Geneva, Monday 16 March 2020
Last night, at 21:00, our neighbourhood erupted into applause. It echoed over the rooftops for five or so minutes. A social media movement generated a simultaneous and unanimous show of appreciation to the city’s health workers for their untiring efforts. Touching. The same social media shows clips of flat-bound Italians on balconies and leaning out of windows singing their way through it all. Fabulous.
I am discombobulated by the speed with which this crisis has spread. Two weeks ago it was over there somewhere. Now it’s lockdown. Self isolate. Stay Indoors. Difficult to take it all in. France, Italy, Spain “deteriorating rapidly.” Switzerland closes border. Empty schools. Avoid close contact. Work at home. Stock market plunges. (Golf courses closed!!) This whole thing was predictable…. at least in terms of the what; it was always just a question of the when. Guess I’ll make a few observations as the days go by.
This unusually fine spring morning finds the streets unusually quiet. People wander around the park alone or in pairs. A few wear masks. The local Coop is a crush. It’s polite though. A nice old lady in the queue told me to stand at a respectful distance from her. My bad!
I look up at the sky from our balcony. Not a jet stream in sight. I’m reminded of a photo I took of the same view two years ago. Air travel was always going to be the flimsiest corner of humanity’s great house of cards.
Got an email from a friend. “The English are feeling the pinch in relation to recent virus threat and have therefore raised their threat level from “Miffed” to “Peeved.” Soon, though, the level may be raised yet again to “Irritated” or even “A Bit Cross.” The English have not been “A Bit Cross” since the blitz in 1940 when tea supplies nearly ran out. The virus has been re-categorized from “Tiresome” to “A Bloody Nuisance.” The last time the British issued a “Bloody Nuisance” warning level was in 1588, when threatened by the Spanish Armada. The Scots have raised their threat level from “Pissed Off” to “Let’s Get the Bastard.” They don’t have any other levels. This is the reason they have been used on the front line of the British army for the last 300 years.”
21:00 More applause and whistling all around Geneva. Amazing!
We’ll see what tomorrow brings.
Italians gave the tone, and it spread up to Switzerland. They were singing to release their tears, faith and strength and bring the fear down. Atmosphere has changed. My sister lives in a tiny village in Burgundy. She is a talented and discrete winemaker. Today her children (young adults, 23 and 21) returned home, one from Lyon. Like many others did. Going back to the roots, leaving towns for villages.
She sent me a picture of her husband and daughter plus boy-friend. All of them leaning on the balcony, with the sun coming down, beautiful light, the house, the honeysuckle. What was surprising, all of them at a distance. Everyone had her/his place, or space. And we can see each of them. They do not stand close to each other, but we feel they are close to each other. Applauses in Geneva will cheer up people working and others and will surely echo to Italy as well. Read you soon.