Yesterday was a red letter day. Madame and I were summoned to the sous-prefecture with instructions to bring passports and new photos and with a tacit understanding that our hands should be clean for the inevitable fingerprinting. This was the second stage of our application to renew the vital carte de séjour, without which France could reject you after Brexit. This required an attestation to allow us to exceed the 10km travel limit. During the 100km round trip we saw not one gendarme or check point.
In the event the glamorous young fonctionnaire was more concerned about preserving the pink lacquer on her manicured nails than putting us through the fingerprint routine. Why mention it in the letter when there was no intention to do so? There could have been a practical reason for this. In all shops and offices there are bottles of antiseptic gel to prevent you catching, or spreading, the virus. If you’re dehydrated your skin will be thinner and drier so drinking water before being fingerprinted is recommended. Hand sanitizer, though, has a lot of alcohol in it, which dries out your skin and makes it harder to capture print details. Today’s lesson over.
This blog got underway twelve months ago to relieve the boredom of the lockdown that was imposed on us in March. Then, the French were encouraged, pressured in fact, to abandon cherished customs, primarily ‘la bise‘. A mayor in eastern France had already dispensed with this custom. She considered kissing dozens of people was unhygienic and arrived at meetings late or pleaded a cold. Foresight? While these posts were never earth-shaking they have attracted hits from around the world from Alaska to Indonesia. China was a daily visitor. Was someone delegated to check on western blogs?
Have you ever had a déjà vu moment, the feeling that you have lived through the present situation before? A French phrase that translates literally as “already seen”, we seem to have arrived back where we started a year ago. Yes, we can now travel ten times further, 10km instead of just 1km, but that doesn’t relieve the frustration. President Macron has kept a low profile, too low many would say, and left the unpalatable details to his hapless prime minister Casterix, sorry Castex, who looks perpetually bewildered at his own TV news conferences. We had confidence in the previous PM, Édouard Philippe, who was an imposing presence; so much so that he had become a threat to Macron and was sent packing to Le Havre of which he is the mayor. Meanwhile new cases remain obstinately high, 43,284 two days ago but 8,536 yesterday, according to the coronavirus update on Worldometer. These fluctuating figures need to be taken with a generous pinch of salt. They depend on the number being tested, which in turn rely on the availability of testers. Le weekend in France is flexible and can stretch from Friday night to Tuesday morning. Enough said.
‘Will the French way of life ever recover?’ has been modified. ‘Will our way of life ever recover?’ seems a more appropriate title as the global pandemic has spared no country. The way of life for millions has changed, in all probability not for the better. Madame and I have sold our house and are renting while we take stock. We feel there has been an imperceptible shift in France’s attitude to the British since Brexit, but we may be over-sensitive. The lethargic response of the EU, and particularly France, to ordering enough vaccine while the UK romped ahead has strained relations on both sides of the Channel.
Watch this space!
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