It’s a bit of a tricky one this deconfinement. In fact in many ways I think I am finding it harder to navigate than when we were in ‘lockdown’. So much is now left to personal choice and the actions of other people, parameters which we cannot to a large extent control. We are no longer in control. France it seems is divided in two – on one side we have those who have little intention of changing anything, who are staying put (we’re in this camp) and I call us the ‘ins’ and on the other we have those who now believe we are free and back to normal; I call these the ‘outs’. For them, life is once again awash with parties (maximum ten people, though), socialising, shopping, and visiting friends.
The ‘ins’ tend to be the ones who wear masks, use gallons of hand sanitiser and stick to a good metre or more apart at all times. The ‘outs’ are for the most part those without any protective face covering, walking close to others without a care in the world. I’ve watched the French news, and I’ve talked to friends living in cities; apparently the number of people in the ‘out’ camp crowding together in packed streets, enjoying shopping once more are very numerous and far out number the mask-wearing cautious few. It’s a very difficult road we now find ourselves traversing.
I find I am far more worried than I was in confinement. We have to make decisions again, and in many ways it was so much easier before; then there were set rules and we followed them. Now we weave our way forward down what I am sure is going to be a very long and winding road. But these roads have seen much worse, and we will come out the other side and once again all enjoy our freedom.
On a positive note I have loved being able to cycle again. It was a forbidden pastime during ‘lockdown’ but it feels so good now to pedal down country lanes with the kids; we’ve been further on two wheels in the past week than we have been in the car in two months. Discovering houses for sale is a growing pastime and there are soon going to be quite a few coming on the market.
Once again we’ve explored neighbouring villages, finding that spring has almost passed us by without us noticing; somehow we’ve missed an entire chapter in our book of seasonal life.
The poppies have sprung up out of nowhere, and fields of red suddenly surround us. I loved seeing an elderly couple tending their vegetables, a little patch in amongst the fields. They must have both been in their 80’s, their bikes propped up against a fence.
Flowers adorn every hedgerow, too. Spring is magical in this part of France and at least we’re catching the tail end of it.
And on our travels I’ve noticed that amongst the beautifully tended gardens and the thriving potagers more and more people are choosing to leave large areas of lawn unmown with just a winding path cut through the middle. More and more people are becoming aware of our planet that we live on and how we can make a difference.
However, socialising? Well, that’s a whole different story. We’re not prepared to jump that hurdle yet, it just feels too soon. We want to know what the consequences of this new ‘almost free’ France will be before we take those next steps back to normality.
I do know that it is very much an individual thing and it also depends so much on each person’s situation. If you live alone, being able to meet friends once more could well be a lifeline. We are incredibly fortunate; sure we’ve lost 90% of our income, but we do have three of our children at home and we have each other. There are five of us, so mealtimes are never quiet. The kids are young adults really; the three here are 18, 15 and 13, and they love nothing more than a lively conversation; if there’s a good debate they will stand their ground when they think they are right (which they often are, but shhhh, I didn’t say that!) and eloquently argue their cases. A romantic meal for two will just have to be at home, we’ll wander over to the guest cottage, it will feel like going out!
One thing we have certainly learnt is to appreciate the French culture once more. For two months our shopping has been pretty much only the supermarket drive-through to collect our online order, with the very occasional trip to the green grocer. Supermarkets have their place without a doubt, but how we miss the conviviality of a trip to our boulangerie, and the weekly market, including those conversations with the stall holders that know us well and offer suggestions. That is all so much a part of French life and we miss it so much.
This really hit home when Roddy went to a specialist cheese shop in Rochefort on Friday. Not to buy cheese, (personally we’re not out shopping yet) but actually to collect a package that had been left there, as they also act as a delivery point for some larger French parcels. This Point Relais – as it is called – almost halves the cost of regular mailing prices and is very popular here. Naturally whilst there he bought a couple of delicious cheeses. He went late deliberately, just before closing at around 7.15pm, knowing there would be no one in there, and he was right, he was the only client. He wore his mask, and he chatted away to the owner, nothing was hurried, and he left promising to return; it had been more than just a trip to collect a box. It had been a wonderful, fulfilling and thoroughly enjoyable experience. Exactly what living here is meant to be all about. But sometimes I think life gets so busy that we forget.
Perhaps this is the lesson we will take with us from all of this, to remember to slow down and appreciate our life just a little more! Have faith my friends, we will get through this, we will meet all of the people who were meant to journey to France this year, life will get back to a new normal. We just have to stay strong, stay safe and support one another. xx