Thursday March 12th, the Government announced that the schools were closing from Friday evening onwards with reopening date to be announced upon further notice. I was sitting watching the news with my 15-year-old daughter and we both squealed a little (me a bit more than her)! A whole series of emotions zipped through me. This was BIG! I was a little excited, relieved, scared, bewildered, disbelieving…. all at the same time.

The next day was normal with work and school. We had an appointment with a client at a Veterinary hospital and everything was business as usual apart from this underlying buzz almost like the day before the end of term. I picked up the kids who were quite elated at the prospect of having to stay home. Rumours that a full lockdown was coming were floating about but I still buried my head in the sand. It was unimaginable!

Sometime over the weekend, as numbers of the infected began to creep up, my attitude began to change. Maybe, I should go shopping before the stores empty?

Monday, my hubby & I ventured to Auchan. I have NEVER seen anything like it in my 24 years in France! It was packed, the shelves were not!!  We got the last of so many things… the last toilet paper, last tomato coulis, the last can of tuna…. Although we didn’t get everything on our list, we left with a sense of satisfaction that at least we weren’t going to starve for the next two weeks!

Little did we know that our full trolley was only going to see us through one week. We had not accounted for teenage appetites (they can eat)! nor for the fact that 4 mouths had to be fed 3 meals a day.

The lockdown was announced on Monday night, to be effective from Tuesday 12.00.  Apart from the numbers of COVID 19 increasing and the thought of the people stuck in smaller dwellings or all alone, the first week was rather pleasant. There was a total sense of relaxation with no pressure do anything. We tried to establish good habits by cycling/running thinking that this confinement would be good for our bodies! We discovered Houseparty and Zoom and had Apéros every night. It was all a novelty. 

“Home is a shelter from storms — all sorts of storms.” - William Bennett

Along came new restrictions in Week 2. We could no longer cycle; the forests and parks were closing, and we would only be allowed to go out alone for max 1 hr a day and stay withing 1 km of our homes. These restrictions brought on a huge sense of apprehension; the holiday mood was fast fading. We had run out of fresh Fruit and Veg. and delivery slots were fully booked. Never did grocery shopping raise so many questions. How long would the queues be? Will people keep their distance and stick to the rules? Do I leave things outside for a few hours when I get home or do I wipe everything down? I decided to wipe everything down.

The third week brought the virus closer to home and with that, the fear. One of our neighbours sadly passed away from the virus. Cases and death rates were rising alarmingly. I felt the need to hunker down even more and protect the family. Even walking the dog in our deserted village felt peculiar.

The school holidays started at the end of the third week. The kids were less busy but good weather meant long hours of playing in the garden that we are truly fortunate to have. Easter came and went and was overall rather pleasant with chocolate egg hunts and BBQ’s and lots of fun family time.

The fifth week was still school holidays and it was time to replenish our supplies. We had managed to avoid shopping for two weeks but now it was time. Since when did shopping become this traumatic? I did not want to spend a long time outside, but I did not want to make several trips either so what do you do? In the end, my hubby and I split up and covered the 3 shops we needed to go to. Coming home was just as tedious as the first time and the thought of the next shopping trip fills me with dread.

At the weekend, we ventured out as a family for the first time since the lockdown. It was only for a walk in the fields behind our house, but it brought about a sense of normality for a short while. I still had the inner need to rush home to safety.

Week 6 and I feel a bit less fearful. Maybe because I stopped watching the news on replay. Also, since President Macron’s announcement that the confinement would gradually ease off after the 11th of May, I felt a shift in my anxiety. The announcement came with mixed feelings and a lot of questions and unease. On one hand I was relieved that there was a fixed date to end the monotony that has started to set in. On the other hand, how would we keep the kids safe in school? Would the respect for other people’s space be the same after end of confinement? What would the new normal-look like?

The announcement has also put the end to my relaxation mode. I now have a date to get things done by. I have started setting an alarm again and giving more structure to my workday. The girls are also back in school and it seems that even though a lot is still unknown, the countdown to freedom has begun. Everyone knows that it will be a long time before the world will go back to normal if it ever does. Do we want it to?