Doing the lockdown walk

We’re over a week into lockdown round 2 in France. This time, we don’t have quite the same feelings of anxiety, of life closing down, as we did during the spring confinement. Perhaps this is because we now know what to expect and had already developed strategies to deal with it on the previous occasion. We are still just as careful but not quite so obsessive about wiping down all the shopping with bleach or power-washing ourselves and our clothes after every trip to the shops.

A smashing time with the wood burner

Fireplace with wood burner

Why do we break things during lockdown? Our wood delivery this year from a new supplier included large chunks of tree trunk. Instead of sensibly opening the front doors of the wood burner to place them on the fire, we simply dropped them in from the top. Result? One smashed door pane.

We expected the wood burner to be out of action for at least a week, if not longer. And, naturally, the screws securing the pane had become impossible to budge, so the whole door had to come off. Imagine our surprise, then, when a glazier in Villefranche cut and installed a new pane of glass in the door on the spot.

This is probably a sad reflection on the lack of custom for small businesses at the moment.

Uncharted territory

We are again confined to walking within a 1 km radius of the house for one hour maximum. With the help of the CovidRadius website, we carefully worked out where we could go, and set off for a circular walk on Thursday under blue skies in balmy temperatures.

Our route took us to a place where I am ashamed to say we have never walked in our 23 years here: the hamlet where our neighbours live (neighbour being a relative term here: they are 1 km away as the crow flies and 2 km by road).

Wayside stone cross in the hamlet of T.

We have cycled through the hamlet, but we have a rather silly, and now quite outdated, reluctance to walk there. Our neighbour, Mme F, was the local busybody. Nothing happened without her knowing about it. She even stood on her balcony scanning the surroundings with a gigantic pair of binoculars, like a naval captain on the bridge in a WWII film.

Once when the SF was away, I drove to a nearby cinema. I was spotted. The next time I stopped to say hello, I was grilled about where I had been and why. I explained about the film. “Et la télé?” Mme F said. Leaving the house to go to watch a film was beyond her comprehension. No doubt she speculated that I must have been up to something else. We certainly couldn’t get past on foot without her seeing and engaging us in long and somewhat disjointed conversation.

Sadly, Mme F died a few years ago, leaving her lonely husband, a frail man in his nineties, whom we can no longer visit because of Covid. In a strange way, we miss Mme F. Her forthright speech and complete disregard for what people thought of her were amusing, if disconcerting.

Mme F’s younger sister, a widow and equally direct, lived in the house opposite. They affected not to like each other, but if you told one something the other would know about it in a trice. The sister also died, only two years after Mme F.

Mme F’s sister owned this rather splendid pigeonnier and had it restored. A little owl lives in it and often sits on the stone outside the upper window surveying its territory. A bit like Mme F, in fact, but without the binoculars. I love seeing the owl, but it wasn’t at home when we passed by.

We stopped at the top of the hill to look back over the countryside. The leaves are turning but have not yet attained their full autumn colours, and the grass and spring corn are bright green. This view is always different, and when we drive over the brow of the hill towards home, we call it “our country”.

Further along, we had a tantalising view of the hamlet of Félines with its church and former presbytery, nestling among the trees.

We are probably supposed to walk only on roads, like last time, but we nipped up the footpath that comes down the other side of the hill behind our barn. I can’t see what harm we’re doing. We are less likely to meet someone there than on the road. But don’t tell the gendarmes.

P.S. Tell me below if you got the reference in the title. You probably have to be British and of a certain age! It has nothing to do with France, in fact.

You might also like:

The posts below relate more vignettes about Mme F and other local personalities.

Meilleurs Voeux before the world ends

Making eau de vie de prune – an ancient tradition

A local eccentric

Monsieur C – one of a dying breed

Copyright © Life on La Lune 2020. All rights reserved.

23 comments

  1. I did not get the reference in the title (I’m of a certain age but not British!) but I can relate to the lockdown frustrations. Let’s just say we are happy to be in Switzerland now where cases are also on the rise but common sense prevails rather than so many rules and regulations. Your portrait of the village characters made me smile. I think village life is the same everywhere!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I wouldn’t expect anyone who isn’t British to get it!
      France does love its regulations. On our attestation that must accompany every sortie, we have to write our date and place of birth. Why? Does it make a blind bit of difference that I was born in Woolwich (a London suburb) on a certain date? I think it’s to deter people from going out more than they need to. At least that’s the rational answer. The less rational one is simply that this is France, and that’s how it’s done. Glad you are finding less red tape on the Swiss side of the border.
      Stay safe.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree. You do have some lovely places to walk. I like pigeonniers. Over several trips to France we have seen some wonderful examples in south west France. I enjoy seeing things we do not have here in Australia. Lavoirs are another favourite.
    As a non Brit, I am familiar with the song Doing the Lambeth Walk, but I did not make the connection with your title.
    It is good you are positive about the second lockdown. Hopefully there will be encouraging news about a vaccine soon.
    Take care.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We’re fortunate to have some good walks in the immediate vicinity, but it’s certainly put paid to our plans to do some much longer walks this autumn. And, typically, the weather is radiant just now!
      I like pigeonniers and lavoirs, too. There are posts about both on the blog. We have some lovely examples of both in our area.
      You have probably seen there has been some good news about a vaccine in the past day. There’s still a way to go, but we’ll keep our fingers crossed.
      In the meantime, stay safe.

      Like

  3. You can only walk 1 km away from your home. It is really not a lot. It would not be enough for me. With my husband we do a loop almost every day ( it is 5,5 km) . Going out everyday is the best day we can do right now. Stay well. I enjoy your post !

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, the limit is a radius of 1 km from the house, but this does mean that in theory we could do a circuit of 6.3 km. However, as the time limit is one hour, we would have to walk rather fast. One could still do a circuit of about 4 km in an hour, which isn’t so bad. We are missing longer walks, though, especially as the weather is so good at the moment. Bon courage!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. A lovely blog, Vanessa with great photos. Yes, I got the Lambeth Walk reference.
    You have beautiful places to walk and flat. We are quite hilly here once out of the village.
    The municipality borders within Andalucia will close tomorrow at midnight effectively locking us down again. So far we are unrestricted within Arboleas. During the first lockdown we too had a 1 km radius for walking. However, all shops etc will be closed at 6 p.m. and all non-essential businesses will not be allowed to open.
    Stay safe.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Chris. Non-Brits must be wondering what on Earth this Lambeth walk thing is!
      Actually, it’s quite hilly around here, but that doesn’t come out in the photos. Not as hilly as where you live, I suspect.
      Bon courage with the Spanish restrictions.

      Like

  5. Hello Vanessa. Being of a certain age, and born and raised within the din of those bells, I do recall the Lambeth Walk and it’s populiser, Lupino Lane. I think I last heard it on the West End stage in a production of Me and My Girl: that was 30 years ago with Gary Wilmot playing the part of Blll Snibson.
    Wikipedia never fails to amaze me – it’s quite good on ‘The Lambeth Walk’
    Warm wishes
    Norman.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello, Norman. The Lambeth Walk was familiar to me, but I didn’t know when it originated, so I was interested to read the Wikipedia write-up when I was writing the post. As I said, it has nothing to do with France, but the title appealed to me!
      Best wishes,
      Vanessa

      Like

  6. I trained as a nurse many years ago at St Thomas in London and lived in the Lambeth hospital nurses home for almost a year, so became familiar with both the ‘Lambeth Walk’ and the local colourful inhabitants. The local dockers used to say that their nurses were always safe walking home at night because they would sort out anyone who dared to lay a finger on us. And it was true, I always felt quite safe walking home after a late shift at 11 at night through the streets of Lambeth. It has sadly all changed these days.

    Liked by 2 people

    • This is actually wheat – or possibly barley. They grow both around here. The farmers harvest it around the end of June (sometimes a little later), and I call it spring corn, but that might be a misnomer. We Brits tend to classify any grain as corn! The farmers do also grow maize here, mainly for animal feed, but that’s harvested in the autumn (fall).
      Thanks for the kind words about the blog. I’m glad you enjoy it.

      Like

  7. Don’t worry about going “off piste”, it is quite legal as unlike last time they haven’t shut the forests, etc. We had no choice last time about walking on a PR route which was closed as the path outside our house is the PR route around Castanet.

    I have to say we have pushed the 1km limit but we are never out for more than an hour

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, thanks for that. This is good news. I hadn’t had a chance to check. There isn’t a circular route by road around us that stays within the 1 km perimeter, but there are plenty of footpaths. The CovidRadius website actually indicates that we can go further than we thought.

      Like

    • And of course it’s much safer to stray off the path with la chasse banned here in the Aveyron although, sadly, they have been permitted to recommence their activities from tomorrow onwards for “grands gibiers”. However, they can now only hunt Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays and definitely not on Sunday which is relatively good news (they seemed to be at it every day of the week in these parts).

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, I saw that the hunters are allowed to hunt the grand gibier from this week. This doesn’t often happen around here, except when they do une battue aux sangliers. Even so, we will schedule our walks to avoid Mon, Wed and Sat!

        Like

  8. Loved reading about your fearsome neighbour and her binoculars. We got over being surprised that our doings quickly became known when we holidayed here before retiring. Some friends visited the village while we in the UK and asked at the bar where our house was located. They were informed not just about the location but that we were having a telephone put in!
    The new website with the 1km radius is brilliant isn’t it? We can walk further than Google allows. I didn’t know about sticking to the roads. We didn’t last time and haven’t this. Too many lovely paths around us. We’ll be more discreet! Thank you for your interesting post.. as always!

    Liked by 3 people

    • It’s interesting how one’s private business becomes a matter of public knowledge in the countryside. It can be a bit annoying, but I suppose it’s better than the anonymity of the city, where you barely know your next-door neighbour. If we really did have something to hide, it would be quite hard!
      The website seems to interpret 1 km as being longer than we do. However, we are not going to complain.
      Re walking off-road – Anne has just commented to say that this is not prohibited this time, since forests and parks are still open. So I don’t think we need to worry. Bonnes promenades!

      Liked by 2 people

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