I am finally back at the editor’s laptop after a planned three-week break that turned to into four weeks thanks to finally running out of luck in dodging COVID-19.
On the eve of our flight back to the U.S. after an invigorating adventure throughout the U.K., Ireland and France, my wife, Connie, and I had to quarantine after I tested positive for the virus. Thankfully, I had relatively mild symptoms, and Connie didn’t get it. Other than the pinch of many extra costs, it was pas mal to be holed up in a Paris hotel with a beautiful view and great food delivered to my room.
So, how are folks doing across the pond these post-Brexit, “post”-pandemic, post-Le Pen (for now) days? Seen through the eyes of this Nor-Cal yokel as we drove two rental cars more than 2,000 miles, touring modern cities, medieval cities, truly ancient ruins, and tiny villages dotting the rugged coastlines and endless farmlands and ranchlands, the broad sampling of people encountered (in the U.K. and Ireland at least) seemed an awful lot like us. The masks are gone, the pubs are all open, and “help wanted” signs are everywhere. Gas prices are high, too (nearly double what we are now paying in the U.S.), and that along with soaring inflation rates (more than 9 percent in both countries) is doing a number on their cost of living. Despite this, the people on the Isles we interacted with were in very good spirits. I found barkeeps, musicians, innkeepers and cool kids at rock shows were relieved and energized to have their communities (and tourists, for the most part) back and things returning to “normal.”
France was a little different. The joie de vivre to be found in the slow days and rich foods of Alpine villages was wonderful and felt far removed from the real world. In stark contrast, in Paris, there was a thrilling energy mixed with signs of anxiety and fatigue among many locals, thanks to the full return of crushing humanity. It was palpable as soon as we set foot in the city.
All of it (except COVID) was good to us. Being on vacation, we were removed from reality on purpose, eschewing work, newspapers and social media as we tried for a few weeks to live moment by moment. (One that I’ll remember: During a post-sunny-picnic bayside stroll, Connie pulled up the song “Galway Girl” on her phone, and as Steve Earle sang, “Takin’ a whirl ’round the Salthill prom with a Galway girl,” we realized were at that very moment walking along the Salthill promenade in Galway. Pretty cool.)
I’m very grateful to my bosses and co-workers (especially Contributing Editor Evan Tuchinsky, who made sure the CN&R didn’t miss a beat) for making my first big break since pre-pandemic possible. I’m also very happy to be back in Chico, re-energized to get back to the work of telling Chico’s story.
Jason Cassidy is editor of the Chico News & Review