These Crazy Times We Live In
What strange times we live in. I have to admit this has been one of the oddest starts to any year that I’ve experienced in my short, but bountiful lifetime.
Everything seems to be stalling & not rolling forward as it should, rather like an old engine that keeps sputtering and can’t quite keep up. There’s the personal stuff ; the painful loss of Taggart which stopped our lives and took over everything at the beginning of this year. There’s the local stuff; the weather that’s suddenly turned crazy and has kept us indoors for a week. And then there’s the world stuff; this whole insane COVID-19 spread that’s locked everyone in its grip, and is causing more world changes than I’d ever imagined possible.
In my mind I have to admit that I would love to be traveling again, but in truth I’m super thankful that the Universe slowed us down and forced us to stay put, at least until of this comes to an end. This is a good time to be right here, where we are now. And I guess that is exactly what we are meant to do?
Is It Winter Again?
The weather has definitely kept us on our toes.
February was the warmest winter month that we have seen in our area of SW France. We had five days over 20°C (68°F), and averaged 10.2°C (~50°F) which is a 10-year record, if not a 50-year one. This is according to dad, who knows his stuff.
Dad’s a total weather buff, and has been tracking temps daily in our area since 2008. Most of that has been manual data-tracking, from meticulous measurements taken 3-5 times a day using regular thermometers. Dedicated stuff.
Soon after we arrived in France in 2018 we decided to change all this and upgrade his passion with a snazzy new Davis Instruments Vantage Pro 2 Plus weather station. So now he gets measurements of temp, wind, rain, humidity, barometric pressure, heat index and solar radiation every 2.5 seconds, uploaded directly to his computer and the internet. The whole thing can be downloaded, graphed, and tracked in real-time. It’s the ultimate pro-hobby set-up and a weather-lovers dream. He absolutely loves it!
Thanks to this device of modern beauty, we were able to track all the details of the massive switch that happened the beginning of this month.
Just a few days into March we transitioned abruptly from a warm and balmy February to a cold, wet, and windy craziness. It was as if Nature suddenly decided Spring had come too early and that Winter had been unfairly abandoned, so she flipped everything around, just to keep us on our toes. Suddenly the wind was blowing through at a regular 50 km/hr with gusts up above 100 km/hr, and rain was dumping down in horizontal sheets, punctuated by periods of hail that seemed to come out of nowhere. It was days and days of mayhem!!!
As result of this our greenhouse moved almost a foot off its base, several roof tiles crashed to the ground and one of our outdoor lights pulled out of the wall. Nothing major, but still quite crazy considering the calm and balmy few months that preceded it. We’re back to sun today (the first day in week), but who knows what tomorrow will bring.
Is It The Apocolypse? (No, But It May Seem Like It)
The COVID-19 spread is just getting started too.
In just over a week we’ve jumped from ~70 confirmed cases in France to over 1,000 (1,126 as of tonight), and Macron has said that the virus will likely be declared “stage 3” in a few days or a week at the most.
This will label it a full-blown epidemic in France and mobilize all health & emergency services. It also means restrictions can occur on public gatherings, sporting events, schools and transport, although the government has said these restrictions will only be implemented “as needed”.
All of this is no surprise to me. As I said in my last post, even though the virus itself may be benign to most folks, it’s dangerous for our vulnerable population, and it’s being taken very seriously by governments & the media. Plus it’s spreading rapidly & aggressively, whether we like it or not. So that means impacts to daily life are going to happen and they’re going to be felt by everyone.
And unfortunately, we can see what might be coming…
In Italy things have already gone next stage. Confirmed cases hit 7,300 (as of tonight) and it’s pushed the government to take unprecedented measures. Shortly after midnight last night, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte signed a decree closing off the Lombard region and 14 other provinces in Northern Italy. As word of the impending closure leaked chaos erupted, with locals cramming onto the last local train leaving Padua at 11:30 p.m. The remaining ~16 million people are now under border quarantine (i.e. they can still move within the region, just not in/out of it without valid reason). That is some serious stuff.
It seems surreal to see this kind of thing happen in modern-day Europe, but it’s not out of line with what has happened elsewhere (e.g. in China) and you could say the Italians have the perfect history for it.
The word quarantine actually comes from Italian and can be traced back to mid-14th Century in the Venetian-controlled port city of Ragusa (now Dubrovnik, Croatia). The Black Death was ravaging Europe at the time, so officials passed a law requiring all ships arriving from plague-areas to be isolated for a period of 30 days (trentino), before being allowed to dock on land. Over the next century many other cities followed suit, and the isolation period extended from 30 to 40 days (quaranta giorni), thus giving us the modern-day term “quarantine”. A curious piece of history that seems particularly pertinent today.
As I’ve said before none of this is worth panicking over, but I think it’s important to stay aware so that you can take sensible precautions and be mentally & physically prepared for what’s coming. This is the progression of the virus, and what follows it. As they say, this shit is getting real….
And Yes, Our Lives Are Going On As Usual
Despite all this apparent chaos, nothing much has changed here in our little hamlet in the SW of France. Which is also pretty much what you would expect.
We’re still going out shopping, talking to the neighbors, taking hikes in nature. Everyone is pretty calm, and apart from hand sanitizer and face masks (which have now sold out countrywide) nothing is out of stock at either the local grocery stores or the pharmacies, at least for now. Perhaps the only sign that things are changing is that we don’t kiss each other on the cheek (“faire les bises”) when we meet anymore, and I have to admit I’m a little sad about that. I’ve always liked the tradition of bises in France.
And yeah, we’re definitely not planning to travel anytime soon.
If this thing creates as much chaos as I expect it will, we’ll continue to see more closures, restrictions and (perhaps) even quarantines. I’m not too worried about Paul & myself, but I do worry about dad, the elderly population in general, and folks in other countries who perhaps don’t have access to as good healthcare as we do. At least here, we’re in the perfect place to monitor things & weather the storm without too much disruption. And for the time being, that’s our only plan. I’ll let you know how it goes….