There is a date on everyone’s lips in France at the moment: 11th May. No-one knows what it will bring: like the rules of English grammar, the guidelines delivered by the government have revealed as many exceptions as there are rules and so we wait in anticipation to see if we are a red zone, a green zone, whether we can see family if they live 103 kms away and are elderly but not old … (nuance), whether we can see our gym coach outside but not inside the gym, whether we understand why one of our children can go back to school and one can stay at home….
But kudos to the government. In spite of numerous criticisms, none of us would have liked to make the decisions potentially governing the life and death of French citizens given the circumstances and the constantly changing data.
For now, the date remains shrouded in mystery and for some, trepidation. Personally, on the one hand, there are some things that I really look forward to … some more superficial than others. Of course, I can’t wait to re-establish face to face links with all the people I see on a weekly basis, whether they be my lovely students or groups of dear friends (very often they are both). I cannot wait for that nonchalance about time. I realise now that even if I am always running from place to place, I am always free to choose when, and I see that clearly as a luxury now. I look forward to the anticipation of planning a holiday with my family, be it near or far. Anticipation is such a precious thing. Uncertainty is so destabilizing….
And on a very very superficial note …. I really can’t wait to put my trainers at the back of a cupboard and put on some high heels. God, I’ve missed them!
But there are so many things that I have enjoyed during my cocooning period that I don’t want to lose them. I have never spent so much time with family, and it has been wonderful to spend so much time with my daughters of 18 and 17 who certainly will move on to higher education in a few short years. It has been a blessing to have this time together. The confinement was also the instigator of a WhatsApp group with my parents, brother and sister and it has been incredibly novel and touching to have that exchange so regularly. Thank you for that, confinement period!
It will have been a time of introspection and self-discovery no doubt and I hope that all of us will come out of this slowly, wisely, and having learnt a precious lesson about who we are what we need and don’t need in life. There is a chance that this is not the end of the confinement period, but instead of taking that negatively, I hope we it will help us remember to be aware of how we spend our precious time.
WHAT I’M LOOKING FORWARD TO AFTER THE LOCKDOWN
First and foremost, I can’t wait to get back together with my partner who has been stranded in Sardinia since before the lockdown began. I want the warmth of human interchange, and tactile comfort.
I’m looking forward to the very limited freedom we’ll have in Italy – to walk in the streets, to visit the extended family, and in a couple of weeks’ time, to go to the sea.
I’m worried about the economic chaos we’re likely to find once we peek out into the ‘real’ world, but at the same time I’m hopeful of seeing the same concentration of mind we’ve witnessed since the lockdown began: the creative appreciation of small things and the desire on the part of ordinary people to make this a turning point in how we live our lives. Fearful of shoddy solutions to systemic problems and the all-too-easy power-grab of the greedy at the expense of the honest and simple, I nevertheless look forward to our strong and determined refusal to accept the same old lies from those who govern.
But more than all that, I’m looking forward to rediscovering the sense of time: after eight weeks of isolation, I feel lost in a bubble, floating precariously in the air where minutes slip into hours and hours days until a month and then two have slipped past and nothing has changed. The days are long, but the weeks short. I crave a sense of urgency, the hard, rough edges of challenge, as if the threat of deadlines were the real source of freedom and the stressors of working life the key to action.
I look forward to waking up after a long sleep filled with bad dreams.
THE END OF CONFINEMENT
The deconfinement countdown has begun! Only a few more days to go now and I think most people are ready for it to be over. The clapping at 8 o’clock in my neighbourhood has become a little less enthusiastic, friends’ hair and beards have turned into long unmanageable dreadlocks and the blanket forts are just tripping hazards now.
However, I think the reality hasn’t hit me yet.
I’ve become accustomed to quarantine life. I sing along to the parodies on YouTube, I’ve made new friends with my daughter’s Playmobile characters, and I’ve enjoyed wearing pyjama bottoms for meetings (I still make an effort on my top half). Most importantly, I feel like I have reconnected with my daughter. Yes, she has made working from home difficult but watching her learn or when she mimicks my English expressions, my heart bursts and I feel so proud. A similar feeling to when I see my students succeed!
So, what am I looking forward to? I have been lucky that I haven’t had to struggle through this pandemic, as so many have, so I’m simply looking forward to meeting people again. I miss my family, friends and students. The computer screen is no comparison to seeing someone in person, talking face to face, no delay, no bad connection, no echo.
I also look forward to the day in the future when I can sit my grandchildren down and proudly tell them the story of how we lived through the Great Toilet Paper Shortage…I mean Covid-19 Pandemic of 2020.