Having your favourite roomie to be locked indoors with for a month helps cope with social distancing and isolation, but even the best of relationships are being put to a test these days. Many are also discovering for the first time that Home Office is not that the hype makes it out to be. For me this is not a new insight, as I have had Home Office several times in my life before, and always, always struggled with it. The concentration required for work is just not the same as compared to when you physically leave the house and are surrounded by colleagues in the office instead of two lazy cats, the laundry, the kitchen, the household chores, the gardening, the river, and worst of all, the TV (or as is the case with so many families, children who are also homebound, bored, and frustrated at the inability to go out and socialise).
Lockdown or limited movement around the city has become a way of life, not just in Berlin but all over the world. It is an unprecedented lockdown of unimaginable proportions that has changed society as we know it beyond recognition. Much as I dislike Berlin, I do miss the thriving life of cafes, stores, restaurants, galleries, theatres, and hustle and bustle of commuting. I live close to a pub and every weekend there is some sort of music blasting from their walls, with the drunkards stumbling home at some ungodly hour. I miss the children making a racket in the garden below, or the loud rowers diligently rowing by in their teams.
The silence is deafening and it is up to us to make noise inside our own homes and make our own new reality with the little remaining freedom we have left. There is still shopping to be done though, supplies to be found and, if you have the patience, lines to be stood in. Those with cars still have a slight advantage over those of us without, but at the end of the day it is all a matter of creative sourcing. Sigh.
Never before has delivery service been so important in my life! I have given up on getting groceries delivered by my favourite supermarket, because they can’t keep up with the demand – no free slot for the next three weeks! OK, time for some serious workarounds.
- Thank goodness for being Asian and the existence of Asian supermarkets! Rice in bulk quantities is not an issue! Hello 10kg bags and 1L soy sauce bottles!
- From the Iranian grocery down the road I have all the pulses and grains we could ever desire, spices, beans galore, and munchies. Most importantly, he carries an acceptable array of fruits and vegetables, both Turkish and Greek yoghurt. Well, there is also a counter of dubious-looking Halal meats, which I would rather not describe.
- But speaking of meat, I went surfing for a butcher in Berlin who would deliver, and came up empty-handed, until I widened the search to farmers in the surrounding areas. So in spite of the lockdown in neighbouring Brandenburg, I sourced a farmer who takes online orders and delivers the next day! He even carries an assortment of exotic meats, should I have a craving for them. That only leaves dairy products.
- My favourite cheese shop in Kreuzberg closed down last year and there is no sign of them anymore. They used to carry a gorgeous array of cheese from the Allgäu (deep in Bavarian country), which, though rather pungent, was always a joy to have. Alas, they have vanished and I had not found a suitable replacement – until the other day. Everything is possible if you just look hard enough! And I found a Dutch cheese shop who defies the stereotype of selling 20 varieties of Gouda (which he actually does)! The best part is that they carry something for every palate, including the lactose intolerant! I got billed from The Netherlands, and the DHL message I received was unmistakably Dutch, but do I care whether the cheese is cross-border or a naturalised Berliner? Not an iota!
- Running low on wine for all those hard days of Home Office? (somebody recently described it as before wine and after wine hours…) Fear not, the local wineries and vineyards are more than willing to deliver as well! Here there definitely is a huge catch, because the chances of sourcing your favourite Spanish, French or Italian wine, are pretty slim these days. Since my tastes run more towards the South African and Australian wines, even worse! So it is a good opportunity to rediscover German wines and hope that the small wineries in the Rhineland Palatinate (Pfalz) that I support don’t go under in the next couple of months either!
- At the risk of sounding like Chicken Little (c’mon people, you have to remember your fairy tales here to appreciate the story!), I was running low on flour, what with all the homemade bread we are churning out these days. The supermarkets are all out of flour, regular and special flours alike, so to each his own. Ah, but the FrogDiva never gives up – and again I began searching for a miller who would sell me some flour and deliver it, short of buying my own grains and grinding them. Well guess what? I finally found one, but there was a small catch of a minimum quantity. At this point I said WTF, yes, yes, whatever! Remember the old saying be careful what you wish for… because a rather cross delivery man showed up at our doorstep huffing and puffing with 25Kg flour!
So yes, we are ready for the extended lockdown until May, have learned to take everything with a grain of salt (yes, we have enough of that too) and massive quantities of humour. It’s that or spiralling into the abyss of anxiety and paranoia! So how are you coping? Support your local farmers who can’t go to weekly markets anymore!