know that’s a lot of lemons and limes, but in these desperate times cocktails must be made). Maybe a pineapple. And I don’t forget carrots, onions, and garlic, the purple kind. I’ve a stew to make on Sunday.
“Mark,” I say when I call the cheese shop, “would you mind dropping off that brie that Sara likes? And some Parmesan, pecorino, and a nice Irish cheddar–the sharp one? Oh, I could use one of those good olive oils you get from Spain. And coffee from Bean. And, what the heck, pick out a nice red wine you think we might like.”
“No trouble at all,” he answers. “Is there anything else you need in town?”
“Well, as long as you’re asking, I have some dried haricot beans and basmati rice ordered at the health food store, if you wouldn’t mind.”
“I’ll walk up and collect it and be by around four, if that’s okay.”
Sara calls Aideen at the bookshop; there’s some reading we’ve been meaning to catch up on. She drops the books by an hour later along with some plants for our garden.
Truth be told, we sometimes order more than we need, but our small businesses in Dingle, like the rest of the world, are struggling. If we order an extra steak or bag of potatoes or a bottle of wine, we can always pass it on to friends, and help Jerry and Derek and Mark and the bookshop to survive.
Deliveries come to our back door and are placed on our patio table. Sara has been baking daily and with every delivery to our door, there is a bag of cookies or scones or a couple slices of cake in a bag on the table to take back to the shop. Each time I talk to a shopkeeper they joke that Sara is going to put a stone on them before this is all over. “She’s nearly put a stone on me as well,” I tell them.
As cases come down and restrictions are relaxed, local restaurants begin to offer takeaways to keep their heads above water until they can open their doors again. Once a week we place an order: tapas from Solás or fish and chips from The Fishbox or pizza from Little Italy. I join a queue of cars in front of the shop, pop the hatch, phone to let them know that I am there, and moments later dinner is placed in the boot. “Enjoy your meal, Mr. Kennedy, and thanks a million,” I hear as the door is closed.
Now the constraints have largely been lifted and we can return to our routine of doing our own shopping, although only one or two customers are allowed in a shop at a time and must mask up and use hand sanitizer before entering. Once again, I can show John how thick I want the chops cut. I can feel the heft of the cauliflower or smell the pineapple. Sara can browse the tables in the bookshop and we can sample the cheese at Mark’s.
I chat with John and Jerry in the butcher shop as they cut my order and sample Sara’s lemon cake.
“It takes a village to get through things like this, doesn’t it?” I offer.
“Sure, where would we be without our friends and neighbors?” John answers.
Where indeed, I think.
“Slán agat,” I say as I leave the shop. “I’ll see you next week.”