Strange days

Monday

The flu jab season has arrived. I received a letter a couple of weeks ago saying that I could get my jab from today, so I headed to the pharmacie this morning. In previous years, they handed me my injection in a little freezer bag which I could take home and either inject myself or put in the fridge and arrange an appointment for my GP to do it. Clumsy and short-sighted as I am, there was a strong risk that I’d inadvertently inject the arm of my chair rather than myself, so I used to go along and get Dr L to do it. This year, however, the pharmacie itself offers the service. The pharmacist who served me led me into a small room at the back and did the job herself in a couple of minutes. She was polite and reserved, so I decided against using my ‘little prick with a needle’ joke.

As I’m over 65, I’m one of those who are first in the queue for the service. Madame S, being still young and sprightly, will have to wait till mid-November for hers.

***

Sound advice from someone on Twitter: ‘Before you get angry with someone, stop and take a deep breath, because then you’ll be able to shout louder.’

Tuesday

A variation on an old joke:

How many retired English teachers does it take to change a four-foot-long fluorescent light bulb?

Answer: One. But it will take him an hour, an awful lot of shouting and swearing, and a chair he will fall off. Twice.

Wednesday

Our taxe d’habitation (council tax bill) arrives. When we came here, we were told that this was being phased out over two years, with a large reduction this year and nothing to pay next year. This schedule was later amended, and we were told that the tax would be phased out more slowly and finally disappear by 2023.

Now, however, the vast expenditure entailed by the coronavirus has apparently led the government to reconsider the whole situation. What would replace the tax has never been made clear. Our current bill is a little over €2,000. Out of interest, I checked the figures in the UK, and this is almost identical to what we would have paid if we were still living in our house in Ely. Here, however, the figure includes €138 for our TV licence, and we get our bins emptied four times a week.

This, spotted in Viz today, seemed apt:

‘I was delighted when the kind people at the Inland Revenue wrote to me recently telling me that my tax return was “outstanding”, particularly as I can’t even remember sending it in.’

Tom Smith, Macclesfield

Thursday

A grim story. The gym where I go for my Thursday morning Pilates class is a ground-floor room on the corner of an apartment block in rue Grand Cerf. It has windows on two sides looking out on the road. High above the road, and clearly visible from the gym, the Viaduct Léon-Blum leads from the plateau that is the town centre to the top of the station car park on the far side of rue Grand Cerf. From there, one can take an escalator down to the station.

Sandra, our coach, tells us that last Thursday afternoon, she and some of the class she was taking saw a man commit suicide by falling from the viaduct onto the road. She later found out that she knew the man, who had been the head of the Orthopaedic Unit at Poitiers University Hospital, where she used to work as a physiotherapist.

Friday

This was the day we were due to go on a weekend trip to Paris to celebrate Madame’s birthday. The recent lockdown announcement put paid to that, so we decided instead to go to Tours, about 65 miles away. It’s a lively place, the largest city in the Loire Valley, with plenty of things to do and see. We spent Friday evening in Place Plumereau, the centre of the old town, a place full of bars and restaurants. The vast majority of people were wearing masks, but any concept of safe social distancing seemed to have disappeared, with crowds sitting closely packed everywhere.

As if in response to this (but actually in response to a significantly raised incidence rate throughout the whole Indre-et-Loire department), the prefecture announced new restrictive measures to be put into action from Saturday: a limitation of gatherings in public spaces to a maximum of six people, a requirement for bars and restaurants to keep a register of all customers, and a ruling that all bars and restaurants close at 10 p.m.

Despite this, we had a good day on Saturday. A walk along the Loire in the morning and a stroll around the food market, lunch in Place Plumereau, a look at the very fine Saint-Gatien Cathedral, forty winks at the hotel, and then an evening of grazing and bar-hopping. We strolled back to the hotel around ten o’clock, surrounded by crowds of young people clearly at a loss for what to do after the new curfew.

They could have done like us and watched The Shining on TV.

***

It’s fair to say that the mood in France is pretty sombre at the moment. The shocking story of the beheading of teacher Samuel Paty in the quiet commune of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine (twinned with Ramsgate, for some bizarre reason) is dominating the news. Eight cities are rated at the Covid level of maximum alert and eight at the next level of heightened alert. The rate of identified new cases continues to rise steeply – it was 10,593 a month ago, yesterday it was 32,427. Silver linings are a little difficult to discern at the moment.

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