do not mention the war


In History on March 18, 2020 at 23:15

There you go, I’ve used the most blatant and obvious title for this little diary to describe what is happening here in Boulogne-Billancourt, France. This is the first in loosely written series of posts, thoughts and texts about how this pandemic affects us as people, as a family.


Since Tuesday, March 17 France has effectively demanded all its citizens to stay indoors. The only things allowed to do outside are shopping, including the pharmacy and sports. All of these points I will tell you something about further down.

On Monday and Tuesday shopping gave us an idea of what could happen. There were queues literally outside every store. As an East German this was something I’ve seen thirty or more years ago. Back then, we have had to queue in order to get some oranges and bananas as well as strawberries and other fruit and vegetables. The shelves inside were empty! Something I could not fathom, was that toilet paper was gone as were pasta, flour and tinned food. I never had the French down as panic buyers. There are evidently idiots who believe that the end is nigh and all they need to do is stuff themselves with pasta and bakeries and shit themselves to death.


Tuesday was the day when the shit hit home. It was forthwith forbidden to be outside except for shopping, including the pharmacy or to do some physical exercise. On the way back from shopping I was checked by a couple of coppers from the safe distance of their car if my daughter and I really had reason to be on the street. A pack of toilet paper, yes toilet paper (!!!) convinced them that indeed I have been shopping. This is the stuff anyone with a fondness for authoritarian regimes has ever dreamt of. Public life has come to standstill and spot checks are allowed and authorized. This is an Orwellian dystopia of some magnitude! It is my belief that some of these measures which are absolutely correct at this time, will in one form or another survive and we will see further restrictions on daily life on the basis that Covid-19 may stay with us for some time in the future.

In order to go out the French government issued an authorization which we have to have with us all the time. It states our name, address and our passports are also required. To download this took ages as the government’s servers broke down, naturally.

However, we have not been stopped in the street, nor have we seen any coppers. It is such an irony that at the beginning of spring we are told to stay indoors and make the best of it. It is almost impossible to stay inside all day and keep your sanity and not to degenerate to the state of an animal. On the positive side the air is clean as there is hardly any traffic which enables us to hear the birds singing from our window, something that has rarely or almost never happened before.

That was it for a start. Brief but hopefully informative. There is more to come over the following days and weeks, more topics touched upon like home schooling and working at your kitchen table with rowdy kids around you.

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