Day 14: Yearning for a return to normality

Monday, 30th March

This evening I spoke to my neighbour who is a teacher. His students are either about to pass their baccalauréat or in what the French call a “prépa” school – preparing to enter some of the country’s most prestigious universities. Since all schools and universities closed two and a half weeks ago, he has been teaching remotely. He has been working long hours to try and make sure his students don’t loose out. Last week, his prépa students found out there would be no entrance exam – an exam they have been working very hard for. Instead, they will have to submit an application form, which he is helping them put together. He sounded saddened by the situation: these kids, who are just at the start of their lives, don’t know whether all their hard work will pay off or how this will affect their future. As for the baccalaureate, the government is expected to announce later this week how it intends to organise exams due to take place in June.

I work with my kids on their homeschooling, but am growing increasingly anxious about preparing my own return to work after the confinement is lifted. One of my main clients has put all production on hold. A magazine I write for sent all freelancers an email informing us they are suspending publication of upcoming issues and asking us to put any work we are doing for them on hold. But I remind myself that this will pass and that work will pick up again after the crisis.

I call my father – we speak every day. He is a very social being – always has family and friends visiting – and I worry he will get lonely in his big house in the South of France. He reassures me: says he’s had 25 years to get used to his own company since my mother died in 1995 and that it doesn’t bother him. He goes for the authorised hourly walk every day, speaks with friends and family abroad, gardens a lot (he has a lovely garden), and keeps the grandchildren entertained with his contest: he has challenged them to find the names of various plants, flowers and fruit-trees from his garden, using all the tools at their disposal (including the internet). The kids love it and look forward to his emails.

We also speak to my mother-in-law in Paris on a daily basis. A former schoolteacher and headmistress, she gives my kids daily lessons via Whattsapp. All three are delighted – my kids miss their grandma, who often comes to look after them when I travel for work. Though she is extremely resourceful, and would never dream of moaning, I sense she is getting tired of being indoors. There are only so many books you can read a week!

An example of a spelling and drawing class given by Grandma via WhatsApp

Though I understand and accept the situation, and though I learned early on in life that some things are irreversible and one has to just cope and get on with it (my British half), I catch myself yearning for a return to normality.

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