Thursday, 26th March
A strange thing about being confined is the way days merge into one another. Despite our efforts to keep up the routine – or maybe because of it – and to come up with exciting activities – and menus!! – you start wondering whether events occurred yesterday or the day before. It is one of the reasons it is important for me to keep this diary.
Day 10 is a good day. On day 9, I had a mild meltdown. So I put on my magic shoes and went running. I actually ran beyond the allowed 1-km radius around my home, up the Rhône river, where the only people I met were a couple of dog walkers. I was carrying my “dérogation” form – with the “physical activity” box ticked – in the back of my running trousers, but I haven’t been checked by police so far.
Today, I go food shopping and bring back strawberries. Yes, it is too early, yes they are imported from Spain and yes, I am breaking my rule of sticking to the seasons. But those strawberries taste extra sweet in confinement and put smiles on everybody’s face. I also buy a Scrabble board game to play with the kids in the coming days. Though homeschooling is challenging, the extra family time is precious.
That is not the case for everyone: I call a good friend and neighbour to ask her about living in confinement with her ex. As the crisis reached France, she was in the process of emptying out the house she has shared with her husband for 40 years and which they are selling to move apart. They are now being forced to live under the same roof for an undetermined period of time. She hopes the sale of the house will still go through as planned after the confinement is lifted. Luckily, she tells me, it could be worse: they have a big garden, and two of their three grown-up children have returned home for the time of the lockdown, which lightens up the atmosphere. She puts an end to any romantic notion I had that the crisis might rekindle their love: she is more than ever certain she wants to live her life alone.
Though my friend’s situation is the best case scenario, confinement has led to a surge in domestic violence in many countries, including France. Tonight, Interior Minister Christopher Castaner announced he was introducing an alert system together with chemists (one of the few high-street shops still open): a woman suffering from domestic abuse can raise the alert while picking up medicine. If her husband is with her, she can use a “code” like “mask 19”. The code system has already been put in place in Spain. Law enforcement agencies have been ordered to provide an emergency response. A chilling reminder that times like these bring out the best and the worst in mankind.