Tour de France postponed to 29 August

by Steve Martindale

Following the government’s extension of a ban on mass gatherings due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic until mid-July, this year’s Tour de France has now officially been postponed. This year’s edition of Le Tour had been due to run from 27 June to 19 July, but will now take place between 29 August and 20 September according to sources close to race organisers, who have yet to comment officially.

No announcements have been made by the major teams, but Britain’s Chris Froome had been due to join the peloton, one year after breaking his neck, femur, elbow, hip and ribs in a crash, as had previous winner Geraint Thomas who was pipped to the title last year by teammate Egan Bernal. “It’s the pinnacle of cycling,” said the Welsh rider following news of the postponement. “It represents the sport and certainly it’s the thing that’s keeping me going at the minute. You’ve just got that target down the line.”

Coronavirus: Deconfinement to begin from 11th May

by Steve Martindale

In a televised address watched by a record 36.7 million people, President Emmanuel Macron confirmed last night that the current lockdown will continue for a further four weeks. “The 11th May will be the start of a new phase,” the president told the nation. “It will be progressive and the rules will be adapted according to initial results.”

From this date, creches and schools (maternelle, primaire, collège and lycée) will gradually reopen across the country, starting with the least at-risk areas, but higher education establisments will remain closed until the summer. Bars, cafés and restaurants will also not immediately be able to reopen and neither will cinemas, theatres and museums.

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Coronavirus: Macron to announce lockdown extension

by Steve Martindale

President Emmanuel Macron had been expected to give a televised update on the coronavirus situation this evening, Thursday 9th April. This has now been pushed back to the evening of Monday 13th April, although it has been confirmed that he will be announcing an extension to the lockdown period at that time.

The lockdown is currently due to end on April 15th; it is widely expected that this will be extended for at least a further fortnight.

Nationwide bird count

by Steve Martindale

One of the many challenges of lockdown has been finding fun activities to keep our minds and bodies active. The country’s bird protection organisation, the Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux (LPO) is encouraging people to get out into their gardens and help in a national bird survey.

Participants in the study are being asked to spend a set amount of time – ten minutes is plenty – studying the same area of outdoor space every day and making a note of the birds that they see. Only those which land in the area should be counted. You can then input your findings on their website.

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Cities distribute masks as public ignore lockdown

by Steve Martindale

The French government has received criticism for discussing how the lockdown might be lifted after increasing numbers of people have been ignoring the quarantine rules. After proposing on Friday 3rd April that the lockdown might eventually be phased out in stages – geographically and by risk group – the weekend saw larger numbers of people taking to the streets across the country in the belief that the worst could be over.

On Monday, however, France recorded its record number of deaths since the outbreak began, with 833 people succumbing to the virus on 6th April.

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Coronavirus: Digital confinement forms available online

by Steve Martindale

UPDATED 06/04/2020:

As promised last week, the government has unveiled its new digital solution for the compulsory confinement forms. Although initially announced as a smartpone app, the forms are actually generated as PDF documents through the Interior Ministry website – To generate your digital certificates, visit the website via your smartphone, tablet or computer, click on the link for “attestation de déplacement” and fill in the online questionnaire. The information required is your surname, first name, date of birth, place of birth and address, as well as the reason for your journey. This remains exactly the same as on the current paper attestation.

After filling in the information online, a PDF file is generated with a QR Code containing all the data from the form, as well as the date and time of generation of the document. There is no need for a physical signature. This PDF file must be presented during any control via your smartphone or tablet, allowing officers to scan the QR code to retrieve the relevant information.

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Contrôle technique extended by 3 months

by Steve Martindale

The Coronavirus lockdown was introduced as a public health measure, but the effects of quarantine have impacted all aspects of life. The government has gradually been introducing legislation to mitigate these problems, but one grey area that quickly emerged surrounded the contrôle technique (CT), the French equivalent of the MOT.

It is illegal to drive without a valid CT, and if your car fails with minor faults you usually have two months to fix any problems. Many drivers were due to renew their car’s CT during recent weeks or were already in the two-month period when the lockdown began, which has left thousands in limbo. Although contrôle technique centres are among the list of businesses allowed to remain open, many have chosen to close to protect their employees. As a result, many drivers are unsure as to whether they can legally drive their vehicles to make essential journeys.

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Asterix creator Albert Uderzo dies aged 92

by Steve Martindale

Albert Uderzo, one of the creators of the beloved comic book character Asterix, has died in Paris aged 92. “Albert Uderzo died in his sleep at home in Neuilly of a heart attack, with no links to the coronavirus,” the French press quoted his son-in-law, Bernard de Choisy, as saying. “He had been very tired for several weeks.”

Uderzo created the famous stories about the adventures of Gaulish warriors fighting the Roman Empire in 1959 with his friend René Goscinny. As well as illustrating the series, Urderzo took over the writing following Goscinny’s death in 1977 until himself retiring from the role in 2009 and passing on the rights to the franchise. The books have sold 370 million copies worldwide, in dozens of languages, and several stories have been turned into cartoons and feature films. The series continues to this day under new ownership, with the most recent book, Asterix and the Chieftain’s Daughter, released in October last year.

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Go to work on an egg

by Julia Watson

When she worked as a copywriter, British novelist Fay Weldon created the slogan, “Go to work on an egg”. It was a brilliant punning directive that my mother took as a command. Every morning for breakfast before school, my sister and I were presented with a hard boiled one. As soon as I left home, I vowed never to eat another boiled egg again.

But this April is a special month for eggs. Easter is observed and the shops are stacked with chocolate versions. Hens are happily, as opposed to unhappily, back outside, producing what’s expected of them. Everywhere, eggs are being celebrated.

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The Wines of Bergerac – Buying wine under lockdown

by Martin Walker

Despite all the worries, writing about wine in these troubling days of the coronavirus and under lockdown has its benefits. This is the time to review your own cellar, whether it be a handful of bottles or a whole underground cave lined wall-to-wall with liquid treasures. This is also an excellent time to plan for your enjoyment of wines in the future.

Lots of winemakers in the Bergerac are under real financial pressure since so many of their sales outlets have had to close and the lockdown means you cannot visit the vineyards to taste and buy on the spot. The best way to help is to contact your favourite winemaker by phone or email and ask if you can buy a bon d’achat. That means you pay him a hundred euros or whatever now by cheque or credit card, and in return you get a credit note for that amount of wine when you can next visit the vineyard.

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