April 2020

Like the rest of the world we spent April in lockdown, in an effort to contain the Covid-19 Coronavirus.

Every day the French Health Minister released the numbers. How many died, how many were admitted to hospital and intensive care. There were also numbers about how many new cases tested positive, although the testing has been quite minimal. There are no numbers quoted on recoveries. The numbers were always lower on weekends and high on Mondays. It made us quite skeptical for a while, until at the end of the month, after six weeks in isolation we started to see a significant pattern. Numbers of people admitted to hospital and ICUs trending down every day, as well as the death toll diminishing from over 800 a day to fewer than 300.

It’s difficult to comprehend the numbers involved and the devastation that lies behind them, for the families and the healthcare workers putting their lives at risk to care for others.

It has been interesting to spend a whole month out of the camping car, in an apartment (or actually a little house).  We’ve been so lucky! We are fully self-contained; so don’t have the worry about other people touching our doors or all the other concerns of high-density living. The terrace house has a kitchen/dining/lounge downstairs and two bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs. Across the little laneway is a lovely garden and storage sheds. It is owned by Christine and Mark from the UK and we speak to them for guidance about the garden because we don’t recognize so many of the plants. They’re doing remote gardening!

Like everyone else, we’ve kept ourselves amused by doing jobs around the house and garden. Michael painted, pruned and weeded and couldn’t help but buy a couple of roses when the gardening stall popped up at the market. We also worked on improving our IT skills as well as cleaning up our computers and doing general maintenance on our camping car.

Also like everyone else, we’ve become a bit food obsessed, cooking far too much and using the great little charcoal bbq that came with the house. At least we have access to wonderful food and wine, with the covered market close by. Michael is on first-names basis with the gendarmes patrolling it and doesn’t even get asked for his papers any more. There’s hand sanitizer at the entry and barriers to keep you a metre back from the stalls.

We got our bikes out and ride to the supermarket. Between Grubie’s trailer and Sue’s paniers we can do quite a big shop, so don’t have to go very often. At the supermarket they take your temperature, with a sort of gun thing, before you’re allowed to enter. In the early stages of the lockdown the gendarmes set up roadblocks at the entries to the town.

Michael has been exploring different red wines, coming home from the supermarket with all different bottles and noting the ones he likes. You can get wines of amazing quality for around 5 euros. And he does enjoy a Cognac or two.

To make up for all the eating and drinking, we’ve been going for walks around beautiful Jarnac, where there is something beautiful to look at in every area.

Grubie got a wash and a trim and is enjoying her many walks each day. Grubie’s friend Opale has dropped in for a play, with Liam and Stephanie keeping a careful social distance and sitting at either end of the garden with a bottle of wine and a bottle of hand sanitizer between them!

Stephanie Stenou gave Sue a book of intricate mandalas, some watercolour pencils and a brush, so Sue has spent some time each day trying to locate her artistic side. She was amazed at the patience needed to complete each mandala, with such intricate and detailed patterns.

 

Another way we’ve kept ourselves amused and connected is by setting up a Messenger group with some of our Jarnac friends for sharing advice, care, stupid jokes and other entertaining rubbish. It’s been so much fun!

We’d like to introduce you to some of our friends who live in Jarnac, who have kept us sane and safe in this difficult time. We asked each of them to send us a photo, which will give you some idea of what they are like:

 

Steve and Mo are English, and are the ones who found us our lovely little house as a refuge during the pandemic. We are so grateful to them! They have a gorgeous B&B, where we have sometimes put up our visitors from Australia. It seems obvious from the photo that Steve loves to party and gets stressed during lockdown!

 

Gary and Helen have a huge house that they are turning into ‘gites’, or furnished self-catered accommodation. Gary is a FIFO worker on the North Sea rigs.

Marcia and Willie are from Scotland. When they get excited and are talking to their other Scottish friends, we can’t understand a single thing they say! Willie also used to work on the off shore rigs, but has recently started a fantastic website called ‘Taste of Cognac’ where he posts all sorts of activities to try in the local region, with a focus on enjoying all the cognac houses. Marcia is a master communicator and Sue enjoys conversations with her by phone, text and FB now that we can’t meet up.

 

Liam and Stephanie live quite close to us, across the Place de Charles de Gaulle. Our camping car is parked in front of Stephanie’s house and they keep an eye on it for us, as does the old man on the corner who sits outside all day in all weathers, whom Michael has befriended.

Liam is the cartoonist (Higgins Cartoons) who has done our cartoon for our business cards, Christmas cards, etc. He is also from Scotland – you can tell because he wears shorts when its less than 10 degrees! Stephanie is French, originally from Vannes in Brittany. She is a graphic artist who works for Hennessey but she also is an artist in her own right, painting the most detailed Japanese style scenes on old barrel staves. She is famous for falling in the lock at Thomas Hardy’s Cognac Passion party and coming back up still clutching her champagne glass. Liam has done a wonderful cartoon of that and called it ‘La Sirena’.

 

Our friend Fred has just started opening his restaurant La Comedie for takeaway meals, often helped by his wife Stepahnie. She is in finance, working for AON and usually works from Angouleme or a couple of days a week in Paris. She’s currently working from home, looking after their children / Fred. La Comedie is one of or favourite restaurants in Jarnac.

As April draws to a close, the world is still in such a vulnerable position regarding not only health but also society and the economy. The changes will be long term and unpredictable. Our hope is that the world will come together and act collaboratively to keep it under control.