Lockdown blues

Such a shame. Madame S and I had put so much effort into our Trick or Treat costumes this year, and now they will have to be mothballed for a year because of the lockdown.

***

It’s not quite like remembering where you were when John Kennedy died, but I can clearly recall the start of the last lockdown. On Saturday 14th March,we were in La Mangeoire restaurant when Florent, the owner, came and told us that it had just been announced that he had to close at midnight, and he did not know when he would be able to reopen. Florent was philosophical about it, but the news came as quite a shock to us. I remember we visited a couple of our local bars on the way home, to say a temporary goodbye to the staff, some of whom were suddenly facing an uncertain future. On the Monday, President Macron announced that the full lockdown would start at noon the following day and would last for ‘a fortnight at least’. In fact, the first lockdown lasted for two-and-a-half months, until 2nd June.

This time there was no surprise. The steadily increasing spread of the virus, despite the various local measures taken, meant that a second national lockdown was inevitable. It was announced on Wednesday and started at midnight on Friday. Initially scheduled for four weeks, it is quite likely that this will be extended, though Christmas does complicate the situation.

It seemed appropriate on Thursday to go back to La Mangeoire to have our last meal out for the foreseeable future. The place was fully booked for the whole evening, and all the other bars and restaurants around Place Charles de Gaulle were equally busy. Late into the evening there were crowds sitting out on the terraces, swaddled in coats and scarves, determined to enjoy their last night of freedom. The local paper reported that some hairdressers stayed open till 23.00 to cope with the last-minute bookings. One can only feel sympathy for the owners of Senza Nome, the Italian restaurant in Rue du Moulin à Vent that only opened a fortnight ago, and even more for Le Bouillon Carnot, in Rue Carnot, which opened on Wednesday, the day before the lockdown.

The rules are the same as before. We can go out only for essential purposes – shopping, medical appointments, etc. – and each time we have to complete an attestation de déplacement dérogatoire, a form saying why we are out, when we left, who we are, and so forth. We can only go out for exercise for an hour and within a 1 km radius of the house.

There are some small but significant changes this time. Schools and colleges are staying open, as are the markets, both covered and open-air, along with parks and public gardens (which gives us more options for our hour’s exercise). People are already used to wearing masks virtually everywhere and using sanitising gel on entering a shop. Most people I’ve spoken to accept the situation resignedly. We have our stockpiles of DVDs and books ready. There may be a little panic-buying in the supermarkets, but I doubt it. Many cafés and restaurants gradually started takeaway and delivery services as the last lockdown dragged on. I suspect that they will be a lot quicker off the mark this time. We are getting used to lockdowns. One difference, of course, is that the last one started as the days were getting longer and the weather was improving. Spring and the sense of renewed optimism that came with it helped to compensate for the temporary loss of freedom. Recent events in France mean that we are entering winter in a much more sombre frame of mind.

The obvious question is what happens afterwards. If (when?) the number of cases starts to rise again, will regular lockdowns be the new normal until a vaccine is eventually found? Who knows.

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