I am not listening to the news every day.
First thing in the morning, before diving into the turmoil of the world, I connect to the day-light, the wind, the “rumour” of the city flowing like a river under my feet. I connect to what my body says and finally to the list of the chores I have to accomplish.
March 16th 2020 was one of those days when I did not listen to the news at all. Some time after 8 pm, walking back home, I was surprised by the fact that all the terraces were packed with people. Very unusual for a Monday evening. Nevertheless, this is how Paris mostly is: unpredictable !
The next day I was due to go to Montparnasse to do some research work and photos of the area. While walking to the bus station I was surprised that the streets were quite empty and the cafés were closed. Totally unrealistic !
Next surprise was the bus. The front door (the one we use to get into the bus) was closed. The bus was empty
My walk through Montparnasse was enchanting. Lady Spring had gently and generously displayed her picturesque perfumed mantle. Wisteria, forsythia, daffodils, narcissus, tulips, jasmine, wild cherry trees in bloom. The traffic was almost non-existent and the few people in the street … friendly. Back home I finally listened to the news and heard for the first time the word “confinement/lockdown”. Until that moment COVID was far away in China or Italy but now it was also running in our streets. Picture
There we were, trapped in our homes, only allowed to go out for the bare necessities : doctor, food, one hour’s walk not further than 1 km away from home. The “Attestation De Déplacement Dérogatoire” was an obligation if we did not want to have a fine. Picture
It seems that the French are known for their spirit of rebellion and lack of discipline. Surprise! It was as if we still had in our genes the lockdowns and practices of the past world wars. Yes, in general, we were “good”. We generally listened to the instructions and organised ourselves well.
I wish I could describe the deep SILENCE, the feeling of SPACE, the expansion of TIME. The stars became shiny & visible, the birds’ songs audible as never before. The days and nights seemed to become longer while the months seemed to shorten. Without the cars and the crowds, the streets, the boulevards, the sidewalks become larger, cleaner and welcoming.
Before I realised, Lady Spring was gone and the summer came. The lockdown lasted two months.
The first couple of days after it ended, the Parisians were timid, hesitating to go out. Some even developed the syndrome of “la cabane…” meaning that they were afraid to face the outside world. The first to burst free were the young. They became even “explosive”. The quays of the river Seine were invaded by hordes of young people searching for contact, embracing, dancing, picnicking, the tables of the restaurants and bistro’s took over the streets, the Esplanade des Invalides turned into a party/fiesta and a battlefield with the police.
During the summer holidays the “party” moved south, towards the French Riviera and west to the Atlantic beaches, much larger. Paris became quiet, which is common during the month of August. I satisfied myself with the Paris beach, on the banks of the river Seine, more poetic and homey.
And now ? Lady Fall has arrived. Schools have opened, the traffic jams are worse than ever as some are afraid to use public transport. Scooters, bicycles and other two wheeled transport have multiplied like mushrooms after the rain. We have all got used to having a couple of masks in our pocket and looking into people’s eyes while we address each other. We are changing, the world is changing… Somebody can tell … what next ?