Let's Talk About the Coronavirus: COVID-19 in France and Chez Vous
Tout ira bien. All will be well. + Confused about cleaning practices during the pandemic?

Célibataire, Confinement, and Divorce after the coronavirus?

Lettuce poppies permaculture victory garden
COVID-19, or Coronavirus disease 2019, is no laughing matter. The French (for the most part) are respecting les gestes barrières (wash hands, cough/sneeze into your coude, stand a meter apart, stay home #jerestechezmoi). Today, a light-hearted story from our family's confinement here in La Ciotat.

Today's Word célibataire

    : single person; bachelor, spinster

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Yesterday, Wednesday, I was in our garden watering the radishes, the lettuce, the fava bean plants, the patates, the blueberries, and citrus trees. There's nothing like la guerre* and the threat of rationing to get a lazy gardener to plant seeds and arroser

Our postwoman, Marie, rang the bell at the front gate and three of us hurried to greet her. Max opened the portail and I held out my arm to prevent Mom from coming any closer to Marie.

With the gate wide open Marie glanced around the yard as Smokey bounded toward our postlady to say bonjour. "You are lucky to have a garden," Marie noted while waving hello. "A lot of families are cooped up in tiny apartments." After a moment passed in which we counted our blessings all over again, and turned our thoughts to those suffering, Mom broke the silence. It was her turn to greet our postlady:

"Marie! There's our Marie!" Jules sang, sending kisses toward la factrice with the wave of her hands. Marie seemed happy to see us too. That giant smile. That joie-de-vivre blue hair of hers. She had a scarf wrapped high around her neck, just missing her mouth and nose. It was tricky keeping the do-it-yourself mask in place while delivering mail all day.

"Don't they have a mask for you?" I asked, imagining the hundreds of people our post lady comes into contact with each day.

"There are no masks," Marie confirmed, not even for government or public workers. No masks for the police, no masks for the check-out lady at the supermarket, no masks for the pharmacist. And no masques de protection for the citoyens, not when hospitals need them.

Marie handed a letter to Max, instructing him to wash his hands after opening it. I noticed our postlady's own hands were gloved. "Are people respecting the one-meter rule?" I asked. Marie said some were not, citing one guy who tried to put his arm around her as a gesture of solidarity. 

Speaking of guys....

"Hey Marie!" Mom said, "after this coronavirus is over, I need you to help me find a boyfriend!" Surely our postwoman knew where all the célibataires lived.

"Ah! That should be easy," Marie laughed. "After this confinement, there are going to be A LOT of divorces! That means even more célibataires on the market!"

We laughed and said goodbye to Postlady Marie, wishing her bon courage. On my way inside the house, I passed Jean-Marc who was watering his geraniums. Things had gotten frosty between us a moment early--during a disagreement over re-potting plants.... Rather than pick-up where we left off in our disagreement, we both smiled. Tight smiles. But smiles all the same.  When this confinement is over, I know JM will be happy to get back to his wine shop, I'll be happy to have the garden (and all decisions therein...) back to myself...and Jules will hopefully find "son Jules." 

     *    *    * 
Meantime, soyons patients with those around us. Water the seeds of love and forgiveness. Back to my garden now, where I will, as the French say, s'occuper des mes onions (or mind my own onions! Minding my own business has been the biggest challenge so far....when I have the urge to remind family members how to live during the confinement! If you, too, have this urge, you may need to surrender...just a little...in order to get along.).



EDIT ME: If you see une faute de frappe (typo) in French or in English, I would greatly appreciate it if you would point it out in the comments or via email. Merci beaucoup!

Surrender clothesline france
"Surrender" - a subliminal message from my clothesline? I dunno. But I'll take it! 

* la guerre. French President Macron, in his Monday night address about the pandemic, used the word guerre 6 times: "Nous sommes en guerre....contre un ennemi (…) invisible, insaisissable." We are at war with an invisible, evasive enemy

les gestes barrières = "barrier gestures"
le coude = elbow
le potager = veggie patch, kitchen garden
la patate = potato, spud
la guerre = war
arroser = to water
le portail = front gate
la factrice = postlady, postwoman, postal worker
le citoyen = citizen
le/la célibataire = single person
bon courage = good luck
son Jules = her boyfriend
amicalement = (see list of ways to say goodbye in French)
Postlady marie
Another story, here, about our postlady Marie, who is as caring as she is funny. From our garden I can hear her talking to the rare person walking down the street: Bon courage! she'll say to one, and Oh! Une vivante! she'll shout to another ("there's a live one!"). Bravo for your sense of humor, your heart, and your courage to deliver mail to all the people who are confined.

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


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Hi Kristi,
Thanks for sharing this story today! I love the photo of Marie on her scooter! I have a friend who lives in Italy and her husband is in the U.S. military. U.S .military and their families are not allowed to return to the U.S. She is going crazy being cooped up with him and said (jokingly) it will be a miracle if they don't kill each other!
I am getting so much gardening done like you are! It's nice to be out in the fresh air and listening to the birds. My garden will look so great this year! haha
Stay well and bon courage!


Good luck on the gardening. I’ve started a patchwork project with a goal to have it done before Easter. I’ve also decided to do a “spring” cleaning this year. And, I’m watching the Great Canadian Baking Show and doing some baking about every four days. These keep me out of the way and not under foot of dear hubby!

Sue J.

Bon courage à tous!


Hi Kristin - Humor is good during these times! Thanks, as always!

I am curious about the phrase, Jules will find "son Jules". Does that mean herself, a new boyfriend...? Please illuminate moi!

Cheers, Kate


Oh duh... I skipped over the vocab section. Never mind! Call it confinement flu!

Catherine Stock

Happiness apparently is more dependent on a friendly interactive community than even personal relationships. The French know this so well. I can never get an ampoule replaced in a phare without chatting to my garagiste for twenty minutes first, or even buy a loaf of bread at my boulangerie without exchanging a few pleasantries.

Brenda Prowse

Bonjour Kristi,
My husband and I live in Paris. Our outing for today was to walk to our local open air market where a few brave vendors were selling vegetables and fruits, cheese or meat or fish. There were lines marked out in front of the stalls indicating where to stand to keep proper distance between customers. It was so good to be out in the sunshine if only for an hour and to talk with and wish bon courage to our favorite vendors. Surprisingly so far my husband and I are getting along well during this lock down. We had movie night last night with popcorn. It was like a real date! I so envy your garden. With only potted plants on outdoor window ledges I can’t dig in the dirt . I’m thinking I’ll volunteer to weed gardens at the church close by. No one is there-I think it would be allowed! Carry on, keep laughing!

Nancy Stilwagen

A lovely story, thank you!

However, not exactly a typo, but 'spinster'? Really?? That is a derogatory term at the least. Single people will suffice...

Gary McClelland

In Colorado, the appropriate distance is one ski length

Dawn Anderson

Dear Kristi,
Seeing your post in my email always brightens my day! I'm wondering about masks....here in the U.S. we've been told that healthy people should NOT wear masks. Only those that are infected should wear them. I'm wondering if that is the case elsewhere. Also, I really applaud Mr. Macron for his efforts to contain the virus.


I do love your posts and contribute regularly so as to see more of them in the future!
Une petite faute.. s'occuper DE mes oignons.


Hi Kristi,

I don't write very often..but I do read your posts !
I thank you very much for them and I really enjoy reading your everyday life you share with a lot of wittiness !
And...since you'd like us to correct you sometimes I dare report sth today..: onions in french must be written OIGNONS.

And you MUST correct me whether
I made some mistakes, since I'm french (loving your native Country !).

Thks a lot and

Take care of you & yours


Jenny G

Enjoyed your story! Just a note... "Things had gotten frosty between us a moment early--" should be "earlier" I believe. Good luck in your confinement. We're also chez nous en Belgique!

Linda D.

I start to smile whenever I see a new email from you, Kristi! By sheer dumb luck my husband and I are self quarantining with Mom at her house. We're all fine, but figure it's best if we just stay home. At least we have a choice. Both my husband and I normally work from home, so we already have a system of not getting in each other's hair!

We use one of my father's old phrases to make sure we understand each other: "By that do you mean...?" It cuts down on assumptions and misunderstandings that can trip us up, even after a 40 year relationship!

Even as we are missing our garden at home, we are also counting our blessings: Jobs that still bring in income, this internet which can keep us in touch with far flung friends and family, adult children who are wholly capable of taking care of themselves, and gratitude that we happened to be visiting Mom when this all broke out so she's not having to go through this pubic health crisis on her own.

Yeah, I'm a glass half full kind of person. I also find it helpful to calm my own anxiety when I regularly practice whatever brings me joy. For each person that's something different - Music, time in nature, gardening, animals (alas, mine is home with my daughter!), meditation, yoga, journaling, art, even just practicing conscious deep breathing.

Hang in there, friends! This, too shall pass. We're in it together.

Jenny Pessereau

Bonjour Kristi,
Merci, merci for posting about how social distancing is being experienced in France. My sister in law In France is now “telecommuting” or working at home for the first time in her 37 year career. At least she and my in laws still see each other each Sunday for lunch. Somethings never change. Bon courage!


Thank you Kristi for yet another great story! I thoroughly enjoy reading your posts. I married an American (I am Polish) some 22 years ago and live in Philadelphia. I teach French in high school here. I stumbled upon your site a few years ago and loved it ever since. What a great idea you had to start keeping up a "journal" like this of your life in France!

NYla Witmore

The creativity to amuse ourselves in these times...a year to remember...a year we want to forget? I remind myself we are not on the Titanic...this is not World War II with bombs dropping on our houses. We will have reassessed what is REALLY important in daily life...what can be left aside. Maybe we did need this time to stop. What are the good things that will come out of this? (I choose to see the glass as half full rather than half empty.)

Suzanne Dunaway

Two metres, Kristin, TWO METRES. WASH CANS FROM MARKETS BEFORE USING. Leave cartons 48 hours. There are myriad articles on this..NYT, Washington Post, everywhere. The Chinese have essentially stopped cases in a drastic manner but they are isolating and policing offenders. Only we can stop it but there are still those who just do not get it!
Jules will find a perfect lad after this.

Cynthia Gillespie-Smith

This morning our postman in Bandol wanted to deliver a registered letter. We had to present an ID, place it somewhere for him to inspect it (the trunk of my car was fine) then step to the other side of the driveway. Then I had to get my phone and send the postman an SMS that he dictated to me from afar, an authorization for him to give us the letter. I am all in favor of this type of vigilance— it’s going to get us out of this world crisis sooner, and possibly with better habits than before. Then I can help Jules find « son petit ami ».

Traci Parent Nelson

Thanks for sharing a sweet story during difficult times! I will be sure to share with others who need to keep things in perspective,
Smile, and find gratitude!!

Karen Hall

I love the little glimpses into your world as we reconfigure ours and try to just keep loving each other here in Colorado. On a random nite, we got takeout from Blandine at The French Kitchen yesterday and they ran to our car to deliver! I've provided her website so you can see how our French friends are trying to keep business going here!


All our Love

Claudette James Snitiker

S’occuper de ses onions ——

To mind your own business—

I have been with you from the beginning.
Always smilie when I see that you have posted something.
II spent my junior college year in Paris!
Vive la France!!
Stay safe and keep writing!



Uhoh! I’ve been sending how-to articles to my son and daughter-in-law about things they probably already know! Maybe just sending recipes for food would be better...Humor is so helpful at the moment..Loved your blog today. And certainly gardening is a great therapy.

Audrey Wilson

Our factrice is also Mairie . Today we wanted to give her a letter to post for us ,so Peter drooped it down to her & she caught it !We are house bound bur one person is allowed out with the official Attestation ! Bless the French for their bureaucracy I still have my assistants ,albeit masked to help in the mornings
Keep smiling& good luck Jules !


Finally a photo of the famous Marie! I love the poppies in your garden. Would love to plant pansies in our flower boxes but we are supposed to stay inside so no trips to the garden center. But you mentioned seeds and I do have lettuce and nasturtium seeds in my laundry room. Tomorrow no rain and it might be 70 degrees. So planting I will do on my deck. Thanks for the idea! I know you and JM will survive the confinement.


ah, oui! Freddie & I are both senior people & we are now spending more forced time with each other than we ever have in our years together! But, surprisingly, it isn't too terrible! We are giving each other space & time to have "alone" time, but are really enjoying each other! Of course, the reason for this forced confinement is tragic; may it be over & may we all have learned something from it! Amicalmente,


Be thankful that you have family around to bicker with, to share thoughts, or just to be able to see another person. Living alone is difficult. Yes, I can phone a good friend or my sister, but it is not the same as being in the same physical area and communicating. I haven't even been able to do much gardening because it has been raining. On the good side, perhaps my house will finally get organized and all those thing I haven't used in a year or more or really do not need will get boxed and bagged up to donate when all of this is over.Right now, the entire world needs to "shelter-in-place" (what it is being called here in California. So everyone be safe.


Your words are true and wise.


I love these humble, wise words. Thank you. As Byron Katie so wisely says, there are three types of business:
Mine. Yours and God's. We suffer whenever we move away from our own business.
I guess Corona Virus falls into the "God's business" category for now...

"Minding my own business has been the biggest challenge so far....when I have the urge to remind family members how to live during the confinement! If you, too, have this urge, you may need to surrender...just a little...in order to get along."


Skis are a bit shorter than they used to be. How about the length of a ski jumper's ski?


Spinster means just that....a single woman, usually one of later years. The word is derived from the word spin + stir. A woman who spins (in the olden times, like wool or flax.)

Joni Kearney

Bonjour Kristi,
I just ordered your three books, which I have been meaning to order months ago. I look forward to them. I love your blog and it keeps me in France. I fly to Paris weekly since Je suis hostesse de l'air.
Now all the flights are annule jusque Mai.
Merci pour tous et Bon Courage!
Joni Kearney

Jerry Wood

Prime minister Trudeau has closed the Canada USA boarder except for goods and Canadians returning home, however they must be quarantined for 14 days upon their return. My local grocery store has sterilizer wipes at the door and requires shoppers to wipe their trolley and hands before entering. You can only pay with credit or debit cards NO CASH. And of coarse you must respect the one metre separation rule.
When I get home I wash everything, that can be washed, with soup and water.
This too will pass.


Bonjour, Kristi,
I am grateful for the electronics which keep us all connected. How else would I know that my 6 year old gear niece is outraged
that she cannot go to school and demands to know let out this evil virus?! Since I have no answers I just say that’s a good question.
We do not have mail delivery here so I walk to the Post Office six days each week. Generally it is a great meeting place and you often see small clusters of folks standing and talking, but not now since we are sheltering in place. I shudder when I see the shutters on the restaurants, cafes, galleries, and shops. Throughout the day I am listening to the news on the radio while cooking and cleaning. Since the gym closed I have pulled out and dusted my yoga mat which doubles as a sacred space since we can no longer attend church. Lia vie est changée, mais la vie est encore très, très bonne. Vous avez tous mes meilleurs souhaits pour une bonne vie sain et sauf. Amitiés, Joanne

chris kelly

Greetings from the Philly suburbs. At least we have our French-Word-a-Day to keep us ricanement.

Jeanine Woods

Thank you for this perspective. I also believe that it's good to stop and re-prioritize about what is truly important in this life. We will learn from this and become better a people and society.

Jeanine Woods

I feel a sense of camaraderie with you and your readers, Kristi! We're in this together fighting la guerre against the evasive enemy. My husband and I are hunkered down in our home in San Diego while it pours rain outside! We are hanging in there and making the best of it. Remember même pas peur!


I too live where we have to go to the Post Office and it isn't the same. Here are two sites that are offering free virtual tours of galleries. One is in Paris. TRAVELANDLEISURE.COM, KOTTE.ORG, and the Metropolitan Opera is offering free viewings at Vulture.com. Enjoy.


Maybe it should be “sa Jules”? “Her Jules?!” Apparently, yes, as I understood the talk was about finding “her”
boyfriend aka her soul-mate.
Thank you, Kristi for the smiles and your touching story. I laughed at the “ever surrendering drying laundry line”. Stay strong and 💖💕🌹

Deborah Frost

Your post-lady is the greatest! As is your post today. Thank you!


I love to hear about your garden. Here on the west coast of Canada, we are just getting started with spring clean up and planting. And there you are, already watering and tending the new growth. I would love to see more photos of what's happening in the garden to show us how it is progressing.

Happy gardening and happy spring!


Frank Chappell

Je crois le mot " potager " n'est pas en l'article , en Français .

Earle Self

Bonjour, Kristi. Masks are in short supply in the States also. I had some left over I had to share with my doctor this morning. My daughter's restaurant in Pralognan la Vanoise remains closed, while my beau fils goes crazy, building terraces and God knows what else around their house, out of frustration...

Earle Self

Marianne Rankin

Suzanne Dunaway, what does "leave cartons 48 hours" mean?

Here in the Washington, D.C. area, most folks are telecommuting. I'm grateful for my job, although I find virtual "meetings" difficult because the technology isn't as good as live gatherings. Church services are available online. We can order things online, too. I am grateful that we can receive FWAD, a ray of sunshine amidst all the coronavirus e-mails. Wishing you all good health!


Kristi, thank you for this story of positivity in uncertain times. In NZ, we are waiting to find out about the next steps. I now study library and information science via distance education, so thankfully my courses are not impacted. However, I also work part-time at the library of a local high school, and I suspect it's only a matter of time before all the schools here will be closed. I'm grateful that we are able to remain connected to our family members and loved ones overseas through online interaction. We must stay patient and keep smiling. Wishing you and your family good health. Amicalement, Katia


Hi Kristi,
One way that people can have a gathering is through ZOOM on the internet. We are going to use this for our dinner which was postponed and also for our Bible Study group. I am not quit sure how it works, but everyone should check into it to have a social get together via the internet. You can sit with you glass of wine and hors d’œuvres and enjoy each other’s company.
We were lucky that we made it back from Mexico before the US closed the border and all flights. Not that I wanted to leave the sun, the pool and the golf, but we needed to self quarantine at home. So today we had snow flurries- go figure, although I know that it is still March, which should come in like a lion and go out like a lamb.
I will also be working in my garden when the weather warms up. Unfortunately I will never have the vegetable garden which you do. My land and the wild life preclude anything like that. 😢
Stay healthy and keep up good spirits. The wine, liquor store are still open in Connecticut - poor JM.
Peace, Kathleen

Patricia Sands

Dear Kristi ~ As always, your words inform us and bring smiles. Thanks for being a window into how life with Covid19 is happening in your corner of the world. Stay well. Bon courage!

Gus Elison



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