Day #4 has been swallowed up by a crack in the timeline wall, as weekends tend to fade in a kind of haze, nearly undistinguishable from an ordinary working-week day. Routine hasn’t quite settled in, but we are getting close to it. The phone does ring quite a bit though. Not to the point of getting red hot ears, no surely not, but at a steady pace nevertheless. Call after call, it is getting obvious that this phoney war is causing major stress in dysfunctional families. How surprising, isn’t it? Domestic violence lurks over the distressed homes, children are not being brought back to Mum (or Dad), and there is no real response from the Courts. Actually, the Ministry of Justice has just issued a bulletin stating that nearly all hearings are to be postponed, likewise all awaited orders, no matter how close one was to the date the order was expected. What can I tell my clients? Stay indoors with that dangerous spouse? Lock yourself up in the bathroom? Stop feeding the cat, and let it loose on the nasty man when poor Kitty will really be starving? And of course, nobody knows how long all this will go on for. It won’t be over within days, that’s obvious. We shall be lucky if it’s over within weeks.
The French national radio has asked me to answer listeners’ questions on these issues tonight. Alongside the lawyer, there will be a psychologist and a family mediator. That’s a funny one! Mediation in the middle of a nationwide confinement… Sometimes, the mere conjunction of two words in a given context is enough to make you laugh. Such is the case with the words “mediation” and “confinement” sewn together. It makes me laugh instantly. Silly man… Anyway, we’ll see what the mediator has to say for herself.
At 0720 pm, we’re on air. The familiar jingle after the evening news and off we go. The psychologist is clearly away in her country home (how right she is), but her connexion is in jeopardy. So is mine. No one knows I am halfway into the towels cupboard of my bathroom, but that’s where I am, since that is where the best signal is to be found … I just hope no cat will come scratching at the door while I’m talking. Cross fingers. The leading journalist introduces all three of us. Questions come and go, and the mediator stresses each time how mediation will save the world. That idea is also thrown into the face of a very worried mother who says her children live abroad with their father and that they won’t come for the spring term break (due to the Corona virus), which leaves her 4 months without seeing them. Poor thing…What will mediation do for her if Mr. Nuts-from-abroad refuses even to speak over the phone? Apart from Superman, who could help her? The next listener is terrible too. A nurse, who has just left her kids with their father and what with the stress in her job at the moment, she can’t take it anymore. We hear sobbing on the phone, and her voice seems very tired too. She has parked her car on the side of the road. You feel she could run it over a cliff edge if she saw one. There again, what can we do for her? Superman (or perhaps more suitably, Wonderwoman) is badly needed… All I can explain is that French court houses are closed until further notice, and that the odd exception doesn’t match this listener’s needs. I fear the nurse will respond “okay, I’ll get a gun then”, but she doesn't. She is nice, and politely thanks us all. I wonder what for… The psychologist unexpectedly pops out of the program (maybe she too is halfway into a cupboard and that the bloody thing has collapsed). A listener asks why judges don’t work from home. That’s a good one! Court hearings on video from home, the Judge being in his/her (“her” more often in family matters…) parlour… I bite myself not to grin openly on air… Visions of judges wearing trainers (or worse) creep up before my eyes, and my mind tries to get on the loose. But miracles occur sometimes, and I remain composed. Calmly, I explain that hearings cannot be held in such a way, at least in these difficult times, still less from the judge’s home. The psychologist hasn’t jumped back into the program yet. She must be stumbling over broken shelves in her locker. I take the opportunity to speak about domestic violence. There are court sessions during this current confinement, just on this topic. Do use it, don’t stay at home thinking nobody can help you. That’s the important message to deliver tonight. Finally, the psychologist is rescued from her recess and says egos have to be left aside. How right she is. Ditch the egos, that’s the spirit! And call in the joiner for the next program.
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