‘From France, England, Turkey and Australia: How my family is facing lockdown’

Susan, who lives in northern France, went into self-isolation after her son-in-law who had visited became infected with coronavirus. Source: Getty Images

I’m one of the vulnerable people being 78 years of age and I live alone in northern France. Not only have I to contend with getting a residential visa because I’m no longer an EU citizen as a result of the United Kingdom’s Brexit, but for more than a month I’ve been having to self-isolate because of coronavirus.

I started my self-isolation before France’s order to do so because my British-resident daughter and her husband had made a quick weekend visit to see me just before England also declared a lockdown and my son-in-law, Johnny, developed symptoms while at work the day following their return. He was sent home and my daughter had to self-isolate as well. Alone in my home in France, I did the same.

My daughter, Louise, only developed a sore throat for a couple of days despite Johnny having Covid-19, which he described as being similar to how he felt when getting over the worst of the pneumonia he had had four years before.

At the end of a week, Johnny was over the illness and allowed back to his essential work as a postman. Louise, a teacher, had to continue in self-isolation for another week, but during that time the lockdown order came. All schools closed and only children of essential workers were taught in school and, there being so few pupils, teachers went in by rota.

In my case, at the end of two weeks I went to my usual supermarket to get supplies and wore a building site mask and disposable gloves, not for my safety but for that of others because I’d developed a sniffly cold. Since then I’ve been shopping in the supermarket three times and I’ve welcomed the opportunity to exchange pleasantries with the staff.

Mind you, I’m enjoying greater social contact with the village residents than before the virus as I encounter more people than usual when walking my dog. Naturally I keep the 2-metre distance and I carry my driving licence for identification and the regulation form that has to be filled in each time I leave the house giving the day and time of departure.

Many of the village residents take their daily walk passing by my home and so, weather permitting, I’ve sat in my front garden drinking tea and entertaining myself by playing a dice game called Yams or Yahtzee to have the pleasure of saying a ‘Bonjour’ to everyone. I’ve even made the acquaintance of villagers I didn’t know.

One, who came to a halt to talk with me while on a run turned out to be a prison officer, thus doing essential work like all the farm workers in the village. We discussed prison work as my daughter had taught in a prison and in a youth offenders’ prison (I’d done a holiday relief job in the latter) and in all our cases we found the work stressful. The prison officer said he always went for a run before leaving for work. In my case I meditated. I said I supposed the prisoners were finding prison life more stressful than usual being deprived of their visitors and he nodded.

Now both my daughter and I have been worried all this time because at the end of February my 22-year-old granddaughter, Beth, had left to work the tourist season in a seaside town in Turkey staying with her boyfriend and his family. The world lockdown put an end to people taking holidays and thus renting the holiday apartments owned by Beth’s boyfriend’s family and it also put paid to the job that had been lined up for Beth.

She succeeded in getting a telesales job. Paid by the hour, contacting wealthy people in Hong Kong and other countries for a London estate agent and initially she had favourable responses, but the worsening of the spread of the pandemic put a stop to people being interested in investing. Now Beth has a telesales job paid on commission on sales, as there is not likely to be earnings from that in the near future, my daughter is transferring a sufficient sum to cover Beth’s keep. Being independent-minded, Beth hopes she won’t be needing support for long.

My granddaughter says the only lockdown in Turkey apart from closed borders against visitors (tourists or refugees and migrants) is at weekends, but now masks have been issued free of charge as everyone must wear one when out shopping and taking exercise. She says Turkey can’t afford to go on a complete lockdown because the country is in so much debt and so the government cannot pay for the all-year-round workers to have time off, as a result the number of Covid-19 cases is getting larger.

The weekend lockdown is to try to minimise cases, she said, adding that it’ll only minimise them a small amount if at all. The country certainly doesn’t sound like it will have the successes of Australia, which is where Beth’s stepbrother lives and works.

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