Simon Says

In a previous life I was a teacher, as was my wife Lizzie. I was given my full pension years before I was ready to retire so we decided that a change was in order. We had several places on our list of “possibles” and it was on our way back from a fruitless summer in southern Spain that we chanced upon the Pyrenees-Orientales.

We rented a small isolated cottage high above Prades for four months in 2002 and that experience taught us a great deal. Yes, we wanted to live in this part of the world, no we didn’t want to be living in a steep sided valley. After all, what is the point in living in a part of France with more than 300 days of sunshine per year if you spend more than half of it in shadow?

We returned to UK, sold our house in Poole, put the money in the bank and returned to P.O. In the spring of 2003, we found a house in which we thought we could spend the rest of our lives, bought it and moved in at the end of May that year.

After many years of competitive sailing round Poole Harbour, Lizzie and I needed something to fill the void. When U3A was born, we joined the organisation with a view to playing golf and have been doing it ever since. It is a lovely group of people and we feel very privileged to be a part of it.

I can honestly say that we have both found peace, harmony and happiness in this wonderful part of the world, not to mention an anecdote or two, which I am happy to share with you here.

Simon Bridges April 2020, Terrats.

Lifting of Restrictions?

I did something different this week… I went to our local déchetterie to dispose of the load of garden rubbish accumulated during lockdown. Normally, I am a regular there, but it has been some time since I reversed my trailer up to the déchets verts sign.

Just because we are not allowed out without good reason plus an attestation, completed, dated, timed and signed doesn’t mean to say that the weeds have stopped growing. Far from it, this comparatively chilly and wet spell of weather has given them added impetus and some have achieved knee high status in the flower beds.

weeds simon

Now that we are all seeing signs that a relaxation of the lockdown is beginning, the hot summers that are such an important part of our lives in this part of the world are making life outside much more of a pleasure.

Maybe it’s the sunshine but something has definitely shifted this week. Social distancing in the supermarket (and the déchetterie) has become a lot more relaxed. The big DIY stores are open again – gosh, did we need them open during lockdown to get the necessary bits for the bits of bricolage we were compelled to attempt.

People do not pass on opposite sides of the street in villages; they stop and exchange pleasantries – perhaps at arm’s length but nothing like the two metre advised distance. I feel that everyone is less tense.

ice cream simon

We do not know when, but there will certainly be a return to school, bars, work and to regaining the million tiny pleasures we never knew we’d miss. But not for the old – well not yet for those over seventy in UK. In UK certainly the period of self-isolation looks as though it is set to continue… for the over 70’s for four months.

I am amazed that no one except those of retirement age seems that concerned. I very much hope that this sort of policy is not adopted here in France. I just feel so dreadfully sorry for all of us with aged relations in UK. They had created retirement lives with book clubs, bridge circles, walking groups, care of grandchildren and many other things to fill their lives but their lockdown may be set to continue.

The real debate is how far warmer weather is going to dampen the contagion in the northern hemisphere. I have read several papers on this subject and remain unconvinced. We are learning that this virus spreads most rapidly indoors, in confined spaces such as bars, restaurants and hospitals (hence closing parks and beaches was pretty pointless and probably, on balance, harmful.)

So, it is possible that summer won’t radically reduce the infectiousness of the virus, unless everyone moves their desks outside. Alternatively, if weather does matter, then a second wave may come in October, when the weather cools and when most schools, universities and businesses attempt to go back to normal.

open simon

Looking back at the recent “bad years for flu”, there have always been second and sometimes even third waves. I cannot see that anything less than a vaccine will prevent this happening again.

“There’s a possibility that the assault of the virus on our nation next winter will actually be even more difficult than the one we just went through,” said the director of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Robert Redfield, last week. “We’re going to have the flu epidemic and the coronavirus epidemic at the same time.” God, what an awful thought.

One thing that this pandemic has demonstrated is that the so-called experts have very different views about what is right course of action to follow. A successful politician may be viewed as the one who has chosen the best expert advice to follow out of much varied and conflicting counsel being offered.

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