Re-Opening, Thanksgiving And A Half Century Of Time
Another week gone, and voilà….all of a sudden a whole month of French lock-down is over. Well that, and Thanksgiving and a half century of my life too. The three things happened independently of course, but they all just happened to coincide this week.
In some ways you could say it was a symbolic concurrence.
I’ve now been through two full pandemic lock-downs in France, an experience I hope never in my lifetime to repeat, and it does feel like I’ve aged a good half hundred years in the process. New wrinkles have appeared where they did not exist before, the knowledge of time gone by (and wondering what the heck I did with it all), a few extra pounds on the waist, some more grey hairs on the head, and the hormones of youth quietly slipping away. It’s the inevitable passage of time, sped up by a crazy 2020. A weight that I’m sure everyone feels this year, either physically, mentally or both. These things do age us in perceptible ways.
But it was also Thanksgiving this week, for those of us with US ties, a week where families & friends normally gather and thanks abound. Of course everything is different this year. No big gatherings for us, and zero travel, but we can be thankful that we’re together, healthy and living in a place that abounds with natural beauty. Finding things to be thankful for and beauty in the day-to-day is what will get us through this and into the future. This is important for everyone, no matter where you live or what your situation is.
Then there’s that pesky 50-year thing, which admittedly has been a doozy. I guess a half century of existence is something to celebrate, but it also feels like a dangerous pivot-point of sorts, like you’ve moved to the right side of the balance and it’s now tipping the other way into a scary, black abyss. As a child I never imagined being this “old”, but that could also be said of my 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. Middle age is not something you really think about until it catches up to you. And yet 50 is still so very young in the grand scheme of things. Perhaps half of my life is gone? Or there is half left to live, depending which way you think about it?
One thing is for sure. I never imagined this birthday under these circumstances. And as far as timing for a middle-aged crisis goes, 2020 may possibly have been the worst choice I could ever have made. No-one would have wished for such as thing, but then no-one ever does. The best response is the one that the great White Wizard, Gandalf so wisely gave to Frodo on his own perilous journey into the unknown:
“So do all who live to see such times.
But that is not for them to decide.
All we have to decide is what to do with the time given to us” (Lord of the Rings, J.R.R Tolkein)
France Is Re-Opening Again (In 3 Stages)
On the practical news front, the biggest item this week here in France is that the Government has decided to start opening back up again....wheeeeee!
It’s being called “déconfinement progressif”, a multi-tiered re-opening plan starting with shops this weekend, and an extended permissible “exercise circle” of 20 km, followed by more openings down the road, if the virus numbers stay stable. That’s the top-level view. The details, in typical French fashion, are suitably complicated.
In summation; paperwork is still required every time you go out, and only “essential” outings are permitted up until middle of the month, unless of course you’re going Christmas shopping, or going for your permissible walk. And no gatherings naturally, unless you’re going to a religious ceremony where up to 30 people can be accommodated, which is an exception, or your kids are doing extra-curricular activities, which is another exception. These exceptions are however exceptionally not allowed after 9PM because of the nationwide curfew, which will still be enforced even after the 15th, where no more paperwork will be necessary to go out, except of course during curfew hours. Oh, and there will be a exceptional exception to all this on 24th and 31st, where (presumably) everyone will just go bananas.
Four days after the announcement, in other words yesterday, shops opened up for the first time in a month and people apparently went nuts en masse to get their fix. Or at least, that’s what the online news reported (I did not go see in person). What I did see was pictures of department stores filled with people, hoards doing their Christmas grocery shopping, and queues of folks in long lines to buy cheap pants from Primark. That, and massive demonstrations in Paris against the new security law (another can of worms there).
As a guest in this country, I try my very best not to judge, but I have to admit this last set of rules has us sliding towards the absurd and comical. I’m not the only one who thinks so either. The new multi-tiered plan has caused a slew of memes and hilarious comedian outtakes online (one of the funniest I’ve seen is this YouTube skit (in French)), not to mention reams of questions online in various forums (“so, can I or can’t I go see friends now”….answer; it’s complicated).
Ah well, c’est la vie….
Decisions in these times are not easy, and I guess the result will always be a slew of moving compromises. At least the virus indicators in France are still trending down, and there’s a plan in place for the future. And as far as our little family unit is concerned the main thing is that we can now finally (blissfully) walk outside of our 1km circle, with more freedoms coming in the middle of next month. Oh, and we can go buy a Christmas Tree, or at least I think so (I may have to double-check the paperwork details for that…).
Onwards and forwards….
I Have Some New Camera “Kit”
The other big thing to “drop” this week, was my birthday present, a brand new lens for my trusty Nikon D750, together with a fancy new gimbal to mount it.
This particular set-up has been on my wishlist for years, ever since my good friend & wonderful photographer Hector Lopez showed me his kit (and by that I mean camera lens of course….behave…) while we were staying at a SKP park in Benson, AZ in 2016. His was a Sigma 150-600mm lens, a sweet long lens that sells for a fraction of the price of “Pro” models, and which still carries excellent reviews today. I wanted one right away, but didn’t really feel I could justify the purchase at the time, especially as we were about to spend some $$$ on a brand new solar-lithium installation on the RV.
Camera equipment is always a little like this….lots of “wants”, but always the question of how much do I really “need” it, right now? Ahhhh, the eternal dilemma….
Well, fast forward 4 or so years and that lens was still on my mind. So to celebrate my next half century I decided finally, to put it on the list.
For those not familiar with long lenses, they’re basically lenses that allow you to zoom in close to something from far away. They’re typically used by Sports photographers, and wildlife photographers, and they’re easy to spot as they are HUGE, long and heavy. The best ones are “Prime” lenses (e.g. Nikon 600mm Prime*) which are fast and super-sharp, but also ridiculously pricey, typically averaging around $10,000 or more(!). Unless photography is your livelihood, or you just happen to have a load of extra cash to spare, they don’t make much sense to buy.
For the average Joe-photographer however there’s still a few very-decent, but much-more-moderately priced options. They’re not nearly as sharp or fast as the Primes, but they offer an excellent compromise for “only” around $800-$1,000. Still a hefty investment, but not a bad one if you plan to use the lens for the next 10 years or so.
The three candidates that ended up on my list were the Sigma 150-600mm*, the Tamron 150-600mm* and the Nikon 200-500mm*. Honestly all three are excellent lenses, about evenly-priced with only minor differences in specs (if you want to read some good write-ups with in-depth tests, check out cameralabs.com). I agonized about the decision for a week, but in the end, the upgraded Tamron (the G2 version)* took the edge for me. It turned out to be the perfect choice.
To mount my new “beast” of a lens, I also got gifted a Neewer Carbon Fiber 360-degree Gimbal* which is basically a knock-off (view, much cheaper) version of the ~$600 “Pro” Wimberley Gimbal*. Again, it’s not nearly as perfect as its high-end neighbor, but for ~$150 it’s perfectly suitable with enough sturdiness & movement to work for average me.
The combo is excellent, has already given me some new perspectives, and (most importantly perhaps) I’m having a ton of fun using it. The lens is beautiful, works great and is perfect for those specialty longer-range shots. It should last me many, many years to come. All in all a sweeeet, sweeeeet gift!
*Full disclosure: all the above are affiliate links on Amazon. This means I get a small commission, if you choose to buy these babies for yourself, at no extra cost to you. You are of course, free to shop independently without clicking from this post. And I do of course, appreciate any buys you make.
All-In-All A Good Week
I can’t say this was the half-century celebration I was planning. In fact at the beginning of this year I had something completely different in mind, which included a holiday rental in Spain, all my siblings coming down to meet us, and of course our 12 paws along for the ride.
Alas, none of that came to be to be.
But I did get lots of love this week. I had tons of old friends, both here and abroad who sent me messages on Facebook, several calls from family and even two in-person visits from some good English neighbors who came bearing flowers and gits. We stood outside and chatted for a while, which was both lovely and a refreshing change from seeing or talking to them on-screen.
Not the original plan, nor even the wished plan, but the new plan, at least for now. And it did turn out all right. These are the times we live in, so we must make the best of them.
OK my dear readers, those of you of a “certain age”, please do tell me…how is the “next 50”? I am eager to hear it all. DO comment and share below.