Thursday, 30 April 2020

A donkey cart for a floral display

My project today is to finish painting the donkey cart, things to do in lock down !

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

No Friends of the English Theatre shows this year

No English Theatre at Les Cabannes this year

On behalf of the FET committee first of all we hope you are all surviving the COVID 19 threat and lockdown in the best way that you are able to.  Difficult times for everyone.

Although the end of the strict lockdown is in sight, things are still very much in the air as to what will happen over the next few months. Given this uncertainty the FET committee have taken the decision to suspend our programme for this year i.e. until Spring 2021.

Our best wishes go to you and yours for the future months and we look forward to seeing you again next year.

Stay safe

 Ruth Etridge FET Secretary

Coming up if we are lucky

The situation currently in France. 

Big update today as we enter our 7th week of lockdown here in France.  The Prime Minister presented to the parliament, the government's plan moving forward out of lockdown for a vote.
First, a few of you have shown an interest in how the French political system works.  For this vote, the parliament only allowed 75 people into the arena, sitting 2 meters apart.  Normally, there are hundreds.  But the top 8 political parties sent their representatives for a total of 75 people.  At the end, the Prime Minister got a standing ovation, so I have no doubt this plan for "déconfinement" will go into law.
First, the PM, Edouard Philippe, stressed that all decisions were made in accordance with 3 goals in mind.
1.  We have to learn to live with the virus.  France is far, far from "herd immunity".  It is here to stay and our way of life is going to change until a vaccine is found.
2.  They are going to try to avoid the "second wave" of infection once everything opens up again.
3.  There are vast differences between départements, (like counties in the US), and so, the government is going to make decisions based on which département is allowed to do what.
To control the 2nd Wave, they are going to be conducting around 700,000 tests per week.  Their math was calculated by assuming 3,000 new cases per day after May 11.  After confinement on 11 May, they calculate that those 3,000 people will have been in contact with 20-25 other people every day.  Since it takes, on average, 7 days for these 3,000 people to get symptoms and get tested, they will have come into contact with 175 people that week.  Which equals 525,000 tests per week but, to be on the safe side, they are allowing 700,000 tests per week.
These 3,000 people who test positive every day have a choice of going into quarantine in their own home or into a hotel the government is requisitioning.  
Also, to control the 2nd wave, they are not discounting its' use in the future, but, for right now, since it doesn't work, they are not going to be using the tracking app called Stop-Covid.
And, if at any time between now and the day of déconfinement, 11 May, the numbers go up and certain criteria are not met, they are reserving the right to change anything else that I am about to tell you and\or extend our lockdown.
So here we go.  
1.  We are all on probation between 11 May and 2 June.  If we all behave and follow the rules, we go into 2nd Probation, which is 2 June to mid-July.  In other words, baby steps.
2.  We are now divided into Red Départements and Green Départements.  Red Zones will have limited circulation.  Green Zones will have a higher level of circulation.
This is based on 3 criteria.  A) The rate of active cases in the population remains elevated over the course of any given 7 days, indicating an active virus in the area.  B)  The hospital capacity remains overwhelmed, and, C)  The testing capacity and the system of tracking the chains of contamination of each positive case are deemed to be insufficient.  BOOM.  Red Zone.
3.  Schools.  Starting from the youngest.  Day care centers open 11 May.  Health care workers and teachers are to be given priority to available spots.  10 kids allowed, maximum, unless it is a BIG day care center and they are able to divide into enough big spaces to ensure a completely autonomous space for each 10 kids.  None of the 10 kids or their caregivers can meet\mingle in any common area, ever, within the facility.  Masks obligatory for staff.  Masks prohibited for infants\children.
Preschools and elementary schools.  Open 11 May, but voluntary in both Red and Green Zones.  If you don't want to send your kid, you don't have to.  Masks are prohibited in this age group of kids, except the school nurse will have masks on hand to give out to a child between the time they start to exhibit symptoms and when the parent comes to pick them up.  
Middle schools begin in Green Zones 18 May.  Masks are obligatory for this age group, both teachers and students.  Middle schools in Red Zones to be determined.
High Schools and Higher Education in Green Zones start beginning of June.  Masks obligatory.  Red Zones, who knows?
4.  Work.  Employers must continue to find any way to let their workers work from home, even after 11 May.  If it is not possible, then the employers must try to stagger the hours their people are working in order to do 2 things:  avoid having multiple people in the office\factory at one time and to also alleviate the crowds on public transport.  If the employer cannot guarantee social distancing between employees, they must wear masks.
5.  Commerce.  All commerce is allowed to open on 11 May except cafés, bars, restaurants and hotels.  Masks are recommended while shopping, but not obligatory.  However, any shop owner can make the wearing of masks obligatory in their shop.  As far as malls, it is up to each préfecture, (county seat), to determine if the open areas of their malls where people like to gather shall remain open or roped off.  
6.  Public Transport.  Right now, public transport is running at about 6% of its' normal capacity.  On 11 May, they anticipate that public transport will be running at about 30%.  And, on these reduced métros, trains, buses, etc., it will be obligatory to wear masks.  No one is allowed on the public transport during rush hour except workers.  Social distancing will be maintained by blocking every other seat and taping lines on the platforms 1 meter apart for those waiting for the train, bus, métro, etc.
7.  Going Outside Your House.  After 11 May you no longer have to bring our famous piece of paper with you, (l'Attestation de Déplacement Dérogatoire), except in the case of traveling more than 100km.  The only two reasons you are allowed to travel from one département to another or one région to another is that it is imperative to your work or you have an extremely pressing family obligation.  
We are now allowed, after 11 May, to venture further than 1km from our house to pursue individual sports, like jogging or biking or hiking.  We must still maintain social distancing during this.  
Still not allowed:  collective sports, sports taking place under a roof in an enclosed space, (sorry gyms), contact sports.
Public parks and gardens in Green Zones will be open.  All beaches closed, red or green, until at least 1 June.  
8.  Cultural Life.  Libraries and small museums can open 11 May.  Community Halls can open 2 June.
No big museums, cinemas, theaters, concert halls until further notice.  (Sorry, Louvre.)
Maybe September:  big sporting events, cultural events, festivals, trade shows, anything of more than 5,000 people.  Soccer season (professional football) 2019-2020 cancelled altogether.
9.  Churches, Marriages, Funerals, Gatherings
Church doors can remain open, like always, even now, but mass cannot begin until 2 June.  (Americans, our beautiful churches here are always open for people to just come in and ogle at the architecture or light a candle for a saint or whatever.)
Marriages and funerals will be allowed after 2 June with a maximum of 20 people.
Cemetairies open back up on 11 May.
All gatherings in public places, (i.e. parks), or private places, (i.e. your deck), from 11 May onward are limited to 10 people.

The future plan

Tuesday, 28 April 2020

Admire them from a distance

An update on grass snakes
Hi Val,
My sister, Anne, alerted me to your comments on snake bites after I’d told her about our current situation. Alexa, one of our Salukis, woke yesterday morning screaming. On inspection, we found that her neck was badly swollen and bruised which it had not been the previous evening when she had seemed to be her usual self, apart from refusing her evening meal.  Initially, we assumed that she may have had  a skirmish with one of the other dogs except we had neither seen nor heard anything to suggest this. However, when we cleaned off the wound we saw the unmistakable signs of a snake bite which was confirmed when I was able to squeeze a large amount of infected blood from it.  I washed the wound with saline, then applied an antibacterial liquid and gave Alexa an antibiotic   and repeated the process in the evening. By this morning Alexa was once again eating and the swelling had gone down, as had the blood seepage, but there is  tissue damage  so I have applied some clinically treated veterinary Manuka honey which is antibacterial and should help the healing process.  Nevertheless, the wound remains an unsightly, nasty mess.
Clearly, the snake was not an adder. Had it been Alexa would probably have died, especially given the site of the bite high on her neck.  We are assuming  the culprit was a grass snake that had emerged from hibernation.  All of which is by way of reinforcing your warning to pet owners and gardeners alike.  Grass snakes need to be taken seriously because although not venomous they are toxic.
I hope that you are not finding ‘lockdown’ too tortuous.
Stay safe.

Monday, 27 April 2020

Spring is wonderful but.....

Not everything in the garden is rosy
Just found the first tick on one of our dogs this morning, fortunately I had a tick fork and removed it before it got too large
So watch your pets for ticks
Also be careful with snakes, last spring our cat Max ended up on a drip for 3 days after being bitten by a a snake. We think it was a grass snake which Max had taken on, we found it dead and mauled later. The vet explained when any snake wakes up it is full of toxins and even a  normally harmless snake can be worth avoiding in the spring.
Processionary caterpillars can also be about in the spring, many friends  and pets have been affected by the barbs they throw out if you get close, so just be aware of them.
A picture of some roses in the garden after such a miserable post.

Saturday, 18 April 2020

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

The wisteria is beautiful at the moment

The wisteria / glycine here in Varen does not know of troubles with  Covid 19 and spreads its beauty as it does every spring

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

I am sending you early happiness

My Muguet / Lily of the valley is flowering, now I know it is given on the 1st of May as a symbol of happiness
I just felt as it was flowering now I would like to send everyone some happiness, from me to you

In France, 1st May is a public holiday to mark Labour Day. It is also known as “la Fete du Muguet” or “Lilly of the Valley Day”, when thousands of bunches of these distinctive flowers are sold around France, and given to loved ones as a symbol of happiness.

Saturday, 11 April 2020

We will overcome

A gloriously Happy Easter everyone
We will get through this, we will 💖

The Moulin in  Varen many years ago

A letter from Australia

I received this email this morning from a fairly new part time resident of Varen. I thought you would be interested

Dear Friends,
We have been thinking about you and France and our house in Varen. We just wanted to stay in contact even if just in a small way via email. Of course, we won’t be coming to France this year. No Saturday market outside our door, no sweating it out in the Summer’s heat, no walking, or riding or driving around the beautiful countryside. No vide greniers😿, meals at the Moulin, visits to surrounding towns, swimming in the river, etc etc, the list could go on! Sadly, it’s probably the same for you as it may be a northern summer spent largely indoors or social distancing.
Anyway, it is our hope that you, and all the elderly residents who are our kind and patient neighbours, are all avoiding the dreaded virus.
As winter here is just around the corner, we are both well and observing the stage 3 restrictions that are in place. So far, Australia has been doing quite well with the mathematical curve flattening below 1.0, which is good.
We are fortunate to be on our small farm with endless tasks to keep us occupied and we barely notice much change to our lives as we are pretty self isolating even when there is no pandemic! 
Hoping you all stay well and really looking forward to meeting up again when life gets back to post-Covid normal.

And my reply

How lovely to hear your news but so sorry you will not be able to get here this year
Us Brits thought Brexit was bad but now this.
Mains Tendues is closed ,  for who knows how long. All the staff and I am sure customers miss it.
My husband died in November from his cancer and two weeks after I moved into the village. How stressful it was a week before Christmas, but how thankful I am to be here in the village now. I have a house up past the Vival and school and I am pleased I have a nice sized garden. Friends can walk dogs and we have chats over the gate social distancing of course
I can see this going on for quite some time and it is terrible to hear of friends who have died.
Stay safe, enjoy your place which sounds perfect, a bit like Mas del Sol my former home which had two houses and two hectares, fabulous for two fit people.
Lots of love and I will pass your message on to other Mains Tendues staff
Love Val Johnstone

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

Macron speech Thursday 9 th April

President Emmanuel Macron is to make a speech on French television and radio tomorrow at 20:00 to update the nation on the evolution of Covid-19 in France.

The president is expected to clarify about a possible extension of home confinement which is currently due to last until April 15.

He is also expected to address the issue of whether or not people should wear masks in public as well as the potential digital tracking of infected people and the future date of municipal elections which are set to now be postponed to March 2021.

It will be the fourth time that the president has addressed the nation since the start of the epidemic. 

As the sun comes, it brings hope

Every morning we have been having the sun of late. It brings hope to us all.
Stay safe, stay in, stay cheerful

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Plants can be ordered and delivered

 Le Jardin des Bastides s'organise :
C'est le printemps, nous préparons activement toutes les fleurs, plants potagers, plantes vivaces et d'ornement qui embelliront vos jardins cet été...
Nous avons besoin de vous afin que les entreprises locales puissent passer le cap.
Nous vous proposons 2 solutions pour continuer vos plantations:
1. La vente directe à la pépinière 
Le gouvernement vient d’autoriser la vente de plants potagers, désormais inscrits dans la liste des achats de première nécessité.
La vente directe est "autorisée par arrêté préfectoral du 31/03/2020 sous réserve du strict respect des règles de distanciation et des gestes barrières". 

2. Des tournées de livraison 
Nous vous enverrons chaque semaine une liste de nos plants disponibles, afin que vous puissiez commander par téléphone ou par mail.  
Nous renforçons notre gamme de plants de légumes, aromatiques et fleurs comestibles.
Tous nos plants sont issus de graines ou de boutures rempotés dans du terreau Bio et cultivés sans aucun traitement.
Nous vous proposons aussi une grande variété d'arbustes à baies comestibles (cassis, groseille, framboise...) et d'arbres fruitiers.
Jardins des Bastides
Le ségalar

It could take some time

How to know when cities can reopen? 
From this morning's New York Times, researchers have identified these criteria:

1.Hospitals must be able to safely treat all patients requiring hospitalization, without resorting to crisis standards of care. That means having adequate beds, ventilators and staffing.

2.   Authorities must be able test at least everyone who has     symptoms, and to get reliable, timely results.

3. Health agencies must be able to monitor confirmed cases, trace contacts of the infected and have at-risk people go into isolation or quarantine.

4. Because it can take up to two weeks for symptoms to emerge, there must be a sustained reduction in cases for at least 14 days.

Monday, 6 April 2020

Not wasps but bees swarming

Seen in Varen today
These  are not wasps.  The only wasp to survive the winter is the queen which hibernates solitarily (although one nest can produce several hibernating queens) and then emerges in the spring when the weather is warmer and there is some food around and starts to look for a new site, build a new nest and produce some offspring. The only time there might be a wasp "swarm" is later in the season if an established nest is disturbed and they might come out in a fairly aggressive group.  On the other hand bees, which survive the winter as a colony, often swarm after the first few weeks of warm weather, i.e now in Varen after all the mild weather, as the nest (or hive) gets overcrowded. New queens are produced and the original queen leaves the nest with a large group of worker bees which swarm around for a short time and then suddenly settle somewhere (which you observed), usually in a tree quite close by, before eventually (a few hours to a couple of days) relocating to a new nest site which they have identified.  These swarms are not aggressive and rarely sting you.  If they are honey bees, a local beekeeper would be interested to capture the swarm, which can usually only be done at the intermediate stage when the swarm has settled in a tree.  If they are wild bees, just leave them to it.  In your case if they are not from a neighbour's honey bee hives,  they are probably wild bees with a colony based in an old tree or in someone's roof.  (p.s. Although I never took it up, my father was a beekeeper as well as both my brothers, my middle brother having been a commercial beekeeper in Canada with over 100 hives) 🙂

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Stay at home

This made me smile this morning, Qurban one of our Afghan helpers at Mains Tendues 82 has made this his profile picture.
Qurban is one of our helpers we cannot do without, young, strong and has a wonderful rapport with all our customers now speaking French and English after three years here. The language is Farsi and it says

Staying home we don't shake hands # Corona - take it seriously

Qurban is stuck in a small apartment in Toulouse with no outside space but a tiny balcony.
At Mains Tendues we all love him.