Though never having lived through the rigours of confinement, I am no
stranger to it. My husband’s maternal side of the family survived the Lebanese civil war by spending months, years holed up in corridors for fear of bullets and other fearsome things. My sister in law once awoke to the shelling of a rocket over her head. Their flat, located behind Raouche, a district in Beirut, ran side by side with the Mediterranean. She spent months isolated in the apartment together with her two year old, her elderly father and a close member of the family. I learnt how she used to fearfully watch the fleets manoeuvre their guns from left to right and back again. Her heart would pound with fear, as she prayed they wouldn’t halt in her pathline. And if they did, ‘I used to hide behind the wall for protection- as if the wall could shield us.
President Macron has declared we are fighting a war. We must protect
ourselves from the enemy around us. But unlike the war my sister in law
faced, our enemy is invisible. Therefore I must prepare for a siege and the
eventual closedown of this lovely country. Monday the 17 th March, from
midday on, France’s population is to move within the safety of its fortresses.
I wonder what will happen to the homeless, those living in tents….
SATURDAY 15 March
I stocked up on toilet paper, eau de javel, kitchen towels and other sundries. Didn’t go overboard on loo paper; can always wash my bum, can’t I? Bought loads of fresh vegetables at the market. I want to cook dishes to pop into the freezer, in case. The weather was not bad, the market crowded, though most were taking care to respect some distance. Humour was high. On the way home, saw F leaning out of her window. Popped in to have a coffee, naturally always respecting our distances inside her house. Spent the rest of the day indoors preparing stock and blanching some of the vegetables. Have loads of dried beans. Will soak the black ones overnight.
SUNDAY 16 March
I cooked up a storm preparing a delicious lentil, chard and sweet potato
curry, blanched the spinach and threw it all into the freezer. It was a beautiful day so attempted to walk alone in the Bois de Saint Cloud and Harras de Jardy. Both were locked up. Eventually I contacted M and met up with her at the St. Cloud passerelle, crossing the Seine into the Bois de Boulogne. We were able to retain our distance from each other and others. There were hundreds of cyclists whizzing around in the Bois. Children laughing. Dogs barking. Families discussing, arguing, as they walked the dirt paths. There was a quiet but joyful feel to the day, the flowers were blooming, the birds singing. Perhaps it was the coming of spring, the rebirth of nature or perhaps everyone wanted to bury their fear for just this last spring afternoon. Bumped into O and her family as we crossed the river. Her father died two days ago. They can’t bury him for the moment.
MONDAY 17 March
Happy Saint Patrick! Confinement began at midday today. Have decided to retain a sort of a diary of my confinement, as I lay isolated in my small top floor terraced apartment on the outskirts of Paris. Completed thirty minutes of yoga, then tried to work on my novel and eventually fell asleep watching non-stop scare mongering, bacterial carrying TV news. From now on, will contain news to a minimum and watch cheerful films and comedies.
Thank God for BBC and ITV on the satellite. Took Mum’s cut glass together with a bottle of wine onto the balcony and belted out a whole bunch of Irish songs. I got totally sloshed! Poor neighbours.
WEDNESDAY 18 March
I began with yoga and cycling. Am making up every day. It makes me feel cheerful and optimistic. Apart from all that, apparently it’ll prevent me from touching my face and passing the bacteria. At 8PM, I stood at my window and applauded those in the public services working so hard on our behalf. I was the only one but was soon joined by others. The anonymous clappers, we are.
THURSDAY, 19 March
Did I mention that we are allowed to escape our prisons for food supplies, pharmacies and short walks within the perimeter of our homes? We have forms to fill in, supplying names, age addresses and the reason why we are out. Obviously signed and oops, don’t forget ID papers. The streets are deserted. Saw a pizza delivery boy across the street chatting to his mates. Think I’ll go out for a walk.
FRIDAY, 20 March
SPRING IS HERE !
Spent yesterday writing, working. Yoga gives me peace of mind. I highly recommend it. My niece in London suggested we join up to play charades or other games. Great idea! So at 8PM sharp, we tapped into Zoom. It was meant to be easy-peasy. Not for me. Either I couldn’t get a connection or something did not want to acknowledge me. At one point I was manipulating my mobile as well as my computer. My family who naturally got online with no problem whatsoever snorted with laughter. If something is to go wrong, break, it will be on my watch! I worked until three PM. Had a horrific dream of loud thumping, like a drum. It’s hard to describe but I was terrified and woke suddenly. It has been suggested that someone is attempting to contact me.
SATURDAY, 21 March
It’s been a slow start to the day. Woke late and wrote these words from the comfort of my bed. Noting the weekdays and dates allows me to savour that particular moment, a memory of confinement -be it happy, frustrating, or sad.
Thought about the young man, Dr. Li Wenliang and his collegues in Wuhan who went onto social media in an attempt to warn his country and the world of the deadly virus, Corona Virus. Accused of ‘rumour-mongering’, he was silenced. A high level convention was due to take place and nothing must draw attention from it. What a hero. A martyr who lost his life in his attempt to help others. China’s response was an apology and compensation in the way of money. As if that could bring him back. Shame on the government. The people deserve better.
Have you noticed how others avert their eyes away when out walking. Fantastic to be alone in the street, and what joy to hear the birds! Shut away on the top floor, I run to the window when I hear voices rising up from the street.
Monday, 23 March
I am enjoying my confinement for the moment and the days are passing too swiftly. It is a daily lesson of discipline and joy and for the moment it suits me. I wonder how I’ll feel in a month’s time I wonder.
I have always loved Mondays, for it is the arbiter of fresh beginnings and changes to come. Mondays are traditionally laundry days. Clean sheets on clotheslines flap in the breeze. Today, a cold sun is shining. An occasional, merry gust of wind suggests that Nature is cleaning house.
I washed a bunch of jumpers and placed them to dry on the terrace. I imagine I’m making them CV proof, clear of bacteria. I love the way the wind lifts them off the stand to resemble stuffed dolls, beforere leasing them with a soft plop.
Every so often I have to rush out to save a jumper before it lifts off to fly away to another destination. I take a deep breath…hmm… who quoted ‘cleanliness is next to godliness’- A sign of purity and goodliness ?
No matter how superior we believe we are, Mother Nature has its own method of drawing our attention, of rapping our knuckles, perhaps to remind us of the simple pleasures of life. The breath of life as I complete my morning Yoga.
The background of music to my ears is as balm to the soul. The simple concoctions of fruit and vegetables, the tastings of which, make my mouth waterin anticipation. The touch of my skin, as I wash my hands again and again to eradicate the invisible enemy around me.
Tuesday, 24 March
This morning, I decided to brave the exterior world, to face our lurking enemy. I made myself a mask out of paper towels (accordion folds), which I wrapped around my ears by the way of rubber bands stapled to the kitchen towel.
Sunglasses in case because none of us really know much about any of this- and of course my infamous Frankenstein gloves! What a sight I must have looked,- trailing my caddy (sprayed within an inch of its life with vinegar) behind me.
Have you ever paused to think about how many heroes are striving to protect our lives in our communities today? Our doctors and nurses are heroes. We applaud them and others every night
from our windows. They are on the front lines, losing their lives in the battle to save us.
And our unsung heroes? On my walk today, I noticed a masked police lady apprehending someone. She was a lucky one because many cops don’t have them. Yet they are still out on the street working to protect us. Employees in supermarkets, vegetable shops, bio shops, chemists- all on duty, facing danger day after day for us. The baker, the butcher, the postman, the cleaners who and scrub infected areas, the helpers in the creches, the journalists seeking information, staff behind the scenes. Think about it…these are just a few…
These are the invisible heroes and I applaud them. Thank you.
I am also including a very good séance of meditation. Try it!
Thursday, 26 March
I’ve been pondering on what to do with the rest of my year, whether to remain here, with friends and family. Perhaps grab the bull by the horns, to explore faraway shores of different lands? How much fun it would be to exchange laughter in new countries, to taste new foods -however delicious or disgusting, to learn snippets of different languages. Costa Rica is often on my mind these days. I visited the country, together with my sister and niece several years ago. We toured it on a shoestring, stayed in hostels, encountering people of all ages and backgrounds. Today, holed up in my space, I feel a wistful need to return, to experience once again the contrasting climates, the rain forest, to lie in in the hot springs under pouring rain. I miss the chatter of spider monkeys who pee overhead, the beaches, the coatis, thieving raccoons, and the slow moving sloths living high up in the trees. We were lucky enough to watch one descend late in the night for its weekly defecation. Snakes galore! There are twenty-two species and the most dangerous snake, though not the most venomous, is the famous fer-de-lance. I remember being told about a snake that can live in or out of water, with no antivenin in existence for snake bite. Yes, I miss it all; After all, where am I safer- there or here?
Monday, 30 March
Cooked up a storm this weekend. Made soda bread with chick pea flour because it’s all I have. Used almond mild which I soured with the juice of half a lemon. Very little kneading and the usual cross on the bread to let the fairies escape! I halve the ingredients to make it last longer.
Also made a Chili sin Carne. Had no onions so used leeks. The recipe called for two teaspoons of chili. I added only one and it was quite enough, unless you have a mouth that is resistant to burning fire. Am having enormous fun looking for alternatives in recipes and what good therapy if it’s accompanied by a glass of wine and jazz.
Try it! Bon appétit!
Tuesday, 31 March
The root of a word is to discover history, to where it can lead one anywhere in the world, connecting us to each other. With the beginning of confinement, I made a resolution to recommence work on editing some of my children’s stories.
They had been abandoned inside my computer, untouched for a number of years. There were brief spans when I made futile attempts to resume my intimate relationship I once enjoyed with words. Over time, I ceased to read books. My drug became IPhone, UTube and Kindle. To read a paper, a story or whatever, I used key words. I didn’t need many to learn about the subject of perhaps a short article; five could be sufficient. I skimmed my stories to avoid the absorption of emotions, words cobbled together, to the telling of a story. It was as if my brain rejected a pass ticket to the neurons of my brain. It wanted nothing that could produce emotion; it was grieving. In the past few weeks, my relationship with the words has undergone a full transformation. I am slow in clarity, but healing day by day in a most positive way. The tip tap of my fingers on the computer if somewhat rusty, is reigniting a joy I had misplaced.
Wednesday, 01 April
Happy April Fool’s Day! Didn’t have anyone to play a trick on, couldn’t pin fish tails on anyone’s butt. Wished a friend a good fool’s day. Don’t think she was in the mood for a trick, though we did have a laugh over it. The weather is beautiful today, so I made the most of it and left my washing to dry outside on the balcony.
The sun will kill off whatever lurghy is waiting to harm me. And frankly, there’s nothing better than climbing into bed between sun-dried sheets! We all have our hang ups. I am a bit of a fanatic with cleanliness of laundry. I cannot bear to wear a piece of clothing more than once. Even jumpers, though I do exaggerate there.
I’ll wear those twice. The idea of washing, even hand-washing is therapeutic to
the soul, as so kneading dough.
Which brings me to mind…
I totally forgot to include two recipes. Soda Bread, which I will include today.
Soda Bread (I halved all the ingredients as there is only myself)
1 IB flour (whatever flour you have- I used chick pea flour. It wasn’t bad.)
½ tsp bread soda ( bicarbonate of soda); ½ tsp salt;
1/2 pint buttermilk or sour milk (I used almond milk and curdled it with the juice of half a lemon.
Method: Sieve flour, salt and bread soda. Mix to a loose dough with the soured milk. Turn out onto a floured board and knead lightly until the underside is smooth. Turn the smooth side up. Make a cross to allow all the tiny fairies to escape. Place into a hot oven…approx. 180 for 40 minutes. To test the bread, tap the base and if it sounds hollow, it’s ready to remove. Let it cool on a wire. If not,
I lay it on a clean tea towel. Seems to work just as well.
Friday, 03 April
Sat at my desk, I accidently kicked a box that had been standing under my desk for absolute yonks. I discovered papers and letters written by my father to his cousins. Tucked between these papers, were corrected versions of his life and career, which I thought I would like to share.
My father came of a family of successful flax spinners in Northern Ireland. Unfortunately, my grandfather contacted tuberculosis and was advised to move to Le Treport for his health. Around the same time, the industry of flax mills collapsed. Cotton was cheaper to produce over linen. Grandpa couldn’t work, so Dad was pulled out of his elite school. He was fifteen. They could not afford to live on my grandmother’s small inheritance alone. There were five other siblings of a younger age. He was to come home. Fortunately my grandfather was a trained accountant as well as an engineer. He strove to teach his son the rudiments of accountancy in six months.
Though very young to today’s standard, my father was proficient in three languages, French, English and German. He could play auction bridge by the age of four. This was thanks to my grandparents who were both highly educated. When leaving his school in England, he was streets ahead of the average schoolboy, in literature, maths, latin and general knowledge.
Through a friend of the family, he obtained a job in Paris as third assistant bookkeeper to the Chicago Tribune, Paris Edition. My father was excited by his new life. ‘So proud of myself.’ He boarded in the suburb of Asnieres. He knew artists lived in attic garrets and judging from books he mistakenly thought they
lived glamorous lives.
‘I thought I was a man.’ His first salary was 750 francs monthly, payable in half monthly installments. Not so his. His board, breakfast and dinner came to 350 francs- about 22-23 francs to the dollar in those days. He washed and ironed his clothes, as well as washing his removable collar and handkerchief, then pasting them on the wall to dry. The rest of the money had to go home.
The job proved to be tedious, adding columns of meaningless figures in a routine five and a half day week. He wondered how he could escape the dull monotony of existence. A momentous turn of events was to change his life forever.
Wednesday, 08 April
I can’t believe these past five days have slipped past without any positive action accomplished on my part. My sensation of raplapla cranks through my body bouncing between siestas and dullness of mind. It feels beyond my capability to write this blog- one word behind the other will form a sentence, but what kind, I ask myself ? True, it is week three for me, ergo this unfamiliar dip of energy. Resourcefulness is to be forceful of character, punchy as a boxer and gutsy as the hell I can be. Tomorrow is a new day. It will be one of resolutions and actions; of showers, make up, cycle, yoga and the written word.
Thursday, 09 April
Last night I learned that my great niece, a very beautiful woman with a successful career is to commence the fight of her life in stage three cancer. In addition I have another member of my family who though has been given months, perhaps weeks to live, she is too busy embarking on a new project. What a nudge this news has given me. It is food for thought. Many of us, have complained of enforced confinement, especially this third week. But the weather is beautiful and although limited, we can walk outside and listen to the birdsongs of joy. Our skies have become blue and clear again, such a thing of rarety. And it’s a reminder that we must live each and every day to the full. Life is an adventure, a roller coaster on which we must savour wherever it takes us. So climb on, fear not. It’s the ride of a lifetime!
Easter Monday, 13 April
My birthday fell on Good Friday this year. If you are Christian, it is not the most
joyous of days to celebrate. My birthday was the best to be celebrated in years!
And it was a big one…painful, if one allows it to be. Not me! I laughed myself silly with happiness. And the action didn’t cease all day long. My kids, my grandchildren, zoomed in from all corners of the world, teasing me all the while because I am definitely not a technological genius in the language of computers and passwords. Granted, I was exhausted from the huge number of calls from special friends and texts, cartoons and good wishes. Who’s complaining? No way!
Not me! On Thursday, thinking I would dine alone on my birthday, I ordered a
three course meal from a restaurant ‘Les Papilles’ in Bougival. When I mentioned
this to a friend, she suggested we all join in for a virtual dinner party. We were
only three but it was great fun and I thank them. Needless to say, I was totally
zonked out by the amount of wine I imbibed- the last remaining bottle of Chateau
Happy Easter you all, my friends!
Friday, 17 April
Who visits Ireland without attempting to sight the iconic mythical leprechaun?
Fairies are simply ancient legends or bedtime stories we tell our children, from the blood-curdling cry of the banshee to the soul stealing Irish mermaid.
It is incredible to think that in this space age of modern technology and declining religious beliefs, there are those who actually believe these little people dressed in their finery of green coats, hats, clutching their pot of gold at the edge of the rainbow exist or that they existed in the past in prehistoric fairy mounds and fairy circles.
This modern story began in 1989, when a certain P.J. O’Hare discovered charred bones of a small person surrounded by a green suit and a hat on Foy Mountain. In the pocket of the suit were four gold coins, which went missing while the other items were placed in a glass frame in P.J.O’Hare’s pub. He believed the items to be that of a leprechaun. He told his friend McCoillte, he believed leprechauns lived in the mountain. Woods told him it was rubbish and that to prove his point, he would set up a Leprechaun hunt. Four thousand punts hidden under ceramic leprechauns were buried on Foy Mountain. Hundreds of people turned up for the hunt, but there were no sightings of leprechauns. After P.J. O’Hare’s death, Woods found the four gold coins in a little leather purse while repairing a wall. He went to Slate Rock where the skeleton was found. McCoillte claimed to have had several encounters with leprechauns, including Carriag, an elder. He, Carriag, said they were the last of their kind because people had ceased to believe in them. The leprechauns asked McCoillte to persuade more people to believe in leprechauns. McCoillte appealed to the people of Carlingford. Together with supporters, they campaigned for the mountain to become a protected area. In 2009, the E.U. agreed to add the leprechauns as a protected species as it could not be proved or disproved. The area is now a preserve under the E.U. Habitats Directive. For all that, we’d like to believe that these little people really do exist in that magical in-between twilight world. Leprechauns are mischievous and once sighting a leprechaun, we are never to take our eyes off him, for he will trick us at the slightest opportunity.
Wednesday, 29 April
It’s been a week since I last wrote. A flare up of an old problem and antibiotics, I have not felt up to any activity except sleep. Today is another day, another week, and so I am gearing life into a mode of activity. To start with, I would like to introduce you to a platonic rapprochement of perseverance, which I first came across last December.
I was passing the Christmas holidays with my sister in Kilkenny. On this particular evening, my sister Dede was downstairs in the kitchen filling our hotties. I was brushing my teeth in preparation for bed when suddenly I heard her shriek as if a tribe of banshees were after her. I rushed to her side imagining all sorts of woes, from broken crystal to a shot leg. Dede was pacing the floor and wringing her hands.
‘I hate them, I hate them,’ she muttered.
‘Are you all right? What on earth is the matter?’ I asked.
‘It’s that thing, over there.’
‘That thing,’ she yelled, impatient with me. ‘The enormous spider that lives under
‘Spider?’ I was very confused.
‘It comes out every night. I wish it would go find somewhere else to live.’
‘But house spiders are good. They eat your mosquitos, flies, moths and earwigs.’
‘Perhaps, but it can go eat somewhere else.’
Over the weeks, back in Paris, I heard less of the spider. I think Dede had got
used to her unwanted house-guest. Then several weeks ago, she phoned to say
that her spider had been up to some very odd behavior.
‘Harry came out, went to the cupboard and enacted a dance. I wonder if there is a
female under that cupboard,’ she remarked.
‘Mmm, could be a mating dance, ’I remarked, astonished by how calm she
sounded. The spider even had a name.
Some days later, both creatures made an appearance. Harry was dancing to her,
supposing hoping for some action. She, (I named her Mabel) did not budge one inch, eventually disappearing back under.
‘She should give him a chance,’ my sister, hater of spiders, remarked.
That was the last I heard on this subject until last week.
‘I think Mabel ate him. I can see a leg sticking out and it looks a lot fatter.’
‘No! What would she be doing in his place?’
‘Yes! And I don’t know. Can males eat the females?’
‘I don’t know. I’ll Google it.’
And so, Readers, a hopeful Monsieur Harry has since been spotted strutting his
stuff.. No sign of Madame. She has disappeared within; perhaps to better pastures? Time will tell.
Wednesday, 3 May
It was lovely sunny day yesterday, so I decided to walk around to explore the shops open to the public, how they were dealing with use masks and hand wipes. It was encouraging. The two hairdressers I spotted, had two clients each. All wore masks with two to three meters apart. My first trip into the supermarket wasn't bad, but there are still those who do not wear masks. The local town hall is giving washable ones away for free. If not that, the local pharmacies are selling disposable packs of four for approximately three euros. So why can't people be a little less selfish and think of the potential harm they could inflict upon others. As for my hobby horse, I actually spotted a man sitting in his parked car, motor running and reading a book. No, it was not work. It looked like a novel for me. I'll give him credict - perhaps he's a literary agent in hiding from his family. Having enjoyed weeks of clear skies, it pisses me off. Anyway, enough of my gripe for today.
I am lucky to have a little terrace, where I plant strawberries, herbs and flowers. I ate the first two strawberries of last year's plant today. Mmm ! My mint is thick with leaves for tea. Have treateds myself to a rosemary and thyme plant, which I will plant into containers for the summer. A cheeky bird, a Black-crested Finch landed on my Japanese Azalea. It was so cute ! It is the first time I have ever seen any bird, other than the usual doves, magpies, or rose-ring Parakeets which haunt our trees in the neighbourhood. I was quite excited. Perhaps I'll leave them a few nuts to nibble on my terrace. My neighbours will complain, but what the hell..