Suddenly, we are in full plague mode again.
France’s numbers are around 200K a day, and the testing tents have started reappearing around the city. The government has reintroduced some token limits on gathering numbers for indoors and outdoors, and places are (voluntarily) closing everywhere. You now have to mask up outside and people are. We are ‘living with Covid’ but this is the first time since we arrived that the real pressure of that is inescapable.
I have some stories to tell.
On December 27, Tanya, Noah and I had our booster shot, a big facility just up the road from us. Took about an hour. I cannot praise the staff enough, who were not only friendly and efficient dealing with our foreign paperwork, but every single one of them was happy to speak English to us (mainly to me).
Noah is on their national health system, so his shot was free, but for some reason, so was ours. We had fully expected to pay. Something to think about in the salle de repos, where we had to wait for fifteen minutes after being boosted (sounds so much better than rest area!).
We all had sore arms for the next few days, but I had two days of chills too. Fairly severe, though I never felt ill per se. Just freezing. I’m fine now.
Despite being thrice-jabbed, we cancelled our planned trip to visit Tanya’s brother in Malta. Malta is closing down, they informed us, case numbers are on the rise, and it would all be a bit pointless. Happy/sad to comply.
We have also decided to cancel our trip to London in February. That was always about Tanya’s work, but all her appointments have been suspended, and she would likely have to work from home, so there isn’t much point: she might as well be back in Australia, so we will head home early, at the end of January.
We saw Noah’s latest show before Christmas in dress rehearsal—such a joy—and were due to see the final performance on New Year’s Eve. Unfortunately, it was cancelled at order of the city, as a dancer had tested positive. The city did the right thing, I think, and everyone else in the company, including Noah, were tested, and showed up negative, by some miracle.
My final story starts New Year’s Eve.
We decided to have a quiet night at home and Noah came for dinner. I cooked and we all sat on the lounge together and watched The Lost Daughter on Netflix, and I would highly recommend it (the sitting on the lounge together and the movie). Not as good as the book, but an excellent adaptation.
We stayed up until after midnight, toasted the new year, hugged and went to bed.
Early the next morning, I heard Tanya go to bathroom and then she was standing at the door to the bedroom with a blue mask on.
I’ve got it, she said.
She was feverish, coughing, sore throat, the works.
All we can think about is keeping Noah clear of us, but obviously, after last night, it is too late for that. He’s still asleep, with the door shut, and we leave him there for now. We’re not sure what to do.
I feel fine, I think, and go and wash and mask up. We open windows in the bedroom and decide Tanya should stay put, and that I should decamp to the living room. She is obviously unwell, but not too bad. I clean the kitchen and bathroom in a textbook example of closing the door after the horse has bolted. Still…
We know we have to get tested, but it’s New Year’s Day and options are limited. We’re Googling madly, and the best option is a 24-hour pharmacy on the main drag, Ave Jean Medicin, about a twenty-minute walk away. We check all the official advice, and it is ok for Tanya to leave home and be tested. Noah goes ahead to see what the queue is like and holds a place for us. We arrive 40 minutes later.
Again, I can’t praise the service enough. Friendly, efficient, patient with my bad French.
All three of us get a rapid antigen test, and Tanya gets a PCR one as well. Noah’s test is free, and we pay 90Euro for our three, the PCR being 40Euro by itself.
Because of case numbers, we are told the RATs will take at least an hour rather than the usual 15-30 minutes, and that the PCR will be at least 24 hours. We buy a couple of boxes of home test kits, Autotests as they call them here, as we figure it will help to have them. And yes, I hate to say, Australian friends, they are easily available.
We head home, and Tanya isolates as best we can manage. The single bathroom is the most difficult thing to negotiate under such circumstances. She still isn’t too bad, and manages a little to eat, but it is obvious she will get worse before she gets better. There is no doubt in our minds that she has Covid—she obviously has Covid—and so Noah and I are presuming that we probably do too.
Spoiler alert: none of us have Covid.
About an hour after we get home, Noah and I get an alert on our phone that our results are in. We follow the protocol and log in and both of us are negative. We are ecstatic and shocked in equal measure.
Tanya’s RAT doesn’t come through, so after about three hours, Noah rings the pharmacy and here comes another story about wonderful Nice professional staff: they take all the details, including Noah’s number, and say they will ring back. The absolute last thing I expect is that they will ring back, but sure enough, five minutes later, they do. They have no record of her tests. They take a few more details and ring back again two minutes later and they have found the RAT test and have sent the results through to Tanya.
We are astounded, but we have to wait for the PCR test to be sure, and that is still not due till after lunch the next day.
It actually arrived mid-morning on Sunday, and it was negative too and we were all very relieved. Whatever bug Tanya has, it looks a lot like Covid, but it isn’t, and although she is still crook, she is feeling much better this morning (Monday), though I think she will be out of action for the next week or so.
We have been lucky to have the resources to manage all this but are also grateful for how the French system has not only handled the general situation, but how it has treated we foreigners as well. I have nothing but praise.
All of this makes me realise what a crock ‘living with Covid’ is. What a rationalising slogan it is. From the beginning of this, certain factions have told us we have to live with Covid, and not only have they engineered circumstances so that we don’t have a choice, they’ve used the expression as if it was somehow the opposite of locking down. It isn’t. All it is is shifting responsibility from government to citizen, and we all lockdown in our own way. This might be fine on some level—of course people have to take personal responsibility—but given the nature of a pandemic, unless we really want to reproduce the social conditions of Deadwood, we require collective responsibility for public health in the form of government action so that risks and costs are spread. It shouldn’t be left up to the fucking market as to whether people are looked after or not, and yet, increasingly, that is what is happening.
I guess our remaining month here will look a little different to what we expected, depending on how Tanya is feeling. And of course, like everyone, we remain vulnerable to the disease we are all meant to ‘live with’ and god knows what we will do if one of us contracts it closer to flying-home time. Saying it is ‘mild’ is just another cop-out, another false metric for a situation that is as much social as it is medical. Covid-19 is a medical condition, but a pandemic is a social and political phenomenon, and shame on any government that doesn’t treat it as such.
Incidentally, whatever bug Tanya has was probably picked up when we went to the Picasso Museum in Vallauris, a few train stops from here. This is a shot I snapped from the back balcony of the Museum, and it captures something of the area: swimming in the foreground, snow on the Alps in the background, and superyachts and public art in between.
Stay safe, everyone.
And this is from the Chapel Picasso decorated inside the building, La Guerre et la Paix
Nice narrative unroll there Tim! Was hanging on for dear life - you've channelled a little Ferrante/Gyllenhaal there - the film is terrific agreed.
As is your take on "look after yourselves" directive from #dickhead and co. Three week ago I knew no-one with COVID here in Melbourne, now more friends/colleagues/staff (!) than I can count have succumbed - all mildly, lords be praised. But many are not so lucky.
Bizarre how we just keep seeing social experiments - usually from Sydney - wreak havoc.
Fingers crossed eh? And good luck to you and the family.
Thank you for your stories -,it is so hard to know what it is like living elsewhere- stats alone don’t do it. The good thing about Morrison’s callous approach is that it is making him increasingly more unpopular. Safe travels.