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  • Writer's picturepeter grose

NOT fake news

Updated: Jun 5, 2020

This is real science, folks, not fake. I'm going to use my two years studying statistics at Sydney University to show that here in France people are getting back to work, whether the government likes it or not. How do I know? I've been counting cars and trucks on the road.

A bit of explanation first. The French government has decreed that we each can take limited exercise once a day outside the boundaries of the house, as long as we do it for less than an hour and as long as we stay within one kilometre of home. So I've been obediently doing both, walking along normally busy roads.

But ... being of a mathematical bent, every time I've been walking I've been counting vehicles on the road. I usually walk for 40 minutes, so in normal times I would expect to see 40 or 50 vehicles passing me. The first time I did it during lockdown was about three weeks ago, and I counted three CARS in the 40 minutes I was out and about. Over the course of the next weeks the number of passing vehicles crept up to five, then eight, and finally to ten. Here's the big change: we're not talking about ten CARS these days, there are still only three or four of them. But add six TRUCKS and that brings the numbers up. The trucks are mostly delivering stuff, like building materials to building sites. But the signs painted on the sides tell me some of them are vans from small businesses like the local security company Agresse.

Around the world some of the hardest hit businesses are restaurants. Like the rest of the world, here on Oléron they are fighting back by becoming takeaways. The picture at the top of this blog entry is the menu on display outside one of our favourite Oléron restaurants Medo. The restaurant also functions as a wine cellar (cave in French). There is a handwritten chalk sign outside pictured left. It reads: Ouvert uniquement la cave. Vins, Bières. Translation: We are open, but only the wine cellar, to sell wines and beers. However if you look at the menu at the top of this entry, then the bottom right corner reads: Du mardi au samedi: - 09h30 à 12h00 pas de restauration. 18h30 à 21h00 cave et restauration. In other words, from Tuesday to Saturday they are open between 9:30 and mid-day for wine and beer sales only, but between 6:30 pm and 9:00 pm they are open for both cave and restauration. The top left corner tells you that the restaurant is doing a special Covid-19 menu which is takeaway (à emporter) only, and you need to place orders by telephone. There is then an elaborate procedure for picking up and paying for your stuff so that nobody gets too close to anybody else.

I don't want to give the impression that it's anything like business as usual. I took this picture yesterday (Sunday 19 April) on the main road that runs the length of the island. It has the status of a Route National (RN 734, in fact) and on a sunny weekend at this time of year it would normally be jammed with cars. We are in the middle of the Easter school holidays, after all, and that normally means the island has more people than it can handle. The building on the left used to be a restaurant called Le Chai (The Winery). It's now a rather foody grocery story called Les Delices du Chai. It's open on Sundays. You can see from the empty car park just how well they are doing. In fact the tiny car in the far distance in the right hand lane contained a pair of gendarmes heading back to the gendarmerie, which is a bit further down the same road. Otherwise the road is empty. So we are not out of the woods just yet. But we're on the case.

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