Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Châlons-en-Champagne (laissez-faire attitude bites back)

Almost an upside-down morning on Friday
We saw our first butterfly of the year on Friday, a peacock that had overwintered as an adult.  The early butterflies seen on the wing at the beginning of the year tend to be species that have hibernated as adults and include peacock, small tortoiseshell, red admiral, comma and brimstone.  Generally, it’s not until later on in March or early April that the species that hibernate as eggs, larvae or pupae appear such as holly blue, the whites and speckled wood.

Of course, the big news for us on Friday was the French implementation of the first restrictions following the coronavirus outbreak.  The public were requested to socially distance themselves, self-isolate if aged 70 plus and avoid crowded places.  12 of us in the port were due to go out for our Friday night meal in town but that number slowly dwindled during the day for one reason or another, e.g. four of the boaters are in their 70s.   By late afternoon we were down to four – us and the girls next door.  As they were coming around to us for a curry night on Saturday anyway, we decided to cancel the restaurant.  Ironically all 12 of us got together for drinks in the evening in the wheelhouse of Guy & Ardon’s boat, Vindi, rather ignoring the social distancing ruling.

Saturday was a lazy day and we spent most of it being nosey and seeing how the public reacted to the restrictions.  As it was, we saw very little difference; the parks, squares, bars and restaurants were packed.  The main reaction was the dissembling of the old-fashioned big top in one of the parks.  Each time we’ve passed it lately we’ve heard music and, we assume, some sort of circus act practise going on but never actually saw anything as the doors were always closed.  Because of the ban on gatherings, the big top was taken down over the weekend without a single performance being given

The sides removed
All that remains is the big top top
Further restrictions were announced on Saturday in reaction to the general ignoring of the first set of restrictions.  This time all non-essential outlets would be closed from Sunday, leaving food shops, fuel stations, tabacs and pharmacies the only places that would remain open.  

Sunday turned out to be a fabulous spring day and we saw many brimstones, a couple more peacocks and a small tortoiseshell.  The impact of the latest restrictions was far more apparent because so many outlets were closed in town; however, there were still the usual groups of people sitting and standing around in the squares and parks.  We did notice that people were shaking hands in greeting rather than the customary kissing so maybe the physical closure of bars etc. was having an impact.

We have hardly ever seen any customers in the tabac near the port but on Sunday it was heaving.  This was because it has a small bar and they clearly felt justified in serving alcohol as they hid behind the banner of being a tabac.

Our new mooring after swapping positions with the girls last Thursday
Macron and his government had clearly had enough of people not taking things seriously so introduced yet more measures on Monday.  We are now confined to barracks which is going to make things interesting over the coming months.  We now have to print out and sign a certificate each time we venture away from the boat indicating the reason for travel.  This even includes walking Buddy, which we are allowed to do together, but only because we live together and we both have to have an appropriate certificate.   Dog owners who live in houses are expected to exercise their pets in their gardens, but flat owners are allowed to walk their dogs in public but not in groups and not far from their homes. 

We assume we are treated like flat owners so all we can do for exercise is to have lots of small, short walks.  As each certificate is dated and a different one required for each type of excursion, e.g. dog walking or visiting the local food shop, we are soon going to run out of ink.  We have read on a news site that certificates can be stored on smart phones for people without printers but can find nothing to substantiate that on the official government notices.

With police cars and vans on patrol we very much doubt that people will ignore the new rules and it certainly feels eerily quiet everywhere.  It even looks like the cormorants are included as we’ve noticed them sitting at discrete distances from each other and even the Canada geese seem to be quieter than usual.  Clearly, the herons are not included as they are as raucous as ever while building their nests.  It looks like a few are already incubating eggs as we can just see their heads popping above three of the nests.

No more walks in parks, gardens, squares or play areas
Before the latest rules came into effect, we went for a last walk around town along the remaining streets and alleys we hadn’t visited before.  We were on the search for more decorated manhole covers and were rewarded with a further eight, bringing the new total up to 73.  Coincidentally the last one we found was of a butterfly 😊    

Probably the final decorated manhole cover which happened to be a butterfly
So much for our cruising plans this year, the first notice listing canals that were closing to all but commercial traffic, came through on Monday.  The notice indicated that all pleasure craft are banned from the waterways around Paris, and the situation will be reviewed on 20th April.

Tuesday morning saw us having some serious discussions around the port as we are clearly going to be stuck in Châlons for a few months.  We and the girls next door are moored one end of the port and the other three boats with liveaboards are at the other end.  We decided to split into two family groups so we will mix with Nikki & Gorete on our boats but keep a respectful distance from the other guys.

By the end of Tuesday, we had received notices from all the French waterways announcing their immediate closure to all but commercial traffic.  It’s going to be an interesting time ahead and I must admit that I doubt that even I’ll be able to conjure up enough stories to keep a regular supply of blog updates coming.

I’ll finish this update with the thought that we are both thankful that young children don’t appear to be at risk, so Ellis is hopefully going to be OK 😊

My favourite daughter (middle) with our favourite grandson (youngest) 

1 comment:

  1. A tough time ahead for you both. We hope you can keep your physical and mental health in order. Not sure we could make it through.