280 days of plague: transgressing a boundary (or not)

Grim, grim news from the UK as the inevitable happened and Boris Johnson was forced to revoke the silly promises he had made about Christmas. Jack Blanchard has catalogued his mis-steps well:

Meanwhile here, where our prime minister warned us over a month ago that there would be very few Christmas parties, the recent mini-surge does seem to be stabilising, thank heavens, with the reported rate of infections showing signs of a small decrease. I had expected more stringent measures to be announced last week, but in fact we got only minor tweaks, with a strong warning to implement the current regulations more thoroughly. And vaccinations will start next week, though I am not expecting our family to be anywhere near the front of the queue.

Every country has its own rules, and there has been some debate about whether or not hairdressers should be able to continue to work. Many people have longer hair than I do and it suits them fine. But it was becoming the thing that was really getting on top of me, to coin a phrase. A friend had gone to Maastricht for a haircut a couple of weekends ago, and I did some research and confirmed that this is not in fact a breach of Belgian rules, though obviously they don’t want everyone doing it and it is “discouraged”. So I was all set to plan a quick visit to Hulst, the nearest town across the Dutch border; and then last week the Netherlands announced a further lockdown, with all hairdressers closed. Likewise Germany. So that left France.

I checked also with French regulations, and there is nothing forbidding a brief visit across a land border. In most countries the quarantine requirement kicks in only if you are staying more than a day or two; that actually seems weird to me, as if the virus will wait 24 or 48 hours to infect people, but there you go. So I booked an appointment with the Salon Vincent in Quarouble and set off, 80 minutes drive there and the same back. Needless to say I did not get out of the car during either leg of the journey. I was in France for less than an hour all told. (The time stamps on my before-and-after photos are exactly 30 minutes apart.)

Back in 1954, Quarouble (population 3,000 and falling) was the location of one of France’s best documented UFO encounters (which of course is not saying much). I saw no aliens, and I encountered only the hairdresser; we both wore masks throughout and sanitised thoroughly. To my surprise, she said that she had not had much custom from Belgium, but was very busy anyway with French regulars. She also firmly corrected me when I said “nonante” instead of “quatre-vingts-dix” – and this only 4km from the border!

A couple of people were upset when I posted about this in a locked entry on Facebook, and I get that – these are stressful times, and many are in a less fortunate situation than I am. So I’m sorry that they were upset, and they are totally entitled to their judgement; but I don’t believe that I (or the hairdresser) put anyone at risk, including each other, and as far as I know I stuck to the rules.

On a much less controversial note, today is little U's 18th birthday, and she had cake and birthday presents of jigsaws and Balamory DVDs. She knows perfectly well what is going on. We can have her at home for four days at a time currently; she's been with us since Saturday, and will go back to the residential centre today, coming back home again for Christmas itself.


Weather has been cloudy for the last few evenings, but my cousin who is an actual astronomer and lives in California has been getting some great pictures of the Jupiter/Saturn conjunction:

The #Jupiturn great conjunction 2020 (public post)

Posted by Robert Minchin on Monday, 21 December 2020

After a frenzy last week, work has slowed down for the last few days before the holiday, and I’m looking forward to a complete break from Thursday. Hope you all get a restful few days as well.

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