About a week ago we arrived home from the Austrian and French Alps. Little did we know it would be the last trip we would undertake for some time. President Macron went on TV that Monday night and told all French citizens to stay home. Crikey, it seems an age ago. Since then equally draconian measures have been rolled out in other countries and even laissez faire Britain (they dont have a word for it) has started to curb social movement and activity. Mind you I dont think the pubs have been closed down in the UK since the plague 500 years ago so that in itself is as big a step as making it illegal to go out.
Here in the Dordogne we dutifully fill in our forms for every trip to the shops or a dog walk. Apart from filling in the form nothing much has changed in our lives really as that’s sort of what we do most days. Except it isn’t really because you can always choose to mix it up and now you can’t. New, tighter restrictions mean that we now have to put down the time we leave the house as you are only allowed out for an hour at a time – or face a first fine of €135 rising to many thousands of euros and even time in prison. The local Bergerac jail is soon going to be full of very old British ladies who forgot to fill in their ‘déplacement’ forms. And yet in a funny sort of a way you get used to it rather quickly – no other choice really and if you are going to be confined anywhere well this isn’t too bad a place to be. We may even go camping in the (our) woods later in the week just for a change of scenery and not many people can do that. As we went to the supermarket on the motorbike today (car had a flat battery or the wrong paperwork, not sure which) we decided to take the scenic route home and did a 45 minute detour through the empty French countryside. It felt wonderfully exhilarating and a reminder of what we will have to look forward to when Covid retreats.
For now it’s a scramble to find out what is happening in France as that affects us more directly and immediately. We trawl the web to see what if any updates are available only to find out that many measures are often decided at a local level ie potential curfews, open air markets. A whacky French travel writer recently proclaimed that France is indeed paradise but that all its inhabitants think they live in hell! His words seem to have a meaningful echo about them now. Gilet jaunes and pension reform strikes seem a long log time ago and have been replaced by a greater enemy. Living in a vacuum isn’t easy as I learnt at the age of 18 reading Jean Paul Sartre and works such as Huis Clos which outlined his existentialist theory that we are as people see us. It’s just that no-one sees us any more so our actions don’t seem to be defined as easily as they once were. So we have to embrace the array of wonderful communication technology at our fingertips and have video calls, lots of them. They’re free and so is everybody. Call that client because he can’t be in a meeting and he definitely isn’t travelling. Call your friends and family because they are all sitting at home, unless like my daughter they are in the NHS or equivalent around the world and they need our support more than anyone right now.
It’s weird that I still look at the sports pages even thought there is no sport. It’s more to see what is the next big sporting event to be cancelled and the Olympics has just joined that list. For many sportspeople this hiatus is devastating. They don’t all earn millions – that’s just the very top 5%. Golfers, tennis players, rugby players – many of them barely scrape a living just doing the thing they love. On that note let’s spare a quiet moment for Serena Williams. Unlike Zlatan Ibrahomovic who has famously said ‘If virus doesn’t come to Zlatan then Zlatan must come to virus!’ Dont you love that..that’s why we read the sports pages. But back to Serena who is finding the whole social distancing thing really stressful and anxious. Poor Serena. After 20 years on the tennis treadmill and with a daughter at home you would think this could be a well earned break. Sadly not. It’s all too difficult for Serena and she is getting anxious with everyone – as Naomi Osaka and many tennis umpires have witnessed first hand; it’s not a good look. So spare a thought for Serena who perhaps ought to be using her fame, considerable fortune and following on advising the rest of us on how to deal with life’s challenges not whingeing about the shops being shut. Never mind Serena. What about the Bayern Munich players who have donated millions to finding a solution in Germany. And Zlatan. And Pep Guardiola. And the football clubs in Britain who are donating to food banks and paying their Saturday employees in the absence of any matches being played. This is why we love sport, because mainly it creates good, generous, competitive human beings who are in touch with the people that made them famous in the first place and can’t wait to see them in action again.