Monday, 30 March 2020

Les Saints de Glace

Well that's a shock!

We woke this grey morning to near freezing drizzle, in contrast to the last days of bright T-shirt wearing sunshine. Not a day for being outside.  The weeding and the painting of shutters will have to wait for the return of warmer weather later in the week.

I was warned - on a gardening forum when I was asking about early pruning and someone said that old French gardeners wait to do most of their gardening tasks until after "Les Saints de Glace".  It's true that the immaculate front garden potagers in town are beautifully tilled and ready.  But not much sign of planting.

I check on Google and learn that "The Ice Saints" (Estelle, Achille and Fatima) are not until the eleventh to the thirteenth of May.  Good heavens!  As late as May?

Our mild winters are making us blasé. Traditional French lore reminds us, late spring can still have a nasty bite.

Monday, 23 March 2020

Sunday Afternoon - France in Lock Down

This weekend Vita has chosen to manifest full blown epilepsy.  Up until now she has had a fit once every few weeks or months (and indeed at the beginning every few years).  But Saturday night she had four fits in seven hours, which means she needs now to be on medication.
So Sunday afternoon meant a car ride across Lot-et-Garonne to our vet with my attestation explaining why I was out.
In the hour-long journey I saw:

  • One tractor
  • A man on a bicycle
  • A man on a motor bike
  • A boy on a skate board
  • A woman out walking
  • Eighteen cars

Friday, 20 March 2020

Vita would have us in lock down in the kitchen ...

...   All of us.  All the time. Where she can keep an eye on her pack and the food at the same time.

She's quick to pick up on our moods and we are probably both saying "I'm fine" but really walking round with an undercurrent of anxiety.  It makes her restless. She wants to be with both of us at the same time and even Bertie is looked for.  So one of us elsewhere in the garden isn't good enough - her sight and hearing these days not helping much in her search for us.  She resorts to solitary "woofs" in the hope that we will come to find her.

A quick trip into town yesterday lunchtime for a food top-up meant that, despite the warm sunny day, I was wearing gloves.  A woman leaving the shop, likewise attired, smiles at me.  We exchange conspiratorial glances. There are two new clubs in town: those who wear gloves (who obviously feel superior) and those who do not.

The car park is virtually empty - cars parked away from each other as if distancing extends to the vehicles themselves. Inside, staff are wearing masks and a perspex screen has been installed in front of the self-service help desk.  The baskets are being wiped down between use, but I prefer to stick with my own bags.  The few customers wandering round remind me of our early days here, twelve years ago, when the French still largely viewed the two hours from midday as a time for lunch. There is no panic buying any more and even pasta is coming back onto the shelves.

I duck and dive around the shelving, avoiding the other shoppers as much as possible, until I approach the organic section (the pre-packaged rye bread in my sights) when an elderly gentleman with a trolley appears from a parallel aisle with, it seems, the same intent. Seeing me, he politely backs away and disappears. I take my bread - two packs - and turn to come face to face with him again, coming from the opposite direction.  We smile, give each other room and go on our separate ways.

It occurs to me we are playing "Ring a Ring of Roses" with each other and then regret the thought, as I associate the rhyme with the Black Death - though Wikipedia tells me not.  Whatever its origins, our modern day "Pockets full of posies" are gloves, masks and a thorough washing of hands.

Monday, 16 March 2020

First thing on a wet Monday morning ...

... and Leclerc is already heaving.  Like Christmas shopping, but without the jollity.

Until now, round here the only panic buying has been for hand sanitiser.  That's now changed.  Rows and rows of cream metal shelves are bare.  Every pack of every type of pasta has gone.  Understandable given that the children are now at home and there's suddenly a need for cheap mid-day meals.

For the first time, I see women wearing gloves - usually posh leather ones. The French must keep up appearances, even in a crisis. Others have woolly scarves wrapped high around their faces.  No medical masks to be had.  A woman hovers in front of the household gloves muttering: "jetables, jetables".  She smiles at me when I tell her there are no disposable gloves to be had now.

Other encounters are less friendly - the woman who weighs our fruit and veg had cancer some years back and she obviously feels vulnerable.  She brusquely tells the man in the queue in front of me to stand further away from her.  I hear distant angry voices at one of the tills - someone too close maybe.  We are learning to be afraid of our fellow human beings.

I buy myself two pairs of knitted gloves, on the basis that, in future, I can wear one pair and wash the other.  Not only do I feel a need to protect myself, but also to show others I'm taking care.  The gloves have "Love" sewn on them.  Seems appropriate somehow.

I avoid any of the supermarket trolleys, as I understand the virus can linger on the metal handles, just relying on my own lifetime bags, which means my "panic buying" is limited to whatever my two arms can support.  Is buying four butters for the freezer being greedy?

At the self-service check-out I am reassured to see one of the shop assistants wiping down the machines between each customer.  As I am finally packing, a young man in a security vest comes up behind me and wipes over the keys of the card reader.  Who knows whether any of this will help, but at least they are trying.

As I drive back along the ridge of our valley in the drizzle, I realise I have the same overwhelming feeling I experienced when 9/11 happened while I was out shopping - I just want to get home and be safe.

On arriving, the first thing I do is wash my hands thoroughly in hot soapy water.  And the next?  Make a cup of tea of course.  The British answer in moments of disaster.

Friday, 13 March 2020

It's No Hardship

Our horizons are narrowing.  No photo club, no French lessons, no Alexander lessons and now (for Tod) no bridge club for the foreseeable future.

Mind you - we wonder who are these "old people" of seventy plus who are being advised to stay at home and the BBC shows us "old people" at a communal lunch who will be lonely if they can't meet up each week.  This doesn't feel like our world.

We still shop and (as always) go in to the supermarket at lunchtime when it's quieter.  Tod popped into the pharmacy first thing and had the place to himself.  Are the French really staying away?

Greetings have become more distant.  There was no handshake with driver of the large digger who flattened the surface of the chemin leading down to our house this week.  Just a vague attempt at a "Wuhan shake" - elbow to elbow.  Much to our surprise our mayor has come up trumps.  We have been talking about the state of our chemin for the last two years and he's been promising to get it fixed.  He's not standing for re-election this weekend so we assumed our request for repairs would just be forgotten.  Not at all.  He must still have some money in the pot for this year and he's determined to spend it before the new incumbent takes over. We hope the incomer will be as helpful as the current one has been.  Sadly, no voting for us this Sunday.  (The French have been asked to bring their own pens.)

So, we spend our days gardening and watching bad television in the evenings.  The dogs are walked, we eat well and healthily, chat with friends by email (no one answers the phone these days there are so many nuisance calls), shop (come home and wash our hands thoroughly) and, as much as we can, stay safe.  It's no hardship to live like this.