today is the three week anniversary of the first full day of lockdown which was, coincidentally, my birthday. cards and parcels had arrived beforehand so I was able to start the day with some semblance of normality. but later, I had to brave the pharmacy as both local ones had been ‘deborde’ the morning before as everyone tried to beat the midday crackdown, me included. too frightened to join the lengthy queue I was obliged to go out again, attestation and passport in hand.
bretenoux was a ghost town. the usually busy brasserie where, every Wednesday lunchtime, I thread my way through the diners outside to buy my loto tickets and wistfully wonder about stopping to eat, was shuttered with its tables and chairs stacked. I decided to skip loto betting for the time being. the pharmacy was almost empty but I still had to wait anxiously as only four customers at a time were allowed in. I lurked outside but was waved in by the staff. I still had to wait tho’, scarf around my face and keeping to the farthest corner. finally served, I hurried to the little épicerie close by for a few last items, not wanting to brave the bigger and busier supermarket, collected a book put by for me at the presse and regained the comparative safety of the car.
but still not finished as we needed bread, the weekend loaves from the village baker always need boosting by midweek. I pulled into the big boulangerie, noting I was the only car in the car park. the girls inside, one a neighbour, were masked and gloved and there were stripes on the floor to help a potential queue keep its distance. only baguettes and ‘peng’ were available but a pain would do. I moved to gaze longingly at the patisserie display. the girls smiled. ‘ well’, I said, ‘it IS my birthday, the most bizarre I have ever experienced.’ more smiles and ‘bon anniversaires’ as I chose two strawberry tarts. one girl wrapped them while the other got my peng and I paid by sans contact card, a boon at the moment.
back to the car and a quiet drive home, uninterrupted by a stop by the gendamerie, to my great relief. I had all the documents but even so….
later I got out the tarts for our 4pm gouter as I lifted the paper packaging a rectangle of decorated icing revealed itself.
I hadn’t seen her slip it into the package. I suddenly felt birthday-ish. I was so touched by such a sweet thought when so much else is occupying them.
now three weeks into lockdown I am remembering that gesture and am reminded that in difficult times like these despite all the stresses and strains we must remember to…