Difference between revisions of "MonaCOVID"

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=== Part III: The Morning after the Week-end Before ===
=== Part III: The Morning after the Week-end Before ===
<small>Fri Mar 20th, 2020</small>
<small>Mar 20th 2020, Friday</small>
(We’re Friday, and I might well hurry a bit if I want to keep up with  
(We’re Friday, and I might well hurry a bit if I want to keep up with  

Revision as of 18:09, 7 April 2020


-Patrice Riemens

Part IX: More adventures!

Mon, 8 Apr 2020

So in a few minutes the yachts’ sirens in the harbour will sound for the customary salute to the health carers and other workers ensuring the society’s survival in these confined times ... (will they?) - Yes, they do!

Monaco has now registered 64 cases of Covid, and one person died, while 3 recovered - which is not very much, & makes for still 60 ‘active’ cases ... Well the good news is that the Sovereign Prince has recovered (so they say), as has the secretary of state and a few more members of the government. But meanwhile 3 of the Prince’s praetor ... sorry, ‘carabiniers’ guard have fallen sick.

But his recovery was apparently the occasion for the Albert II to chide his parliament for being ‘negative’ and not appreciating all the efforts the princely government was exerting in safeguarding the Monegasque population in these challenging times. A more responsible, understanding, and respectful attitude was expected henceforth from the people’s representatives. Where have we heard this already?

All the same, Monaco remains relatively relaxed, as compared to neigbouring (and encircling) France. There appears to be more police in the street, and the force boasts in Monaco-matin to have performed 11.000 checks, resulting in ... one person being fined (the range is E70 to E200) for ‘not giving a satisfactory reason for his presence in the public domain’. By Paris standards these would be a poor law enforcement show (*) But, ha! the force did stop a party going on aboard one of those many the yachts anchored in the harbour - though nobody was fined.

But my adventure that day was to try to do some serious shopping in Fontvieille’s Centre Commercial, after my botched attempt last Saturday. So ... well, it did not start ... well. I set off the house at 12.15, thinking that lunch time would be slack time in these parts, everybody at home to prepare and enjoy lunch. ‘Que nenni!’ would be the appropriate French expression. Yet, after an pleasant walk along yet another route on foot down from ‘my’ place - when this is all over (when?) I will really have seen more from Monaco than in the whole of my ‘previous life’, youth included ;-) the arrival looked promising: viewed from the top of the escalator the Q was very manageable - save that its real extent was hidden from sight as it weaved itself around the innards of the Centre. ‘2 hours wait’ was the laconic answer of the guard - a member of the Municipal Police, I didn’t even know that 'we' had one ...

So back I went, and again on foot, this time trying to take the ‘elevator’ route (remember: Monaco’s relief consists of tunnels, elevators, and escalators). The one (till now unbeknownst to me) I took promised to lift you up to the ‘Jardin Exotique’, at the very top of the principality - yeeeh! - though it turned out to drop you not even one third of the way on the very road which I had walked down. A case of misrepresentation if there is one.

Lunch (can’t remember what), siesta, some reading and mailing, and by five o’clock, there we walk down again - on yet a (slightly) different route, of course. Down the escalator, and lo and behold: no one in sight! To good to be true as four people appear out of nowhere just in front of me - and yet, al the five of us made our entry in one fell swoop, unhindered, into Ali Baba’s, sorry, Carefour’s cavern (it is, most of it is hewn in the rock).

Carrefour Fontvieille is just short of a ‘Hypermarket’ which is a good thing since all such humongous contraptions have been closed by the authorities in the Maritime Alps, and Monaco would surely have followed suit. Nonetheless it is huge, and I could stock both on ‘necessities’, and items which are a little less so - like Port wine. Also remarkable is the price differential: cheaper than Casino Beausoleil, and even more so than the harbour branch, which as far as it range is concerned, is more like a Deli (it does have quite a large ‘anti-gaspi’ (‘zero waste’) cabinet, where everything is down-priced by 30% or 50% - ideal for stuff like yoghurt or cheese, which keep OK far longer than their sell-by date).

But the choice is huge, and so are also the number of items on promotional sale, though often in bulk far larger than I possibly could consume, even in the most pessimistic ‘confinement’ scenario. No wonder people come out with one (or more) shopping cart filed to the brim - and are prepared to Q for hours to be able to do so. All the same I seriously consider purchasing a bottle of Shakelton Malt Whisky (**) on my next visit, planed for coming Wednesday. These outings also to be considered 'exercises' ...

Having spent almost one hour hunting for items - and sometimes bargains - and having spent also just over E 50 at the till (but that included a towel and a few household items), which, btw, happened in a jiffy, making you wonder if, in times on filtering at the door, you really waste more time in a Q than in ‘normal’ times - this time outside (but not even this time ;-) at other times waiting for three full caddies before you being emptied on the band.

After this bout of ‘I shop therefore I am’ to make Barbara Kruger proud, I went outside and boarded a #6 bus taking a circuitous, and hence spectacular (hey, again, we are in Monaco!), passing by the ‘traditional’ church square (it’s a circle, actually) of Fontvieille’s ‘new old’ social housing precinct (remember: no sea view!), and then ‘shooting’ thru one of Monaco’s trademark tunnels into the harbour. Since I still have a multi ride, I paid the by now entirely voluntary fare (***) and got out on the west side of the Casino (the real thing I mean - presently out of business). Not as near the house as the alternative, bus #4, but I’d have had to wait 18 more minutes - Sunday & Holidays schedules. Needless to add - so I will ;-) that I was the sole and only passenger/customer.

(to be continued ...)


(*) But then Paris has a terrible prefect (boss) of police, one Didier Lallement, a proponent of ‘robust’ law & order enforcement, who is happy to tell that everybody who’s caught the virus over the past 15 days has only her/himself to blame since sHe obviously did not abide to the confinement orders. That seemed to include health workers, trash bins handlers, cashiers in supermarkets, and, who knows, maybe even members of his own force. The interior ministry judged his words ‘inaccurate’ (sic), upon which the minister himself demanded ‘regrets’ to be uttered ... (Liberation, today

And oh yeah, since we are talking police, an op-ed in Le Monde, the other day, asked a distressing, but germane question: “why are the arsenals of the police filled to the brim with tear gas, peper sprays, and ‘dispersion’ grenades - but are health workers still compelled to labor unprotected in hospitals for lack of masks and appropriate protective equipment?”

(**) https://www.thewhiskyexchange.com/p/38592/shackleton-blended-malt - priced, even with one Pound Sterling dangerously coming close to one Euro, still a quart cheaper than in the dis-United Kingdom ...

(***) https://fr.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fichier:Paroisse_Saint-Nicholas_Monaco.jpg

Monaco buses: the multi-fare is E11 for 12 rides, & if you are a ‘recognised non-resident pensionner, you even get 24 rides for 8 Euros. Older Monegasques and registered resident even ride for free, when 65 & older

Read more... {AKA: "The MonaCovid Chronicles Archive" -Ed.}



One of the many advice on coping with the current Corona virus crisis while staying confined at home is to keep a diary. This is what I decided to do, the more so as I am confined in a very interesting place: the one where I was born, almost seventy years ago.

You will have guessed (no prize! ;-) which place that is. For now I will try to update this daily every day, or at least every other day. On the other hand I don’t know how long I will stay here, since the longing for my housie in the beloved Tuscan village is also strong – and I miss my garden!

Time will tell. For now I will start the story not from to-day, March 18, but from the past week-end, ‘the last one before the unknown’, as French daily Liberation called it.

Also take note that these pieces are written quite quickly, and if xs4all's Cube Webmail provides for a spell checker, it says nothing about grammar - so please bear with me as I try to limit the sloth!

Practical info

Having been reluctant to go for a blog from day one, I have chosen the flexible format of a Bcc list (mail to ‘undisclosed recipients’). So if you receive this, you are on it. But if you do not wish so, a simple mail to me will ensure your prompt removal. You are of course free, nay welcome, to comment on my musings. If you wish to share it with all other recipients, just tell me, and I will put, ‘anonymously’ or not – you say – in a next installment.

Let’s remain calm and happy in these trying time. Respect the current measures taken by your local authorities, and foremost:


And here two excellent (immo) health advisories:


is very extensive, on the verge of the ueber-technical, while:


focuses on the crucial need to keep your throat winning the battle against infection.

Wishing you all the best! Take Care! Patrizio & the travel-Diiiinooos! (stuck now)

Part I: The MonaCovid Chronicles

Wed Mar 18th, 2020

This diary starts the week-end that Liberation had termed ‘the last one before the unknown’ - while the front page read ‘the Day Before’ , probably referring to a suddenly vanished paradise, or at least a vanished past.

That surely holds true for the Principality of Monaco, the glam & glitter haven of the ueber-rich. But also home to fairly ordinary and not spectacularly wealthy people, both ‘nationals’ and ‘expats’ (ca 8500 and 29000 respectively) (*).

For both categories life was looking fairly normal till this past week-end. That is what goes for normal over here: a remarkable number of (very) expensive cars on the road – I saw a Maybach for the first time – and a nasty number of, (again, very) hi-end shops, catering for the tastes of the ‘seriously rich’ and the ‘merely wealthy’ - to use the Wall Street Journal’s apt socio-econmic sorting.

In more regular outlets, such as supermarkets, the first signs of the storm to come were already apparent however: the shelves meant for bottled water and toilet paper started to take a definitely ‘GDR’ look, a sure sign of the - totally ridiculous – panic buying to come.

Meanwhile I was also feeling the clouds gathering – after all my country of usual residence, Italy, had been in lockdown for more than a week (**) - and decided to go on long walks as long as that remained permitted – and that was to show foresight, even if of a minimal sort.

The first took me along the quays of the harbour. The latter was in my youth a wide open square water plane , but it has now been reduced to a checkered space so as to accommodate a large number of long jetties, crowded with sailboats and motor cruisers, while a long dock has been built outside the harbour proper for cruise ships (unwelcome for some time already, after the ‘Princesses’ scare).

Along the quays, lined with crafts big, medium, and small – I saw even a fisher(wo)man’s little boat – a spectacle reminiscent of Oslo harbour in Summer: one glitzy water hole after the other, with crowds of guileless HNWIs and VHNWIs lizzard-lounging, sipping Sauvignon at Oslo+ prices.

In the evening, higher up the rocks, in the distinctly more proletarian adjacent French commune of Beausoleil where I do my shopping, people were dancing in the covered market at the rhythms of a Martinique band. (or was it Guadeloupe, or …?) There too one could not suppress a feel of impeding closure.

The walk had also brought me along the sea to Roquebrune beach and railway station, where a bearded homeless man had apparently taken up residence in the waiting shelter. These people also inhabit the Cote d’Azur, and I wonder what will become of them. Meanwhile para-gliders were slowly drifting down from the mountain promontory 600 meters up, landing on the beach. For them too it must have been the last flight into known territory, geographic or otherwise. Same for a few early season swimmers ...

(to be continued)

Notes (I’m a former academic, so I love ‘m ;-)

(*) Numbers vary according to sources. Monaco’s civil register count 9300 citizens, which surprised me, but then quite a few reside outside the principality. Anyway both the numbers of autochthonous and allochthonous inhabitants has grown a lot since I was (officially) living there in my young years …

(**) Things are happening so fast that you please excuse me if I have lost the chronology of the Covid crisis. As one historian described the two weeks before WWI broke out ‘every morning saw a situation that had looked unimaginable the evening before’.

Part II: Coming Soon

Thu Mar 19th, 2020

I am afraid my slowness is not up to the speed with which the situation develops, so BREAKING NEWS first: The Sovereign Ruling Prince, Albert Grimaldi, a.k.a. S.A.S. Albert II got ‘it’ ... & I got the news from a friend in Amsterdam, and it was in the New York Times 36 minutes ago (as I write – 19.03/ 16:36)

Makes ‘my place’ even more famous - in the '15 minutes of Fame' sense.

But enough of that, and back to the week-end before the fall.

On Saturday afternoon France decreed all public places, bars, restaurants, etc. to shut doors at midnight. Last Caribean dance, Tango, Rock’n’Roll or whatever for the poor but sexy crowd in Beausoleil’s covered market. As far as I know closing down went allright, unlike in Paris and Brussels where the police meekly looked on as people extended the curfew and embraced for the last time (Paris) or, more robustly, used teargas against the unwilling masses (Brussels)

Over here the ‘Princely Government’ immediately followed suit. To my chagrin, but also expectation, the 'Louis Notari' public library abruptly closed that same morning (I had asked the previous evening whether such measures were on hand: ‘we don’t know, but yes, it’s possible') I should have stocked on ‘adult comics’ (*) beforehand, instead of Nicolas Offenstadt’s ‘URBEX RDA’ (**) only. What I boon that I have permanent connex at my staying place now!

On Sunday and Monday it was still possible to go out unhindered and I did. Monaco was clearly slowing down, even for a Sunday, and the harbour quays were naturally deserted by now, all the ‘VIP’ (wanabe) places shut. ‘Essential’ commerces are allowed to stay open, and that includes, of course, a wine shop on the port promenade selling ‘exclusive’ wares – at prices starting at E30 and ending, I guess, in the stratosphere (I didn’t bother to enter but it might come in handy if I need a bottle of Roederer Crystal ;-) (***)

Meanwhile in the Casino Supermarket nearby, panic buying had clearly started. The shelves for household stuff downstairs were sparsely filled when not entirely empty. Loo paper gone first (****) of course, closely followed by bottled water – the still variety; my hunt for the fizzy variant was totally successful. Go figure.

As I walked back ‘home’, traffic was getting sparser and sparser, and city buses – Monaco has a fantastic ‘mass’ transit system – were running near-empty. But looking out of the window at night, the harbour was still gloriously illuminated.

More was to come on Monday ….

(to be continued)

But I can’t leave you without a happy note. Check this one out for some seriously needed laughter:


(Oh Yeah, you’d all had seen it already, since ‘you guys’ have all smartphones and are all all da time on Twitter, FB, Whatsapp or whatever … SORRY!)

Notes (*) That’s not porn, you creep. More like graphic novels with complicated plots suitable for young and older adults

(**) About the gigantic industrial archeology park that the former GDR (‘DDR’) has become – very worthwhile!

(***) https://www.louis-roederer.com/en/wine/cristal Price range: E 150 France; GBP 250 London; US$ 600 New York; Finnish State Monopoly … E95.

(****) London Water now warning that the ‘next best thing’, kitchen rolls, clog the drains and cause ‘fatbergs’ …

Part III: The Morning after the Week-end Before

Mar 20th 2020, Friday

(We’re Friday, and I might well hurry a bit if I want to keep up with developments – and my fading memory of them …)


By late Sunday the French authorities, all the way to the top, were absolutely appalled by the inconscience and lack of 'civism’ of their fellow citizens. The uncompromising advice to stay at home having been met with masses enjoying the first rays of Spring and genially (not so) crowding together in parks and boulevards, even kissing and embracing, much sterner measures were called for.

On Monday evening French president Emmanuel Macron addressed his compatriots on national television in a bellicose speech where the words “we are at war” were uttered no less than six times. Confinement was announced, to start Tuesday noon, to be strictly enforced by hefty fines for whomever went-out without sufficient cause, with obligation to have filled in and carrying along at all times the ‘derogation to move around’ form (*).

Slightly more relaxed, and less crowded Monaco dully followed suit – minus the ‘derogation’ form. In fact by Monday not much had changed, streets were a little more empty, there was a little less traffic, but markets were still open, and the buses ran normally (their drivers, however, now isolated behind police tapes in their front cabin, passengers to board by the back doors). They ran almost empty.

Top brand cars were also less in evidence, their owners apparently staying in their flats, or having decamped to other luxurious abodes. There was still no restrictions on walking around, so I went out along the road once leading to Monaco railways station – now gone, and everything around built up – and from there towards Cap d’Ail, the adjoining village where I lived in my early youth.

Kinda a trip down memory lane, as I took the path running along the former railway line (now tunneled from end to end (***) were as a bay I both admired and was frightened by the big, Baldwin-built steam locomotives roaring by, belching clouds of black smoke.

Bypassing our former villa, totally decrepit but – amazingly - still standing, I made it till the ‘Cap des douaniers’, a rocky promontory along the same-named path (of olden age customs officers, looking out for sea-borne contraband, or even enforcing Napoleon’s blocus in its time …) and came back following it, along a stormy sea – an appropriate figuration for the current times.

Coming back by way of the ‘Plage Marquet’, much reduced and also far more build-up since my youth – I remember the small, somewhat seedy chophouse run by Mr X, ‘Le plus bel athlete de France’ (body-builder) – I ended up in Fontvieille, Monaco’s former industrial area, now a mix of hi-end residencies and, yes, social housing, since you need to house the not-that-rich ‘son of the soil’ (and them only) somewhere.

Large parts of Fontvieille have been – at humongous cost - ‘conquered’ on the sea over the last decades of the previous century, and one can enjoy both glammy seaward flats and a not even a that bad looking remake of a Mediterranean plaza bordered by a church and with estate housing around it (but no sea-view, ha!).

I went for the Heliport, Monaco’s miniature version of an International airport (**), for specific reasons. Ignoring the ‘only passengers with boarding pass’ signage, and strangely unchallenged, I availed of the cheapest hot chocolate in the principality (50c, vending machine, but beautiful paper cups!) and picked up free - for passengers, marked price E 7/10 – glossy mags (‘Hello Monaco’ , ‘L’Observateur de Monaco’, and a Russian one for good measure) for home consumption. I then walked back across the ‘Garden aux Canards’ (sic) to the commercial centre, where long queues of filtered customers discouraged me from shopping.

I took bus #4 instead.

(to be continued)


(*) https://www.interieur.gouv.fr/Actualites/L-actu-du-Ministere/Attestation-de-deplacement-derogatoire-et-justificatif-de-deplacement-professionnel

(**) MONACAIR will wisk you to Nice Cote d’Azur airport in 7 minutes for a competitive E 140/pax, inclusive pick-up & drop-of transfer (a taxi would be much dearer).


Well, OK, the dedicated, direct Airport bus (E22) and ordinary, local bus services (E 1,50) would be even more ‘competitive’, but hey, we’re in Monaco ...

(***) Apart from the first-class sleepers only ‘Train Bleu’ - discontinued for good in the early '00s, and much ‘de-classed before - trains were not especially appreciated by the Monegasque authorities. So they ‘nudged’ the SNCF to tunnel the line inside Monte-Carlo, freeing large swath of real estate in the process, before having it tunneled from end-to-end on Monaco territory. Even more land for precious real estate! Monaco now basically has a set of metro platforms for railway station , and F%^&$#@! the proles wanting to steal a glimpse of the principality from their windows in second class ...

Part IV: The Week When It All Was Coming Down

Mar 21st 2020, Sat

(Laziness be damned, and I am now going to 'consolidate' the past days in one installment!)

So since Monday was to be the last day the situation looked, if not normal, then at least manageable, I decided to stay home on Tuesday. I heard only later that the strict French 'confinement' policies were to be enforced from that day at noon only, so I forfeited the chance to take a last walk on my favourite woutside, being the seashore.

But then, the directives were somewhat fuzzy, since outdoor ‘exercise’ was still permitted – later that would be restricted to no more than max. 2 Km from home, that too vaguely defined. Surprisingly Cap d’Ail municipality kept the ‘custom agents’ path’ open, with walkers enjoined to do it in isolation. Beaches however were out of bounds, making the exact extend of the rule somewhat unclear.

Interpretation and enforcement of the new rules edicted by the Parisian central state were bound to be diverse on te ground, and indeed they were. Beausoleil remained remarkably relaxed (very friendly and helpful MuniPolice too), while the local daily Nice Matin headlined ‘a rain of citations in the Maritime Alps’ (@ E 135 each)

Monaco following suit to France – it can’t do otherwise given its size and enclave status – it enacted the same restrictions. Also the head of state himself having tested positive (*), some nervousness probably hit the authorities. Still, one can move around easily with reasonable cause, and I haven’t been stopped till … (well wait for the next installment!). Monaco also does not do printed ‘derogations’ as in France.

But then how is life going on? Well it does, but it’s getting slower and more limited by the day. The city buses still ran this week, now on a permanent ‘Sundays and Holidays’ schedule, and are mostly empty. The now oversized interlocal 'bendy' buses also keep to schedule, and are even more empty. A maximum of 4 passengers has been decreed for the small buses running services to Menton and to the housing estates on the heights above Monaco, a rule that can not be enforced and is not, as they are the only conveyance for the non-national paupers to reach the food shops.

Train services have also been much reduced, Monaco-Monte Carlo station is deserted , and even its police outpost vacated, as is the ticket office, cafes, and even the newspaper kiosk, even though that service is officially deemed ‘essential’. Closer to ‘home’ is another news outlet were I go every day for either Le Monde and Liberation.

That last paper is systematically called ‘l’Aberration’ by the mischievous shop owner, who jokes with regulars, does not seem to hold the authorities in high regard, and whispered to me (from a safe distance) that ‘what happens in Monaco stays in Monaco’ . Yes I do know (**). All the same Le Monde and Liberation, in their (quite) different style, provide me with a lot of information on the background of the crisis (mostly from a ‘French’ angle) and nicely supplement my multiple daily intake of The Guardian online.

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were in fact relatively uneventful on the ground, as the most shocking news was happening in the papers and online, where the situation looked – and still looks – direr and direr. Going back to Italy seems entirely out of question at the moment. My earliest estimate has now been shifted to next Saturday, and that will prove will without doubt prove wildly optimistic. The number of infected, and alas, of deaths in my usual country of residence does still not level out – on the contrary. And PM Conte has announced even harsher measures, which might well amount to a curfew pure and simple.

Here in Monte-Carlo life is still bearable, shopping for food is not (yet?) problematic, with supermarket stocked satisfactorily – sometimes with sizeable Qs outside as people are filtered in. That was necessary as panic buying led to very unruly scenes (‘this morning was a complete riot’, a shop manager told me – on a quiet evening before closing time). But fact is that the larger the shop, the longest the wait to get in. So good times for the ‘ethnic’ little places in Beausoleil where I do most of my purchases, and they’ve got the stuff I really want (‘Masala tea’ anyone? Or ‘brinjal pickle’? - Sri Lankan, & not that good ... ;-) Problem: they don’t sell bread.

Meanwhile, clouds were gathering regarding developments in the week-end, but that is for our next installment …

(to be continued)


(*) Princely interview given to Nice-Matin on Thursday, for those interested in royalty: https://huit.re/wpWZZhbn

(**) Some items that never made the news in the relatively recent past: the emptying out of Van Cleef & Arpels jewelers (200 meters from the Casino of Monte-Carlo) and the brief ‘disappearance’ of Stefano Casiraghi’s coffin (Princess Caroline’s first husband, who killed himself in a hi-power speedboat accident, promptin a ‘Stern’ frontpage pic titles ‘Potenzspiele der Maenner’ …) Casket duly recovered after some … errr … ‘negotiations’. But my favourite hush-hush is the removal of all the grand pianos (7) of Radio Monte-Carlo by a gang pretending they’d come (with a semi-trailer truck) to take them to the tuner.

Part V: The Week-end after the Previous One

Mar 23rd 2020, Mon

So if the last week was relatively uneventful, a slow descent into emptiness and rarefaction of activities, the week-end provided for a surge of, well, in these circumstances one could call that ‘adventure(s)’.

It began on Friday already, when I decided to go take a breath of fresh air on the jetty. Monaco harbour now boasts two new big jetties, one very long on the west side to accommodate cruise liners – which are not allowed to come anymore – and the other shorter, wider, and cluttered with evidently expensive artwork (*). But I never made it that far, because I couldn’t find the elevator going down – oh yes Monaco is full of very convenient public elevators taking you everywhere in just enough time for the police algos to scrutinize your face mediated by the CCTVs inside - also very convenient, but for different reasons to different people.

Instead I ambled into the gardens below the Casino, which are extremely beautiful, like everything in the – very extensive - public domain of the principality, while their terrace offer an even more stunning view on the Mediterranean than the jetties. I spend quite some time wandering around, even watching the sun set behind the ‘Tete de Chien’, the emblematic rock formation of La Turbie, where one can admire (Emperor) Augustus’ trophy erected to commemorate the slaying of innumerable unruly Alpine barbarians in 6 BC (you could check out the Wkikipedia entry for that list, it’s endless). I also admired the imposing structure of the building itself, built by Garnier, which turned out (in my eyes) to be far more intricate than expected. I'm a kind of Prince Charles guy - I think they made for nicer architecture in olden days (in Dutch: 'vroegah' ;-)

Now that 'derive' turned out to have been good idea in hindsight, because the next day, such discovery would have become impossible: meekly heading the cue from the powerful neighbour, Monaco closed all its public parks and gardens to the public. I think such measure is totally stupid, since people are still walking in the street, keeping the mandatory safe distance (or not), so why shouldn't they be allowed to do the same in gardens? Now people are being deprived of a healthy recreation for no reason whatsoever. Likely to stir up the already brewing discontent about confinement measures even further – even here, in this 'well-ordered' place ...

But all this was not on my mind on Saturday morning when I set out for a trip that in normal time would have been banal and even boring. The aim – and necessity – was to go to Menton to get my sheets and clothes done in the only launderette in the surroundings (a launderette in Monaco? You must be joking!). The flat where I am staying may have both Net and Netflix, but no washing machine ...

I had dully informed with the Beausoleil MuniPolice about the authorization needed for such by now outlandish excursion, and the answer was no problem, as long I specifically mentioned it on the ‘attestation de deplacement derogatoire’ form, had my story ready, and carried da bag with dirty/cleaned garments for credibility. I had also enquired whether the little blue ‘Zest’ bus #18 was running to schedule: it did.

And so there I exited the house in good time and schlepping a full bag of wash to make it to the #18 terminus two blocks away. But promptly it looked like as if the trip was heading in the wrong direction. First there was no bus in sight (it ended up starting 10 minutes late), and secondly my sunning on a ledge attracted the unwelcome attention of a posse of Monaco Police, known to be not always very friendly to pedestrians not clad in Ermenegildo Zegna attire - or equivalent upmarket brand.

Followed a lengthy discussion about my (evidently suspect) whereabouts. My authorization to move around (none required yet, unlike France), and my bona fides generally (doubtful), which finally came to a close when to the asking why I did not do the wash at home, using a washing machine, I retorted that I would surely not sit there in order to undertake the somewhat tricky trip to Menton if the flat I was staying in was provided with one. Also the mention on my ID card that I was born in Monaco itself most probably helped to ensure my ‘release’ (**).

When I walked to the bus stop, #18 had finally showed up, a fellow passenger told me he too had been ‘approached’ by the cops, this time leaping out from an unmarked car, and been told he had to wait inside the shelter, and not sit on the bench next to it.

In a welcome contrast the atmosphere in the (French) minibus was totally relaxed. The driver greeted us from behind his tapped up enclosure and cheerfully announced that since ticket sale by hand had been prohibited, the trip was free (as in ‘beer’, but to my present mind, also as in ‘freedom’ ;-)

And the trip was also a spectacular one, from a touristic point of view. When it’s all over, do take the #18 service from Monaco to Menton! By then it might cost you E 1,50 again, but it is worth every cent and nearly every minute – 60 in all – of it. It first proceeds to cross Beausoleil in its entirety, then follows a very windy ascending road to the ‘moyenne corniche’, only to plunge back again into Roquebrune village and Cap Martin, before finally alighting on Menton’s long stretch of beach and follow the seashore all the way to the Casino (and continuing till the Italian border at Pont Saint Louis, but I had to get of).

I admit that I could also have taken the more regular #100 service along the main road, which takes 'only' half an hour for the (less than 10 Km) trip, but I didn’t want to miss such a scenic journey, which did a lot to boost my morale in these times of confinement. I did come back with bus #100 by the way, a presently totally over-sized ‘bendy bus’ carrying till Monte- Carlo a grand total of one passenger, being me. For free of course, also.

And Menton? Well Menton was nice, I went to the first launderette mentioned on G-maps, which was closed, and that was a blessing in disguise since the second one, 1,2 Km away (according to G-Maps) was much cheaper and also more congenial, besides being only 300m distant from the interlocal bus terminus. And it turned out to have shelves full of ‘it’s all yours’ books, so my stack now stands at something like several weeks of reading (especially if I spend hours writing this chronicle instead of reading ‘m ;-)

The wash was done swiftly as usual in these kind of facilities, and the drying machine did a very good job in getting my clothes ‘cupboard dry’ in 10 minutes flat and for one Euro extra (wash itself was E6).

And so it was loaded with fresh linnen that I boarded the #100 to Nice for an uneventful, but still at times very scenic trip back home. It was on alighting from the bus that I saw to my dismay that the whole public garden area going down to the Casino had been fenced of. No more walk along the ducks in the water parties and the splendid ‘arbres patrimoniaux’ imported from faraway places like New Zealand or Patagonia. (Mmm ... Patagonia? There must be some ‘poetic license’ here, but hey, I was in Patagonia, once upon a time ...)

And that was for Saturday, and this installment! Thinking of it, nothing happened on Sunday (yesterday) that I can remember, so ...

(to be continued)


(*) https://www.trover.com/d/1K8lJ-port-hercule-monaco

(**) But for maybe one or two ‘token’ ones, no policeperson in Monaco is ‘Monegasque’. All are French police personnel (very) competitively recruited from the ranks of the Police Nationale or Gendarmerie, all allured by the glamour, status - and the (significantly) higher pay. They take their security duties very seriously.

Part VI: Digging in in the Crisis

Mar 26th 2020, Thu

A few days ago – a week? - I wrote that the harbour is still brilliantly illuminated. Well: it was, since for some time now it is merely well-lighted, and of course totally deserted - of people, not of ships. But right at this very moment - kinda 'Breaking News' - all ships have started sounding their horns in a quite a roaring impromptu concert. Followed a few hand-clapping from (invisible) balconies, which made me realise it is the principality’s very own version of the Southern Europe-wide daily 8 pm salute to all health personnels on the front line to combat the Corona virus pandemic. So finally some recognition from the moneyed classes to the public sector? (Admittedly extensive, efficient, and very well-funded over here).

For the remainder my daily life in Monaco is slowly morphing into a relatively dull routine, as outside activities continue to slow down, and I have reduced my own forays outdoor to alternate days (except for getting the paper in the morning, but then the newsstand is barely 400 m away from my temporary residence. My daily of choice is Liberation mostly, whose coverage is livelier than Le Monde’s, and which is now just as thin, as papers had to reduce their volume due to various production and transport difficulties. Cover price is also bizarrely lower – by almost a half.

One thing that stroke me a few days ago, as traffic was progressively dwindling – and ‘big ticket’ cars were no longer in evidence - was the noria of delivery scooters zipping in all directions to bring meals to homes now that all restaurants are closed. I had also noticed when out, that the few people one encountered tended to greet, especially when walking dogs, and I then realised, from their speech (to the dogs, or to me) that they were menials (from eastern Europe, or other parts of the world) – this and the absence of Jags or Rollas on the road: the owners were staying put, ensconced in their luxurious abodes.

Since I don’t go out in the evening any longer I don’t know how the flow of food delivery Vespas has evolved, but it surely has been curtailed somewhat since Monaco, following again on France’s cue, that is of the Alpes Maritimes prefecture, has enacted a 22-05 curfew from yesterday on. Also the seashore all along the Med coast has definitely been declared out of bounds, and hence the Cap d’Ail ‘customs agent’s path is fenced off too now. No more walks, whether or not within the 1-2 km limit. I fail to get the rationale of this kind of measures – is the Corona virus a sea-borne disease? But there surely must be one ... (you tell ;-)

So the action has slowly moved inwards/inside the flat. And, naturally, into the net – or the pages of the paper. This not only devours a considerable amount of time but also is cause to a lot of reflections, and that is probably the case with you, dear reader, too. A nice aspect is that it is something that we, unlike the case with the geographic location, can share. For some part at least.

You are surely all aware of a widely circulating debate, not to say controversy, around the merits/demerits of chloroquine, or hydroxychloroquine, as treatment of Covid19-afflicted patients. The jury is still out, but signs are that it constitutes, if by way not a panacea, and surely not a cure, yet at least a definitely helpful addition to the available pharmacopea (*). But in France, the debate has taken an acrimonious and highly personal turn around the flamboyant boss of the Marseille infectious diseases hospital, Professor Didier Raoult, an enthusiastic, if somewhat intemperate, and also loud-mouthed, proponent of that medication (**). Idolized by some, Raoult, despite his proven - & rather outstanding - scientific record, is treated by some, including colleagues, as little beter than a quack.

So much for what the Coronavirus does to the French ‘intellectual’ debate, more often than not defined by deep status and appearances antagonisms and anxieties, transcending in sometimes a hallucinatory fashion the left-right divide ( &to make things more 'complicated', Raoult is also, allegedly, a 'climate denier' ...)

Actually the health situation in France is dire, and the forecasts about the system's ability to overcome the crisis – still building up, fast – are everything but buoyant. Which engenders fresh, and even more violent controversies – about the responsibility of current decision makers, from the president to health services bosses who headed by his neo-liberal doctrines and implemented rigorous ‘restructuration’ policies which left French hospitals thousands of beds poorer, and their staff angry, demoralised, and worn-out, all that long before the eruption of the Covid crisis they are now required to address with all their might. Financial neo-orthodoxy having declared war on slack and branded all public services as obnoxious money-guzzlers and their staff inefficient, nay lazy no-gooders in dire need of a severe dose of ‘market discipline’, France, and not France only, by the way, is now facing the prospect of a complete collapse of its once brilliant health infrastructure, which no amount of money thrown at it will help restore in the short run.

This brings us to the ultimate controversy raging around the crisis, boiling down to the famous jingle ‘it’s the economy stupid!’. But in fact, it looks like as if it's no longer an issue of whether to prioritize the economy of the health of the citizen - the ‘herd immunity’ theory being a prime example - but something that has been resumed by a commentator to describe the hidden – or not so hidden – state of mind of many a today’s political of corporate decision maker: “why keep the people alive (sc. at great costs to ourselves) if the economy’s going to tank anyway”.

I sometimes wonder if these thoughts, or even an awareness of these discussions, is torturing the brains of my neighbours, and of the denizens of the even grander condominiums further down the street. I kinda assume not much. They probably feel they are shielded anyway. They might be wrong, very wrong. At the newsstand this morning: ‘how many infected people in Monaco?’ ‘what do you want to hear, the official number or the off-the-record one?’

And what about the reigning, and infected Prince? Nothing to worry about, he is not in hospital, he sees his GP everyday, his health is being monitored by the main hospital. Or so was 'communicated' 8 hrs ago. And we should all heed the precautionary measures. You too.

Cheers to you all!

Stay Home Stay Safe! Kia Haka!

(to be continued)


(*) a quick, useful round-up: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2020/mar/25/can-chloroquine-really-help-treat-coronavirus-patients

(**) site of Hospital Mediterranee: https://www.mediterranee-infection.com/ Portrait of Dr Didier Raoult (in French) (No French? -->> https://deepl.com): https://www.franceinter.fr/didier-raoult-chercheur-disruptif prof Raoult explains it all (all?) himself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJl2nPHAo2g

Part VII: The onset of Lethargy

Tue, 31 Mar 2020

“In a few minutes the ships in the harbour will sound their horn again for the traditional hail to the health workers and other providers of essential services” - That is what I planned to write as a start 45 minutes ago (it is now 20:31).

It did not happen:

(i) I only start now (20:31 ;-) – I was held up by the ‘help yourself’ bookcases in the railway station on my return from the port supermarket – where I also spend far too much time (but I learned I could purchase Amrut 46, India’s world famous, ueber hyped Himalayan waters-based malt whisky for a really reasonable E 46,90 – that’s what you call market intelligence, and hey, we’re in Monaco!) (o*)

(ii) The ships’ horns, for some reason unbeknownst to me, did not sound! Ships in the local harbour, means private yachts by the way: small, medium, big, and even bigger yachts – 2 of them as large as a standard Istanbul ferry even (*). At 8pm sharp I looked from the vista on the Sainte Devote bridge, but nothing happened, even though a few people were on their balconies clapping and banging pots & pans (they must have been Brazilians ;-) There was even someone playing ‘Bella Ciao’ full blast – not a tune you’d intuitively associate with this ... principality.

For the rest, well, truth is is that not much is happening, and that is also the reason why I am not writing every day, as I thought I would - the principal reason is that workalcoholism has never been very much a feature of my life, ‘oeuf corse’ ... Monaco (& Monte-Carlo, where, technically, I live now) appears to be quieter and quieter, but I cannot really judge since I have considerably reduced going out. Especially later in the day - and there is a curfew from 10pm onwards. Only thing I notice: the city buses are still running - empty.

As a good denizen I shop only every 2nd or 3rd day, it is only the newsstand to which I venture every morning for my daily ration of French news in Le Monde (Tue,Fri,Sun) or Liberation (the other 4 days of the week). World news I get from The Guardian online (I am member!), and the Italian one from RaiNews and Il Manifesto, which has lowered its paywall for the duration. Now that all public gardens have been fenced of, this daily outing to the newsstand has the added advantage to provide for a little tour along the luxuriant vegetation that surrounds all the luxurious flats around the rather bare one I am staying in.

The result of all this is that my life has moved away from the life outside to the life ... inside, which means to keeping myself and the place clean, cooking - you won’t believe what kind of gourmet dishes you can make on just one electric plate! And reading, reading, reading, off-line and online. The ‘help yourself’ shelves in the station and some other places are a treasure trove, especially since Monaco’s abundant expat demographic means that there is a lot of English language books to be get - and not of the cheapest variety. I just ‘scored’ Shantaram (**) - for my sister, since I’ve read it already - and a few other classics - Levi-Strauss’ Tristes Tropiques anyone? - but also one issue of my favorite Venezia-situated Commsissario Giuseppe Brunelli whodunits by Dona Leon (though in this particular find, ‘A Question of Belief ‘, I couldn’t make out the ‘who’ ...)

But most of the time, I am, like likely everyone else, largely, and maybe too much, absorbed by the pandemic crisis, its development, background, and maybe foremost, consequences. What will be the aftermath of what is undoubtedly the most ‘disrupting’ event since World War II? No one knows, and the predictions/hypotheses/speculations range from the (very) optimistic to the darkest possible. There are not a few who envisage a full-fledged collapse, and if it comes to that I am not overly optimistic. My reference point in any discourse about the ‘rebound’ after the catastrophe has always been the 1984 BBC documentary ‘Threads’ (***), where after a 12 years long and painful attempt at, at least, partial recovery, society finally falls apart for good for lack of resources, mental, physical, and material.

But for the time being, we are in this for the long run. A few weeks more of ‘confinement’ where it applies, months, and maybe years of after-shocks if thinks go sourer than we can manage - or want to ‘pay’ for.

But to make this dire forecast go with a little bit of comic relief, have a look at this cartoon in the Belgian ‘De Standaard’ :

https://www.standaard.be/cnt/dmf20200301_04870802 (****)

Kia Kaha!

(to be continued)


(o*) https://www.amrutdistilleries.com/ Googling for sales outlet, turns out that Monaco's Casino pricing is highly competitive! (in Europe, but it still represents a rather hefty Rs/₹ 3894,60 (> Oanda.com) or 2 weeks wages of a Kolkata riksha puller ...) Wanna see them _all_? https://www.whisky.fr/marque/amrut.html

(*) Sorry, couldn’t resist: https://www.flickr.com/photos/galpay/6906838392/in/photostream/ Nice article on Istanbul (night) ferries, btw: https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2020/mar/02/istanbul-ferries-now-24-hour-cross-turkey-bosphorus-night

(**) by Gregory David Roberts, one of the best books ever on Bombay/Mumbai, besides Sukutu Mehta’s ‘Maximum City’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shantaram_(novel) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maximum_City

(***)The Guardian article (2018), with trailer: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/jun/08/threads-terrified-a-generation-now-nuclear-war-is-being-restaged-in-sheffield

Entire documentary on Dailymotion: https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x121ctu

(****) “The End of the World is nigh” “The End is way not within sight”

Part VIII: ‘Adventure still exists!’

Mon, 2 Apr 2020

This used to be the favorite saying of an old friend of mine - meant to describe odd turns in unremarkable events in just as unremarkable settings.

OK, my ‘settings’ are not entirely unremarkable, and lo and behold, the ships, sorry yachts, have just sounded their horns in the harbour - as they did yesterday. Why they didn’t the day before will remain a mystery, which I have no intention whatsoever to solve.

I was in the harbour not long ago, and that was in a certain sense, the adventure. The harbour is Fontvieille’s, the former football stadium and industrial area, now entirely ‘re-modelled’ and vastly extended into the sea, housing the rich (with sea view) and the less rich, but sons of the soil (without sea view), as I told before. It is also Monaco’s second yacht harbour, shared with the adjoining French municipality of Cap d’Ail, which must have made a (very) good real estate deal with the Principality since their part of the marina merges seamlessly with the Monaco one (and caters for the same clientele). It also where the 'heliport' is, but that was eerily silent, and I didn't go, not even for a cheap hot cocoa drink.

But I was in Fontvieille for the ‘Centre Commercial’ which houses also a large Carrefour supermarket, size just short of a ‘hypermarket’. But it was closed already! I had set off home on foot just after 18:00 and was there 20-25 minutes later, only to find a sign telling ‘new opening times, Sundays closed (Duh!), weekdays till ... 7pm'. Yeah, but it’s only 6.30! ‘Yes, but we close at 18:15 to ensure an proper completion of the trades inside and orderly leaving of the customers’. Quite a few disappointed people were milling around in the obstacle course formed by a maze of red & white police lines-style ribbons, some with caddies (where will these go?).

I made my way back to the Place d’Armes, politely greeted the policeman on duty for the ‘hey, I’m normal, I live here’ impression - and he greeted politely, even friendly, back. Then I found the former SPAR under the arcades transformed into a ‘U’ outlet - even more outrageously priced than the bigger version. Still I got hold of a bottle of Italian bio red (E 7,23) and surprise, a half liter can of IPA for just E2 - Monaco is not always Oslo! Cheers to that!

And having nothing beter to do, I walked back home along the harbour promenade and through the Sainte Devote crevice - or what is left of it after a concrete orgy of bridges, overpasses, elevator shafts and what have you (Monaco doesn’t only fill up the sea, it digs and tunnels itself to no end also, probably so as to be able to do the first thing). The Sainte Devote Church, Monaco’s modest but most emblematic place of worship was closed too - sign of the times, and of the principality’s adherence to the rules eddicted in Paris.

There is one, crucial difference, though. You (still) do not need a fastidious form, signed, dated, and timed, to move around. Carrying a shopping bag is enough proof of your bona fides apparently, as is walking the dog (or several, if you are in service of the rich) . And yes the people, slaloming on the walkways so as to perform the mandatory ‘barrier gestures’, do greet each other - or at least greet back when you do (but overdressed, beautiful women won’t - unless walking the dog).

In the end I ... ended walking quite a lot today, and that was in fact the adventure. In times of confinement you can’t ask for much, and I did in fact, sure that I threaded where I never had been before, which made me pass along, again, a surprising amount of well manicured, yet quite spectacular, and mind-soothing greenery. Maybe that is the upside of the obscenely rich place that is Monaco: at least it has also an obscenely rich public (or semi-public) domain. And oh yes, the public buses are still running ... empty.

My next headache: how & where will I be able to wash my unique (in all sense of the term) set of sheets? (No, you can’t do that by hand, & even so, you can’t get ‘m dry). This will clearly be our next adventure ...

(to be continued)


Haha, 'fopped'! - no notes this time - this is a very bland installment

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