It’s a given that actions speak louder than words. Yet, presently, we are seeing few palatable actions, but plenty of words from a dazzling array of businesses whenever the subject of Covid rears its incessant head.

Being advised, nay, directed, to ‘stay safe’ and never ending platitudes as to what we, as a collective, can and must ‘do’, start to wear a little thin when we scratch beneath the surface and see that their soundbites are little more than the emperor’s new clothes.

Companies continue to virtue signal, taking the Government's at best shoddy advice regarding ‘safety’ and translating it badly. Its akin to taking a Spanish phrase book to France and thinking by the grace of god you will somehow manage to order a crate of San Miguel from the local boulangerie.

I popped into one of the big boy supermarkets last night and wore, as directed/advised/ordered (delete as applicable), one of the cheap face ‘coverings’ (they are such poor quality even the manufacturers and resellers have stopped hyping them up as masks). I entered the store past two workers, literally standing on top of each other, neither wearing a mask, as they checked to see if I was suitably attired.

Upon entry, I was faced with the relentless ‘we are doing everything in our power to ensure you say safe’ message, which was relayed every couple of minutes as a modern-day form of water torture commenced. I soon became envious of the non-masked two, outside of sound's reach, as the message played and over and again on loop, leaving me contemplating hari-kari. Walking around the aisles, none of the staff were masked and then, after moving left and right and left again to avoid other humans, coupled with the tiresome ‘shall we dance?’ comment, I reached the checkout.

Now, doing ‘everything in their power’ apparently does not extend to opening up more than one till, as you are forced to undertake unpaid labour and touch smudged touch screens, as you begrudgingly aim to get one of those pesky self service machines to not only work as they are designed to do, but to somehow balance 65 quid’s worth of shopping in an area the size of a postage stamp that is more sensitive to weight than a supermodel.

Most stores and outlets are now making the ‘experience’ of shopping so unpleasant that its no wonder that Jeff Bezos is fast becoming the modern-day Rockefeller. Despite now dumping your goods on the doorstep and then doing a runner, Amazon does what it says on the tin and beats the alternative hands down.

The lunacy extends to toilets: they tout ‘social distancing measures’ for ‘all of our safety’ and then proceed to tape off two thirds of all urinals and leave one closet in which to relieve yourself, thus magnifying the risk of spreading disease as we all clutch at the same door handle and facilities on offer.

Go in a pub and its ‘not safe’ to order from the bar, but it is safe to sit around tables, unmasked, as we take the glasses off the trays (safe) for the bar tender (unsafe) before the bar staff then collect the ‘spoiled glasses’ they weren’t able to handle twenty minutes earlier (now safe).

A DIY store herds customers into small, confined queue spaces as its not ‘safe’ to have more than 20 persons in store as we start to lose the will to live and resign ourselves to the fact that Bezos is truly the king of the social distance.

I had a physio appointment recently. The face to face was cancelled and it was redefined as a ‘telephone consultation’. Despite a less than pleasant chat as I struggled through back pain to ask if I could see a human being to inspect the damage and offer some respite, the physio gleefully told me that the appointment had now been ‘fulfilled’ as a precursor to a follow up appointment in six months, no doubt allowing him to tick a box to claim that treatment has been ongoing in these ‘trying times’. It’s farcical at best.

Yes, measures are needed, but whoever is putting these plans into action at businesses, both public and private, the length and breath of the country are doing little but patronising those of us old enough to know better.

I personally would be more likely to shop regularly in supermarkets if they stopped the virtue signalling and took a commercial truth serum: "Good afternoon. We are trying to put across the image of keeping you all safe, but the truth is it’s the bottom line that counts, and we’d prefer to have you self-serve as it saves us money and allows for more profit to be shared as dividends amongst shareholders.

"Our staff won't wear masks as they are uncomfortable and sweaty, but we politely ask you just go with it like sheep, as we issue relentless loudspeaker soundbites every two minutes during your visit today. Enjoy your shop as we continue to help you live well with stress..."

  • Brett Ellis is a teacher