During unprecedented times due to the coronavirus, France’s response has been swift and clear. Life is more difficult but there are worse places to be during the confinement period than rural France.
Despite total lockdown having been implemented on March 17th in France and life being severely restricted and strictly controlled (perhaps more so than in other countries) there are several reasons why those of us living life under lockdown in rural France still have reasons to be cheerful and grateful. For some it makes more difference than others – many people here spend the majority of their time at their properties and often only shop for essentials weekly anyway.
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Making the most of our outside space
I think it’s fair to say that all of us living under lockdown in rural France are firstly grateful for the space we have. The sympathy for others living in big towns in apartments has been many the topic of conversation and in the thoughts of many of us. Both the size of our houses and outside space and gardens are certainly not to be sniffed at during these times and our gratitude is not being undervalued. Whilst you may, for the moment have to attest to very good reason for venturing outside of your property boundaries, the joy, freedom and peaceful havens of our gardens are keeping us busy and just as importantly helping to keep up morale. Due to the time of year this occurred we are fast approaching summer – a time in France where you simply must make hay whilst the sun shines. And boy has it spoilt us.
Spring came after a damp winter by France’s standards and with it everything grew and quickly. Those of us who often struggle at this time of year to keep our gardens under control (lawns need to be mowed more than once a week for fear of becoming as high as an elephants eye) and prepare for the vegetable season ahead have been spending it well mowing, planting and preparing with abandon. We are also lucky to be able to continue exercising us and our animals (as long as entirely alone and within 1km perimeter of our houses and for one hour or less.) Interestingly, this in a lot of cases makes little difference to “normal life” unless you normally meet up with others – due to the space in rural areas, you can often walk for long periods of time without crossing the path of anyone else except occasional wildlife. Certainly this makes social distancing easier despite us all very much missing the customary “bises” when bumping into people we know and mainly only when shopping.
Charente basks in spring sunshine
It’s a fact that sunshine boosts your mood and here, we have been spoilt with wall to wall sunshine since the start of lockdown in rural France. Whilst moods can go up and down during times of stress, it’s certainly true that when the sun is shining, it’s harder to stay miserable. There has, as well as hard work been a lot of sunbathing and relaxing in the sun – something that many normally don’t have the time to do – and there’s nothing better for mental health than being outside both doing things that are productive or simply relaxing. The French certainly won’t rest on their laurels regardless of lockdown in rural France at the optimum time for planting and planning and the enthusiasm is rubbing off onto us all.
Rural community spirit springs into action
People being outside in their gardens brings a chance to communicate in whichever way you still can, certainly with neighbours. Whether that’s shouting across roads and boundaries to check up on each other, having small dance offs from our driveways, or simply feeling like you’ve seen a friendly face and are simply not alone, the community spirit here is in full action. People are shopping for those who can’t or shouldn’t and now more than ever is a time to check that your neighbours are well. Although no close proximity social interaction is allowed, sometimes just to hear activity and catch sight of a friendly face is very much the difference between a good and bad day.
Lockdown has brought with it camaraderie and kindness
Mairies in smaller communities are checking on those who are old and vulnerable as well as ensuring they have the paperwork (for those who don’t have printers) that is compulsory for essential shopping during this time. Although community has always been a big part of life here, lockdown in rural France has brought with it even higher levels of camaraderie and kindness.
France slowly embraces the digital age
The lockdown in rural France has touched businesses, as within every country and of that there is little doubt, but there seems to be an attitude of trying to think outside the box. Aide has been granted for both employed and self-employed people here. And the most interesting development is the digital advancement of government processes and the introduction of homeworking for government employees. France has historically been a nation who haven’t always fully embraced the digital age and always preferred face to face contact. Those things are now changing. And even the elderly here are learning to use technology – in particular communication apps like Whatsapp, Skype and Facetime in order to communicate with friends and family.
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Whilst a source of amusement at the beginning this may in fact prove to be nothing but a good thing for tackling their administrative duties in the future should this last even longer, especially with the tax deadline fast approaching (something which many still do in person at government offices.) And businesses are thinking about differentiation to their services and products in order to future proof their income streams. A better option to simply being despondent. Restaurants can in some cases offer takeaway services and businesses are certainly using the time wisely to think and strategize.