Tuesday, 24th March
Today, I read an article by a French philosopher who explains that we cannot be at war because there is no enemy. What we are faced with, she says, is a phenomenon enshrined in the rule of the living, which manifests itself both through the process of creation and of destruction. Only the French could manage to philosophise over the coronavirus crisis in such a manner. An anglo-saxon would be tempted to find this annoying, possibly pedantic, but part of me is French and I find it soothing to hear a voice that rises above the chatter of media hysteria, fuelled by numbers and sensationalist headlines.
I need a soothing voice because today France’s “scientific council” (conseil scientifique) has said it is essential to extend the confinement period. France is officially in a state of emergency for two months. A once-in-a-lifetime (I hope!) opportunity for me to delve into the depths of my patience, imagination and resilience.
The good news for families like mine in France tonight is that a couple of exemptions have been added to the “attestation de déplacement dérogatoire” including “walks with people living in the same home”, limited to an hour a day, within one kilometre of your home. Next to the date, users must now indicate the time they left their home, too. Children must carry their own form, or parents face a fine. This is pretty draconian. But so are the figures: 240 hospital deaths linked to the coronavirus in the last 24 hours, and that’s not counting those who have died at home or in old people’s homes.
I am in touch with my friends across Europe and in the US. They all started self-isolating before their respective governments advised them to do so. A couple of friends in London expressed relief at the news their schools were closing, saying it wasn’t coherent to keep sending kids to school, keep pubs and shops open, but advocate social distancing. A close Scottish friend, normally based in southern France, has chosen to go home to her farm in Scotland to be with her healthy but elderly mother in these difficult times. When I spoke to her tonight she said the new measures cannot yet be felt in the Scottish countryside.
I also keep up-to-date with what is going on around the world through multiple and varied sources (I am grateful to some of my favourite newspapers and magazines, like the NYT, that are offering free access through this period). I have a preference for podcasts that usually cut the chase and allow me to keep informed while cooking/running/doing something else (thank you BBC!). I am more than ever in need of this at the moment, to escape the confinement of my flat’s cosy, but limited, space.
I get a call from one of the studios I work with regarding a voice-over job scheduled for this week. Indefinitely delayed, like all the other jobs I had lined up in the coming weeks: no more moderations, and no traveling of course. I decide this is no time to panic, I will do that collectively with all those who are out of work, after the crisis is over. I decide to concentrate on here and now because that is what I can do. Otherhalf will be going back to work next week, en principe.
After homework and lunch, I yield to one of my kids’ recurrent requests and agree to “Just Dance” with them. If you had told me a couple of weeks ago that I would be doing this, I would have laughed you off. I am an outdoors kind of person. I swim in Lyon’s outdoor swimming pool in the middle of winter. But Child One and Child Two need this. We clear the living room floor, connect my laptop to the loudspeakers, and we are off. Otherhalf looks at us in disbelief and goes to another room. There are a few arguments over who is stepping on whose toes, but my exercise-hungry kids are happy.