Have you ever noticed how the weather takes perverse pleasure in thwarting the best laid plans of we puny humans? Monday 11th May was supposed to be a BIG day for us. The French lock-down was easing, and we had plans. We felt a bit like a pair of kids who had been let loose in a sweet shop where everything was free and it was all so overwhelming that we didn’t know where to begin. Should we go out for a bike ride first? Or a long walk? Or take a picnic and drive out into the far-off hills?
In the end we did none of these things. The picture below shows why.
On Sunday 10th May we had sunshine and a temperature of 26 degrees centigrade. Overnight it dropped 20 degrees, and on Monday we woke up to strong winds and a persistent downpour that last all day. So we moved on to Plan B and went to Lidl instead.
This isn’t as bad as it sounds. We still enjoyed our first foray into the wide world. The best thing was that we could set foot outside the door without having to fill in that horrible form. Secondly, we could drive together and thirdly, the bread and vegetables are always better in a Lidl than in an Intermarche and everything costs less. Under lock-down everyone was required to go to their nearest supermarket, and unfortunately Lidl was the furthest away, so I’ve been grumbling about Intermarche for the last 7 weeks.
I imagine someone released from prison must walk out of the prison gates on that first day of freedom and feel very unsettled, perhaps overwhelmed and possibly nervous. Living under lock-down has been a form of prison, albeit a very comfortable one for most of us who were in our own homes or, in our case, our boat. Coming back out into the real world, or our current version of it, will take a bit of getting used to. Our relief was also tempered by a niggling fear at the back of our minds that lock-down could very quickly be re-introduced if the number of virus cases starts to rise and so, despite the weather being much better on Tuesday, we delayed our walking/biking trips by one more day and did another foray out into town, this time to a retail park, to get some items that would save our sanity if everything went downhill again.
Our first call was to an art centre so that Michael could stock up on proper drawing paper and pencils. Masks were mandatory, there was a hand sanitiser station manned by a security guard at the entrance and clear protective screens for the payment tills. Our second call was to a garden centre, a chain called Gamm Vert, which usually has a good selection of plants, albeit on the pricey side. This time I had to wait outside the door, as there was a ‘one-in, one-out’ policy but there wasn’t much inside that was worth waiting for. They had a small, sad selection of annuals that hadn’t been watered and were past being saved. I did manage to get some strawberry plants, a chilli pepper, a tomato plant and a tray of campanula for a bit of colour.
Our third trip was to a bricolage, for assorted DIY bits that Michael needed so that he could progress with work on Olivia.
Here in our little corner of France it feels as if people are mostly still being sensible. Shops are now open but social distancing is very much in place. Masks are a common sight, but are not yet compulsory everywhere. The government has outlined the rules for cycling and running, where there is supposed to be a ten metre distance from each other, and for walking where it is five metres. This doesn’t apply to members from the same household, and I’m not sure anyone is being quite that precise about it. We are in a red zone so restaurants, parks and gardens, campsites and watersport centres are still shut. In Paris on Monday however it seemed that they weren’t taking too much notice of any of this, with pictures of crowds of people on the Seine, drinking and socialising by the waterside. I can’t think of anything I’d rather do less at the moment. I can understand their frustration but not their actions at this critical time.
For us, now the important shopping is done, we can concentrate on being able to enjoy the simple freedoms of walking and cycling once more.
Despite this wonderfully empty cycle trail there are definitely more people about, both along the river, and walking through our marina for an evening stroll, but we are fortunate that it doesn’t feel over-powering and everybody keeps their distance. I wonder at what point we would feel comfortable about inviting people on to the boat for a drink or a meal, one of the great joys of living and travelling on the water. We’re not there yet, not that it matters as there is no-one to invite aboard anyway!
Car journeys are restricted to a radius of 100 km, unless there is good reason to go further ie work or family emergency, in which case…. yes, you guessed it – another form is required. All of this will be reviewed again in two weeks time. We are keeping an eye on the virus figures in Germany, who are slightly ahead of us in easing lock-down. If their figures start to go up again it doesn’t bode well, but we try not to think about that.
Moving swiftly on – that was a clever link if I say so myself – we have a new addition to the bird family here. The swifts and swallows have arrived. I first noticed them whilst I was lying flat out on my yoga mat as they flew high above me, tiny specks in the blue.
Below is a series of pictures from our first bike ride down the river. By chance we arrived at the lock at the same time as this commercial barge full of coal and watched it squeeze Its way in.
You can see the car on the back deck, which gives you an idea of the size of these monsters. We’ve noticed that many of them are new Audi’s or BMW’s, so at the top end it must pay well. The decks of this one were immaculate, putting our decks on Olivia to shame. The crew isn’t doing her job, mainly because she thinks that life is too short for cleaning!
That about wraps it up for this week. Take care of yourselves.