Category Archives: Covid-19

A roaming diary of exceptional times

Week One | Part one

It’s Monday 23rd March 2020, just about the end of week 1 of the Covid lockdown in France. And a week ago last night we celebrated our list’s resounding victory in the local elections, which was very naughty of us, as this saw 30 adults crammed into a living room, at full volume spitting and breathing hard with the flush of victory.

The next day we knew the ’confinement would start, and knew we were being naughty, but hey. A week later this sort of gathering is now unthinkable. OH intermittently brings this up (with the persistence of a terrier getting at a bone) when I have since shown her reports of Brits flagrantly flouting any social distancing.

It was announced that Macron would address the nation Monday night. It was widely expected that he would announce emergency measures for a national confinement.

Monday morning I went shopping thinking that this would be the moment to get stuff done, and as I entered Inter, a man ran out leaping over the barrier and slaloming around the entering shoppers (me included) swift and adept as a gazelle – accompanied by the head cashier bellowing “stop thief!”. Thus the scene was set. I started my shop, and then put back my things when I saw the queues to the check-outs were some 20 customers long. I went home.

On my return OH called me to say she was bringing OL back with her. My heart fell a notch. OL is our niece, a sweet kid of 24 with perhaps Bi-Polar disorder but at least Schizophrenia. At OH’s suggestion, OL had said she was very happy to be in her flat in Rennes, but OH insisted, as staying in a confined space for at least two weeks would not be a good idea.

With this news, I thought it best to return to Inter, self-consciously I did not get toilet paper, and only four tins of tuna. I did get 3L of fruit juice for OL, as she does not drink anything with alcohol.

OH also told me she had decided to instal OL in the little house, a cottage sized building (ex garage) near the house, that we had converted into a self-sufficient residence. A good idea, but alos a bit of a bugger really as it is still too cold to be in there without heating, and that means regularly monitoring the temperature there, and timing the intensity of the fire in the over-sized wood oven.

They got home near 4pm, OL enthusiastically installed herself in her quarters. Meanwhile we grownups prepared household things and the evening meal. Of course, everything (seating arrangements, helping one’self to tea, laying the table, above all the conversation) was all about OL, and OH in particular being highly attentive her moods and happiness. I resolved to take things one day or even one morning or afternoon at a time. Especially when I realised OH, in an extended bid to pamper OL was going to join her with the fruit juice and thus be on the waggon. I was probably going to get disapproving looks if I didn’t follow suit.

The pedagogic therapy session continued after supper as we gathered near the tv to watch Macron’s address. As expected he announced the ‘confinement’ due to start at midday the next day (Tuesday). No surprise there. But neither OH nor myself were prepared for the fake news about to explode on OL’s closed Whatsapp group shared with her sisters EL, EL2 and father RL.

It happened like this. At the final couple of bars of The Marseillaise, OL gasped and squeaked out that the motorways were going to be closed and “it” had escaped from a military laboratory. The contagion of OL’s distress immediately passed to OH who then spent the next 45 minutes trying to calm OL down in a voice that was anything but calm, finally persuading OL to go to bed. Once back in the main house exploded with unprintable comments regarding the L’s Whatsapp group, coming down to the knub that one does not share stupid rumours with someone who hears voices and skims paranoïa on a daily basis. “I can’t cope with her,” OH burbled through a mush of toothpaste. “She didn’t listen to me, not a word, what ever I say she only listens to father L and her sisters!”

I suggested OH should have a chat with her sister and OL’s mum – mother L (who is not in the Whatsapp group) who shoud then tell EL, EL2 and father L to stop it, OH wailed that her sister had already tried this several times over the months but in vain, none of them had the least idea how damaging their gossipy sensationalism could be.

Very upset, we went to bed. The Confinement hadn’t even started, and there was disharmony in our house. As I forced myself to disconnect from the sticky situation, I resolved again to take things as they came.