18 March 2020

Love in the time of corona

 Above: boulangeries remain open

As countries across the globe restrict travel, close 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, some claim that waters are running clear as fish return to canals, something not seen for decades. Our Montmartre apartment, thankfully on a side-street with a great choice of food shopping (not to mention 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.

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 other(s) to clean up; high noise volume - whether loud phone chats, late night TV, Pavarotti belting out "Nessun Dorma" or thumping rap tunes 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 will be left at the door to respect distancing.

Before/after-the-lockdown photos of thin-to-obese have been making rounds, but as France is not (yet) a country of snacking, fridge-raiding and 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 of sinks 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. It's believed that the virus clings to metal and glass surfaces - change, cellphone screens, elevators, supermarket checkout counters - for hours. And to our clothing.

We see this as an chance to catch up on much - side-lined reading, 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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