Friday, June 5, 2020

Life after confinement, normal, but not normal

French Village Diaries. life after confinement normal, but not normal
First coffee at the village bar


Normal, not normal

On paper yesterday seemed to be a perfectly normal day. Get up, have breakfast, join friends for coffee at the village bar, home for a yoga class, lunch, head to Niort for big shopping, dinner and then a council meeting. In reality, it was a long way from normal.

The village awakes 

At 08h30 the bar opened its doors for the first time since the middle of March and whilst we weren’t queueing up waiting for the key to turn in the lock, we certainly made sure we were there for a morning coffee with friends, like normal. What wasn’t normal was the lack of hugs or kisses to say hello and our smiles were hidden by our masks, that also did a great job at muffling our greetings. The owners were wearing full visors and although masks were removed when we sat at the outside terrace, where the drinks and conversation flowed, it all felt a bit strange. It was also rather disturbing to see local French friends arrive, remove their masks and say hello in the normal French (cheek kissing) way. I know I am not ready for that level of intimacy outside of immediate family just yet.

Yoga

Yoga was as normal as it has been since March, a log in to an online class where Marc the teacher fills the screen of my laptop, the others are tiny thumbnails at the edge of the picture and the only other thing in my yoga nook with me is Mini the dog, snoring on the bed. There is now the possibility of starting real life classes once more, but on a restricted basis that will involve a lot more work and effort from Marc and Kate who run Phoenix Yoga. From discussions after class, it seems most of us are agreed, for now, online is still the way to go.

Niort

I’m not really a fan of days out shopping at the best of times, but every now and then, needs must. Post Covid-19 confinement shopping takes things to a whole new level of stress and unpleasantness. Some people are wearing masks, some are not, some shops insist on masks, some do not. Some people respect the distances expected between others, some do not. Everywhere seemed busy and slow, with queues to get in as people stopped to apply hand gel, queues at the checkouts and traffic queues all over town. I was tired, grumpy and so glad to get home, which if I’m honest is my normal reaction to having to go shopping.

Council meeting

Under normal circumstances, I would not still be on the village council, but as the confinement meant the cancellation of the second round of elections, back in March, it is the old council who are still in control. The second round is now scheduled for 28th June and it will be just after that, when the Maire and deputies are voted in by the new council that they take over. Last night’s meeting to agree a provisional budget for 2020 was a very different meeting to normal. Rather than being held in the normal small meeting room in the Mairie, we were vastly spread out, at our own tables, in the salle des fetes, with adequate distances between us at all times. Even the attendees were not the same as normal as this was an extraordinary mix of old and newly elected councillors, the vote being ours, but in reality, it will be the new team who have to work with the budget we voted for. We normally end each meeting with a chilled glass of something and more informal conversations than the meeting itself allows. Last night, we finished, we said goodbye, we left and it all seemed rather flat.


French Village Diaries. life after confinement normal, but not normal
Wearing pink for Ben


A very un-normal day

Today is not going to be a normal day either. It is not normal to lose your 22-year-old nephew. It is not normal to be prevented from attending the funeral of a close family member and it’s certainly not what I think of as normal to be given a log-in to watch a live stream from the crematorium. 

Ben was a bright and sparkly character, who lit up a room with his smile and also his collection of colourful shirts. We are dressed in our finest bright clothes for him today, as requested. One of the things we bought in Niort yesterday was a bright pink flamingo for our garden, in memory of Ben, who was often photographed with a pink flamingo. Rest in peace, Ben.


French Village Diaries. life after confinement normal, but not normal
Ben

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