After nearly a week of being at home, we needed a few supplies from a local farm shop where they breed pigs and sell their meat.
I had seen scenes of cities in France and Italy without a soul in the street. Did such a world exist? I took my regulation paper in case of being stopped by the Gendarmes together with a pair of latex gloves. I started my car and set off. There were tractors driving around, farmers doing their jobs, and there were a few cars like mine. The main road towards Yvetot was almost deserted, a road that is more familiar to me than the road from Kendal to Ambleside when I was a schoolboy. Yet, this seemed to be another world. I drove through the first village, and it seemed totally deserted – but I knew that there was a family in each house.
A short distance after the village called Autretot, I turned off to go to the farm shop that opens on Fridays and Saturdays. If there are too many people, I said to myself, I’ll just turn round and go back home. There was just one man of about 70, and we kept apart by more than the required distance. Before leaving the car, I put on my gloves and took my credit card out of my wallet. Let’s keep the things in the car clean, I thought. Leave the wallet, keys, mobile phone, everything. My routine would be to return to the car with the goods, take off the gloves and put them into a plastic bag for disposal, wash my hands with alcohol gel and rub down the edges of my credit card. I would then be able to get back into a clean car.
In the shop, the owner and assistant greeted us warmly. 12 slices of ham, the same number of pork sausages, two dozen eggs and some cheese. I slid my card into the reader myself and punched in the PIN. It seemed so strange to be on edge and thinking carefully about my every gesture: Don’t touch my face, not even to scratch an itch. The probability of catching Covid-19 in this shop was certainly very low, but they weren’t taking any chances either, not even with their good customer!
What I have to relate from this experience is a feeling of detachment from reality. What is reality? The collective consciousness has made the world another world. Should I go and have a look at Yvetot and see what it looks like empty? No, because I had no reason to go there and might be sanctioned by the Gerndarmes, but this whole idea of confinement is, more than obedience to the law, solidarity and not believing I have any privilege over others. I resisted the temptation to go down the road to the unknown, and returned home immediately after my errand was run.
There is a feeling of anxiety in the air, fear which in the words of characters of Star Wars leads to the Dark Side. I feel their fear rather than experiencing fear myself. Last night, I saw a video of a scene in an Italian hospital. Patients were gasping their last breaths and the doctors could do no more for them. Alone in the ward was a man of about 50 who was recovering, but still had an oxygen mask and was as yet too weak to sit up on his bed. The commentator said that within a day or two, all the other patients in that ward had died. It is not only the shadow of death over elderly people suffering from various health conditions, but their families and their villages. This virus has put a stop to the joie de vivre and the social life so sorely missed by people of all generations. We are driven apart, and all we can do is use modern technology to communicate and express our love and friendship in other ways. All these thoughts flooded through my mind as I drove back home. I was almost in tears.
I read articles about how this world will not be the same again, something like before and after a war against a visible enemy. Our political leaders talk about being at war, and M. Macron sounded like a cross between Winston Churchill and Général de Gaulle. I hope he was being sincere and felt his nation’s need for a true father! Perhaps what hurts me the most is the attitude of those who claim that all the state wants is to imprison us in a kind of Orwellian dystopia by exaggerating the gravity of this disease – and then go socialising and then go to visit elderly parents and grandparents. All around me, people are straining at the bit to live normal life again. I am grateful to live in a nice house in the country with my wife, books, music, garden, workshop, boat to get ready for the new season, chores and improvements. Others live in a city in a small apartment with young children or rebellious adolescents. Either people will wake up and understand the notion of sacrifice for all, or the tension will become unbearable in the weeks to come.
I easily imagine the possibility of an insurrection or even a civil war. Many have been predicting such for decades. The Communist CGT trade union has calmed down since the pension reform was shelved by Macron. The Gilets Jaunes have created trouble here and there, but the police have been ready for them in the cities. Perhaps the greatest threat is from a large number of young immigrants and uncultured young white French men. Until recently, I was worried about Brexit, but now I am more concerned about the deep fissures in Europe and the present establishment and the brewing discontent. For once I am at one with the American preppers, except that I am already “bugged out” and in the country. No, I have no firearms. This is Europe and not the USA. If civilisation collapses in the cities, people won’t come and rob the homes in the country, but we might be deprived of food and medical supplies.
We stand before the unknown, a new Ungrund from which a new beginning will be possible and necessary. This is how the world must have been in April 1945 when Hitler blew his own brains out and Germany surrendered, leaving thousands of German and Allied families and children without homes or food. Yet, Germany was rebuilt after the end of the Nazi curse and the rest of Europe reconstructed with courage. I have confidence in God’s mercy that this Ungrund that now stares us in the face will be a bringer of grace and consolation. May these days be shortened for the sake of the just…