Rebecca Armstrong: I've never been to a supermarket so often in one week


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I went to the shop and I bought ...

Anadin, bananas, coffee, disposable razors, Evian, fruit smoothies, grapes, hand cream, ice cream for my nephew, junk food, a KitKat, lots of tea bags, magazines, newspapers, omelette ingredients, pay-and-display tickets. It sounds like the game you play on long car journeys but it's actually just some of the stuff I've purchased in the past week since racing to my in-laws' house after one of them was taken seriously ill and rushed to hospital.

If going through what I've been buying sounds heartless, I don't mean it to - it's just that sitting in the visitors' room outside intensive care for hours gives you time to think about life, the universe, everything - and shopping lists are a welcome distraction from big, scary thoughts. There's nothing to do except wait, fret, wait, fret ...

That's when sweets, hot drinks and magazines help, not just consuming them but going to find them. I have never been to the supermarket so many times in one week but thank God there's a mega-Sainsbury's near the hospital. It has meant that there is somewhere to go for half-an-hour a day and feel useful, buying something for dinner so my mother-in-law can keep her strength up, sourcing spare socks and shampoo because my husband and I left London in such a hurry, meaning our packing left a lot (underwear, toiletries ...) to be desired, picking up some fruit so the entire family doesn't eat its collective bodyweight in chocolate. By walking to the supermarket, it means we can't buy more supplies than we can carry, giving us a reason to go foraging the next day.

Normal service has been suspended while we wait for the doctor to bring news, life has slowed down and spending on meals on the run, hospital car parks and soft drinks is up. Some things haven't changed though - my brother-in-law is still taking the mickey out of me (Fraser, if the hospital sold maps I WOULD buy one, just to stop you cackling at my non-existent sense of direction every time we leave intensive care).

Fingers (toes, arms, legs) crossed, the worst has passed. Hopefully, my father-in-law will soon be well enough to be the one wanting magazines, newspapers, grapes and sweets to help pass the time, and we can be left to turn our attention to buying things to make him, rather than ourselves, feel better.

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