In my local town of Tadcaster one of the three breweries has a fine pair of white shire horses, usually used to take barrels to pubs in the town. Now they are loaded up with bottled beer orders from the beer starved locals and the horses clop around the housing estates that fringe the town. Tadcaster has form as far as beer is concerned; in 1840 there was one pub for every 70 people. Nowadays not only has it got three breweries for a population of 6,000, but also as many as twelve pubs adorn its streets. This is despite the workers at the breweries getting free allocations of beer. Now the pubs are all closed, no wonder the shire deliveries are in high demand.
The crisis has divided us all elderly people into deliverers and deliverees. The latter are in two categories – those that do not pay for delivery, receiving food and essentials from wonderful volunteers – and those like my wife and myself who pay for a milkman, a vegetable box delivery and parcels of meat from a local farmer. My wife is now sourcing supplies of fish from the poor fishermen of Whitby and Grimsby, whose markets are closed.
The social mix of deliverers is changing; our last two parcels were delivered by well dressed people from the boot of their Mercedes or Volvo. There are still the usual courier companies working at a colossal rate. Our last delivery man gave us forewarning of his arrival via a clever tracking system which showed him working his way through the 130 deliveries for the day and snaking along little country lanes between us and York where he started. Amazon still remains a wonder that it can honour next day delivery promises when many of its Fulfilment Associates (what a horrible term) must be off work and self isolating. This challenge has forced the company to pay them well with hourly day rates from £11.50 to £12.50 per hour.
When it is all over what will the picture be? The Volvo and Mercedes owners will have gone back to their old jobs (we hope), but there will remain a vast new infrastructure of volunteers and paid for deliverers enabling us old folks to stay at home – for an indefinite period, as seems likely.