Reflections from lockdown

Last Tuesday France joined Italy and Spain and went into lockdown due to coronavirus; we can only go out for medical reasons, essential shopping, to help family and friends in need and for exercise. Cycling is forbidden, on the grounds that, if you have an accident, you’ll take up the bed someone with covid-19 could use. So we walk.

To be honest, I can’t think of many places I’d rather be holed up at this time; we’re reasonably isolated, have a large garden and our bookshelves and freezers are full. Until our stocks of paint, filler and other DIY supplies run out, we can use the time to do work on the house and there’s more than enough gardening to do to keep us occupied for months. The only problem is stopping at a reasonable hour!

However, reading and listening to the news is so depressing; it’s easy to get maudlin about things and in darker moments I’ve found myself wondering how long it will be before the whole family is together again, if indeed we ever will be. We were all together at Christmas; Gemma spent a week at Alex’s, to get her fix of British pre-Christmas hype, before they all flew over together. It was the first time several of them had met Emily, Kieran’s daughter, now 11 months old and Artie and Immy enjoyed meeting face to face instead of online, a rare treat.

Nick and I had worked flat out to get the house ready for so many guests; the third bedroom in the gite was, if not completely finished, very useable and I even tidied and cleaned my workshop to allow us to put a bed in there for Izzy.

Unbeknown to us, Gemma and Alex arrived with a whole case full of Christmas decorations; they waited till I was out of the way, then set about decorating the house. There were snowmen hanging from light shades, Santas stuck to windows, twinkling fairy lights wound around bannisters and “Merry Christmas” banners proclaiming their message from the top of the stairs. Even the bathroom didn’t escape the seasonal treatment!

We had a few trips out, one to the Christmas market at Pau on Christmas eve, where we met a gendarme with Christmas tree baubles in his beard, which looked pretty incongruous with his machine gun. We even saw Father Christmas, much to Immy’s delight. At Graham’s suggestion, we rode on the big wheel, with brilliant views of the Pyrenees; but Graham doesn’t do heights and looked pretty sick throughout, much to everyone’s amusement. We went to a favourite restaurant another day and they loved it so much they insisted on going back on New Year’s Day. We spent a day walking in the Pyrenees, there was very little snow, but the weather was lovely and it allowed Izzy and Immy to burn off some energy. But mostly we just stayed home, eating (everybody mucked in with the cooking), drinking, playing silly games and enjoying being together.

We had no plans for New Year’s Eve, but Alice offered to stay home and babysit so that Kieran could join us; Graham took himself off to bed early as he’d be getting up at the crack of dawn with Immy, which left just the five of us, Nick, myself and our three kids. We had the most wonderful, spontaneous, fun New Year’s Eve I can ever remember, full of silly games, general chat and laughter.

One day, fingers crossed,when this pandemic is over, we’ll all be together again. They all seem so far away at the moment, though they’re being great at keeping in touch on an almost daily basis. All we can do is wait.