My resilient Catholic constitution is keeping Covid away - isn’t it?

The return of Covid to the O’Kane household gives Jake the opportunity to conduct some market research into rival supermarkets...

Jake O'Kane

Jake O'Kane

Jake is a comic, columnist and contrarian.

Thousands of people will be invited to take lateral flow tests every week as part of a new study of Covid-19 infection levels (Jane Barlow/PA)
Covid made a return to Jake's family, casting him into an unfamiliar world of supermarket aisles and checkouts

The dreaded Covid made a return visit to the O’Kane household, having laid my wife low for the past week. I’ve so far remained unaffected, something I put down to my more resilient Catholic constitution. My wife, however, believes it’s due to my getting a Covid booster jab a few months ago.

Whatever the truth, the last few days have been educational in terms of the amount of running around she does in comparison to me, with innumerable trips with children to both school and extracurricular activities.

Then there’s the shopping, a daunting task for someone who hadn’t visited a supermarket since the last time she had Covid. It felt like I’d pushed the shopping trolley halfway to Dublin as I traipsed along aisles looking for specific varieties of frozen chips and weird vegetables such as spinach. While a favourite of my son, there was no spinach when I was growing up: spuds, beans and cabbage were the regular vegetables on our table, with spinach the domain of Popeye.

On my travels, I was struck by the multiplicity of the same products. I wonder if we really need 10 varieties of washing up liquid or detergent, and since when did pet food get its own aisle?

I also noticed how distinct the clientele was in the different supermarkets. You could spot this even before you entered by the cars parked outside. Inside Marks & Spencer, shoppers seemed more interested in quality than price; I stopped counting when I reached 10 different varieties of herbal teas.

While a favourite of my son, there was no spinach when I was growing up: spuds, beans and cabbage were the regular vegetables on our table, with spinach the domain of Popeye

Not that the gentility of M&S can’t be ruptured, as I witnessed many Christmases ago visiting its big food hall in Belfast. The place was seething with what appeared to be all the residents of south Belfast determined to purchase the last exotic condiment for their festive table.

I witnessed two very well-dressed middle-aged ‘ladies’ in a tug of war over one of the last remaining turkeys. Such was the ferocity of their disagreement that security had to be called to split them up, as a third lurking lady swooped during the commotion to claim the contested bird.

Watching customers almost coming to blows over turkeys was just one of the highlights of Jake's shopping sprees (Drazen Zigic/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Tesco remains top of the food chain when it comes to food chains operating a policy of discounting prices. Their automated check-out system, however, proved too much for me, necessitating multiple trips by a young girl waving a magic fob in front of my screen. She eventually decided it best to swipe what was remaining in my basket: maybe if we all did similar, they’d bring back normal check outs?

I didn’t make it to Asda but I did visit Lidl, which they annoyingly continue to mispronounce ‘Leedl’ on their television adverts. I have to say I couldn’t distinguish any difference in the quality of products on offer; indeed, their choice of gluten free offerings was decent. Most supermarkets reduce their gluten free options around Christmas, filling up shelves with seasonal produce. I’d love to know what they expect those of us with dietary intolerances should do, eat grass?

Thankfully my wife has recovered from the plague, and I’ve discovered that any input of mine around the home remains minimal in comparison to hers. The disparity in the division of labour domestically may have shrunk but it most certainly hasn’t disappeared.

In my defence, I do a lot more cleaning than most men due mainly to my OCD tendencies, and all outside work in the garden is solely my domain. Still, I won’t miss my shopping trips or taxi trips or fighting with computers at check out.

Another distinct change I’ve noticed this year is the number of products not shopped for but delivered to. The incremental slide towards online shopping has become the norm with most Christmas gifts in our home coming via Amazon or the like.

This is not good as the impact on local shops and the local economy will be profound if the shift to online shopping continues. I will try to remedy this going forward as, unless we use local businesses, we will lose them. With the head of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, the third richest man in the world, he won’t miss the few pounds coming from us, but our local businesses will.

And if you’re wondering what to buy the richest men in the world for Christmas, I have the answer: rocket ships. The likes of Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Richard Branson just love playing with their rockets.

Wishing you, and your families, a happy Christmas.