One Writer’s Fulfilled Life in France in a time of COVID

Photo of author
Written By Clare Wadsworth

Well, another unusual spring – life in south-west France in the time of COVID. It has been warm and dry, and then colder and wet with the occasional hailstorm. None of which would have mattered had it not been for two icy nights at the wrong time. The cold froze the grapes and cherries and plums and almonds for most of us. So there will not be even a handful of fruit until the apples later in the year. And all the work will still need to be done in the vines – but for results next year. It was heartbreaking to see all the vine leaves burnt and black.

A photo of Clare’s six dogs frolicking on grass and gravel.

The grass in the meadows is shoulder high now. It means I get soaked walking the dogs – six now – as water drips relentlessly down into my wellingtons. There have never been as many wild daisies or pyramid orchids. Sadly, there are hungry foxes, too, and a glamorous-looking animal called a genet. Between them, have killed most of our chickens. We have started to keep a light on all night by the chicken house. The dogs stay up to watch for predators, but they are far wilier than we are.

I am accepted here at last; it seems. An urgent telephone call from a neighbouring farmer who said, “My friend has lost a cow, have you seen one?” It shows they expect me to know what a cow looks like!

The asparagus season is almost over, but there are broad beans and green peas and small new purplish artichokes. It’s a joy to have markets open again, and we are all planting geraniums and verbena. The peonies are out too. It hasn’t been warm enough to swim yet, though, in my pool with a costly brand-new black liner.

Rules and regulations during COVID have been many and complicated. It is difficult to make sense of them all. Worst was when everyone needed to fill in a long form every time we went outside. Now we can go more than 10km from home and the curfew extends from 7pm until 9pm. But that still means no suppers with friends, and everyone tends to be busy at lunch. Yet, we are all overjoyed to meet up again. Non-essential shops have only recently been open. For this last lockdown hairdressers were not shut down, although nail bars were.

Europe’s vaccination policies have failed miserably, although few French people wanted one. I managed to get on my pharmacy’s list as soon as I heard they get about 20 doses a week and have had my first jab. I had to take off my top for it, though – France doesn’t do rolling up sleeves!

President Macron wants to take his mind off the current situation. His challenges include police demonstrations, delays in rebuilding Notre Dame Cathedral, and his predecessor’s trial for corruption. With a firm eye on next year’s elections, he is commissioning statues. President Macron had hopes that France would win the Eurovision Song Contest (they didn’t). He is planning a Paris to Nice night train. And he rejoices that Air France flew an Airbus A350 powered with used cooking oil from Paris to Montreal.

France is a world away from Australia!