Of unfinished business and compulsions

Remember the time I vouched to soldier at my pace and finish the A to Z Blogging Challenge? I couldn’t live up to the promise I made to myself. I procrastinated to the point where returning to this space filled me with regret, annoyance and disappointment. Regret for having given up. Annoyed at my incompetence to complete the challenge. Disappointed at my myself for having neglected my blogging habits once again.

And you know what? It’s OK. At least that’s what I tell myself.

As I grow older, I find myself thinking about what purpose means to me. So far, purpose to me has encompassed challenges, projects, To-Do lists and goals. However, if I’m unable to fulfill these, I am overwhelmed by ennui. I realize that I tend to set targets for my creative pursuits as well. This in turn is ironical as the latter naturally ebb and flow and are highly sensitive to my energy levels and moods.

So why am I fatalistic about them? Come to think of it, this sense of needless urgency to indulge in activities with end-goals is linked to my fear of failure. The failure of living up to standards I’ve set for myself which when otherwise surpassed, serve to activate the reward centre in my brain. My self-talk is demanding, governed by words that signify compulsion. I need to do this. I have to finish this blogging challenge. Add to this, a plate overloaded with unrealistic objectives sprinkled generously with procrastination.

Here’s the catch though. Purpose can be divorced from failure if the former shifts from fruition to learning. For learning implies possibility and the scope to keep moving as far as you would like. Learning releases the clutch of an audience. It is a practice in living. Pleasure serves a purpose too. What if I wrote to merely enjoy the satisfaction of writing? What if I were to read for the joy of reading and to not simply complete a Goodreads Challenge or gain intellectual benefit? Simply put, why can’t my creative pursuits be “goal-less”? What about the pleasure of learning itself as an experience in staying alive?

What I have mentioned so far is Not Easy for someone like me. But I am going to try. And I will aim to keep learning.

This post was not supposed to be about my musings. Anyhow.

Coming back to the A to Z Blogging Challenge that spanned April, the theme I chose was On living alone and discovering adulthood in the midst of a pandemic.

There were a lot of things I had intended to write. But the good news is that the pandemonium pandemic is ongoing with new variants that have joined the party. As for adulthood – it doesn’t end. It appears to stretch on and on.

Oh, and happy 2022.

K and L are for Kenopsia and Loss

My intention while beginning this challenge was to keep my posts upbeat and not dreary. But circumstances dictate one’s mood. Though life in NZ is back to normal, the situation back home appears to deteriorate with each passing day. Emphasizing on how dandy my life is as compared to folks back home seems inconsiderate, heartless almost.

I’ve been encountering this post on Instagram about a word that acutely describes a state of being that falls between depression and contentment – languishing. And I cannot relate more. I don’t have anything in particular that stops me from being satisfied here but there are days such as today when I feel absolutely weighed down by purposelessness and the lack of vigor to tick off all the items on my ToDo list. My work seems to be going OK. I have a cat here for company. But here I am getting sucked into lassitude. I hate it.

To fight this feeling, I immerse myself in a barrage of activities and hobbies that range from making art, playing the guitar and recording music to bouldering and dancing to bhangra music. For the most part, it doesn’t seem like I am resisting a negative emotion – I am truly happy, the cool Auckland breeze blows in my face, the sky is crystal clear and Sid Sriram’s melodious voice fills my ears; kairosclerosis. But happiness and satisfaction are not isolated; they are relative to those around me and away from me miles away.

And so my anxiety returns, fueled by news and visuals of a collapsing health system, citizens at the mercy of an apathetic ruthless state, chaos and grief. My Insta and Twitter feeds have transformed into covid lifelines. Websites and apps have been developed overnight for free, none of which are sanctioned by this government. The news is inescapable. My family placates me by describing all the cautionary measures that are in place at home and how no one ventures out unless absolutely necessary. Their consolation is bittersweet – my folks, having been compelled to stay at home beyond a year are trying to assuage my fears whilst normalcy prevails where I live. My sister has irrevocably lost her final golden year in college. My grandmother fears the outside world. This isn’t to sideline the fact that we are seeped in privilege as compared to the masses. It is indeed a privilege to be safe and sound during these unimaginable times. But are they really safe?

Last year, I used to often think of home and my favourite haunts. On days I was consumed by homesickness, I would miss walking on Salunkhe Vihar Road, meeting friends at Coffee Jar, Pune’s winter breeze, the swanky cantonment road to Camp, and dancing my butt off at Swig. I would crave the smell of filter coffee wafting into my room at 6am, watching KBC with the entire family at dinnertime, shopping with my mother and eating chaat at a roadside stall. Strangely, I’ve noticed a shift in the way I reminisce over the past few months. My longing has been replaced with deep sadness; a sense of kenopsia

n. the eerie, forlorn atmosphere of a place that’s usually bustling with people but is now abandoned and quiet—a school hallway in the evening, an unlit office on a weekend, vacant fairgrounds—an emotional afterimage that makes it seem not just empty but hyper-empty, with a total population in the negative, who are so conspicuously absent they glow like neon signs.

When I left Pune, it was familiar to me. The streets, schools and offices were bustling with activity, masks and social distancing were alien concepts, concerts and music festivals were round the corner, and restaurants and eateries were brimming with people. My city had been fairly resilient, having had its share of epidemics and flu outbreaks, but nothing on the scale of covid. The sheer magnitude of this devastation that may have infiltrated the homes and families of familiar faces is something I cannot fathom, or rather be prepared for. Earlier, my friends had reassured me that nothing had changed but was it pure denial? Denial of the fact that this virus would be inescapable? Denial of inevitable fear and health anxiety? No matter what, my city seems unfamiliar to me, partly due to my long absence and more significantly, due to the pandemic.

Two months into my move to Auckland and a week before an almost worldwide lockdown, I lost my grandfather to cardiac failure. Over time, relief overtook grief because the thought of him languishing amidst covid patients made for terrifying imagery. Such is loss where some of its forms are more tolerable than the rest.

J is for juggling with tasks

Back home, waking up late did not upset my schedule drastically, thanks to uber flexible work hours, domestic help and simply the convenience of living with my parents. I didn’t have to worry about breakfast, or have my lunch prepped or ensure my clothes were laundered in time for Monday. These are banal yet important tasks that will consume time if managing the latter isn’t your forte. And to be honest, it still isn’t.

My fellow bloggers and readers who’ve been faithfully following my posts so far would have noticed by now that I am lagging in this challenge by a week. My initial gusto to write about my experiences in Auckland has fizzled out, and tedium seems to have set in. This is very characteristic of me – I tend to bite off more than I chew. But I also know that if I were to quit the challenge now, my decision will deter me from ever attempting it again in the future. And so I shall soldier on at my pace.

It was easier for me to get through with the A to Z challenge when I didn’t have to manage research, chores and a cat (more of that soon!). In simple words, adulthood did intrude into hours of respite and leisure. And writing isn’t the only thing I enjoy – I juggle with a myriad of hobbies that range from art to bouldering. Was taking up this challenge a bad idea after all?

Here’s to hopefully finishing it on time…

I is for injury and illness

It’s hard to imagine that there existed a time when I could saunter into a public space with sniffles and a nasty cough and not worry about fatally infecting folks around me. It is equally painful to think of the times when falling sick did not bring on a bout of health (read: Covid) anxiety.

I arrived in Auckland a month before the virus gained momentum. I remember feeling sick the night our flight landed. My throat felt terribly sore and I could sense an impending fever. I distinctly remember feeling grateful for to my parents for being around at the time because the idea of being alone and ill terrified me.

Fast forward to two months, I suffered from a sudden bout of stomach flu. One night I came down with low-grade fever and body-ache and my stomach felt like lead. In a state of panic, I googled my symptoms to check whether they matched with those associated with Covid. Despite not finding anything online that confirmed my fears, I couldn’t shake off the feeling that I was an outlier with rare symptoms that advanced gradually. A part of me was convinced that I would be a super-spreader causing a catastrophic outbreak in Auckland.

My health anxiety was assuaged when the university health service staff confirmed that I wouldn’t require a test since I hadn’t traveled overseas over a month. I was prescribed paracetamol. My friends cooked for me. H checked on me from time to time. Despite their kindness, I felt terribly homesick. I had to fix my own cold compress. I had to massage my temples. Sickness didn’t make dirty dishes disappear magically. Being sick as an adult meant your day would progress the way it usually did and it was up to you to handle yourself.

Fortunately, I recovered in two days.

I am prone to getting frequent migraines. In particular, I remember one evening when I came down with the mother of all migraines. It blinded me and made me empty my guts out. I called up my mother and wept. It was the first time I had felt that debilitated in the confines of my room. My mother comforted me and gave me tips to treat my headache.

Whilst I learnt to cope with falling sick to a certain degree, I hadn’t accounted for injuries. Last October, I injured my right wrist in a bout of overconfidence while bouldering. Though the pain radiated through my arm it didn’t feel like a broken wristbone. I shrugged it off as a sprain and borrowed my friend’s wrist brace. However, when the pain didn’t resolve in two weeks I dragged myself to a physiotherapist, once again on my friend’s recommendation. I was diagnosed with a ligament tear that would take over two months to resolve. I had to imprison my right arm in a firmer wrist brace and not exert my wrist in its absence.

I did not realize the extend to which my injury would impede my daily functioning. Not only could I not carry heavy items but also I had to lay off most forms of physical activity besides walking/jogging. My wrist proved to be a big hindrance during our move to the new house. H never complained but I felt guilty watching her carry our boxes. There were days when I fervently wished to go back in time and reverse the mishap. During this entire period, I had biweekly check-ups with the physio to track my recovery combined with light exercises. It was only by the end of January that I was given the go-ahead to resume normalcy. Thankfully, the Kiwi government insures all residents against accidents. I didn’t shell out a penny for my sessions with the physio! Despite this, I realize that I can’t afford to be careless and injure myself again.

All in all, adulthood isn’t always dandy…it’s about being accountable for yourself, both in sickness and in health.

H is for house-hunt

I did not imagine that I would hunt for a house within a year of moving to a new city. Though my previous accommodation provided adequate privacy, comfort and convenience, it was a shoe-box, not to mention being relatively expensive as compared to a shared flat. What bothered me the most was that I had no view of the outside world besides a dreary grey wall that belonged to the neighbouring building and a peek into other vacant studios on my floor.

Once it was understood that H and I would be future flatmates, we began shortlisting rentals on a portal that is popular in NZ. We were considerably excited and relieved at the prospect of living in a new space that would be cheaper, yet have better amenities for example, in-house laundry, a larger refrigerator, an oven etc. You know you’ve hit adulthood when the idea of having your own dishwasher delights you to no end!

I believe the secret to achieving a task with multiple criteria is good old Excel. And a mother who has excellent expertise in Microsoft Office is a bonus as you imbibe her skills over the years by pestering her to help you out with school projects, planners and resumes to which she begrudgingly obliges.

And so H and I made a detailed spreadsheet to pin down all logistics including priority features of our new home. Besides rent, the two criteria that were paramount to us were location and sunlight. Later I add pet-friendliness to the mix which according to me made perfect sense.

It is common practice in NZ to hunt for rentals close to the end of your current lease. But our zeal made us overlook this fact and we ended up doing quite the opposite. There were several disappointing instances when we were politely turned down or watched a broker’s expectant face drop in slow motion. And so it was indeed a sheer stroke of luck when came across a listing that checked all our tick boxes and didn’t have strict deadlines for a lease date.

However, I have come to learn – as many times over in the past – good circumstances seldom come undisguised. Though we celebrated our freshly signed contract agreement over wine and pasta, we were in for a rude shock. The catch in our case was that the previous tenant (who was residing in the flat at the time) could not move out as per schedule due to not-so unprecedented flight cancellations – he was to leave for his home – and had desperately requested the landlord to extend his lease by a few weeks which in turn clashed with our dates.

The sudden turn of events meant we had to prolong our stay at Unilodge which wasn’t free by any means. As is the case in such situations, a flurry of long emails were exchanged between us and the property manager that were mostly heated from my end and apologetic from the other. I was subjected to heavy bargaining that ranged from having our utility bills (electricity and water) being covered for three months to the landlord covering our lease-extension costs. After weeks of debate and stress, H and I settled to an agreement where not only would our Unilodge rent be covered for an extra week, but also another week in the new rental.

The time to move out finally arrived with its share of tiresomeness. Movers were out of question as they charged exorbitant rates. Thanks to a friend, we were able to transport stuff via her car. The sheer number of boxes baffled me – how in the world had I managed to accumulate so many essential items?

But we did it. We found our quaint space. We emptied each box, filled up our kitchen cabinets with spices and utensils, laid fresh duvets and sheets on our beds, organized our wardrobes, vacuumed the carpets, wiped the windows, cleaned the bathroom and had our first meal with satisfaction writ large on our faces.

F and G are for Friendship and Gratitude

While I wouldn’t call myself an out-and-out extrovert, I do like having good company. I like being around folks who are easy-going and unproblematic.

Perhaps one of the aspects of moving out that flooded me with dread was the scenario of not being able to find a reliable circle. At the time, pandemics did not feature in my list of worst-case scenarios. Yet, I opted for an expensive studio instead of a shared flat as the idea of living with a stranger in a new country made me anxious. Little did I know that I was about to meet a motley bunch of strangers at my university accommodation – who like me were in the process of figuring out their new lives – would become my friends for keeps.

The universe has been very kind to me. I keep repeating myself because these scenarios – getting settled fairly soon in a new city, having good coworkers and finding a lovely friend and flatmate – were mostly left to fate. I’d like to think of it as a combination of my privilege, good fortune, as well as the vibes I send out to the universe, sub-consciously. Back in 2019, these were wishful thoughts.

Despite the good stuff that has come my way throughout my life, there has always been a niggling thought – a faint voice – trying to convince me that I am, perhaps, not deserving of these things. I tend to downplay my struggles – three years of having been in limbo, in a job that didn’t completely satisfy me whilst dealing with poor mental health stemming from extreme indecisiveness about my future. I have been afraid of happiness even though I spent a long time chasing it.

Gratitude has become a fixture in my life ever since I moved to Auckland. To have someone who reminds me to carry my house-keys, phone and wallet before leaving the house maybe be a small but a meaningful gesture for which I am immensely thankful. Home isn’t just a place but a potpourri of such gestures that convey intimacy, comfort, warmth and ease.

I assumed I was destined to stay in my shoe-box studio for the entirety of my program until I met H. We have solaced each other since the beginning of our friendship, weathered homesickness and several lockdowns together; there were no doubts regarding sharing a home together.

As much as I wanted to limit interactions with my coworkers to our workspace, it turned out that we did make great buddies. I have learnt a new hobby – bouldering! – courtesy my awesome friend/coach/coworker A. I have had another lovely coworker-now-friend, stitch a Halloween costume for me from scratch. We’ve hung out together, confided in and comforted each other during rough times. I couldn’t have asked for more. I feel overwhelmed at times.

I tell myself that I deserve the good stuff. Cliched as it sounds, everything comes in waves – the great and the ugly – that you gotta ride.

E is for Exercise

It has taken me a while to accept this – I can be a sloth if the situation permits me.

My slothful tendencies were exacerbated by easy accessibility to public utilities and amenities in Pune. The advent of online food takeaway services – aka Swiggy and Zomato – led to my nearly ruinous entanglement with fast food. Running errands were a no-biggie. Out of tomatoes? Saunter to the sabzi mandi down the road and haggle with the vendor. Out of painkillers to treat a migraine? Run to the chemist next-door. Got a craving for Lays Magic Masala chips? Walk to the grocery store behind my apartment complex. But here’s the thing – I barely walked or ran. Good heavens no, I picked up my phone and ordered everything home. You see, unlike a white country, labour is hella inexpensive in India and hence the concept of delivery charges doesn’t exist unless you order takeaways. The charges for the latter are minimal and would hardly pinch your pocket.

So when I moved to Auckland, I wistfully realized that I had to abandon my Swiggy (substituted by Uber-Eats here) tendencies and rely on my culinary skills – that the pandemic (unsurprisingly) helped me hone – to assuage my food cravings. These days ordering takeaways is reserved for PMS bouts, period cramps, once-in-a-while forgetfulness to pack lunch, and an occasional craving that does nonetheless arise.

Not only takeaways but possibly most errands, especially grocery-shopping necessitate walking. Public transport in Auckland, unlike home, is neither convenient nor economical. Back home I would religiously choose Uber and Ola cabs over my own vehicle to commute to work, win several discounts and coupons in return which further fueled my indolence. Notwithstanding the lack of a specific exercise routine, physical activity is inescapable in a country like New Zealand. Run out of milk? Walk to the nearest convenience store. Run out of medicines? Walk to the nearest chemist shop. Run out of vegetables? Walk to Countdown, right up to the vegetable aisle. Craving a burger? Walk to your nearest Macca for a takeaway. In fact, I walk to the university as well. The undulating roads and streets of Auckland closely compete with inclined treadmills and stair-climbers in a fancy gym. Besides, walking makes me rely less on my inconsistent but impulsive ascetic tendency to jump onto workout challenges.

Believe it or not, this city has instilled the joy of walking in me. Headphones check. Playlist check. And I walk, and walk and walk.

D is for discovering a new city

Whilst I spent the first eight years of my life in Bombay, I spent the rest of it – until the age of twenty-six – in Pune. The latter saw me awkwardly transition from a preteen to an under-confident teenager but subsequently step out of it gracefully into my early-twenties. Before Auckland, it is safe to say that I had only known one city to a reasonable extent; reasonable since I only began exploring the city interiors as a graduate student. I am ashamed to confess that I would still require Google Maps to navigate through significant parts of Pune.

My therapist assured me that over time my homesickness would be replaced by appreciation towards Auckland, undoubtedly so as one of my reasons for moving here was the charm it held over me even when I was miles away in my room in Pune filling out doctoral application forms. And boy, she was right.

“this is how I’ll remember the end of my first week alone in a city that is slowly growing on me – the sea, a lovely evening breeze, a smile, my John Mayer tee, Shamoon Ismail and a playlist that seemed to have been made for this place, not to mention meeting a lovely stranger who offered to click my pictures. I feel good!

an excerpt from my caption on Instagram

In my first post, I fleetingly mentioned some of my favourite haunts such as the park with the friendly trees aka Cornwall Park and the Ferry Building. For today’s post, I’ll let my pictures do the talking.

These are a few pictures from an astronomical collection that continues to grow with each passing day.

Bombay watched me grow into a carefree child doted on by her grandparents.

Pune witnessed me brave adolescence – my first bout of period cramps, my first heartbreak, my first panic attack, the grief of losing my grandparents, the heartache associated with losing your loved ones to distance or/and irreconcilable differences – and my metamorphosis into an anxious young adult who found love by serendipity , a post-grad degree (in a course she truly enjoyed) and her first job unexpectedly. Pune watched me endure a flurry of disappointing circumstances coupled with the intense anxiety of having overstayed in one place for too long. Finally, she watched me arrive at a solution – the resolve to leave the comforts of a home life and carve a new one for myself.

Auckland observes me navigate adulthood, easing me into it with her quiet charm.

C: Cleaning and Cooking amidst Covid

I have always considered myself to be a person to whom statistically improbable but optimistic things happen. Like the time I absentmindedly dropped my college backpack – containing priced possessions such as my science journal and my newly made driving license – from my moped at the petrol pump, realized it too late yet managed to recover it by the end of the day, thanks to a good Samaritan. Or the time I almost forgot my fairly new smartphone in a Swiss train that was about to pull out of the station, but fortunately managed to retrieve it by signalling frantically to the guard who had the sagacity and generosity to let me into the coach. Or quite recently, when my flatmate and I forgot our house-keys and had the building staff unlock the door to our flat within which our foster cat – that had no business being there owing to strict building regulations – went unnoticed.

And so it came as a mild surprise to me when I realized that I had indeed escaped a pandemic – the phrase sounding tad unfamiliar as I mouthed them – since it can be safely concluded that this country has, in fact, done a commendable job of managing the first wave of Covid-19. Whilst we have had our fair share of lockdowns, the impact of the virus has been lessened by rigorous testing and aggressive contact-tracing methods employed by the government. I am grateful and I mean it sincerely, with every bone in my body.

Barely had I begun to get over my homesickness and explore the city when the first lockdown struck. Fortunately by then, I had found myself a small circle of friends within Unilodge (the university accommodation) and we stuck by each other through thick and thin. Besides sharing our meals and playing board games together, I spent the remainder of my time juggling work-from-home (nope and nope) and cleaning. Yes. I realized that I am indeed my father’s daughter and hence, a self-certified neat-freak. To top that, my favourite childhood game – kitchen-kitchen – began to acquire a real touch with each passing day as I began to sharpen my culinary skills.

My first tryst with deep-cleaning occurred when I realized in dismay that the minuscule freezer in my mini fridge was prone to heavy frosting. As a result, the fridge door wouldn’t shut and upon consulting the reception staff, I was advised to defrost the freezer. Now, I hadn’t prepared myself for the copious amount of icy water that is a by-product of the process. Don’t panic – I told myself and began to assiduously wipe off the water that had pooled in and around my fridge. I also owe to my old friend from Toronto, who gave me company through a video-call whilst I grumbled my way through the task.

My cleaning regime, quite naturally, also involves vacuuming carpets – an activity that makes me groan at first but immensely satisfies me with its results. The vacuum-cleaner at Unilodge was an annoyingly heavy entity that had to be lugged from another floor into my studio. But now we have a lighter and more convenient version of the same that makes me groan less.

Moving on to my experiments with food- I’ve become quite the meat consumer now as vegetarian cooking tends to be limited by a bleak but pricey selection of vegetables, especially in winters. Plus, there’s a thrill in exploring cuisines that had been denied to me back home due to kitchen restrictions. Perhaps, the most exciting thing that I learnt to cook first (meat-wise) was chicken curry, thanks to my enterprising coworker and friend (if you are reading this, here’s a shoutout!)

Chicken curry – first attempts

However, comfort food is not replaceable; for example, sambaar and curd rice, khichdi, roti-sabzi and dosas.

The first weeks of being alone in a new country may have been daunting but I always did keep faith in my ability to cook for survival. There were instances of impulsive shopping and food spoilage but over time I devised weekly meal plans and menus to prioritize ingredients as per needs instead of wants. Here’s how I began –

My food ordering habits have drastically reduced. I would call myself a lazy chef at times but a good one alright. The best part about cooking is sharing what you’ve cooked with your loved ones. Though I didn’t mind dining alone, my motivation to cook did waver. Ironically, the lockdown reversed this for me. It brought my current flatmate/friend and I closer, and we began to share our meals on a daily basis which in turn helped us to economize. My friend is a fantastic cook – lucky me! This mouth watering spread has been brought you be us –

B is for buying groceries

Now it may seem like I have been spoilt rotten by my parents or led a bougie lifestyle up until I moved here – this is partially true – but I found it overwhelming to aisle-shop or go to huge supermarkets or departmental stores on my own during my first week in Auckland.

Back home, the most economical way to shop for produce is to walk down to your nearest street-side vendors – sabzi mandis – with their huge carts displaying arrays of vegetables and fruits. “Bhaiya aadha kilo tamatar ka kitna hua?” which translates to “Brother, how much does half a kilogram of tomatoes cost? If you were good at bargaining, chances were you would come home with a good haul.

If you were lost in a supermarket back home or were unable to find an item of your choice, immediate help would be assured. You could ask a fellow shopper – “Excuse me, do you know where the paneer section is?” – and in all probability they would know. To top this, you would always have an over-eager shop assistant hovering over you at any store.

In my case, my parents have kept up with the times and transitioned to online shopping. My working mother orders almost everything, including perishables, from Big Basket – an online grocery shopping platform in India. To me this translated to lesser errands and greater screen time.

Fast-forward to my foray into adulthood where the mere thought of walking into Countdown, the local NZ supermarket, flooded me with anxiety. I had to forgo the comfort of mandis to further my research endeavour in a first-world country. In the months leading up to my departure, I had YouTubed tutorials for using self-checkout machines. My worst case scenarios featured shoppers in queue, impatiently watching me fumble with the options – I imagined there to be several – on these machines and flustered cashiers giving up on me as I struggled to swipe my card. Grocery shopping, in my head, appeared to be an intimidating activity. Whilst online shopping was an option, the overall cost including the delivery overheads would easily deplete a poor student of their savings over time.

Whilst my worst fears did not thankfully manifest, I did have a rough time navigating through the aisles. Common sense deserted me and instead of noticing the information displayed for each aisle, I ran around like a headless chicken, desperately looking for the items on my grocery list. Towards the end I was almost in tears as all that remained on my list were paneer and frozen peas. It seemed as though the staff had been swallowed by this gargantuan supermarket – it took me over twenty minutes to locate an assistant! The rest of my stint at Countdown went down without any further incident. I sensibly stayed away from the self-checkout machines, and tried to appear relaxed before the cashier who was quite friendly. Finally, I clumsily packed my purchases in a bag and raced out of the doors.

Fortunately, I had bounced back by the next round of grocery shopping. Armed with a more efficient list, I marched confidently through the aisles of Countdown – which seemed a tad familiar – keeping my eyes peeled for the ingredients I required. At the end of it, I casually walked over to the self-checkout machine and breezed through the whole process. It wasn’t as complicated as I thought it would be. The words that reassured me throughout this trip were – as Ford Prefect had put it – don’t panic.