Applauses

by Lorenzo Piccoli


On Thursday March 12th I went to see Andreas in Vevey. We climbed up a Dent with the skis, ate a soup, and then I headed home and packed some clothes. On the evening I was at the Reithalle in Bern to watch Perro Bomba, as part of the movie series organised by Christina and Lisa. I sneaked out of the room to watch the televised speech by Emmanuel Macron. The next morning, very early in the morning, I hopped on the train from Neuchatel to Paris. I breathed a sight of relief upon arriving at Gare de Lyon. I had spent the entire week worrying that the French government may close the borders abruptly, tearing Arianna and I apart.

I remember going to L’Odeur du Book on Saturday. It is a small bookshop managed by an Italian couple. I bought a big volume, Visions du sport – Photographies 1860-1960, and read it at Le Timbale. Three young men on the table next to mine were drinking Belgian beer and playing a complicated board game. Outside it started to rain.

It was an open secret that the French government was going to impose a lock-down soon. The rest of Europe had looked at Italy with contempt when the government introduced draconian measures in the weekend of March 9th; just like Italy had looked at China with contempt between January and February. That weekend I was skiing in Leysin with Yvan, Jean-Thomas, Maria, Quinn: on Saturday evening I could not get myself away from the phone upon hearing the news the Lombardy was to be quarantined within 12 hours.

The French government had decided to wait before imposing the lock-down to allow the first round of the municipal elections to go ahead. The elections were due the weekend I arrived in Paris. Arianna and I had dinner in the house with Luca and Marco. We bid farewell. The next day, Macron announced the lock-down.

I spent the following two months working on my presentations and indicators. Together with Arianna, we grew a little garden in the kitchen; and we ran up to the Sacre Coeur every evening at 19:00. At 20:00 we would be on our balcony clapping with the neighbours: the young couple in front of us, the elderly lady with a dachshund (Toby) visiting her friends on the ground floor, the elderly homosexual couple with elegant colourful clothes further down the street. Bizarrely (for Paris), the sun shone through the entire lock-down: it felt like we were living in a warm Mediterranean city.

 

A few weeks ago, the lock-down was gradually lifted. The applauses disappeared gradually, too. A few die-harders continued to clap every evening at 20:00. They slowly decreased in number, then one week ago the applauses stopped altogether. The posters advertising candidates of the municipal elections are still hanging on the streets. I suppose that taking them down is not considered an essential activity. Awkwardly, it still feels like that grey electoral Saturday of mid-March.

Earlier this week, the government finally allowed bars and restaurants to open their terraces again. The first day of opening, Tuesday, was magnificent. I realised how much I had missed the feeling of reading in the sun, with people around me. In a classic French ironic twist, on Wednesday evening a thunderstorm brought mayhem on the city. The temperatures have dropped to 10 degrees and it looks like it will be raining for the next seven days or so.