Marans in Lockdown.
Marans is situated on the east coast of France, approximately a twenty-five minutes’ drive from La Rochelle, and is the place that Barrow is twinned with. The River Sevre runs through Marans, as does the N137/E3, an exceptionally busy main road with many heavy lorries thundering through.
I have been in touch with Ina Rotteveel a member of the Jumelage de Marans (Twinning) and to quote her: “Marans is empty, sadly empty, with hardly any lorries going through - perhaps the odd one in the middle of the night. This makes the place strangely quiet.”
Ina is a teacher and is doing distance learning which, means she’s on her computer all day long as the lessons have to be adapted and feedback given. This in itself can be problematic due to poor internet connections and some students not having access to a computer. Like here only supermarkets are open and they have adopted the one-out one-in system but unlike us they only have to stay one metre apart.
The vibrant cafe society by the river is silent; no morning coffee at the corner Cafe Thalassa or popping next door for a beer or wine in the evening. The waters of the Sevre are lapping against all the leisure boats that are moored up as there are no tourists to hire them out. Life seems to be on hold. All the plays at the Salle de Fetes have been cancelled as have the monthly cinema sessions; this is much missed as it was a lovely place to enjoy a drink and a chat with friends afterwards. According to Ina many people are filling their time by gardening or DIY Many mowers can be heard as can the sound of sawing, as those long awaited jobs get done.
On the keep fit side, like here, they are allowed to take walks and the riverside provides a nice setting for this activity. Ina’s neighbours are playing badminton in the street each evening as there are no cars to spoil their fun.
The rules about going out are stricter than here: you can’t go out unless you have a statement. These can be printed or downloaded on to a smart phone. It states your identity, date and what time you left home. You should only be out for an hour and only travel one-kilometre away from your base. Gendarmes may stop and question you on the validity of your journey.
One of the hardest things for the Marandais to come to terms with is not being able to embrace friends that they happen to come across. This is such an integral part of French social life they find it hard to keep their distance. C’est la vie. We must all hope and pray that this awful epidemic will soon be over and a kiss on both cheeks becomes once again an everyday occurrence.