By Luther Sullivan

I am a British citizen with French wife and two young daughters. Home is on the edge of a village outside Beziers near the south coast of France. My wife and I both work in Paris and rent a family apartment there, but with both of us instructed by respective workplaces to work from home (‘télétravail’), and the kids’ school peremptorily closed, we decided to flee back south. It’s been a good decision so far.

At crisis-point nations seem to fall back on what they know best. For the French, it’s needless bureaucracy. To leave the house I have to fill out, sign and date a form identifying one of five possibilities:
• Going to work if your job is critical – mine is not;
• Buying key supplies from approved shops;
• Seeking medical treatment;
• Assisting vulnerable family members;
• Exercising alone or with a pet.

A 135€ fine awaits anyone who ignores this system.

PICTURE: Luther Sullivan

I understand that flower shops in Paris are still open and that off-licences are closed – they seem to have got the priorities wrong. According to my trapped colleagues, Parisian poodles have never apparently had so much exercise, and everyone has taken to wearing permanent tracksuit and trainers. A certain ‘getting around’ of the system, normally tolerated or even applauded in France, may provoke more stringent measures next week – we shall see.

Our flight from Paris 12 hours before the confinement was announced followed an accurate tip-off. Quite amazing how many other people seem to have got wind of this safely-guarded state secret as we passed cars laden with breakfast cereal. We are now guiltily enjoying some of the advantages of rural house arrest (as supposed to urban flat arrest), such as the opportunity to manicure the garden and argue (at a distance) with the neighbours. There is also the obligatory office work, although this is more or less successful depending on the enthusiasm of child intern freed from the school regime to join in with the Skype conferencing on all sides.

We expect to be here for the long haul. On the positive side I may have enough time to fill out our elaborate French tax return.

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