As a little pitcher with big ears eavesdropping on adult conversations, I would occasionally catch the word “confinement” in hushed tones from my mother and her friends as they discussed Mrs So-and-So’s “interesting condition”. Sooner or later, Mrs So-and-So would emerge from her confinement with a new-born baby.
Now, since Tuesday of last week, M. Macron has put everyone in France into “confinement” of a different kind and it will be interesting to see what kind of new-born society emerges from it. Everyone is now confined to home and only allowed out armed with a permit form that can be downloaded from the government website, explaining who we are and what is the purpose of our excursion; a new attestation is needed for each outing, and failure to show it results in a hefty fine of 375 euros. Apparently that isn’t enough to deter some people, but the fines being collected may to some extent go towards funding the compensations the State has promised to fork out for those unable to earn their living as usual. The economic repercussions of this confinement will be revealed in time: in spite of the great downturn, some branches must be making quite a large profit from the situation.
Of course, France isn’t the only country imposing a lockdown, though it is rather more drastic here. My daughter and I are prepared to stay here for several weeks at least. I’m not complaining: we are quite content to be in our second home in a very beautiful, quiet and relatively remote part of the world. Returning to Switzerland is out of the question anyway, as travel is banned throughout France.
Luckily, we have a garden here so we can at least go outside, sit in the sun while we read, chat, knit and crochet or eat our meals, and walk around for exercise. That also suits the dog. Maybe we’ll even be able to go down to the beach, which appears to be deserted.
In several ways, I’m impressed by the many positive side-effects of this self-isolation. We hear of blue skies where there was smog, clean water where there was pollution, and magnificent balcony performances from musicians in Italy to cheer low spirits.
Appeals to everyone’s better nature from the heads of state in Europe – Macron, Merkel, the Swiss Federal Council, even BoJo – will hopefully trigger a sense of responsibility and a more altruistic attitude in some who tend to be lacking in that area. Perhaps, along with an economic crash, we’ll have a less selfish, kinder and more considerate society when this is over.
On Wednesday evening a pleasant, friendly man came with a letter from the mairie (village council) informing us of which shops and businesses are still open and offering help from volunteers to vulnerable people who need someone to do their shopping or take them to appointments etc. It also contained a copy of the permit mentioned above, in case we had no way of downloading it ourselves. The mairie is coordinating this service. Our visitor was very concerned that no “fragile” person should be neglected. We were pleased that he didn’t tell us to go home instead of being a burden on France’s limited resources!
We are very grateful for the opportunities afforded by the Internet – e-mail, social media, FaceTime, Skype, YouTube etc. – that break through our solitary confinement and keep us in touch with distant friends and family members. Our phone and wifi signal now seem stronger, so thank you to those in charge of that. The post is still being delivered, so we can also order things online (books, clothes, dog food for instance) and I am relieved to find that our village pharmacy accepts the prescription e-mailed to me by my doctor in Switzerland. I had the foresight to bring a month’s supply of medication with me, but who knows how long we’ll be here?
The tide ebbs and flows as it always has done. Keeping calm, carrying on. We will survive!