We may be living in extremely tough times but there is a great deal of good news to focus on. In our corner of France, community spirit is alive and kicking. Let us look at how opportunity and positivity can arise from adversity.
Nature returns to our towns and cities
Nature doesn’t stop with a virus present! The vines are now showing beautiful new green shoots, the birds are singing, spring flowers abound. There is great comfort in nature for us all. The sun still rises strong and warm every morning and somehow the beauty of nature becomes more important and more noticeable. It gives us strength when life is difficult.
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Not only that, but, in the absence of a human presence, we’ve see the local fauna making its way back into the towns and cities. In Central Poitiers, people have reported seeing squirrels visiting their gardens. Off the coast of Marseilles, dolphins have been sighted, and the nearby Calanques Natural Park has seen puffins exploring further away from the islets they would normally occupy, in areas now free of walkers and hikers.
Air quality shows drastic improvement
This is something which is probably more noticeable in cities and towns but even in our villages, the air is crisp and clean, seemingly more so than usual. There is far less traffic, spring is well and truly under way and we feel healthier: all good news for our immune systems. In fact, in some areas the difference is enormous. In the Isère, studies have shown that air pollution has dropped by 80% along the major road arteries.
Notaries, estate agents and buyers adapt to distancing
We have a friend who has had an offer accepted on a lovely property close to us: a pretty two-bedroom village house with small garden in mint condition. She wondered whether she could pursue her purchase in the current climate. Fortunately, her notaire is perfectly happy to conduct the sale remotely, ie by power of attorney. The diagnostic reports need to be done but this is possible as long as the house is empty and the paperwork can all be done on line. The moral in this story therefore is that it IS still possible to carry on with your property purchase in France. Indeed, now may well be one of the best possible times to buy since many sellers are likely to be willing to negotiate on their asking price.
On the subject of notaries, the official organisation Notaires de France is working hard to ensure everyone still has access to the support they need at all stages of the purchase process, not just for those ready to sign. Free telephone consultations are available by calling +33.9.70.09.36.20 and requesting ‘notaire’. Likewise, 90% of notary offices are now working remote by telephone, email or videoconference, according to official statistics.
The expat community pulls together
Following on from the community spirit which is even more present now in France, the expat community is thriving too! Many British people are thankful they live in France with its beauty, space, climate, laid back attitude to life. The lovely thing about living in an expat community here is that everyone mixes in so well – yes, even in present lockdown circumstances! We have noticed that adversity brings out people’s sense of humour and togetherness (not literally of course but figuratively). It is heart-warming to see so many folk thinking deeply about life and now realising what is important and what probably isn’t. We have noticed people becoming less selfish and far more willing to help each other.
Gardeners offer up the fruit of their labours
France may have more or less the same population as the UK, but about double the amount of green space, and that means plenty of room to get green-fingered. With more communes clarifying that gardeners can tend their plots even under lockdown, France’s spirit of good neighbourliness is kicking in again with plans to help families in difficulties. In Bourges, the Association des jardiniers solidaires is planning on giving away its fruit and vegetables to those in need, taking advantage of the season which is ‘a truly favourable period – we will grow peas, shallots, onions and more’, says its president Michel Besse.
Hospital statistics offer some hope
Sadly, the number of deaths from coronavirus has now reached 10,000. However, while the Director of Health, Jérôme Salomon, has cautioned that the peak is close but not over, hospital doctors have begun to express the hope that the risk of health system being overwhelmed has been averted. The critical case growth rate also appears to be slowing.
With cautious optimism that the lockdown measures are beginning to work, the Elysée has announced as of Wednesday that they will be prolonged from the original deadline of the 15th April. Macron ‘will consult a great number of public and private French, European and international figures, to discuss with them the issues at stake with Covid-19 and to prepare decision which will be announced on Monday to the French people’, his spokesperson said.
Could France finally embrace digitisation?
One of the great joys of life in France is the slow speed at which it is lived – but the flip side of that is the famous French bureaucracy, whose wheels turn at a creaking pace. Now, while the French enjoy the good things in life too much too give up their lifestyle (and thank goodness for that), could the French state finally embrace a slightly more efficient way of doing things? The form that we have to fill in under lockdown is now available digitally for your smartphone and, coronavirus or no coronavirus, the government has launched a new website for foreign citizens to swap their driving licences for French ones. Might we see future French paperwork follow the same format?
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And, speaking of digitisation, that venerable institution, the Comédie–Française, has taken to the internet, launching a Web TV series of its productions, with the virtual curtain going up at 6:30pm for monologues and shows aimed at children and at 8:30pm for classics including Le Misanthrope.
Everything in life has a bright side
Most of us have more time to think at the moment of course. This period gives us a chance to really consider what we want to do in the future. True, we cannot actually plan as to when we are going to do anything, but there will come a day when this is all over. Until then, this really is the perfec time to
Finally, without denying that this is probably the worst thing many of us have lived through, it is important to remember all the positive points. We have just touched on a few here which I hope will make you think and give you some comfort. Life really does go on. Human nature is resilient. Our attitude counts for such a lot. Smile, laugh, keep your plans to the forefront of your mind and stay safe and well. One day we will all look back on this time and hopefully will never forget how much we have to be grateful for.