By Emma Fielder
Day one: My dog Téo and I stepped out of our home in central Bordeaux mid-morning into beautiful sunshine; yet the only sound was pigeons flapping their wings.
A neighbour and I watched our dogs touch noses and play together, as the two of us stood far apart. “C’est difficile, non?” he sighed. “Oui”, I responded. There was not much else to say. “Bon courage,” he said, as the dogs lost interest in each other.
Téo and I headed for the River Garonne. On a weekend morning, the riverside should be packed. But yesterday it was cordoned off. We have to walk in the cycle lane. Normally, this would cause cyclists to tut crossly. Today, the few that pass smile at us.
Since the lockdown on Tuesday, we must stay inside as much as possible. We can exercise outside alone, but we cannot stray far. Restaurants and cafes closed a week ago. Schools closed just before that. When leaving home, we must take a form showing our name, address, and reason for leaving. Today I see far more police officers than usual, patrolling the riverside on motorbikes.
At 8pm, my husband Dave and I joined the clapping session, to thank health workers. Opening our windows, I drew a sharp breath as the positive energy of my neighbours hit me. A couple I’ve never seen before, although their window faces ours across the narrow street, waved delightedly at us. Individuals, families and couples, framed by the glowing lights of their homes, filled the silence with cheers for people saving lives.
Day two: Dave went for a short run today and was stopped by the police. He was told not to go further than 500 metres from home. We hadn’t been aware of this restriction. Later, we sat on our balcony with Téo. Our street is lined with bars and restaurants, and normally resounds with laughter and music. Now, even the pigeons are silent. Then we heard a strange mechanical buzzing sound. Looking up, we spotted a police drone in the sky, monitoring us from high above our heads.
I took Téo on a walk around the beautiful Place de la Bourse. It was 20 degrees, and normally the Fountain of the Three Graces would be surrounded by people taking selfies. Today the only thing to catch Téo’s attention was a tin can rattling across the cobbles in the wind.
Seeing someone hurry past wearing a mask brought my anxiety to the fore once again. I know that millions of people around the world are feeling anxious too. We share the worry about our uncertain future. We share the horror we feel when we watch the news. We share restless sleep, unsettled dreams, and the tears we have cried over the recent weeks and months.
I then spotted a young guy who had set up a temporary outdoor gym. He leapt on and off a concrete bench and threw burpees. He laughed good-naturedly as Téo galloped towards him.
As we turned into Place du Parlement, I smiled at the one other person there; a woman in sunglasses, strolling along calmly. She paused to sit on a bench, crossed her ankles and slowly turned her face towards the glorious sun.
Day three: Today I ran laps around Allées de Tourny with Téo, and his delight was infectious. Pink spring blossom blew gently from the trees, scattering across our path. I thought of my brother, who was due to visit from Romania to celebrate my 40th birthday this week. I thought of close friends who were due to fly in from the UK and Switzerland to join our celebratory dinner. Some are in quarantine, some are trying to explain to their kids why they can’t go to school. All are trying to create a new routine.
On the way home, as Téo trotted ahead, I thought of my freedom. The freedom I’ve had to go to school, university and work. I can normally run for miles, go for drinks with friends, to yoga classes, to a restaurant with Dave. I have so much to be grateful for. Even in the difficult time ahead, as we and our world slowly recover, I must remember this.
I hope I will continue to chat to the woman over the road as I did this afternoon, the pair of us leaning out of our windows. I hope that on nights in, instead of watching Netflix, I’ll have group FaceTime chats with friends like I did this evening. I want to remember what’s important; health, family, friends, community.
I think about the words of the dog walker on Saturday. ‘Bon courage’ means good luck, but I like to think that when we say it, we are urging each other to be brave. I think courage should be our battle cry as together, we take a deep breath, and face the coming months.
Life in lockdown. Womankind approached its community to write about life in lockdown around the globe, notably a three-day diary of everyday life under the threat of COVID-19. Womankind is publishing these stories freely to show how the pandemic is affecting women from all over the globe - from New York, to Barcelona to Glastonbury.
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