My Virtual School – a tale of two cities. 7.4.2020

7 April 2020. A long phone call from brother in France. Paris has just banned all outdoor exercise during the day. The police presence on the streets is fairly grim. Bro was being harangued by the old lady in the flat below his: would he pop out and buy her a newspaper? Answer: no way! it’s not on the essentials list of permitted activities and he has just watched two gendarmes checking all permits outside the building. Old lady tries the next resident. Flat refusal again. Old lady becoming very annoyed by her wimpish neighbours. This is not the spirit of La République! She will write to the newspaper and order it to be posted. Will bro pop out to the Post Office? Refusal again. Essential activities are very clearly defined. Fine is €135. Everyone must carry their papers with them to explain their activity, and now they must include the time the activity started. His town also has a curfew, the first of three towns to have it imposed as an experiment before it is introduced across France. Bro didn’t realise for 3 days then saw it on the national news.

Bro is staying home. It’s serious out there. Was a bit concerned about supplies but thought he could manage. Offered to post him toilet paper if needed – not necessarily a sheet at a time. Our own status as tp plutocrats is the result of our black market connections. The dog’s dog-walker works part-time for a supermarket and knows when supplies are due. A delivery left at our door (along with the dog) on the last day she could walk him before not-quite-lock-down.

Had our own run-in with the gendarmerie. Sneaked out of the house at 11pm for the dog’s essential late night comfort walk. There is no curfew but we still feel that we are rehearsing for the get-away in The Sound of Music, pushing the car silently, slipping through the local graveyard, before heading over the mountains into Switzerland. I’ve no idea when we became so adept at flitting furtively through the shadows. Dog is useless at it. Stops to sniff every damn tree, lamp-post and tussock with no sense of urgency at all. Have told him he might have to be abandoned for the greater good if he doesn’t buck his ideas up. Walked out of our front door straight into the arms of two community police: ‘You all right there? Nice evening.’

© Clare Sargent