You will read many, many, many accounts of how this virus is affecting everyone, how to spend your time now that you are – or soon will be – sequestered at home., what is happening. Let me join the crowd with some anecdotes from Paris.
First, HUGE MERCI to everyone in the medical field, from the young surgeon standing -one meter away – from me in line at the post office who is at the ready and until he is called up has offered to shop for his elderly neighbors, to my dear friend Nathalie, a country doctor who has buckled down in the assumption that she won’t see a day off until this is over. The government has called retired doctors out of retirement; retired police officers out of retirement – it is truly “tous le mains au pont” or “all hands on deck”. And thank you to law enforcement officers and firemen who stand at the ready to deliver things and people; to the military who right now are busy building a field hospital in Alsace to help take the overflow of affected patients. At 8 p.m. last night, the French hung out their windows and cheered on the medical corps, with feeling. Every night this will happen. Now, for the people working at the open supermarkets…
All of France is in lockdown. If we go out, we must have with us a self-authorizing “laissé passé” which, should we be stopped by law enforcement, shows we are aware that our reason for being outside is absolutely necessary. Within the category of “necessary” , it must be said, is getting exercise and walking the dog. Last night Emmanuel Macron announced this measure warned us of fines if we met our friends or other groups outdoors (from 38 to 138€), or if we didn’t have our authorisation. He told us to stay home, to help our neighbors, and to read. Read. Imagine a President counseling such an activity.
As in any crisis, wonderful things happen too. Radios France Inter and France Culture, both under the roof of Radio France, are broadcasting the same programs in the mornings, to keep staff down. On the site of France Inter, tens of children’s books can be downloaded, to help pass the time for everyone at home They are inviting psychiatrists, social scientists, medical personnel to answer the public’s many questions; there is an open number for people to call and discuss their lives “confiné”, and just to listen. Everyone is trying to work from home and today, an interview with a doctor included lots of background noise…accepted in this environment. The radios have also made available a “zen listening” playlist, which we will all no doubt need by the end of this! And none of this takes into account the typically devastatingly sarcastic humor they broadcast, which leaves no one unscathed. Bravo to them.
One of the psychoanalysts today was asked “What’s up with everyone buying toilet paper.”
“Alors,” he answered. “We are fascinated with our ‘dechets'” because we believe we eject all that is dirty in us. That we can wipe it all off afterwards makes us feel doubly clean.” It’s a thought…
This morning we were still free to roam and continue stocking up. I went to the market where – Glory Hallelujiah – my regular producer from the Ile de France was busily wrapping up cabbages and leeks, dirty carrots and endives. And there were radishes! And little lettuces! And huge big bundles of parsley! I asked if she’d be there Friday. “Non, oh non,” she said. “I’m too scared.” And she added a second lettuce to my basket.
After taking my produce home I had enough freedom from confinement left to visit my favorite neighbor, the Seine. Lately she’s been blowsily overflowing her banks. The tide was down, the water still a roiling muddy brown, though. People were running, walking, waving, talking to each other from six feet apart. I noticed a few more smiles and “Bonjours” than usual.
I headed home via the rue de Bac where I noted people walking towards me, some with huge bouquets of flowers. What?! No florists can stay open, only food shops. Spoiled as I am, I wished I’d gotten a bouquet of daffodils before the axe fell, just to cheer things up. I walked along, keeping my eyes open for more people holding bouquets, and nearly fell into a little magic passageway, filled with flowers. There, a young couple were busily wrapping bouquets for a few clients, one of whom had bought an entire garden’s worth. I got in line, though I hadn’t anticipated this and had just 5 euros in my pocket.
“I’ve got until noon to be open,” the owner said when it was my turn to purchase. I was honest with her. “What can I get for 5 euros?” I asked, thinking that a petal or two would be mine. I did know that one hydrangea blossom was 4 euros, and I was fine taking one home. But she led me to a spot in the passageway and waved her hands over all the beautiful flowers there. “I’m charging 5€ for these,” she said. “If I don’t sell my flowers, it’s pure loss for me. I want you to have them.”
I walked away with a song in my heart and a bouquet in my hand. A policeman stopped me. “Where did you get those?” he asked. I had a moment of panic for the florist. “From down there,” I waved vaguely. “The florist has the authorization to stay open until noon.” He laughed. “Don’t worry. It’s for my friend who wants flowers for his wife.”
I contined on my way, past the church of the Miraculous Medal, which was empty of pilgrims; past the Grande Epicerie where the line was still in place; past the local restaurants which have suddenly transformed into take-out spots; past the empty shops.
I’m sharing a recipe here that you can all make, and I promise it is stunning, delicious, and guaranteed to make everyone you serve it to, smile!
Meanwhile, stay strong! Pay attention! Treat yourself and those you are close to! Think about a positive future! Call your mom!