The law of the jungle kicked in during my festive frenzy in the food shops, which made me do something very strange.
I was rummaging in a panic through stacks of trifles and fancy cakes at Marks and Spencer’s food hall. It was early, but I wanted to stay ahead of the impending stampede.
At this point I was not trying to actually buy something; I was attempting to hide it instead. I pushed a posh box of macarons into a different position at the back of a shelf so no one else could see them – or buy them potentially.
It was a primeval impulse, you see: my competitive instincts were rooted in a dark forest or cave from ancient times. It was the equivalent of burying 16 luxury macarons in the ground so they would keep me alive when I returned to dig them up. It was very naughty of me, but there was method in my madness: I had talked myself into it on food hygiene grounds.
All the guile of a circling fox
I pushed the box out of sight in its food chiller as if it was my own personal storage space while I went off on other pressing errands. It meant the gooey, meringue-style cookies would still be available and in pristine condition on my return. Much better than melting in my bag as I shopped elsewhere.
On returning to my safe haven with all the guile of a circling fox, I had been rumbled. A super-efficient M&S staff member had come along and restored the line-up of macarons with military precision – and that odd box hiding at the rear was back on parade.
After some crafty faffing about my clumsy macaron masterplan failed, but I grabbed a box anyway because they were not a target for panic buyers after all.
I wondered if I was spotted by security and an alert went out about “a suspicious man doing something odd with his macarons” at the end of an aisle. Maybe I should offer myself as a case study for psychology students.
Eat venison or starve?
While at M&S I meant to check the price of venison after reading something in the P&J, but forgot. Apparently, some people are not allowed to eat venison or grouse even when it is free. North-east estates trying to feed impoverished people with charity food donations have run into controversy.
It sounds incredible in these harsh times, but one charity has been put off by a campaign against the estates. The project appears to be all above board, so why meddle when people are in need? I would scoff venison without a second thought if it saved my family from going short.
But what right have I to fret about a £10 box of luxury macarons when others cannot put food on the table?
The venison episode made me wonder how far people could slide down this lockdown abyss yet still cling on. I found out while walking into an Aberdeen supermarket as Tier 4 started.
Two beggars were sitting about 12 feet apart at the entrance, in a biting cold wind with their backs propped against metal posts. One was female, the other male. I recognised the gaunt-looking man as a regular around town, but I had never seen the woman before. There was friction as they competed for coins – a turf war over who had the most right to be here – and they were shouting at each other. Only the woman beggar’s eyes and nose were visible as she tried to keep out the cold under layers of clothes.
Debatable moral high ground
Suddenly she spat back at him: “You’re only here to find money for crack, I’m paying the electric.”
Based on that exchange who had the moral high ground?
We might naturally feel drawn towards the woman if she was trying to keep her kids warm and fed, but are there not energy company support schemes to avoid cutting off those in dire straits? Instinctively, we might wash our hands of someone begging for crack cocaine, but if the man was drugs dependent was he not the one more at risk through lack of support?
We know this as Nicola Sturgeon leads the worst administration in Europe for drugs deaths.
I shivered, pulled my padded coat close around my neck and moved away from the begging war as their jibes faded on the wind.
The temperature was hovering just above freezing as they huddled there; I didn’t think their ragged clothes would keep the cold out.
David Knight is the long-serving former deputy editor of the Press and Journal