Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Things started to get a little weird on Saturday evening…

We had arranged to go to the cinema with a couple of friends and met up in a local bar for a quick drink beforehand. As we were leaving, one of the customers said, “This is the last time you’ll be able to come here for a while”. “Why’s that?” I asked. He then advised that the French government had ordered that all bars, restaurants, cinemas and theatres shut at midnight until further notice. Wow 😳.

As we left the cinema later that evening (we’d been to see 1917. Brilliant. I was going to say, if you haven’t seen it, then go, but on second thoughts…), an employee was busy pasting a poster to the doors. By government decree, closed until further notice. Those words – they sent a shiver down my spine. Echoes of ‘Loose lips sink ships’ came to mind. We’re not in Kansas anymore Toto.

Sunday morning and the two cafes in a nearby village were indeed shut. But on what was a beautiful spring day, the regular customers had gathered to sit at the tables outside, with flasks of coffee brought from home. Typically French! They really do hate being told what to do.

Fast forward 24 hours and President Macron announced a total shutdown for at least the next 15 days. Everyone must stay at home. One shopping trip allowed per day, important trips (e.g. doctor/hospital visits) allowed, going out to exercise (but alone), keep a distance of 1 metre from others at all times and no more than five ‘social interactions’ a day allowed. All non- essential shops closed. Only supermarkets, banks, pharmacies and petrol stations are allowed to stay open.

Weirdly, my first thought was ‘How am I going to get my hair cut?’ 😂 . It’s bizarre how we react to something we’ve never experienced before.

Being under virtual house arrest (fines of between €38 and €135 for ‘infractions’ will be imposed and we have to complete an ‘attestation’ EVERY time we leave the house in case we are stopped by the police).

For me, on a day to day basis, I guess I’m not going to notice much difference. Most days I don’t leave the house other than to go running, but I have a treadmill I can use instead. I get up, eat breakfast, go to my home office and that’s it.

I’ll miss my book club, and meeting up with friends, but I think Macron has taken the right course of action. The one thing I can’t predict is when I’ll make it over to the UK again. Normally I visit the office once a month and was due to be there the first week of April, but that’s clearly not going to happen now.

Personally, I do wish the UK would take stronger measures than currently, where they seem to be making any action voluntary. We’ve implemented our contingency plan and the team are now working from home (effective Tuesday 17th March), but with Lisa, our Ops Admin, still able (and happy) to come into the office to deal with the post each day as she can walk to work and therefore won’t be crammed on public transport. But there’s no knowing whether the entire office building will shut down at some point.

I worry about my mum – either that she will contract the virus, or that if forced to stay at home, as looks likely, wondering how she will cope with that.

It’s easy to become fixated on the news and I’m sure I’m not the only one devouring report after report. It’s getting that balance between staying informed and frightening yourself unnecessarily.

I loved that in Macron’s speech he suggested we use the enforced isolation as a time to ‘read’.  Not just the news, but as a cultural experience. I love that about the French.

Work is going to keep me busy. The tax year-end will still happen and the markets being in freefall means lots of rebalancing of client portfolios at the moment. The good thing is I’ve been doing this for 13 years – it’s really no change to my day to day working life. I’ll still be here for clients and for the team, should they need me.