Well, that really made my day. Today, or rather this evening, as I was trudging through the mall from the office carrying shopping bags, one in each hand, on my way to the metro station to go home, I saw the storefront of M&S in the distance – all lit up and OPEN FOR BUSINESS – and a huge grin broke out on my face. No one saw the grin because I was wearing a mask. But I guess my eyes were smiling too.
I love Marks & Spencer’s food store, and it reopened today. It’s fairly large, this store, and conveniently located next to the metro station. I have spent much money there (too much!) Their bacon is the best, as are their chicken breasts. Great cheese department: halloumi which is hard to find, really good mozza and parmesan from Italy, and of course all the English cheeses. Crumpets and muffins, crackers and crisps, and so much more. But it shuttered in March, and there were rumors that M&S was going to close all its stores in France. We waited and waited, impatient. Just yesterday my colleague asked if the rumors were true. I spent fifteen minutes googling and didn’t find anything. All the other stores in the mall have been open for ten days or more now, but not M&S. And then today: the reopening. I’ll pop in tomorrow after work and stock up on my favorite things for the weekend. I’ve been craving halloumi, melted, for months now.
So life is pretty much back to normal now; well, the new normal. Face masks are definitely de rigueur and we still wash our hands ten times a day. No one kisses anymore, which is fine by me as I’ve never been a kissy person. The schools, all of them, from kindergarten to college, re-opened on Monday June 22nd. And the shops and stores, cafés and restaurants, and movie theaters are open. I won’t say that COVID is a distant memory, because it’s not; it still lingers, if not physically then in our minds. We were traumatized, and it was a collective trauma.
I’ll never forget the fear of doing something so mundane as going grocery shopping at my local supermarket. Having to queue outside, two meters apart, and waiting up to 15 or 20 minutes before being allowed in. Then the terror in the aisles: masked shoppers, all of us, veering right and left to avoid one another. Heaven forbid if someone should sneeze or cough! It was, and still is, a modern-day plague. And the empty shelves: staples like flour, oil and rice the first to go. Back home, washing our groceries in hot water and soap. And then every night on the 8 o’clock news: the daily tally of Corona deaths flashed along the bottom of the screen. All of it, truly awful.
I’m off to Lille next Friday for a long weekend, my first trip in months. Masks are obligatory on the trains and in the stations.