In the midst of gloom and disaster a slight glimmer of humour. Humour is, after all, one of the ways in which humans, who unusually in the animal world can see into the future, manage to cope with the inevitable disaster which awaits us.
In France, as in all Western Europe, we are in lockdown. Being France, this is of course a bureaucratic, precisely organised form of lockdown – it’s culturally embedded. We can only leave home for one of six reasons (one of which is to have one hours exercise each day – though no more than one kilometre distance from our home). When we do venture out we must have an attestation sur l’honneur – a sworn declaration showing the reason for our departure, the date and time we leave, our name and address, and – of course – our date of birth. (The French are obsessed with declaring date of birth on any form. Even when you have a contract to buy white goods or sign for a delivery you may be required to provide it, otherwise ‘the machine won’t work’.) I’ve been stopped twice by the gendarmes wanting to check that my attestation is filled in and correct.
As I’ve noted in a previous column, only essential purchases can be made at present. This excludes hairdressers, buying clothes, or bars – but does include places selling alcohol, including shops attached to wine producers. A story in an English-language French news website the other day caught my attention. Three men went into a store attached to a chateau in the Bordeaux region. Two engaged the store manager in conversation while a third went behind the counter, dipped his hand in the till and extracted 40€; he was seen by the manager who chased all three but failed to catch them. The manager returned to the story and called the police – then noticed a piece of paper on the floor. It was the attestation of one of the thieves – correctly and entirely legally filled in! He was arrested at home later that day.
This particular blog theme will be continued with something marginally more serious to follow shortly – though even that won’t be without an element of surprise…