I hadn’t originally intended to fly to Germany, but it became necessary due to a family emergency. It was initially supposed to be for a few weeks, a month at most. Ultimately, it dragged on for over two months due to constant flight cancellations and the travel situation on the Continent. Usually, arranging for travel by train wouldn’t be difficult. But, as Germany. the Netherlands and France agreed to keep their borders closed until 15 June for all but essential travel, that was postponed until then.
In a very small way, I unintentionally was part of history. The train I took from Germany to Paris was the first ICE to cross the international border for regular passenger traffic. As such, I was one of the very first travellers to enter Paris. It was a highly unusual moment. Unusually, I was one of the very few non-Paris residents in the city. The hordes were gone. That might be one of the few times that is possible. I took the chance to be a flaneur, to walk around, to take the city in.
It was an unusual moment to be there. A few days before I arrived there had been violent riots with many broken windows and defaced statues/monuments. Paris, of course, is used to that and Parisians took it in stride. I wonder what people think they will achieve through wanton destruction. France has enough problems, Paris has enough problems — do riots inspired by those in the United States contribute to a solution? Or have many simply given up on solutions and would prefer to simply destroy? I pondered that point as I prepared to travel across the English Channel where the same sort were running amok in front of Parliament, in Bristol, etc. I was expected to passively sit under false arrest for two weeks without even the courtesy of a North Korean or Soviet-style show trial (a point which I made to the British border police with Trumpian subtlety. They were almost apologetic) when people were pissing on Churchill’s statue and toppling statues in several British cities with no real consequences.
I made my way through London and to Dorset. There was little adherence to the face-covering policy. Since being back in Britain, I’ve noted that the British population can be roughly broken down into three groups. The first are those who take government guidelines deadly seriously. (It’s not “the law” — guidelines are advice without legal force) This includes people willing to walk into oncoming traffic rather than be within a couple feet of me. I don’t think they grasp that what they’re doing is both incredibly insulting and self-defeating. Being hit by a car is far deadlier than bat ‘flu. Oh, and the couple walking out of Waitrose with ski goggles and thick scarves. The three women ahead of me in queue saw that and looked at me struggling to contain their laughter. I just laughed. After two months with Germans polite silence and discretion have evaporated like a cup of water on a January day in Coober Pedy. The second are those who politely go along with the gist of the guidelines, but increasingly half-heartedly. It’s like the woman who was on the train from London to Dorset with me. She quickly took a look in my general direction to see if I’d be annoyed if she lowered her mask. I had already lowered mine (with Kim Jong-un’s picture on it in tribute to our glorious prime muppet, Bonkers the Clown) down to my chin. She smiled, nodded and did the same. Then there are those who no longer give half a fig. They just carry on as usual. It seems as if the bulk of the British population has shifted into the latter two.
After all, much like in Victoria, it becomes nearly impossible to expect people to carry on suspending regular human behaviours. When those who postponed their weddings, when those who didn’t attend funerals in person, when those who went without seeing loved ones for months because they were told that was the right thing under the present circumstances only to see mass protests/violent riots (50 police injured in London. That was not necessary) going on unpunished… Well, patience snaps. People no longer listen, care or take things especially seriously. So now It’s about three weeks before I leave for Germany again. I’ve secured a small place in a quiet, but very pretty part of Trier. I’m saving 40pc between rent and food. I’m not enamoured with Germany, not at all — but at the moment, the relatively normal and much cheaper Germany is a better option for the next year. I will, of course, make regular visits to Dorset to keep up with my responsibilities to the community once things return to semi-sanity.