May 6. Each Monday morning, before we are out of bed, an emissary of the government delivers a box of provisions to our front door.
The NHS vulnerable-stay-at-home-at-all-costs letter that I received at the beginning of the lockdown was accompanied by an instruction to log into a government website giving details of my situation. I filled in the electronic form, and the next week, to our surprise and embarrassment, we received a free box of food and other necessities. By this time, we had found our way into the supermarket delivery system, but there appears to be nothing we can do to stop this charity. I have revisited the government site three times, ticking the box to say I have an adequate supply of food, but with no result. Amidst all the shortages and failed targets, this service is working like an unstoppable clock.
A neighbour takes the unopened box to a local food bank. There is thus a small subsidy taking place from the State to this necessary local facility. Otherwise the contents of the box, which vary only slightly each week, represent what an individual (I don’t think the machine knows I have a wife) officially needs to survive on for seven days. This week’s box contained:
2 kg potatoes
500g white rice
2 litres of skimmed UHT milk
1 litre apple juice
1 ¼ lb of carrots
185g tin of tuna chunks
200g tin chopped pork [last week it was corned beef]
Large white sliced loaf of bread
6 mini bars of chocolate chip cookies
450g Ready Brek
2 x 500g Bolognese sauce
3 x 400g tins of Heinz tomato soup
2 x 425g tins of Heinz baked beans
800g tin of mushy peas
8 sachets of Maxwell House instant coffee
12 breakfast tea bags
500ml Dove bodywash
1 Dove hand soap
2 loo rolls
Historians in some future time may examine these boxes as evidence of what the government thought people should be eating at the end of the second decade of the twenty-first century. Apart from perhaps the pasta, rice and Bolognese sauce, I imagine something very similar was prescribed during the second world war and its immediate aftermath. Vegans, vegetarians, allergy sufferers, weight-watchers, religious minorities, might never have existed.