Lockdown has probably led us all to discover things about ourselves and the people we live with. Some of our discoveries may be more palatable than others.
Last week I was putting my recycling out under cover of dark. The neighbour, who had the same idea as me, had the advantage. He could see what I could not. “Ewe, that’s a lot of empties. You’ve taken to the bottle then.” This was not a question.
“It’s not just me,” I said in my defence.
“No, of course not,” he said. He didn’t sound convinced.
Then I made matters worse. “There’s a lot of mayonnaise jars under there. You’d be amazed how much space empty mayonnaise jars take up.” I don’t know why I said that.
“Ahh,” he said.
“And marmalade jars. I think there are at least two marmalade jars in there.”
“Ohh,” he nodded.
“Anyway, must get on,” I said in the jolliest tone I could muster as I picked up the box of well concealed mayonnaise jars before allowing the clever camouflage of empty wine bottles to roll out of the over stuffed box and smash on the ground, only to reveal more camouflage and no mayonnaise.
“Oops,” said the neighbour.
I don’t know if it’s worse to have been revealed as an habitual drinker or to have been caught red handed lying about it.
I have other vices. I am addicted to cherry tomatoes and I don’t mind who knows it. The cheese kettle crisp vice is like the wine vice, one that I should prefer to keep quiet about, and easier to conceal, until now.
As lockdown has truly started to bite, desperation has led me to reveal these facts to my neighbours.
Each time any one of them goes to the supermarket a text arrives asking what shopping people need. In the early days of lockdown people had a yen for risotto rice. This reminded me that now would be a good moment to eat the risotto rice that moved into the house not long after me. Then came the collective desire for tinned tomatoes, and because I am a herd animal, I wanted them too. Also on the neighbours must have list was Nicorette and sourdough bread. These I can live without.
I rely on the discretion of others. I have discovered a way to at least stand a fighting chance of preserving my secrets. Select “reply privately” to group messages and avoid setting out your secrets in front of the entire neighbourhood. That way, only a trusted selection knows what I like to get up to behind closed doors. Even so, it has its moments. I asked my neighbour for one packet of crisps two weeks ago, and again last week. This week she texted me back and asked if I wanted two. “Why not,” I replied.
In other insights, there is widely circulating intelligence about which shops have what. These have largely involved shops I never knew existed. A kind woman in my street WhatsApp group suggested I could place a phone order with a shop down the road. “What is Cobb?” I texted back. I fear she thinks I’m being facetious but I’m not. There’s a baker I’ve been walking past for years that I never knew was there.
Social distancing has revealed a lot about my local retail landscape and the rewards of sharing secrets, although possibly not all of them.
The neighbours and I are learning more about each other than we ever imagined we needed to know.
We all hold our secrets as close as we can. Perhaps not all of it needs to remain hidden.