Skip to content

Corona Diaries – bagpipes, drone videos and the rigours of le lockdown

March 27, 2020

For us in the UK, was it not heart-warming to see so many people out on the streets applauding our National Health Service workers for their efforts in keeping us alive? For once the social media came up trumps as a positive force, though one virally-induced expression of goodwill doesn’t excuse it for being a platform for trolls, liars, bigots and bots.

One striking indication of change in the country was the video of Alistair Campbell, Tony Blair’s former chief spin doctor, out in his street blowing a jaunty tune on his bagpipes. A decade and a half ago, in the aftermath of the Iraq war, I suspect that the last thing he would have wanted was people knowing where he lived.

Speaking of videos, the new government information clip showing Chris Whitty, our Chief Medical Officer, urging us to stay at home, is a tad anodyne. His etiolated figure reminds me of the deputy head of a British public school who never quite made it to the top job, but is prized for his reliability over a 40-year career, and reluctantly stands in whenever the head resigns over some unspeakable indiscretion. Unfair, I know, because Professor Whitty is one of the good guys.

Not so reluctant are the police, some of whom appear on BBC footage politely asking people in their very British way if they would get the hell off the road, park or whatever, and go home. Now that they have the power to slap fines on unauthorised loiterers, I’m surprised they haven’t outsourced the job to our beloved parking wardens, who I’m sure would be only too pleased to slap tickets on people now that offending cars are in short supply.

Also, have you seen those drone videos showing people taking their dogs for a walk in the Peak District, highlighted by a flashing “non-essential”? There must be officers who have waited all their careers to do something as fun as this. Far more fun than arresting a couple of cage fighters scrapping in a supermarket over a packet of loo rolls, I should have thought.

For really effective enforcement, perhaps we should persuade some Italian mayors to come over and let rip at our gregarious offenders in their unique style, as in:

But since they’re still too busy corralling their own miscreants, we could always record examples of their choice rhetoric to be broadcast via the surveillance drones. That would put the fear of God into Mr and Mrs Molesworth, who have sneaked out with the dog for a second spot of exercise. Though whether the police have technology to identify the number of 30-minute exercise periods the Molesworths make in a given day is debatable.

Seriously though, I’m entirely supportive of efforts to keep people at home provided we do so in an appropriately British way. No tasers, cattle prods and paddy-wagons please.

We in Britain might be slightly stunned by the lock-down measures in our country. But spare a thought for our neighbours across the channel. Katy, a former colleague who now lives in France, sent me this update yesterday via Facebook in response to one of my blog posts:

The postal service in France is rapidly grinding to a halt and is longer accepting parcels for deliveries. Letters are being delivered sporadically. Online shopping no longer works because the delivery companies are not operating. Here people no longer want deliveries because of the fact the virus lives on cardboard for several days. Seems obsessive compulsive but hey we’ve adapted to the new world where you are scared of your next-door neighbour infecting you.

Employers can be fined for not protecting staff correctly and essential means essential i.e. food or pharmacy. Little else counts. Locally there is a preference for open air food markets rather than the supermarket. Some supermarkets only allow one visit per week. The DIY shops have been closed for 10 days but now some bigger shops are selling essential items for collection: door locks, lightbulbs, hot water tanks and boiler parts, electricians supplies. But no paint, decorating or garden stuff. In the property world (I am an estate agent) you can no longer move house, or view houses, house sales processes are on hold, the French land registry is closed, the mortgage registry office is closed, notaires are closed, you cannot buy property.

You cannot buy much really. What is interesting is how quickly we seem to have adapted to it all. 10 days in and there is a quiet acceptance of the situation. Next crisis in discussion: food production. The French government has been recruiting volunteers to help harvesting and people here are planting their vegetable plots. We can produce a lot of food in France. How will the UK fare in comparison?

So France, land of the barricades and the gilets jaunes, seems to be quietly buckling down, despite restrictions even more severe in some ways than in Britain.

Katy’s comment on the preference for open air markets over supermarkets is not surprising, but I wonder how the French are maintaining social distancing in those gorgeous rural gatherings where people normally crowd around the meat stalls and lovingly inspect the rows of shiny fruit and vegetables.

No doubt they find a way with the assistance of a few strategically placed gendarmes, but sadly there will be no cafes open where they can relax after their shopping. And no brocante stalls, full of antique glassware and Napoleonic maps, which are my favourite feature of the classic French market.

As for food, I’m sure we in the UK can get by on oats, sugar beet and turnips, but so far I’ve seen no sign of municipal parks or the Buckingham Palace lawns being dug up for planting. On the DIY front I imagine that most of us will be OK, especially those who before the lockdown hoovered up all the stuff they will need for their home projects.

I was a bit taken aback at the shutdown in France of online buying and home deliveries, though we too are becoming somewhat OCD about stuff that arrives on our doorstep. I’ve just received a package from Amazon containing some books (of course). I took each book out of the box, cleaned the jackets with antiseptic wipes, put the box outside and washed my hands. We’ve also started wiping down supermarket purchases (no, not the onions and bananas, stupid! We bathe them in chlorine).

Enough of this nonsense. I have important work to do. The CDs are sorted in alphabetical order, we’ve done a deep clean of the bedrooms, and now my Director of Operations has ordered me to undertake my toughest task yet. I have to rip all the weeds out of the cracks in the patio so that she can have at the slabs with the steam cleaner. Purging our bookshelves will have to wait, as will sorting lego bricks and other detritus belonging to our little grandson who, to our immense sadness, can’t visit us at the moment.

Life goes on – hopefully.

From → France, Social, Travel, UK

  1. Great post 😁

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: