In Quarantine

German has a delightful word for hoarding: Hamstern. Think of those little golden rodents with their faces stuffed full of food – what could be more apt?

So – is your annual supply of toilet rolls neatly stashed away? Good. Now what else – apart from staple foodstuffs – can be considered essential items for hamstering during a pandemic?

In our case, it seems to be yarn, tea and books as we self-isolate in Brittany.

View from our house

What are we doing here, you ask? The original plan was for my daughter, my middle granddaughter and me to spend ten days together in our family holiday home on the northwest Breton coast, an opportunity for three-generational bonding and to deal with several practical matters in need of attention. Dear Middle Granddaughter wasn’t well, so it’s just Dear Darling Daughter and me. And dog. Bonding.

The practical matters concerned the bank, the roof – which has needed repairs, and in France it’s advisable to be physically present at such times – and bringing back a couple of large, heavy items that don’t fit into a normal sized family car. Consequently, we borrowed Dear Eldest Granddaughter’s seven-seater VW in exchange for DDD’s Twingo – not really ideal for her with four children, but it was only supposed to be for a very limited time. Now this swap isn’t so convenient for her, as the schools are closing and she‘s supposed to be working from home … well, DEG is very resourceful and I have no doubt she’ll cope.

The Swiss Federal Council (government) has advised against grandparents taking care of children, as these are both vulnerable groups, so I was heartened to see an announcement on Facebook by some senior high school students offering their babysitting services to working parents. That could be a solution for DEG.

Meanwhile, we have been informed that it may be advisable for us to prolong our stay here – especially if it comes to a lockdown. Who wants to drive for ten hours and then be told at the border that you can’t re-enter your homeland? In the worst case, we could probably descend on DMG who lives just inside France near Geneva – that could be her punishment reward for not coming with us in the first place!

It’s certainly easier to quarantine ourselves here than it would have been in Switzerland, where we would inevitably have had a lot more social contact meaning greater risk of infection. Out of the thirteen houses in this little cul-de-sac, most are holiday homes. At the moment, only three are inhabited and the other two contain new neighbours whom we don’t know well enough to say more than “Bonjour, Madame!” when we see them. Just as well, perhaps.

It’s very difficult to overcome the habits of a lifetime and not offer a hand to shake or a cheek to kiss (two or three kisses in Switzerland, four here in Brittany). Elbow bumps and, among some of the youngsters, complicated foot tapping rituals, are proof that it feels wrong not to have some kind of physical contact on greeting friends and family. Does this augur the end of handshakes and bises in continental Europe? Another symbol of courtesy and civilisation disappearing? I hope not.

Our phone line isn’t the most reliable so our wifi also comes and goes. The cables aren’t buried underground here but strung in the air from posts, which makes them susceptible to stormy winds and salt corrosion – or so we are informed by the technician. At present, there’s also a broadband overload, especially as so many people must be working from home. All the same, we have succeeded in remaining in touch with folks back home, following the news and listening to podcasts as knitting needles and crochet hooks click to and fro. We get along well. There’s no lack of topics of conversation and we have hundreds of books at hand. And plenty of tea.

On the whole, we are much safer here in this tiny place, where all we hear when we open the windows is the roar of the sea down below and the song of thrush, blackbird and robin – oh, there are others that I can’t identify, as well as the ever-present seagulls but their screaming and raucous laughter is very secondary to the tweeting and trilling of the songbirds. We have pleasant (empty) beaches to stroll along and beautiful scenery to enjoy. The hedge is rosy with camellias, spring flowers are blooming and the sun is shining.

There could be much worse places in the world to be stuck: in my opinion, serendipity strikes again!

14 thoughts on “In Quarantine

  1. Sounds like a pleasant place in which to be isolated. Take care and use this time for some soulful meditation. Things are jut beginning to gain fear-driven momentum in the states. My state of Arkansas had twelve cases thus far.

  2. What a view – the idyllic place to be in light of the current situation – and taking strolls down empty beaches sounds divine. If I step out of my front door I am likely to bump into someone passing by, step into some dog poo – or spit (the latter which curiously hasn’t been mentioned in regard to the coronavirus). As you will guess, I am quite happy to self isolate, as I’ve always got plenty of things to be occupied with. I see it might be a problem when I run out of UHT milk for example. Up till this morning I had the security of knowing I could always order things online, but heard, courtesy of the BBC, that that you are lucky to get a slot within a week of ordering and in some cases even longer, so I may be forced to venture out at some point (not necessarily for milk, as I’d probably be healthier living without it).

    My pink camellia is usually glorious, but all the storms we had recently have blown off very many buds, so it is going to be rather sparse this year.

    “Hamstering” – love it!

    Keep well.

    • Hope you can manage – do you have someone who can do some shopping for you? Sorry about your camellia – ours were one of the chief reasons I wanted to come at this time, they are always gorgeous.

      • Had a wonderful surprise the other day when I opened the door to find a neighbour I hardly know, standing there with a bag of groceries for me (including toilet rolls) – and she wouldn’t even take payment! So very kind.

        When I told my elder son, he said, “you must look very old!”

  3. That looks the perfect place to self-isolate, but is anywhere perfect for the long term? We have self-isolation her for travellers and returning residents, but mostly we are getting on with normal living. Enjoy your family time and keep well.

  4. Good on you to have found the perfect spot to hide from the troubles of the times.
    Self isolation is the new in-word. But we have practiced it for years. It will be hard for the young ones. All the fun they are missing out on.

    The longer it takes the decipline in the populace might not hold and the civil order could break down.

    We have a further complication as Uta is on her own with me stuck in the hospital. Shopping will be difficult as she is not driving. We belong to the “highly at risk“ group. Luckily the virus has not come to our region yet.

    Just talked to my doctor and he will let me go home soon.

    • Hi Peter – yes, easier for us old ‘uns. Sorry you are in hospital again and glad you will soon be discharged. Uta must be missing you. Stay Coronavirus free, both of you, and all the best.

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