18 March 2020

Love in the time of corona

 Above: in France, boulangeries remain open


As countries across the globe restrict travel, close their borders and put cities and towns on lockdown, most everyone will be huddling indoors for what might become a long haul, perhaps as much as four months. France is starting with two weeks, with a wait-and-see clause in reserve.

Already, on an ecological level, we are seeing what might be: satellite images show large metropolitan areas from Wuhan to New York spookily pollution-free. In Venice, the water has cleared up, and fish have returned to the canals, something not seen for decades. Our Montmartre apartment, thankfully on a side-street with a great choice of food shopping (and a Thai takeaway) just downstairs, overlooks a quiet interior courtyard with trees, and while we usually wake up to birdsong, this morning sounded like we are living in the countryside. Maybe we needed this.

For couples and families, being confined together brings its own challenges. At the end of last week, as glasses clinked at our now closed local café one last time, ideas were shared of what to do and what not to do, in the hopes that when this all blows over, we will all be better off for it.

What came up again and again: respecting each other's space - harder to do than it sounds. Obvious culprits: leaving a mess for the other(s) to clean up; high noise volume - whether loud phone chats, late night TV or Pavarotti belting out "Nessun Dorma" with windows flung wide. We agreed that lots more cooking at home will be inevitable, and that immune-boosting soups and cutting out sugar, which lowers the immune system, made sense. It turns out that for now, meal deliveries will stay in operation - Deliveroo, Frichti, UberEats... - and should be left at the door to respect social distancing.

Before/after-the-lockdown photos of thin-to-obese have been making rounds, but as France is not a country of snacking, fridge-raiding or cravings for pancakes and popcorn, that part will be easy.

Habits to acquire: removing shoes upon entering the home, using cleaning products that disinfect surfaces, door handles, on/off switches, daily; keeping a gel soap within easy reach near a sink, and of course washing hands (think Lady Macbeth) but surgeon-like, farther up the arm. Even in buildings with cleaning crews we talked about a need to take individual responsibility for wiping down banisters, elevator buttons, street door handles. The virus clings to metal and glass surfaces such as change, cellphone screens, elevators, supermarket checkout counters... for hours. It even clings to our clothes.

We see this as an opportunity to catch up on much - books, side-lined projects, films (providers such as Orange are offering its customers free unlimited movies til the end of March), organizing closets, shelves and neglected caves - as well as reconnect. It's a time for cuddling, massages, parlor games (chess anyone?), long talks, soul-searching.

A post on Instagram said, "Your grandparents were called to war. You're being called to sit on your couch. You can do this!" We can do this. Happy hunkering. - BPJ

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