Riding the Waves That Roll Our Way
Another week gone in the depths of SW France and the month of November is almost over.
I can feel winter now, and taste it much the same way I can taste coffee when it’s being brewed. There’s an aroma of chill in the air, yet the colors and warmth of fall still linger. The hills around us have transformed into layers upon layers of oranges and brown that cascade towards the Pyrénées, the latter now permanently white, covered in a blanket of snow that will probably last until next spring. Warm and cold together.
Yet I also feel things are changing, both in ways we know and and ways we can only guess. Some are predictable and have a rhythm that is pleasant and known. Others are planned, or perhaps secretly so. While yet more are unexpected and can only be taken as they come.
All of these things have happened here in SW France these past two weeks in some form or another; from a 5th COVID wave to a Scandinavian Borg-like take-over and our van getting stuck at the garage.
In between it all we just continue to chug along, riding the waves that roll our way.
The 5th COVID-19 Wave Is Here
It’s happened, the winter surge has started. Europe is officially in the grips of its 5th COVID wave and once again, everything is up in the air.
Tell me, how did we end up here again?
It seems inconceivable, but in truth I think the whole thing is actually quite simple. COVID-19 has become endemic similar to the seasonal flu, which means it’s never going away. But unlike the latter it remains too contagious and deadly to just “let be”. So although we have more tools (esp. vaccines and boosters, masks etc.) to dampen the impact now than we’ve ever had before, not everyone has chosen to use them. And we’re seeing the results of those decisions now.
In Europe it’s quite clear. The biggest surges, specifically in hospitalization are happening in the countries with the lowest vaccination rates, and so restrictions are the only options left. Austria (64% fully vaccinated*) has taken the most aggressive approach, announcing a total lock down of their population for 20 days, with mandatory vaccination required for everyone by Feb. Germany (67% fully vaccinated*) is considering a similar path, announcing a “national emergency” which could entail a full lock-down if things don’t abate. These are serious responses.
In other European countries a somewhat softer (but still restrictive) approach is happening.
Denmark has re-instated it’s “Coronapas” after lifting all restrictions only a few months ago. In the Netherlands proof of COVID vaccination (or negative test) is now required for bars, restaurants & events, all of which will have curfews. Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Greece, Luxemburg and more are all following a similar path. In Belgium it’s the same, plus they’ve imposed work-from-home and mandatory indoor masks. Even Sweden, the holdout of all holdouts in Europe is now instating a vaccination requirement for indoor events of more than 100 people. It’s a poignant trend….
The only real exceptions so far? Portugal and Malta (both over 80% fully vaccinated*) followed by Spain, Italy (over 70% vaccinated*) and finally France, all of whom have higher vaccination rates, are heavily promoting boosters and have maintained masking and test requirements. An infection surge is still happening in these countries, but not nearly as fast as other parts of Europe, and the hope (hope, hope, hope!) is that hospitalization & ICU occupancy rates will remain manageable (as they did in the 4th wave) so that lockdowns & drastic restrictions don’t have to occur.
Only time will tell.
Within our little household we’re doing our best to do our part. Paul and dad have already had their booster vaccines, while I’m scheduled for mine early next month. Plus of course we’re all getting the flu vaccine. In the meantime we’ll just wait and hope that France avoids the worst.
Some things are unpredictable…..
*NOTE/ Vaccination Rates: For vaccination rates, I’ve used the numbers from European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control which show % of fully vaxxed by total population. You may see different numbers on the web & in various news articles, depending on whether they are quoting single-dose uptake, 2-dose uptake, and also whether they count the total population or just the adult population.
Scandinavians Are Taking Over
On a lighter note, I believe the second Viking wave has arrived in SW France and that’s a rather more positive event.
This is a modern take-over of course, less of the pillaging approach and more of a subtle infiltration scheme. And although I can’t directly say it’s got anything to do with me, I can’t deny that all of this has happened since we arrived in the area. Coincidence? Or is it the Master Plan of all Danes, our top secret strategy for world domination? Say no more….
Consider these two recent events.
Remember the Château down the road? The one we lived in for a few months as we pondered potential futures? Well as you know we passed on buying it, but just a few months later two young Danes came along and decided it was exactly what they wanted. Even more intriguing, there’s now rumors that Danish TV might come down and film their journey, kind of like “Escape to the Chateau, Danish Style”. Can you imagine? I had no part in any of this of course, but I can lay claim to infusing the first Danish tentacles into the place, which of course is how all these Master Plans are launched.
Plant a seed, it will grow….
Then there’s our local Carrefour. In typical late-November style the whole entrance of our supermarket is now festively decked-out with Christmas decorations, Beaujolais Nouveau and boxes of fancy chocolate.
These are annual occurrences which are very much expected, but what’s new this year is that all the Juletide decor has a distinct Scandinavian style. Decidedly so, in fact. Instead of the usual glittery baubles and tinsel we have Nisser (Danish Chrismas Elves), Dala horses (a typical Swedish thing) and traditional Scandinavian Christmas hearts, and not just a few items either but entire displays of the stuff. Once again, I can’t say I had any part in this….officially anyway….but I’m delighted to see the results.
Some things are inevitable. But don’t worry my friends, our take-over will be (mostly) painless…
Some Things Remain (Comfortingly) The Same
Our van is at the garage this week.
It’s nothing serious mind you, just a few new filters and such, work which would (under normal circumstances) only take a day or so. But this is France and the unexpected should always be expected. So when I hadn’t heard anything from the garage for over a week I decided to give them a call.
“Bonjour” (always the best way to start) “Je voulais juste faire le point sur notre Fiat Ducato, qu’on a laissé chez vous il ya une semaine?” (I just wanted to check on our van that we left with you a week ago)
“Ah oui, votre fourgeon. En fait il y a une grève chez Fiat. Nous ne recevons plus de pièces” (ah yes, your van. In fact there’s a strike at Fiat. We’re not getting any parts).
A strike. Of course. That explains everything.
“Et ça va continuer longtemps, cette grève?” I asked, hopeful they’d scheduled an end-date (will it continue a long time, this strike?)
“Peut-être quelques semaines ? On vous tiendra au courrant.” (maybe a few weeks? we’ll keep you updated)
And that was two weeks ago….
Apparently some kind of takeover (not Danish) is happening, which in typical French style has naturally launched a strike. So the Fiat parts depot has been blocked, and all the Fiat garages just have to wait until it gets sorted out. Ah well, c’est la vie. After three years in France, it’s perhaps a testament to our integration here that I was neither surprised nor annoyed by this. In fact, with COVID and everything that’s entailed, I found solace in the fact that the French haven’t lost their striking resolve.
Thankfully, some things remain absolute and immutable….
In the Meantime We Chug Along
We’re rolling towards the end of November, and life is chugging along.
We have days of biting cold and rain, interspersed with others of brilliant sunshine and surprising warmth. And in between it all we follow a rhythm that flows pleasantly like the hills; walks with Polly, market visits, work and play. It’s a good life and I honestly can’t complain about any of it.
But we also have hopes and plans, as all folks do.
We have travel plans for December that we’re crossing all fingers and paws will work out, plans that have been in the making for over a year. If they happen we’ll be somewhere else a month from now, and if they don’t….well, then I guess things have changed again.
And we hope to work on the van again….whenever we get it back that is.
Most of all we hope we avoid another lockdown, but some things are beyond our control. All we can do is ride the waves that roll our way.
So, my dear blog readers I know many of you are in the USA and so Thanksgiving is around the corner. Do you have plans to travel, or are you staying home? Are any of you in the SW desert? DO share and comment below!SPONSORED LINK:
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