What a crazy world we currently live in. I’m writing this from the confinement of my apartment, listening to the clattering of utensils as the neighbours prepare their own lunch, to the young kids next door trying to master Nirvana on an old acoustic guitar, and to others trying to quiet their children as they attempt Skype meetings via dodgy internet connections. Just a few days ago, I would have heard nothing other than the sound of cars whizzing past, but times have changed. Here in France, we are in day 4 of compulsory isolation. Many of you who read my blog are French and are fully aware of the situation. However, for those who aren’t, here’s a summary of where we are at.
Saturday the 14th of March, seemed like most other Saturdays. The streets where a hive of activity. Many friends and family went out for lunch or spent the day shopping and strolling the streets of Paris. Some were cautious and wore gloves or a mask but the majority went about life as per usual – minus the bisous of course.
Later that night, an announcement was made: as of midnight, all non-essential commerce would be closed until further notice. This included all cafés, restaurants, department stores and shops with the exception of pharmacies and supermarkets. As someone who, as of recently, works in retail, I was suddenly on holidays, without notice, with any news directly from my employer. It was an odd feeling and I felt rather sceptical about not showing up to work just because, well, the media told me not to? It was an odd feeling indeed.
The closure of all non-essential commerce was designed to keep people a safe distance from each other, to essentially keep them at home. This, however, this was not the case. The sun shone bright Sunday afternoon, for the first time and months. Parisians gathered in every park, quay and open space. Social distancing went out the window and the threat of Coronavirus continued to increase. The French government quickly realised more drastic measures would be necessary.
Restrictions were indeed taken to the next level. Monday night it was announced the country would be in lockdown as of midday Tuesday. Many had to quickly decide if they should stay in tiny Parisian flats or risk potential frustration with family and in-laws in the countryside. We had 12 hours to decide.
Whilst it is currently mandatory to remain at home, there are some exceptions. If you need to visit a pharmacy or go food shopping you can. You can also leave the house for small amounts of daily exercise or to walk a pet. However, each time you leave the house you must print and sign a sworn statement outlining your reasons for leaving. Police are scattered throughout the city, checking IDs and verifying statements.
It was announced the lockdown would be for a minimum of 15 days, however, rumour has it, it’s more likely to last 45.
You might imagine that the atmosphere here would be oppressive and bitter. That a global pandemic might dampen one’s spirits. However, this doesn’t seem to be the case. The general feeling here seems to be relief. Relief that families are united where they know they’ll be safe. A sense of relief that comes when a city of 10 million slows to a halt, giving us time to breath, to think, to enjoy a newfound sense of calm. It’s rare and for many a blessing in disguise.
People are going back to basics and learning new recipes, tending to small balcony gardens and spending quality time with loved ones. Pets are being walked to the point of exhaustion and children in large apartment blocks are finding friends in communal gardens. I don’t want to downplay the seriousness of the current situation, but I can only report on what I can see, and at this point in time, people seem happy.
Unfortunately, this is not the case for anyone. Many are juggling working from home and looking after young children, some feel isolated and lonely, and many professions are obliged to work more than ever in unsafe conditions. And yes, like everywhere across the globe, we are facing pasta shortages – also paracetamol shortages, which is quite alarming. We are, however, lucky to have adequate support from the French government and everyone, including business owners and those who are self-employed will receive substantial financial support. This relieves a lot of stress and allows us make the most of this unimaginable situation.
I’ll make an effort to give you all updates here as things progress. I know my friends and family in Australia have had a lot of questions and I hope this helps to shed some light. It’s only early days at the moment and I’m sure the novelty of confinement will eventually wear thin. Be warned, my next update may be less optimistic – only time will tell.
If you’re in France, I’d love to know how you are feeling about the lockdown, and if you’re from elsewhere in the world, please drop me a comment and let me know what the situation’s like where you’re from.
Hoping you’re all safe and well,
P.S These photos were taken two weeks ago, before the lockdown began.