I confess that I’ve not been brave enough to head to The Oracle or any shopping centre since they reopened over a month ago.
It’s not just my cautious nature that’s kept me away.
Lockdown has totally changed my approach to shopping and nothing and no one could persuade me to go to a department store any more.
I’m over them.
This isn’t because I’m worried about the hordes of people browsing for clothes. I just think that the way I’m now living my life has changed.
Not to over romanticise it, and I know all of our lockdown experiences and lessons are totally different, but I’m actually rather pleased with my post-lockdown life.
It’s more considered. It’s slower (which for me is a revelation) and it’s far more local.
Because the one thing I’ve learnt over the last hundred or so days is that I’m lucky to live in such a buzzy little town.
I’ll be honest; I’ve often hankered for the city life I left behind when I moved here 10 years ago.
Flitting from shopping (for something I didn’t need) in a smart department store to a spruce up in a blow-dry bar before heading for (eye-wateringly expensive) drinks at the latest swanky hang out. To all of that I now say “thanks but no thanks”.
Living in a city now terrifies me.
Our town is self-contained and for me it’s got all I could need.
Mask firmly on, I’ve been getting out and about and it’s been really great to see other people braving it out there in the real world too.
When I asked friends and my fellow Gossip Girls, they’ve also been heading out to enjoy our lovely little town.
It’s been so nice to hear that people have been gathering for socially distanced get-togethers at our cute little indie-coffee shops to sipping drinks in the lovely sunshine we’ve been having.
Our small indie-shops coming together to deliver such a great service make me feel very lucky.
Peach Place with its extra tables and chairs has been buzzy and full of ‘responsible’ socialising.
Yes, our new plaza, long-debated and much criticised, is being used and appreciated in the way it was intended; to bring people together. And four months on from that first day
of lockdown, how wonderful has it been to see people In Real Life?
As someone who rarely took the time out of my day to meet with friends because I was ‘too busy’, lockdown has been a wake-up call.
My slower pace of life has made me appreciate people and places in a way I never want to leave behind.
So my first lesson from lockdown has been to think more locally.
I’ve learnt that anything I really want can be bought from one of our local independent shops, small online businesses or market stalls. And failing that, there’s always online.
I know some people will feel differently. But for me, I’m sticking with shopping small and shopping local.
Because if I can support local businesses who desperately need my custom to survive, why wouldn’t I?
Rachel is founder Gossip Girl Gang, a networking group for women in business in and around the borough