Life on lockdown in Paris

So you‘re about to be quarantined. Here’s what to expect, from a Brit in Paris.

So: in the midst of a global pandemic and after demanding control over the borders of Britain, the UK government has been given border control and has proceeded to do big fat nothing about it. 

But! Borders aside, rumours suggest there may be a lockdown” or an enforced quarantine coming your way, as London Mayor Sadiq Khan has hinted that the capital might be about to go Paris-style and The Queen sounds a bit dubious about life in general.

I am living in joyeux Paree right now, and am under le lockdown” as I type. But worry not, it’s hardly a totalitarian dystopia with police waiting outside the front door ready to clobber you with a sanitised truncheon if you dare set a foot outside. 

Sure, all the bars and restaurants are closed and you’re not allowed to leave your house without official certification. But be reassured, those are hardly Willy Wonka’s Golden Tickets. 

To get one of the permission slips, you go on the French government website and print it off (oh, my printer! It’s next to my fax machine! In 1997!). Or, you can copy it word-for-word with a pen. Yes: in a logic which only governments are capable of conjuring, you can handwrite this certification and sign it yourself. A bit like writing your own note to get out of PE, but Frencher and therefore sexier. 

Still, these closures are a travesty unimaginable in Paris, the city of fine foods and cheap wines. However, essential businesses” remain open. For France, these include croissanteries, supermarkets and tobacconists. If the same is coming your way in the UK I think you can hold out hope for the chippies, your local Netto and the entire nation’s Greggs. 

Maybe the UK will be more advanced and issue permission slips in the form of a QR code, and/​or Siri-style activation. Clearly this won’t work properly, meaning you’ll be hovering in your front door, on the brink of an exit, repeatedly shouting at your phone VEGAN STEAK BAKE!”

Still, there is a more sobering and troubling reality: if the UK is anything like France – and in this instance, I think it is – you won’t really have to bother bringing out your permission slip if you happen to be a white person of any age and wearing something that looks like exercise gear. If you aren’t white and would like to go for a walk or a run, or need to go to the doctor for something very urgent, you’d better hope that QR code is fully functional.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. You can use your work’s video-conference software to have tragic evening drinks with your friends on your laptops, then enjoy the sticky remnants of gin on your keyboard during the following morning’s working hours. 

Also, each evening at 8pm everyone comes together to clap and cheer for the medical teams working on the frontline of the virus. It’s a really lovely, warm feeling of togetherness. It lasts for three minutes and it’s truly the highlight of the day.

Bon chance, mes amis,and see you on the other side.


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