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. And Le Comptoir des Batignolles, despite lockdown, serves clandestine spritzes with ice cubes that clink dully against the sides of plastic glasses to locals who stand on the pavement chatting their Sunday afternoon away before the rain sets in again.
On rue Legendre, one of the area’s main arteries lined with bohemian-bourgeois boutiques and restaurants, a crew of slightly tipsy new owners (or perhaps they’re the old ones who managed to gather enough courage and cash to reopen?) are peeling off a sign slapped on the icing-pink window of Les Françaises restaurant advertising that the lease is up for grabs. And in some shuttered shops, the lights are on revealing 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 (drinks) they’ve planned from tomorrow. I’m imagining the cool tingle of the beer bubbles on my tongue – but being five months pregnant, beer will have to wait.
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 big 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 that hazy booze-fuelled cigarette craving (which in different circumstances I would eventually give into), I foresee a future of sunny afternoons spent indoors. And, having ticked most things off my confinement to-do list, aside from hauling my erratic brain into regular meditation (probably 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, only slightly differently.
One where we (our editors and I) are doing our bit to support the great 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.