This year has certainly been the most surreal I can remember. On 16 March, the Notaire where I was working as a clerk, packed up boxes of files and we all left the building not knowing when we would be back. The night before, President Macron had told us live on TV that from the next day, we were to 'stay at home'. He wasn't asking politely.
For several weeks I was able to leave the house only to walk the dogs within a small radius around the house, go to the nearest supermarket and that was it. The road where I live was unusually quiet, there was no one anywhere to be seen.
The disease remains an enigma and untamed. We now all wear masks although at work I conveniently rip mine off when I'm in my private office. My colleagues all do the same.
The most insidious part of this plague is how we are beginning to treat each other. A whiff of suspicion now pervades the air. The French, normally so tactile and full of compliments, have become stone cold. The problem of course is the mask which conceals almost all of the face. Impossible to tell is someone is smiling or snarling. Harassed and worried about catching a deadly virus, no one wants to spend time with anyone. Forget socialising or going out for a meal. It feels wrong and uncomfortable to be too near or within spitting distance of someone who could send you into a deadly coma. As a keen and competent cook I prefer to stay at home. I can control the hygiene in my kitchen and that suits me better.
My little dogs don't see any difference to their routine and like this cat near my office, spend most of their time fast asleep.
However we homo sapiens tend to be conscious enough during our daylight hours to worry about the state of the world. US politics? Scream!! The state of the economy? Bigger scream!! The absurd political correctness we are being made to follow? Scream again! Virtue signalling celebrities with approximately one brain cell each who want to tell us what to do and think? More screaming!! I totally despair at the world today and am frankly amazed that anyone would want to bring children into this insane and extremely dangerous farcical environment. In a future not that far away, we will have no record of our history visible on the streets - no statues, no monuments and no memorials - lest they offend someone. We will be forcibly injected with a vaccine for the virus. There will be mass unemployment. Mental health, all the rage now, will become the next biggest disease as thousands if not millions find themselves not only unemployed but unemployable. Business will change forever: how they trade, how they provide services, where they are located. Many businesses are literally doomed except those which offer essential services. The local hairdresser has better job prospects than most!
During the lockdown here if France, online sales took off like a rocket. The French, normally sniffy about the internet, suddenly realised its one great attraction - no human physical human contact so little chance of catching COVID and pure convenience. Let's just ponder on those two:
No human physical contact: when I was a student in Bordeaux, the local postman used to bring letters from my dad up to my flat and stop in for a coffee and a cigarette. The postman used to help me out by slipping letters under my door if I wasn't in instead of putting them in the communal post box or signing for a recorded delivery so I didn't have to traipse all the way to the post office. Small gestures done out of kindness will most likely disappear. Tragically for us all, these gestures make us human.
Pure convenience: the ego will have well and truly landed when everything is done for personal convenience. 'I want and therefore I am' is already the new mantra. I'm in the middle of reading a book written by a Frenchman who was sent down into the mines at age 12. He never got to live 'his truth' but the strength of his character hewn from deprivation is awe inspiring. As a child he used to be mesmerised by the stars in the sky but as a miner he hardly got to see them. That state of mind to just get on with life has already been lost forever. Now we are all entitled to everything we want.
Is there anything to look forward to? Ironically the best things in life aren't physical objects but are inside our heads. Strength of character, courage, striving to become a better human being, understanding the difference between what we want and what is needed according to the requirements of the time. The question is, are you up for the challenge? And do you understand that the only person who can help you achieve those things is yourself? Good luck!
Photo copyright SvD.