Microsoft and Netflix – sort your screensavers out!

Like Jim Bowen in “Bullseye,” it’s “Look what you could have won,” as vistas of snow capped mountains, sparkling waterfalls and tropical beaches, tease and torment me, at a time when a trip to the butchers is an adventure.

Believe you me, there is no Californian sunshine in Otley at the moment.

It’s grey, drizzling and we’re home schooling.

My eldest daughter’s teacher is losing it on a ‘teams’ meeting with kids more disruptive than blockchain technology, and I’ve just sat through 15 minutes of oboe practice, which makes waterboarding look like a holistic spa treatment.

So, if you want to cheer me up in the morning, lose the Tahitian islands.

Hands up, I might be a bit cranky at the moment.

I’m still ‘dry’ until this Friday, and five weekends without the healing properties of Roku gin, have taken their toll on an otherwise sunny disposition.

During a family outing to the garden centre, to purchase a new terracotta pot for our bay tree, I found myself doing a Victor Meldrew, and debating it’s status as an ‘essential’ retailer.

Tugging my wife at the elbow, I questioned how essential to queen and country is the ready supply of “Mood Snood Lifestyle Bandanas?”

Would the fabric of our society fall apart, should we be denied the tools to cook curry over a Kadai firepit in Winter?

Thankfully, I had a word with myself, and putting my pettiness to one side, got into the spirit of things and started enjoying a brief taste of retail therapy.

I thumbed through cookbooks and tried on a selection of scarves and flat caps, but it was their PPE section and a lilac ‘eco chic’ reusable face cover, that was the highlight of my week.

Freakishly displayed on a head dummy that must have been dug out of a skip, it was bald, the scalp covered in red scratch marks that looked like it had been attacked by a rabid squirrel.

The mask itself was enormous, big enough for a hippopotamus with botoxed lips, with endless swathes of fabric, doubling as a scarf-cum-cravat, possibly even emergency parachute.

My shoulders shaking, I literally cried with laughter – and raising a smile is something that is essential at the moment.

Despite the highly dubious Point Of Sale material, business is clearly brisk for them at the moment, with a rammed car park and long line of ringing tills.

They’ve even upgraded the flooring since my last visit and have introduced complimentary dog biscuits for customer’s canine friends.

If lockdown extends beyond March, there’ll be staff in white jackets handing round canapes and Krug.

After my wife finally choose our pot (people have bought homes in less time) we added three bags of compost, two sacks of firewood, lemon curd, finger puppets, and (naturally) lashings of mood snood lifestyle bandanas to our trolley.

Back at home, I headed indoors, whilst my wife installed our tree, with a tenderness and care that would have Monty Don and David Attenborough nodding with approval.

Shrugging off my deconstructed jacket in a speckled mouline weave by Loro Piana, I reflected on the words of my father, said to me after a delicious ‘prix fixe’ lunch during a family holiday to Valbonne.

“James, the French spend their money on food, the Italians their clothes, and the English, their gardens.”

Looking at my wardrobe, for once he was wrong.

Ciao ragazzi – a presto!