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?

Life in Lockdown: Week 4

The other day at breakfast, my beloved looked at me across the table and said: “You could probably handle this for however long it lasts; maybe 12-18 months.” And you know what? He’s right. Let me explain why.

Firstly, we’ve worked from home for over 15 years and have things set up rather well – if I say so myself – particularly since we’ve now got WiFi all over, including the terrace. We work for a global client base and don’t really differentiate much between weekdays and weekends, and don’t get me started on Bank holidays. If you call, or contact us by phone, email or social media whenever, chances are we’ll respond fairly promptly, even if we’re on vacation.

Of course, my beloved husband of over 40 years typically travels a fair bit leaving me with some much welcome time alone. This has, of course, gone by the wayside. But, with plenty of personal space and, most importantly, our own bathrooms, we’re holding up well. Of course, I do have to don my PPE to regularly clean his, but that’s nothing new.

We have a routine which serves us well and which, during France’s lockdown, of necessity we’ve adjusted. Okay, so no nipping out for a bike ride. This daily constitutional now takes place on the terrace. We fit our rides in around my beloved’s conference calls, of which there are surprisingly many. We can’t both ride at the same time as someone has to man the phones etc, plus he’s lost – what a surprise – a couple of bits off of his home trainer and therefore borrows those bits from mine.

We work out before breakfast most days. Use or lose it is very apt at our age. He works an 8-10 hour day while I continue to work part-time and juggle abslutely everything else. Remember, there’s a reason he’s called « The Man Who Just Turns Up. »

As we work in the healthcare sector, we’re still very busy. Plus, from my administrative perspective, personal and corporate tax submission deadlines are looming, so there’s plenty to keep me occupied.

As Officer in Charge of Drinks (OCD), my beloved has been putting his undoubted, one might even say legendary, cocktail skills to good use. With the mercury rising, Friday through Sunday, you’ll find us enjoying them on the terrace as the sun slips beneath the horizon. He’s even invented a new one which, not unnaturally, we’ve christened the Corona Cocktail. I have no idea whether or not it would cure the virus but it’s pretty potent!

My beloved is taking his responsibility to keep in touch with everyone he knows pretty seriously. Who hasn’t he contacted would probably be an easier question to answer. What do you mean you haven’t heard from him? Don’t worry, he’ll connect with you at some point – and they say women talk! He’s also set up a couple of online communities to discuss common interests during the crisis.

Since we can’t watch any live sport or eat out at the weekends, we’ve turned our attention to the terrace. My succulents are positively flourishing from all the TLC. Maybe I don’t, after all, have digits of doom. The recent cuttings I’ve taken are starting to root and plants I thought were dead have risen like the Phoenix from the ashes. Of course, I might just smother them with all this attention.

Not being able to eat out means I have redoubled my efforts in the kitchen, trying out plenty of new recipes for his three square meals a day. I’m also only shopping once a week instead of daily, so necessity is frequently the mother of invention. There have been no complaints from him indoors but then he’d be very unwise to complain……….

While we cannot venture out into the wide, wide, world, other than for reasons for which we have to self-certify, for more than an hour at a time, we do have the luxury of the Domaine’s 27 hectacres to explore. It takes us almost 2 hours to walk the entire perimeter and we’re finding places we never knew existed, plus enjoying the flora and fauna. Of course, we’re not the only residents making use of this bounty, but there’s plenty of room for everyone to easily keep their distance.

While it might be a good time to do a few outstanding jobs around the apartment, I thank my lucky stars that the DIY stores are closed. My beloved means well but this is so not one of his competencies, plus he makes such a mess and leaves the job unfinished. It’s cheaper and easier to save them all up until there’s enough work to “get a man round” to do them.

While I recognise how fortunate we are, I’d like to say a heart-felt thanks to those manning the frontlines, whether that be in a hospital or supermarket or wherever, for making the situation so much more bearable for the rest of us. We enjoy joining in every evening at 20:00 to say a huge thank you.

Just in case the first paragraph induced panic, I should say that I don’t think the lockdown will last 12-18 months. I expect it to last 2-3 months, with thereafter a very gradual easing of restrictions during which we’ll all be venturing out locally wearing a mask and gloves and keeping our distance. However, I suspect it may be 12-18 months before we can venture afar.