Can we please,” said my brother yesterday morning, “talk about something other than coronavirus?” So we talked about eggs. Soft-boiled eggs, hard-boiled eggs, scrambled eggs – and where in the whole of London we could find the city’s last carton of precious, best-laid eggs.
“Got any eggs?” were my husband’s first words when he rang his parents yesterday. Not an egg to be had in all of Berkshire. Two girlfriends, one pregnant, one breastfeeding, both depleted, tell of kind neighbours leaving bubble-wrapped eggs on the doorstep.
I am kicking myself for not buying the only option left on the shelves in Waitrose on Friday: a single packet of quail’s eggs. It felt a bit Marie Antoinette-ish in the face of a global pandemic. My editor reports a similar dilemma faced by her uncle at Portobello Market: duck eggs or bust. On Saturday morning, after a fruitless – or should that be yolkless? – search of six shops, I came home with a bottle of Fairy Liquid and a bunch of hyacinths. Very cheering, but not much cop on toast. Hen’s eggs have become as rare as hen’s teeth.
Who bought all the eggs? Who on Sunday morning sat down to a five-egg frittata? Who is broodily clucking over their hoard while the rest of us go without?
I’m still horrified by a conversation three years ago with my driving instructor about his diet. Each morning, he boiled six eggs, cut them in half, scooped out and threw away the yolks, and ate the whites. It was appalling then, unforgivable now.
After a week without omelettes, some are panic-buying bantams. (Insert joke about headless chickens here.) Poultry breeders report soaring sales. Rosehill Hatchery in Hanningfield, Essex, sold 300 hens in just two days. On Thursday, it shut up coop. Sales of the “Eglu” – a chicken igloo – are up 66 per cent in Europe and the US. Looking out at the fire escape, six floors up in central London, I wonder whether it is practical to recreate The Good Life in Paddington. Perhaps not.
May the nation’s Leghorns, Orpingtons and Lincolnshire Buffs rise to the occasion. Girls, get laying! Your country urgently, hungrily needs you.
Talking of girls cooped up together, the BBC is to bring forward its adaptation of Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers boarding school books to entertain children starting what promises to be a very long Easter holiday. Raise your lacrosse sticks in a sabre arch, here come Darrell, Sally, Alicia, Gwendoline, Mary-Lou and Mam’zelle Dupont the French mistress.
The BBC is billing the series as a tale of female empowerment (golly) and not, as I had hitherto thought, an innocent celebration of bagsied desks, beastly tricks, dormy games and saggy swimsuits. What would the BBC producers think of my childhood spent playing First Term At Mallory Towers with pneumatic Barbie dolls cast as the “feminist role models” Darrell, Sally and Mary-Lou? (I wasn’t the wokest of six-year-olds.)
Still, the resolute jolliness of the North Tower girls could prove an inspiration in these anxious times. Anyone caught moping about loo roll, cancelled flights or cabin fever should be silenced with a rousing: “Cheer up, Gwendoline!” And all stockpilers are to be immediately punished with lashings of extra prep.