May 2020 – On the eve that France comes out of lockdown, our editor ponders over this last day and a new purpose.
After last night’s storm, the air is thinner but still feels warm enough to brave the outdoors in just a t-shirt. The sky is a dull grey that flattens all shadows, but there is a certain cheerfulness in the air. Families culminate around the smooth white walls of Saint Mary’s Church that marks the centre of the Batignolles, a youngish pushchair-donning-family type of neighbourhood. Around the corner, Le Comptoir des Batignolles serves clandestine spritzes with ice cubes that clink dully against the sides of plastic glasses to locals standing on the pavement, chatting their Sunday afternoons away.
On rue Legendre, one of the area’s main arteries lined with bohemian-bourgeois boutiques and restaurants, a crew of slightly tipsy new owners are peeling off a ‘to let’ sign slapped on the icing-pink window of Les Françaises restaurant. And in some shuttered shops, the lights are on, staff dusting off shelves and swapping end-of-season tweed coats and suede boots for summery flower-print dresses in windows.
The streets are Sunday-quiet with the occasional couple lugging back an oversized pack of Leffe beers (I didn’t know they came in packs that big, or maybe they’ve made special end-of-lockdown-sized packs) for all the barbecues, picnics and apéros they’ve planned from tomorrow. I’m imagining the cool tingle of the beer bubbles on my tongue.
Tomorrow is the big day. It’s the 11th May, and it’s the first day of déconfinement (end of lockdown) for France since we all went into hiding from the virus that forced the whole world to come to a halt. As Germany and South Korea are thinking about plunging back into containment following the rise of Covid cases after ‘deconfinement’, in Paris we’re about to dip into public life once again. Minus the restaurants, the weddings, the museums, the concerts, and any other types of gatherings involving more than 10 people.
While it certainly feels liberating to be allowed to walk for more than the allocated hour a day and to leave the confines of my neighbourhood, the 17th and 18th arrondissements (districts), it’s difficult not to dwell on the number of people sat less than the precautionary metre apart (most people) and those not wearing a mask (most people), and what that might mean in a week, two weeks, and more.
In the meantime, the standstill has meant more reading – I’m reading about start-up moguls swearing that there is no better time than a crisis to set up your own business. And, being pregnant and therefore deemed a person ‘at risk’, instead of whiling afternoons away drinking chilled rosé on a terrace and fighting a hazy booze-fuelled cigarette craving, I foresee a future of sunny afternoons spent indoors. And, having ticked most things off my lockdown to-do list, aside from hauling my erratic brain into regular meditation (probably still on most people’s lists), I am thinking: there’s no time like the present to stoke the embers that never quite went out of a half-launched online magazine. And rekindle the dream of making magazines again, only slightly differently.
One where we, WUP’s esteemed editors and I, are doing our bit to support the wonderful independent businesses and artists that make up Paris’s backbone, and that need it now more than ever. Because if the last 55 days have taught me anything, it’s that if we pull together, we can make great things happen. So, let’s give it a whirl and find out what will be made of this post-Covid world.