Place mats are not in short supply, but face masks certainly are. There are none in John Lewis. More surprisingly, there are none in the big Boots opposite. "We've sold out. Everything's gone," says an assistant. "Masks, Tamiflu, everything. We're advising people to wash their hands well and use hand gel."
Around the corner, at the Wigmore Pharmacy in Wimpole Street, two young men in the queue are also trying to get some Tamiflu. "Sorry," says the pharmacist. "It's all gone and you won't get any without a prescription. The government has taken control of the supplies."
One of the men is Slovenian, the other Mexican. Why do they want the drug? They are here on holiday and are trying to buy some for the Mexican man's parents back in Veracruz, and for a friend who works in a children's hospital in Mexico City. Most Mexican medical personnel, they say, have been given flu prevention treatments, but he hasn't managed to get any. "It could be life-threatening," says the Slovenian, "and we'll do anything we can to help."
But they're out of luck. Even masks are running short. At first, she says all the boxes they have left are reserved, but then she finds three boxes of Henry Schein earloop procedure masks - a snip at £7.50 for 50. "It's only money, after all," as the Slovenian had said sagely. At the Medical Express walk-in clinic in Harley Street a receptionist says she can give out prescriptions for Tamiflu but cautions that they will be no use: "Everyone has run out." So how on earth do you get it? The government's latest advice - which is flu-inducingly vague - says "local healthcare services" are making them "available to those who need them".
Next stop the Mexican embassy in Hanover Square, just south of Oxford Circus, located courtesy of a friendly cabbie. Is he worried by the pandemic? "I've got 27 jokes on my phone that friends have sent me," he says. Most of them I have already heard: "I phoned the swine flu helpline, but all I got was crackling." "Catch it and you come out in a rasher." "Try oinkment" ... "It's a major snoutbreak" ... The jokes are not very good. But they are oddly reassuring: we will not be easily panicked.
"I don't think people in the UK will start worrying about swine flu until someone here drops dead," says the cabbie. "They're more worried about losing their jobs."
The Mexican embassy looks closed, and there is no queue of people trying to get a visa. But nor is there any sign of panic. In the Masons Arms, around the corner from the embassy, life goes on. Are you anxious, I ask Rob Goodall, who is having a lunchtime pint? "Not at all," he says. "There's more chance of me stepping outside and getting run over." The sheer good sense of the British public is what emerges from this entirely unscientific survey.
People are cautious, fretful enough to exhaust stocks of Tamiflu and even the largely useless face masks, but not yet panic-stricken. On the Victoria line from Oxford Circus to King's Cross, a man says the £7.50 masks won't work - "Have you ever used them to do DIY - they never stop the dust" - and adds with a laugh: "It's like a Monty Python sketch ... It's a major epidemic and there's no cure, but don't panic!"
The spirit of the Blitz lives on.