It felt as if someone was going to tell us on April 1st that this was indeed all a joke. Sadly the opposite happened. It isn’t a joke and nobody could really be bothered to play any pranks on anyone given the global environment of sad news, more cancellations of culture and sport and daily reminders of spiralling and sickening statistics.
We have been in France for 18 months now and its really only been the last 3 weeks where we have felt if not homesick then just a long way from home. A 90 minute Ryanair flight to Stansted seems a world away and I doubt it will be €9.99 when they restart the service..£350 one way from Toulouse is the best you can find at the moment
The first winter was a sea of gilet jaunes all protesting on roundabouts about the social, cultural and financial distance between urban and rural France. Well now we are all at a social distance and the nationwide protests by workers all over the country about spending more time at home in their 60s have indeed come to fruition. One Monday night in March their President came onto national TV in front of an audience of 35 million people and said Stay at Home…And if you don’t stay at home we will fine you! Surely this must have been very confusing to the protesting masses who just weeks before had been demanding that they stay at home and be paid for it. Now their wishes have come true!
Overall the French have been totally respectful of the personal responsibility to stay at home and by doing so save lives. There is talk of a slight relaxation in the regulations, at least for rural parts of the country such as ours which have had relatively few cases. It will be a difficult relaxation to police but at least it would be a lifeline for the many small businesses that rely on small but regular expenditure. The supermarkets will be fine you assume – it’s more the corner shops, the DIY stores and the many small businesses such as builders and artisans who have put everything on hold for 3 weeks. We were making great progress on our own renovation and now have the perfect excuse to do nothing as all the DIY stores are firmly shut. We are allowed to go into Bergerac (our nearest big-ish town) on the basis that our local supermarket doesn’t stock everything and is probably slightly pricey compared to the bigger supermarkets. I never ever thought I would be so excited about making a trip to Bergerac but we have just done so taking our time to meander along the back roads and enjoy the empty countryside. The supermarket was very quiet and respectful and very well stocked. it seemed like everyone was intent on getting in getting out and getting home. Still, how we managed to spend €300 is beyond me! Hopefully that will last us until towards the end of the month but after a visit to the sparse local market already this morning its been an expensive day.
We now have a system of downloading a form online that you duly fill in with your personal details and reason for your excursion, obtain a QR code and then you are free to go. The police can then scan the QR code to confirm what time you left home. Very clever and comes just as we are running low on printer ink. Meanwhile dreams turn towards what to do post lockdown or where to travel to. I quite fancy sitting on the top deck of a London bus cruising around the city and getting off for a beer or a bowl of noodles depending on the neighbourhood. We watched a film called Tully the other night (Charlize Theron) and it was astonishing to see her visit crowded noisy bars with people drinking and loud music playing. That all seems a distant dream right now.
So here are a few places I would like to visit ‘on the other side’ of lockdown. Apart from (1) no order of priority:
- London – the aforementioned bus trip but mainly to see our children, family and friends and stay at The Beaumont Hotel – probably the coolest hotel in town but closed for the time being
- Paris – just to walk and eat and drink and look and feel.
- Anywhere on my motorbike for a day, preferably more
- Walking in the Pyrenees followed by anywhere in northern Spain to enjoy their tapas and Rioja and support Spain
- Ditto Italy
- Our local bar
- The biggest and nearest and noisiest sports event – preferably rugby in Toulouse or Brive;
- The biggest and nearest and noisiest concert
Stay well. Stay healthy and stay home!