All in a sudden, the penny drops: life is about to stop. No official announcement yet, but rumours spreading through social media, friends sharing first-hand information from the government, and, above it all, one’s own feeling: there are less phone calls from clients, activity is unusually calm, all of it fuelling this funny impression that things are about to stall. Even the traffic in the famously vibrant Rue La Boetie has run dry, it’s like working on a Sunday morning.

Once realisation of what is about to unfold has (at long last) soaked the most remote part of my brain, the decision is clear: send all juniors back to their homes and do the same. No one knows for sure how lethal this virus really is, but it seems obvious that a kind a “jigsaw communication” is chosen by the government: one piece at a time and no overall picture, ever. So, the best one can do is to figure out on one’s own what the next pieces of this terrible jigsaw are going to be, even before they are announced. And during this dreary Monday morning, the next move is obvious: we shall all be cooped up very soon.

Despite what the French President said the previous Thursday evening, this is not a war. But it feels slightly like one. Paris is besieged, if only by a bug. One can still flee from the capital, but for how long? And should we flee? As I have noticed before, our body decides before our brain. I find myself gathering files and legal documents, getting ready to work from afar, really over yonder. I haven’t said it yet, but I am acting accordingly. Children are out of schools and universities, my own firm will soon be as quiet as a dormouse, so what is there to stop me? Before long, travelling across France will be forbidden, so run my boy, while you still have a chance.

As I sit on my favourite armchair in my study, I imagine life in the Golden Vale of Lorton. An old Lakeland farm, with white-washed walls and black paint around the windows. Views of Grasmoor and Whiteside from the kitchen window, the rain and mist slowly setting in. Under the beams of the old dinning room, I have laid out all my files, in coloured boxes, handwritten in French, with the extraordinary vision of names such as “Aix-en-Provence”, “Cannes”, “Bordeaux”, and of course “Paris”, all imported under Northumberland skies. I can see myself fiddling with the broadband, establishing a sort of advanced French law firm (or, rather more, the far-fetched extension of one), among the sheep and stone walls of the Lakes. Mad…

Then comes the harsh reality: no broadband, no easy communications, and should I have to run back into Court during the weeks to come, how would I do that from the lakeshore of Crummock Water? Ask a helicopter to fly me down? Why not an angel, not to mention a ride on the wings of our family eagles? Come on man, be sensible! England won’t be any better off in the weeks to come, and if escaping Paris is one thing, getting back there is another.

So, this is how the coming Corona Days are about to start. The first thing to do is to choose a cell where to retreat to. A golden cell, agreed, not forgetting that having a choice is a luck many do not have. The firm will be affected, of course it will, but this is petty cash compared to the present circumstances. No war outside. But a strange feeling, though.  

Jerome CASEY ©, 2020, all rights reserved

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