One from the vaults: Stay calm, count to five and exhale

We’re heading back to 2016 today where I discuss my beloved’s ability (or lack thereof) to buy great presents.

Just over three years ago, my beloved bought me an iPad mini. I was sceptical at first but it’s become an indispensable part of my life. It goes everywhere with me. It’s the first thing I reach for when waking up and the last thing I look at before going to sleep. Just in case you’re starting to feel sorry for me, please remember my beloved travels a lot so I’m often home alone.

This morning the screen froze while I was reading a newspaper online. I rebooted but it just returned to the frozen screen. Initially panic set in as I thought this might mean a trip to my local Apple Store where I knew I would encounter lots of indifferent Gallic shrugs, little assistance and be advised there were no appointments for the next three weeks. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt! Instead, I googled the problem and found plenty of advice to help me through the few steps needed to resolve the issue – phew! Crisis averted.

It’s amazing how dependent we become on these devices. I can honestly say it’s the best present he’s ever bought me. Regular readers will know he’s not a giver of great presents so, much to his relief, I have banned him from buying me any. Indeed, my blood runs cold when he utters the words “I’ve bought you a little something!” That’s because we’ve been together for over 40 years and I can count on the fingers of one hand all the really great things he’s bought me.

Yes, I know I sound ungrateful, but I hate to waste money. You have to understand that my beloved gives very little thought to the actual purchase and is far more likely to buy something he’d like. Also, purchases tend to take place in airport duty-free while he’s rushing to catch a plane – not necessarily a conducive environment.

Unfortunately, my beloved has a hard act to follow. My late father was a purchaser of great gifts par excellence. He would spend hours trying to find the right coloured scarf to go with an outfit, or handbag or a piece of jewellery to delight or a beautiful handkerchief. Gifts don’t have to be expensive but they do need some careful thought as to what would please the receiver. He’d buy things throughout the year for little surprises, birthdays and Christmas, never once disappointing any of his four girls. My beloved is never going to assail those dizzy heights.

Indeed, my beloved will only go shopping if we’re going to buy him something. I generally don’t allow him to shop on his own, he’s very susceptible to the charm of the shop assistants and I’ve long suspected he’s colour blind. His distressed purchases, when an airline misplaces his baggage, bear witness to this.

But I digress. Usually, if  I entrust him to buy something from the airport, I specify what he should buy. I find it’s much safer that way. He was recently entrusted by a group of businessmen with purchasing gifts for the two Chinese ladies who’d accompanied them on a recent trip to China. Needless to say, I helped him choose the gifts otherwise I dread to think what they would have received! I also keep a stock of gifts suitable to give to clients, particularly those in the Middle and Far East, where an exchange of gifts is typical.

My favourite gifts to give and receive are consumables. French goodies go down very well while I’ve recently, and gratefully, received white tea, imperial rice and a selection of Indian spices. I’m still using up all the liquid and alcoholic gifts my beloved has received over the years, most of which end up in my cooking. I suspect we may never exhaust all of them. Likewise, our local charity shop has been the “lucky” recipient of many of our unwanted gifts. How many daggers mounted in picture frames does a girl need – none!

My last employer had a catalogue of corporate gifts, the Swiss Army knife being a particular and always welcome gift. I recall giving the all-singing, all-dancing version as a birthday present to a senior executive with whom I was negotiating to acquire a plot of land for the company. My birthday was later that month and he reciprocated with a wholly unsuitable gift – Blonde perfume and matching body lotion by Gianni Versace. I opened the gift at a table surrounded by our respective advisors and you could hear a pin drop when I revealed what was inside. I think I murmured “How thoughtful”  while appreciating my beloved wasn’t alone in buying unsuitable gifts!

Things about France that surprised me: the importance of la Pharmacie

I’ve previously mentioned that one of my least favourite places is the pharmacy, any pharmacy. This is largely because of the queues. It’s not the volume of customers but rather the amount of time taken to deal with each one and their myriad of purchases, going through the pros and cons of all the products on offer. Yes, the advice of the pharmacist is keenly sought, never more so than over the last few months, by the hypochondriac-prone French.

The pharmacy is a cornerstone of France’s (quite rightly) revered healthcare system, not to mention the beauty industry. You’ll find at least one in every small town and even in some relatively small villages. On the French Riviera, we seem (to me) to have one every 100 metres! In fact, there are around 21,000 pharmacies across the whole country. In some places, pharmacies are the only places where you can go to for medical advice if there’s no doctor’s surgery nearby and, many French will talk to their pharmacist before visiting their GP.

Laws currently regulate where you can buy medication and medical equipment, and most of these can only be prepared and sold by a pharmacist. Pharmacists are also authorised to prepare medicines for specific conditions or for other medical establishments such as hospitals. But this exclusivity is under threat.

The reverence with which the pharmacist’s advice is held carries over from medical to beauty products. While I’m waiting in one of those interminable queues I might get to overhear a conversation between customer and pharmacist with the latter’s weighted opinions on, say, the correct moisturiser. It’s rare to see anyone question the authority of the pharmacist or even their lieutenants: no-nonsense, white, lab-coated salesladies. They’ll analyse skin problems and lead you to anything from mink oil face cream to Homéoplasmine, a waxy balm traditionally used to soothe nursing mothers’ chafed nipples, a great remedy for chapped lips, to Embryolisse Lait Creme Concentré, the well-priced and truly wonderful face cream with the disconcerting name. A number of these products have achieved cult status in the skincare industry and are now available globally.

Elaborate pharmacy window displays change according to the seasons. At exam time, their windows will be full of ads for, and boxes of, things that I’ve truly only seen in France: memory pills, anti-snoring tablets and, of course, pills and supplemental regimes for le fatigue. This year these have been replaced by anything and everything to help ward off COVID-19. Prevention and protection have been the key themes.

After exams, comes the summer holidays and everyone wants to have beach-ready bodies. So the pharmacy will showcase slimming remedies, anti-cellulite pills, pre-bronzing capsules, gel for “heavy legs”  – the last one is something I’ve only ever seen in France. What are heavy legs? All the French women I know have enviably slim, svelte legs.

Come autumn, pharmacy windows are full of fascinating fungi charts. Autumn is wild mushroom season bringing in cèpes, girolles, chanterelles and the sinister sounding trompettes de la mort (trumpets of death) – all of which are edible. This is one of the more important functions of the French pharmacist. They are all required to study mushroom taxonomy as part of their training and provide the service of examining your basket of foraged fungi and oint out any that are not edible.

Alas, as with many other icons of French culture, such as cafés and bistros, the pharmacy as it exists today is under threat. Firstly from parapharmacies, often within supermarkets, which can discount heavily, and online – an ever- growing channel. The current government has floated the idea of deregulating pharmacies, which pharmacists worry will allow supermarkets to also begin selling over-the-counter drugs and which will also potentially allow corporations to buy up the typically owner-run pharmacies. The highly personalised service would be just one casualty of that model, they say. To protest, they upheld another French tradition: they went on strike!

Lockdown loosening in France

France moved into the second phase of its loosened lockdown restrictions last Tuesday, 2nd June – so what changes did that bring to our everyday life?

France began to loosen its strict lockdown from 11th May, but encouraging data on the virus circulation meant that from 2nd June the country moved to the next phase of the plan which will last until 22nd June and returns life to a state where, according to the Prime Minister Edouard Philippe:

……freedom will, finally, be the rule and restriction the exception.

As with all stages of France’s lockdown plan, this comes with the caveat that restrictions could be reimposed if the health situation worsens. Plus, local authorities retained the power to impose extra restrictions in their area.

So what changed?

The map of France divided into green and orange zones for phase 2

                                Map: Santé Publique France

France is now divided only into two zones where the vast majority of the country is coloured green – showing a low circulation of the virus. Unsurprisingly, the exception is the greater Paris Île-de-France region, which is coloured orange to show higher levels of the virus, along with the overseas départements of French Guyana and Mayotte. Orange zones naturally have more restrictions than green ones.

Bars, cafés and restaurants

These could reopen from 2nd June, having been closed by government order since 15th March. There are a lot of hygiene restrictions for owners to abide by, including spaces of at least one metre (3 feet) between tables, and in orange zones – including Paris – only outdoor terraces can reopen.

We went out for coffee on the Tuesday to one of our usual hangouts and things were quiet, almost deadly quiet. However, it was only day one and many places close anyway on Tuesdays. Friday we went out for lunch at our favourite local restaurant and it was reasonably busy, about 50% of their normal trade and all regulars.

The 100km rule

This rule was scrapped and people can now travel freely around France for any reason, without the need for a self-certified form (attestation). The second week of half-term saw a number of French holiday makers in their second-homes in the Domaine – good news.

Seats of learning

The gradual reopening of schools was accelerated, with all infant, primary and secondary schools able to re-open.  Maximum class sizes remain, however, so many pupils will only be attending for part of the week. High schools (lycées) will only reopen in the green zones and universities will continue with online teaching.

Parks, beaches and gardens

These have now all reopened though it’s down to individual local authorities on whether masks are compulsory in parks, beaches and gardens.

We had a picnic on the beach on Saturday evening. It was the usual crowd and we may have just numbered 2 x 10, including dogs and children. It was so nice to catch up with everyone’s news in person and we’ll be getting together like this on a regular basis.

Gyms and swimming pools

All gyms in green zones have reopened with those in orange zones scheduled to reopen on 22nd June. The same applies to swimming pools. Thank goodness my beloved can finally use the Domaine’s 50 metre, Olympic-sized outdoor pool.

Cinemas, theatres and museums

Theatres and museums have begun to reopen in green zones, while orange zones must wait again until 22nd June. Cinemas can reopen in the whole country as of 22nd June. Wearing a mask will be mandatory in all these spaces.

What doesn’t change

While life in general looks and feels a lot freer, there are still restrictions in place.

  • Those who can work from home are asked to continue to do so
  • Masks remain compulsory on public transport and shops can require their customers to wear masks – all our shops and shopping centre require masks to be worn
  • Gatherings in a public place are still limited to a maximum of 10, although there is no restriction on gatherings in private residences
  • Contacts sports remain banned and professional sports such as rugby and football are not expected to restart before September
  • Nightclubs and music venues remain closed
  • The rules on international travel remain in place, with entry into France heavily restricted. This is not expected to change before 15th June.

What else?

The annual Bastille Day military parade in Paris on 14th July 14 will be replaced with a much smaller tribute to health workers. However, the football authorities are hoping the postponed French Cup final could still go ahead before a limited number of spectators in Paris. While both domestic Cup finals, postponed in April, may now be staged in August just before the planned start of next season.

The government hopes to further ease restrictions from 22nd June, and the second round of voting for the country’s municipal elections, originally set for March, are now planned for 28th June.

Pesky WP Gremlins

Over the past week or so, I’ve noted that many of the blogs I’ve followed for some considerable time have just dropped off my timeline. According to WP, I am still following you but I am not seeing your posts in my timeline. I’m slowly trying to identify all the affected blogs, yours may be one of them.

This is enormously frustrating and I have reported the issue to WP. I know we all get beset by these gremlins from time to time and I hope my issues will shortly be resolved. So, if you were wondering why I hadn’t been “liking” and “commenting” on your wonderful posts…………that’s the reason and many, many apologies!

One from the vaults: Just what I needed

One from way back in May 2014, when I was feeling anything but chilled due to pressure of work!

Yes, I’m feeling decidedly time-pressured. This is the first time in ages I’ve had a few spare minutes to devote to my own blog. For a woman who’s allegedly “retired”, I seem to be mighty busy. I gave up a high pressured job in the City to spend time doing what I wanted to do and not the things everyone else wanted me to. Where did it all go wrong?

Don’t mind me. I’m just feeling a bit reflective after my epic fail on yesterday’s ride. At this time of year my tree pollen allergy makes me feel as if I’m riding with a heavy cold and I struggled up a climb I can usually do with ease. It was a truly glorious day. The sun shone, the countryside was green, lush and ablaze with meadow flowers, yellow broom and wild herbs whose scents seem the very essence of here. We’d rendezvoused with the boys mid-ride and enjoyed a quick cup of coffee, while gazing longingly at the sandy beach with the waves lapping the shoreline, before heading into the L’Esterel hills.

As soon as we hit the climb I started to wheeze like an asthmatic granny. No need to point out that I’m old enough to be a granny, that’s not helpful! I set my riding companion free and watched her soar up the incline, dancing away into the distance. The road was unusually busy with traffic. Depending on whether they were on two or four wheels, they seemed respectively to be practising for this week-end’s MotoGP at Le Mans or channeling their inner Sebastien Loeb.

Towards the top of the climb, on a stretch of fresh tarmac, a convoy of vehicles rushed past me. Obviously oblivious to the “A Metre Matters” campaign for cyclist safety. Their draft caught me unawares, I bobbled and my front wheel slipped unintentionally off the new tarmac and I landed ignominiously in the grass verge. I quickly leapt to my feet and brushed myself down. No one had seen my faux pas and only my pride had been bruised. I remounted and swiftly crested the summit. It was (thankfully) pretty much all downhill from there and I soon rejoined my companions who’d been topping up their tans while waiting for me to reappear.

It’ll be a recovery ride for me today!

Anyone know where I can get one of these?

Deconfinement +7

Well, frankly it’s been a funny old week, our first out of strict lockdown. About the only real difference is that we no longer need an attestation (self-certification) stating when and where we’re going. That is unless we’re travelling further than 100km from home, which we’re not.

Last Monday we had our first trip out other than to the bakery and supermarket. We drove into Nice to collect our masks from the cycle club whose HQ is in Place Garibaldi. We’d already obtained some disposable ones from our local town hall but these were reusuable ones with tons of disposable inserts.

Nice was definitely quiet, I don’t think I’ve ever driven in quite so quickly. There were plenty of people milling about of whom half were wearing masks. The mayor of Nice (5th largest city in France) has decreed that everyone should wear a mask when out in Nice, especially on public transport. Of the 50% wearing masks, about half we not wearing them correctly. It’s kinda difficult to smoke and wear a mask!

I didn’t venture out again in the car until Friday, largely due to the inclement weather and where was I going to go? It was around the same time as on Monday, 5 o’clock in the afternoon and the roads, unlike Monday, were really busy. I just nipped into my local organic store where everyone, without exception, was wearing masks and a couple of us also had disposable gloves.

Saturday, joy of joys, a couple of friends had invited us round for dinner. The husband is a professional cyclist who’s been honing his considerable cookery skills during lockdown. So expectations were high. En route we dropped in to see more friends, they have two small boys who usually rush out to hug us enthusiastically. They ran out to greet us and then halted in their tracks, no doubt remembering that this was no longer acceptable or advisable. Their new dog, whom we’d yet to meet, had no such qualms, sensing here was a pair of dog lovers, he jumped all over us. We didn’t mind. It was lovely to catch up with our friends face to face rather than via Zoom, albeit without bises (kisses) and at a suitable distance.

We then drove round for our dinner date which was so lovely. Frankly he could have served me beans on toast and I’d have been more than happy as it meant not having to cook and clear up after a meal. He’d prepared a refreshing fennel, orange, avocado and prawn salad to start, followed by lamb kebabs, ratatouille and spiced rice. Obviously, I just had a large portion of the delicious vegetables. My beloved said the lamb was perfectly cooked and seasoned. Dessert was a moist and very yummy vegan brownie (I have secured the recipe) with carpaccio of pineapple. We were more than happy bunnies.

The meal was well-balanced, very tasty and beautifully presented. The sort of meal you’d have been happy to pay for! If he ever quits professional cycling……… I did ask whether or not there was a Celebrity MasterChef on French television, I don’t recall ever seeing one but thought I’d check. There isn’t, which is a shame as he’d be a shoe in.

My beloved, who has never ever cooked me a meal did not feel moved to emulate our host. Probably just as well as because, unlike our host who was extremely neat and tidy in the kitchen, mine would probably look as is it had been hit by a bomb. I’ve seen the mess he makes when preparing a sandwich. A three-course meal just doesn’t bear thinking about.

As we drove home from our very enjoyable evening out we didn’t pass another car. It was just before midnight. Maybe everyone’s still observing the curfew?

On Sunday afternoon, we popped into our local garden centre which is at the nearby Polygone Riviera shopping centre. This was pretty quiet, only a few shops were open. Suitably distanced markers were outside all of the shops and there were security guards ensuring everyone followed the two-way pedestrian traffic signs. This time everyone was wearing a mask, except the smokers and they had theirs round their chins.

Restrictions on the beach were lifted on Sunday. We can swim, surf, paddleboard or sail in the water on our own, and walk on the beach but we cannot sit there, or hold parties and BBQs. This was possibly less of an issue due to the weekend weather. It wasn’t cold but it was Wet, Wet, Wet. Fortunately, the outlook is for much more sunshine.

Consequently, we were raring to go for a ride this morning, only our third this week. As far as we could tell, cyclists are pretty much abiding by the 10 metre rule or, in our case, at least 500 metres!


10 Lockdown Learnings

It’s #deconfinement +1 but very little has changed, largely thanks to the weather. After weeks of largely glorious weather our gradual release from lockdon was heralded by torrential rain and, weather wise, a rather mixed forecast until almost month-end. This, of course, may be fortuitous and ensure that no one oversteps the mark and there are no further outbreaks of COVID-19 warranting a return to lockdown.

Being confined to base for over two months has thrown up some powerful home-truths. Here are ours:-

1. For us it was pretty much same old, same old as we’ve worked from home for 15 years. We have an established routine, particularly during the week and we kept to that. Our daily rides were replaced with a combination of walks around our grounds, cycling on the home trainer, working out and yoga on the terrace. At the weekend,, cocktails on the terrace replaced our regular apéros while I recreated some of our favourite dishes in lieu of meals out. To be honest, it was fine. We’re so much more fortunate than many.

2. We’re both fairly low maintenance and didn’t really miss trips to beauty salons or the hairdressers. Indeed, the local hairdressers can heave a sigh of relief. I am patently not to be trusted with hair clippers. My beloved was in dire need of a hair cut as we went into lockdown. He’s follicly challenged and typically keeps it very short with a cut every three weeks, which includes a trim of his eyebrows.

A couple of weeks in and he was looking pretty disreputable with Dennis Healey eyebrows (former UK politician renowned for his incredibly bushy eyebrows)  – not good for all those Zoom conferences. I attempted to redress the problem and he ended up looking like a dog with mange – cue a hat. Fortunately my technique has improved but not enough that I’m going to make a habit of it! Unlike these boys, 8-time world champion Marc Marquez looks to be as equally adroit with the clippers as on two-wheels.

As an aside, I’ve been much amused at how top sportsmen and women hve been amusing themselves in lockdown from taking part in various challenges, training, working out and playing competitive games. I reckon time has hung more heavily on their hands.

3. We’ve lived here for over 15 years and while we frequently walked through our magnificent grounds, we’d never walked all around them. It was a revelation as we found areas we didn’t know existed and we got to watch Spring in all its glories unfold. Chatting to neighbours, at a responsibly safe distance, we discovered we weren’t the only ones.

4. In trying to keep to one weekly shop, in the last couple of days of the week I would find myself emulating the recently returned British Classic “ Ready, Steady, Cook” where chefs have to come up with meals from an odd assortment of ingredients. I often feel my best dishes are borne out of necessity rather than cookery books. The results can be found in current and future The Musette posts.

5. We’ve been quite content with one another’s company. We’ve checked on friends, neighbours in isolation and family at regular intervals but didn’t feel the need to indulge in virtual aperos, pub quizzes or karaoke sessions with them. Consequently, we now know for sure that my beloved and I will survive retirement and old-age together so long as we have enough room to occasionally get away from one another and, of course, those all important separate bathrooms. I cannot stress enough the importance of the latter though, of course, for the time being I still have to don PPE every couple of days to clean his one.

6. This crisis has strengthened our resolve to remain in France and become French citizens. IMHO Monsieur Macron has excelled by comparison with other world leaders. You know who I mean, I don’t have to mention their names. We have our own company in France and we’ve been inundated with offers of financial assistance to ensure we can keep operating. Luckily for us, that’s not been an issue, but it’s nice to know it’s there should we need it.

7. My beloved husband loves being waited on hand and foot and has resolutely been as busy as possible during the pandemic to ensure that situation persists. His only contribution has been to invent a new cocktail! Our current deal, which expires at the end of the year, is that he shouldn’t make any more mess than usual. Well this has gone out of the window, big time. There’s not a corner of the apartment (except the kitchen) that he hasn’t colonised. He’s taken over my desk in the lounge leaving me to enjoy the office because I couldn’t hear myself think with all his Zoom conferences and webinars. In fact, he’s been so busy that there have been days where I’ve only seen him at mealtimes. Like he’s ever going to miss any of those!

8. I don’t have digits of doom! I wouldn’t claim to have green fingers either but our terrace garden of succulents is flourishing thanks to my regular attention. I’ve even added to our growing collection having successfully propogated a number of cuttings from plants I’ve found in the Domaine’s gardens. Given we’re not going to be straying too far from home this year (and next), I may consider getting some geraniums now the garden centres have re-opened.

9. We’ve watched far less television than we normally do (no sport) but haven’t found time to read any books. We’ve introduced a music only evening where I’ve been encouraging my beloved to make the most of his monthly subscription to Apple music by downloading tracks from lots of new artists aka ones I like. We’ll be doing this in future on a regular basis.

10. We’ll be taking our release from lockdown one step at a time. Firstly, when and if the weather improves, by going out for rides on our bikes. It’ll be so nice to feel with wind in our helmets again and see what’s changed in the past few weeks while we’ve been in our bubble. However, we’re not in any rush to get together with family (all in UK) or friends. There have been no reported incidences of COVID-19 in the Domaine and we’d like to keep it that way. We’ll continue to shop once a week, early on Saturday mornings.

What have you learned while you’ve been in lockdown? Are there any changes you’re going to make as a consequence?

Things about France that surprised me: the French in lockdown

As we prepare for a loosening of lockdown in France on 11 May, I summarise some of the things I’ve learned about the French during this period. There are some interesting insights into the country and its people.

Who could have predicted that France – the country marked over the last two years by gilets jaunes (yellow vest) riots and mass strikes – would be following one of the strictest coronavirus lockdowns in Europe?

For almost two months now France has been subject to stringent rules regulating all outdoor activity. When leaving home – even if it is simply to pop to the boulangerie next door – everyone must fill out, date and sign a form stating their errand and, if necessary, submit to regular police checks. And during this period, the majority of French have done as they were told.

Even if the police have handed out a ton of fines, there have been no riots, no protests, no social street stir. Even French president Emmanuel Macron sounded slightly surprised about French docility when he extended the lockdown to 11 May.

They said we were an undisciplined people and yet here we are respecting some of the most rigorous rules ever imposed in peace time.

Here’s what we have learned:

1. French people actually love rules

Ask anyone for a stereotype about the French and it won’t be long before revolutions, strikes and riots enter the conversation. The French do not have a reputation as people who follow rules gladly and indeed frequently cast themselves as natural rebels.

And yet the French government has succeeded in imposing one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe, and pretty much everyone has accepted it.

Yes, there have been a lot of fines handed out for breaking the rules, especially in the early days, but there has been no serious attempt at mass disobedience or revolt against the rules, in general people have accepted that lockdown is necessary and meekly filled out their attestations before leaving home.

Maybe it’s because the tight lockdown conditions give everyone the perfect excuse for indulging in a very popular French hobby – complaining – which I’ll cover in another post.

2. Apéro is very important . . . but drinking isn’t

The evening pre-dinner drinks ritual is de rigeur in France, and a little thing like being confined wasn’t going to stop it. Within a few days of the lockdown being introduced #apéroSykpe  and #apéroZoom were trending on Twitter as people came up with a technological solution to enjoying drinks with friends.

And yet it seems that the chatting with friends is more important than the actual drinking. While alcohol sales in the UK and US rose by up to 20 percent as limitations were imposed on daily life, sales of alcohol have actually fallen in France. Contrary to popular belief, the French are not big drinkers. That’s right, drinking alone in PJs at 3pm is not as popular in France as elsewhere.

3. The daily baguette is a necessity 

So leaving the house is a little more complicated than usual – involving as it does filling out a signed, timed and dated attestation declaring that the purpose of your trip is essential.

You might think that would be a reason to either cut back on bread or buy a sliced loaf that lasts a couple of days. Mais non! Boulangeries have of course remained opened as an essential business and everywhere it’s pretty rare to see one without a (socially distanced) queue outside as people wait to buy their baguettes.

4. The president is quite the TV star 

Before the coronavirus outbreak, president Emmanuel Macron’s approval rating was trundling along at around 30 percent – although that’s not particularly unusual for French presidents.

Jaques Chirac, subject of many gushing tributes when he died in 2019, had an approval rating of 26 percent when he was actually in office, François Mitterand’s rating in 1991 was 29 percent while Macron’s predecessor François Hollande reached the dizzy lows of 18 percent towards the end of his presidency.

Macron has enjoyed a slight rise since the outbreak, getting up to around 40 percent, but despite the fact that more than half the public regularly tell pollsters that they don’t like him, his TV broadcasts have been attracting record audiences. He has made four live TV addresses since the outbreak began with the most recent one – where he announced that lockdown would start to be lifted on 11 May  – with an all-time record audience of 36.7 million. That’s more than half the entire population and 15 million more people than watched France winning the World Cup back in 2018. Although it’s not like any of us had the option of going out for a meal instead of watching the president.

5. Creating new words is fun

We’ve all learned quite a lot of technical and medical vocabulary during lockdown. Not to be left out, the French have been busy creating new terms too.

French for lockdown is confinement so we’ve also heard a lot of talk of le déconfinement – the great moment when we’re all released, currently set for next Monday 11 May.

They’ve also coined co-confiné – the person you are confined to home with. That would be my beloved (and long suffering) husband.

And even the, largely ironic, bon confinement – have a great lockdown.

Sadly though there doesn’t seem to be a French version of covidiot!

(all images courtesy of AFP)

Postcard from Portugal (not): Part II

If things had gone to plan, we would’ve been spending a few days exploring Lisbon while celebrating my beloved husband’s birthday. This is the second time in six months, we’ve not gone to Portugal. In the past few years, we’ve tended to make a habit of going away for his birthday and have twice visited Paris, while last year we were in Palma de Mallorca.

I decided that I would try to make the preceeding weekend special by cooking some of his favourite dishes. Accordingly, I was up with the lark on Saturday morning and ventured outside of my shopping limit to visit the fishmonger. He had plenty of glistening fresh fish just none of that which my beloved’s heart really desired. Nonetheless, I purchased some and returned home. Fresh fish would make a welcome change for us both. Although our local supermarket does sell fish, it’s not of the same quality as our fishmonger.

You might be wondering why I didn’t rustle up some Portugese dishes and, I’ll be honest, it didn’t occur to me. In addition to which I’d asked my beloved what he’d wanted to eat and while I couldn’t deliver the requested dishes which’ll have to wait, he did enjoy what I produced.

I did suggest that he didn’t do any work over the weekend but my entreaties fell on deaf ears as during the lockdown my beloved has been Zooming here, there and everywhere. He’s been giving presentations on all manner of matters dental. Of course, there’s never been a better time to take good care of one’s oral hygiene, goodness knows when it’ll be safe to visit the dentist and hygienist again!

Fortunately the weather was fine over the weekend and we were able to enjoy our daily perambulations around the Domaine and appreciate an apero on the terrace. Sunday morning my beloved rode with his cycle-club buddies from the terrace on Zoom. This could become a regular feature until we’re able to get properly out and about on our bikes.

We did vow that we wouldn’t watch more television during lockdown than we do normally and, by and large, we’ve stuck to this. Of course, with no live sport to watch, there’s been a big gaping hole in our lives. Typically, we’d now be looking forward to the Giro d’Italia and the French MotoGP and praying that my beloved boys in claret and blue had gained enough points to stay in the Premiership. Consequently, we’ve dived into some box sets. But we’ve not been binging, three episodes an evening has been our limit.

Of course, we’ve been much entertained with the ingenious virtual ways people have managed to get together while being apart with pub quizzes, gaming, karaoke nights, racing on Zwift and various athletic challenges. We’ve had no need of these, our own company has (fortunately) sufficed.

This morning my beloved declared that, given the circumstances, he’d had an enjoyable pre-birthday weekend which is probably the best I could’ve hoped for!


One from the vaults: Marital aid

While I love a good argument, my husband dislikes any form of confrontation, particularly one he’s likely to lose. Yes, I generally like to have the last word. So he tries very hard never to give me the satisfaction of having it. Just about the only thing we ever used to argue about was directions while driving the car.

Yes, of course, that old chestnut. Women can’t find their way out of a paper bag, read a map, nor do they have any spatial awareness. While guys never ask for directions, never check on a map beforehand, never turn around after making a wrong turn etc etc But all that ended with the advent of GPS.

Having a GPS means never having to ask for directions, never having to check the route beforehand, never, ever having to say sorry, and, of course, if you do get lost, it’s not your fault!

Yes, there’s another woman now telling my husband, and your’s, exactly what to do and when. Hard as it is to believe, he’s actually listening. Has anyone ever heard a GPS with a man’s voice – no, I thought not.  The more sophisticated versions will even find you restaurants, petrol stations, whatever you need. How many marriages has this device saved? Is anyone keeping track?

They also do similar devices for bikes, and I’m sorely tempted to get one. However, it’s rare for my husband to take me on a wild goose chase on two wheels. Not that he hasn’t tried. But, it’s more that I now know my way around the surrounding countryside so much better than he does.

What he really needs is a device which keeps track of his peripherals: glasses, wallet, keys, mobile phone, briefcase. Now I know that my husband is not alone in being regularly parted, often only temporarily, with these things. But boy, do we waste a lot of time and energy trying to find them. While this would  deny me many more after dinner stories and jokes, frankly we’ve been married so long I already have at least three book’s worth, how many more do I really need?