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Alison Ritchie

Ambient Grocery Colleague, Asda Ashington

I’ve worked for Asda in Ashington for twelve years now. I stack shelves and keep stock out on the shop floor.

Before lockdown I was doing eighteen hours a week but that more than doubled in the first few weeks of lockdown. It was chaotic on the shop floor with all the shoppers trying to get hold of stuff, but it was very calm behind the scenes.

Everything happened so fast and it was literally all hands-on-deck to get the stock off the lorry and straight onto the shop floor. The store manager helped us fill shelves – tins, toilet rolls, pasta – you just couldn’t get it our quick enough. That’s what I enjoyed the most – just the sense of everyone pulling together and you just got on with it. It was very surreal sometimes, just walking down an empty aisle – and it was sad as well because you were thinking ‘this shouldn’t be happening’.

Gradually more and more people weren’t able to carry on as they had to shield, and other people took on those hours. I did extra and the first few weeks were quite stressful juggling everything with the kids at home, but we got through it. I’m proud of the way that everybody at work just kept going, because it would have been easy to say ‘it’s only a part time job I’m not going to do it’, or ‘I’m going to stay at home’. It was quite scary at the start because no-one knew what was happening, but as soon as you got to work it was calm, and personally I really appreciated that, so I was happy to do extra shifts. I think I’ve got a lot more respect for my colleagues because of how calm everyone was, and how they just carried on.

Stacking shelves isn’t a job that everybody necessarily appreciated before, but I think that’s changed a little bit now. It made people realise how important some jobs are that you wouldn’t think about normally.

I live with my husband and my 8-year-old twin girls. We’ve got a dog, two cats a hamster and a fish. During lockdown we spent a lot of time outdoors, so the girls were on the trampoline and we did a lot of walking the dog. And we had a lot of late-night trips to the beach when no one else was around. I like running and I think I’d have gone crazy if I hadn’t done that. And the kids did a lot of art for the windows.

I think it helped my own mental health being able to go to work. I needed it and for me I was really grateful I could keep going. I’m proud to a certain extent, I wasn’t saving anyone’s life, but people needed to do the job I was doing, so you do sort of feel proud. And it was thankfulness and relief as well, because so many people have lost their jobs or income.