as the enormity of the lockdown hit social media began to flood with encouraging homilies to comfort those stuck at home; those people working, home schooling or just stuck at home! then came jokes about how clean everyone’s homes would be. well, if housework is the summit of your leisure time, maybe? following that, exercise became the focus and joe jumped, and is still is, I imagine, around uk tv screens and youtube exhorting all ages to follow his moves. more recently france3 has adopted the same idea but this chap is much beefier than joe and rarely cracks a smile. plus his moves are seriously difficult. lou said he could manage yesterday’s…until I challenged him and rolled out my yoga mat…getting down on the floor was a struggle let alone the move!
next came the virtual visits. museums all over the world opened their doors to the captive audience. hard on the heels of this sporting and cultural onslaught came the notion that we should all be using this time to learn a new skill. hmmmm. after fifteen years living in france I feel I have never stopped learning new skills. not just the language which is an ongoing challenge (more later) but learning to navigate french bureaucracy and the daily exercise of things that you knew by heart in the old country but that are done differently in this new one. personally i was quite happy to find i had more time for the garden and books. new skill? pah!
but thinking about it i have learnt a new skill, perforce one that has been forced on me by the new circumstances in which we find ourselves living. shopping, especially food shopping has never held much appeal. from the early years of our marriage it fell to me to shop for food as lou worked weird hours and continued to do so all our working lives. i soon devised a method that suited us back then and which survived into retirement. the big shop is once a week , on a thursday, fridays too manic, and, once here, undertaken during the French lunch hour. I hate crowded shops and will abandon shopping trips just to avoid them.
but as I have written before shopping is now a scary ordeal and one I will avoid if at all possible. early on I idly googled ‘drive’ shops near here. in the uk it is known as ‘click and collect’. I knew there were no shops delivering so this would be the next best way to avoid going into supermarkets, a health hazard for all concerned. I discovered that a supermarket in the other direction to the one I use every week had a drive facility. so I set about learning how to use it.
firstly I had to register online. this necessitated formfilling. I was reminded of the jokes about scrolling down forever to find your year of birth and the humbling experience of being told your chosen password is weak. how ridiculous to feel proud when you stab away and get your password through! once registered I was ready to create my first order. with hindsight aka learning, I use the computer now but back then, all of two weeks, I used my phone from a supine position of the kitchen sofa. a modest list was finally arrived at after a lot of cursing as I tried to figure out the organisation of the ‘rayons’. compote with biscuits? pourquoi? then to confirm the order and choose a slot. I noted the first available one was almost a week away so future orders ought to be done well in advance – learning! slot chosen it was smoothly moving to paying online, confirmed by the bank (natty sending of a code to confirm all is legit) and the arrival of the email to say I had an order to be picked up etc etc….
so a sigh of relief. then the day arrived for collection and the self doubt began. it said on the email present yourself at the acceuil, I didn’t want to go into the shop. the cash hadn’t been taken from my bank account, why not? would I need to swipe my card? touch buttons? was this actually going to be any better than doing my usual supermarket shop? in trepidation i filled out my attestation, checked i had my passport, tied the scarf around my face, dug out my gloves…..
a very quiet drive to the supermarket. a lovely day that made me wish I could just keep driving to somewhere away from all this. but I was on a mission. I swung into the car park and noticed a few cars around and one or two people about. I parked close to the entrance and reluctantly approached the doors. straight away I saw several posters for drive customers. open your boot, stay in your car and ring into the shop. slight flap as I tried to memorise the number but then sanity took over and made me look at the email that lou had printed off for me. there was the phone number, bien sur. first girl had a problem with my name, all French people do. why not an ‘i’, why ‘ea’? the major embarrassment came with the second girl I was put through to. she said something with what to me sounded like a question in her voice. someone for the shopping? yes, I replied, me, i’m here in my car. as we struggled with my incomprehension, it dawned on me the poor girl was saying someone would be out with my order. oh, the shame. I wanted to call her back and apologize for being a stressed out old brit whose language skills were inadequate.
a few minutes passed and out came a girl pushing some grey boxes. from these she loaded carrier bags and a box of beer into the boot and wished me a bon journee. I wanted to fall on her neck with gratitude but confined myself to a merci bien and a bon courage….
since then I have collected a second order and have another lined up for a week’s time. that last one was stressful as slots were disappearing fast as more people suss the excellent service. one last bit of learning happened on my second visit.. the two red posts at the back of the car park that I was too stressed to notice properly are the designated place for ‘drive’ shoppers. mind you, with another car already parked I still did my social distancing bit and parked a couple of spaces away. the learning goes on. still old but still learning new tricks!