Victoria Jelinek


Covid-19 March 17, 2020

President Macron addresses the nation for the second time in a week

To my family,

TelecommuteWe allowed S to watch the address too. This virus is a huge thing…the first of its kind in a century (Spanish Flu 1918), and President Macron notes this (like the Humanities and Classics man he is).

It was a beautiful and sad speech. He candidly says that it is the beginning of the “onslaught” of this virus, that it will accelerate in the coming weeks and months, with a “second wave” that will effect younger people.

He calls on us to prepare for this. He calls for solidarity. He calls for “brotherhood” (the whole “liberté, egalite, fraternité” reference to the French Revolution that is noted on the side of every mayor’s office in every village and city throughout France)

He says that we must trust the experts who are guiding the decision for a lockdown – scientists and healthcare professionals who are on the front line of this crisis.

However, he notes, despite this context and the seriousness of the threat, the protocol to help first responders (healthcare professionals, police) by slowing down the spread of this disease enacted last Thursday, the public has not respected the guidelines. So, 100k army and extra police will be deployed across the country to enforce the ban on our movement as of tomorrow at midday. From then, we must have a written explanation downloaded from the government’s site (or handwritten for those without printers) explaining why we are out. We are only allowed to get food, medicine…to exercise, walk our dog, but not to meet with friends and extended family, “in the streets” or in our homes, or we will be fined 38e and “there will be repercussions.” I’m not clear what the repercussions would be. Perhaps it’s the 38e? (it was in French after all).

Borders across Europe/the Schengen Area have now collectively been closed to all foreign nationals for 30 days as of midday tomorrow also, with extension after that if needed. There seems to be some lenience with UK citizens, though I’m not sure exactly how this works given that they are now out of the EU, but it’s, perhaps, because it’s a recent ‘divorce’ that there is this allowance? I’m not clear on this to be honest…

President Macron referred to what French citizens must now face as “life in slow-motion,” but he called on us to spend this time “reading, reflecting on what is essential,” and said the nation would “prevail” in this “war.”

(I hope Netflix and our internet doesn’t somehow go down. That would TRULY leave me desperate).

There are many measures to help businesses and the economically vulnerable, and there is (subsidized by the government as usual) childcare for those who are first responders and necessary governmental workers.

He called for solidarity and courage.

He closed his address with the classical, “Vive la France. Vive la République.”

Which S kept saying afterwards to himself as he was brushing his teeth and getting ready for bed. After he went to bed, I heard him ask his father, who was was sitting with him, “Daddy, what will happen if you or mommy get the virus?” To which M said, “We’ll be fine honey…we’re strong.” He then asked why we have to stay indoors and not see friends if we’re not sick. To which M said, “To protect others, honey…to protect those that aren’t so strong…to make sure that we help the nurses and doctors who are dealing with this each day by not spreading the disease further…”  It was quiet after that. He was probably asleep after that long winded response (as you might be now with my long missive – I type quickly. Perhaps, M, you can use it for your morning ‘private time’ reading?).

Gods hope all of us we will be protected and fine. Particularly as we can’t get to one another easily if there is a personal crisis.

We have been and will continue to, respect the guidelines. But, I have been appalled by the numbers who have not (the weather has been extraordinary, but it’s rather surreal to see so many over the last three days not taking this seriously despite national directives). I’ve also been perplexed and hurt by friends who have castigated me for self isolating: “I wouldn’t have thought YOU would be like this!” and “It’s a bit mad, don’t you think, to just stay at home when the weather is so gorgeous?!” and, “Drop by for a coffee – don’t be like that.” And, “I feel as though you’re judging me for continuing to live my life!” And, “It’s hysterical behavior if you ask me.” And, “It’s no worse than a really bad flu for most of us, stop being such a worry wart,” sorts-of-things. (The fact that I am a worry wart isn’t the point).

I suppose crisis brings out a variety of responses in people. I, too, didn’t take it seriously till last Thursday and had been mystified, incredulous, and somewhat disdainful when a couple of my friends were ‘banging the drum’ that it was time to lockdown everywhere asap. Then it hit me. I read something the other day about coming to terms with this virus socially is akin to the six stages of grief, so, perhaps, we are at different stages in this, just like the outbreak is in different stages of development in different countries?

I know for us, like many, we are worried about the future for our son. As M once said, “Having a child is like having your heart outside your body.” I love that. It’s so true. And mine beats heavily now…

And, like many, we are worried about money. Unlike the huge amount of money that is being put out there in France to alleviate the stress on businesses (the French government is paying salaries for workers while businesses are closed, rents and mortgages for those that are “poor” are being paid by the government, taxis, hotels, childcare for first responders, subsidies to hospitals and army tents to be set up in the hardest hit areas in order to support hospitals, all courtesy of our government). We freelancers, however, receive little or nothing. And, we won’t receive regular assistance because we have a bunch of money in our bank account from the sale of our previous house that will be used to build our new house. But, it doesn’t look as though our new house will be built this summer because if things remain, the wood/build will not get here and the workers can’t build it/be on site, and then we’ll be stuck paying our exorbitant rent! But, we’ll see how this all goes.

Things are changing daily.

There are so many in worse positions of course. I was told by a friend who had lived in Nigeria for 15 years, that most people in Africa live with this type of fear and uncertainty all of the time. You ‘just’ learn to cope.

Though, thankfully, in France, our poorest are given help with food, housing, and health, so there are not these types of desperate situations for the most part. Isolation is an issue.

And, of course, we could be ill. The impotence and fear of S’s recent illness is still fresh in our minds (the 40+ fever for five days in which he couldn’t eat and it would not go down! I’m so glad I insisted his blood was tested or I’d have thought it was Covid-19!).

And President Macron suggests that instead of visiting our elderly family members and neighbors, we offer to support these people in our communities by offering to get groceries and do errands for them (he actually said this! Makes me chuckle how he considers everything), and, of course, we would have “justification” for doing this (but we must fill in the form for transit! Goodness knows the French LOVE their paperwork).

Trying, terrible times. My dear friend E (S’s “nou nou” from three months old to three-years-old) who is now a neighbour, and who is normally a stoic, humorous, Welsh woman who regularly chides me to “take off my ‘big girl’s blouse’ and just get on with things,” texted me after the televised address and said she was despondent, that “The future seems bleak.” Rather alarmed, but figuring immediately that it made sense that it’d take something of this magnitude to shake her up, I suggested she bundle up warmly – it gets cold at night here – come over in ten minutes and meets me on the back porch – that I’d make us both very large whisky sours (washing my hands first of course) and, adhering to the security restrictions, we’d sit outside in lawn chairs two meters apart and talk. It was poignant as we sat on our respective sides of the porch quietly talking. The sky was bright with stars. There was a rock slide on the mountain that was SO loud it sounded as though Thor was smashing rocks together. We heard the sound of an owl and foxes (perhaps the owl was caught by the fox?). J chased a big deer away (which I soundly – though softly – scolded her for).

Oh my. What a world we live in.

So, it seems we have no choice but to spend this time at home, “reading and reflecting on what is essential,” as le president advises.

Though tomorrow I start teaching online classes. I’m advised that it’s “very important” that we “model peace and serenity” for the students.

Sleep is best for that.

Bon courage a tout.

Please keep in touch virtually. How lucky we are to have email and cell phones! (They wouldn’t have had those things during the last pandemic!).

Keep safe. 

Love, Tori

Photo is courtesy of the link below (via friend) on Reddit and someone with the handle u/krinosh:



XIV: Maudlin

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

Maya Angelou

cat-ready-to-pounce-thinkstockphotos-511776453A city girl who lives in a village.

A muted erudite.

A smoker who can’t smoke.

A drinker who can’t drink.

A carnal creature sans sex.

Vivacity rendered torpid.

A bird in a cage of its own making.



Entreaty to Herbivores WITH ADDENDUM
June 15, 2016, 6:32 am
Filed under: From the Soap Box | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Addendum to the piece, below

“Only I can change my life, no one can do it for me.” Carol Burnett

I actually began doing research on the environmental effects of eating meat shortly after writing this piece, and in September of 2016 I reduced my eat consumption by 90%. In essence, while I still am hurt and irritated by the people who were combatively proselytizing (& just being plain mean), I have since evolved and changed my ways…

That said, I will keep this post up as evidence of my previous ignorance and petulance on the subject…

To my recently converted vegan eating friends,

plaice_16x9Congratulations on your vegan diet! I’m glad that you’ve found something that you want to do to help the environment and your general health. I’m pleased that you’re contributing to the overall welfare of the collective. Really I am.

But even though I’m super happy for you, I get upset when you talk about your vegan diet and put down meat eaters as barbaric dimwits. I’m a meat eater. But you know that – we’ve had Sunday Roasts together. While it’s arguable that I’m a dimwit, I don’t believe I’m barbaric and cruel. And what about the golden rule? You’re treating animals better than I may, but you’re putting me down in the process of justifying your diet. I might evolve from my place lower than you on the evolutionary chain, but your lectures and accusatory tone may prompt me to crawl right back into the water, leaving my shell on the shore.

Last week alone I suffered three separate people in Chamonix Valley who have recently made this lifestyle change, proselytizing to me about veganism. Each of them explicitly and implicitly told me that if I continue to eat meat I don’t care two shits for the environment, about other living creatures, or my own body. I didn’t engage in argument. I mean, I don’t really care about my own body, and I should given that I’m aging and that’s a horrendous process…I tried to let it ‘roll off of my back’ and not to let my eyes glaze over, attributing their antagonism to early zeal, but the third novitiate made me angry (and hurt, if I’m to be honest): I ran into this friend in the parking lot of the primary school and excitedly mentioned that my husband and I are replacing our very old car with a hybrid. He told me in a flat, contentious voice, “You should become a Vegan if you really want to help the environment.” While I stumbled a bit with a reply, muttering “Oh, gee…um…” he immediately suggested, “You could stop commuting to Geneva for work.” As I scratched my head to figure out a polite way to stop this conversation, he rapid-fire-suggested, “You could stop visiting your family and wasting jet fuel.” I spluttered a “Oh. My. Well now…” Without hesitation, he went on to tell me that the “best” thing I could do (in addition to the aforementioned) was to keep the old car on the road and not cause the industry and subsequent pollution that happens with the creation of a new car. That I wasn’t serious about the environment if I’m unwilling to do the previously stated things. Awkward. I think I said something innocuous and superficial like, “Oh…well…okay. Then I’ll see you around,” and drove off with the belt of my coat stuck in the car door.

These interactions prompt me to write this letter now. I feel that I must justify my existence as a meat eater. And while I risk being a hypocrite ‘cause I’m now exhorting you, the reader, to my cause, and being defensive to boot, I’m also brave for defending my meat-eating ways which may, in the end, just reinforce the idea that I am a selfish, negligent nitwit who would sooner sacrifice kittens than give up something that pleases me.

So here goes:

My name is Victoria. And I’m a meat eater.

I wasn’t a big meat eater to begin with. We weren’t rich when I was a child and so we ate all kinds of awful meats that I wouldn’t touch, such as plaice, beef tongue, liver and pig’s feet. As a young adult in charge of my own dietary acquisitions, I found that I preferred to spend my money on drugs and entertainment. Granted, I did eat the odd slice of pepperoni pizza, but I can most definitely not be called a savage meat eater through most of the late 80’s and all of the 90’s. As a bona fide adult (meaning I pay my taxes, got married – again – am responsible for raising a child, pay my bills on time and don’t piss off my employers) I do eat more meat. But that’s primarily because I’m eating

three squares (or at least two) and it’s hard not to eat meat whilst still having a relatively diverse diet. Also, my son would never eat if he didn’t eat meat. Or at least he’d only eat starch and carbohydrates. (And don’t say that’s ‘cause we’ve allowed him to eat what he wants. That we’ve spoiled him. That we haven’t starved him enough. Short of tying him up with gaffer tape and administrating vegetables and fruits intravenously, we’ve tried everything).

I’m still making excuses for my addiction, I know, but we don’t consume a lot at home. And what we do eat is locally sourced. I know the animals I eat are still hung upside down, scared, and killed and that’s horrific, but I do spend the money and take the time to buy the meat in which the creature was at least allowed to enjoy their lives to that point. And, hopefully, in their nicer environments they were also spoken to softly and humanely as they were slaughtered. But I don’t think it’s fair to say I’m cruel to living creatures because I eat meat. I sign petitions to stop cruelty to animals. I support The World Wildlife Federation and National Geographic with annual cash donations. I pet wet, smelly dogs, including my own. I’ve taken in the neighborhood stray. But there I go justifying my behavior. The fact is, I like it. Especially the salty ones that originate from pig. Please don’t take this the wrong way, but it sucks to feel judged and admonished about my meat eating ways and I don’t like it one bit. Please let me hit my own ‘bottom’ and reach the decision to stop eating it (and the rest) on my own.

This does not mean I’m not concerned about the state of the world. I’m deeply troubled by the world today, to the extent that it makes it hard for me to be happy at all with the myriad of global problems. My predisposition to neurosis is on overdrive these days, what with Trump, Brexit, Turkey, the Middle East, French strikes, mass shootings, environmental calamity, desertification, unfair wealth distribution, terrorism, human trafficking, the body’s resistance to antibiotics, etc. etc. It keeps me up at night. Seriously. Unless I take a pill (but now they’re prescribed, so that’s okay, right?).

With regard to the environment, I may not be a vegan, but I do many small things throughout every day in an effort to help save our planet:

  • We never dry our clothes in a dryer even though I really miss soft towels and jeans.
  • We don’t run water while we’re brushing our teeth, and my husband is a total soap dodger, so that’s water saved, too.
  • We don’t flush after each pee, adhering to the saying, “if it’s yellow, keep it mellow…”
  • We recycle, and flatten all the boxes and bottles.
  • We car share to the school most mornings (and we’ve attempted to involve two additional neighborhood families whose children go to the same place at the same time, to no avail, and despite their lamentations about environmental calamity…).
  • We don’t use harmful detergents and cleaners, even as I really miss the smell of Ariel.
  • As mentioned, our new car is a hybrid, and despite the fact that it’s just weird looking.
  • As mentioned, I didn’t eat much of anything through my childhood and into my adult years.
  • I spent most of my adult life without being the owner of a car, living in cities with true mass transit capabilities. That counts for something (How many of you can say the same?).

Yes, I’m flawed. I eat meat. I like it. I also eat gluten. And I eat dairy. I suffer a cheese belly due to my penchant for the stuff. I love milk in my coffee. I enjoy omelets and quiche (I’m getting hungry). Even as I’m still adapting and shaping my philosophy of the world, it’s not likely that I will convert to veganism anytime soon. I would like to do more to help. To have a big garden in which my husband grows vegetables and fruit, perhaps he’d even keep a few bees, but he’s busy at the moment earning money to put some kind of food on our table.

These recent conversations with these vegan disciples have left me disturbed and suspicious. Each person’s eye had the shine of a zealot. The imparting of their vegan information the air of proselytizing. The sudden popularity and timely coincidence suggests a fad. Growing up on the West Coast of the USA in the 1970’s, I met all kinds of charlatans who were apostles of Buddhism, Lao Tzu, Pluralism, Karma, Chakras, and astrology, with various accompanying diets, revered stones and/or crystals, yoga practices, and exercise regiments. Later, they became dot-commers and venture capitalists that “do” yoga and Pilates as part of their social role and follow folks on Twitter who practice “mindfulness” and positivity. These recent conversations with these vegan followers here remind me of home and those good old days…

But let’s get back to my central point – what’s up with the preaching and shaming? I have many old friends who are deeply devoted vegetarians. And a couple of vegans are among them. They don’t attempt to persuade me to their ideologies or make me feel bad about my own lifestyle choices. Perhaps they’ve lost their enthusiasm and it’s just a way of life. Perhaps they’ve ascertained that I’m a lost cause. Perhaps it’s ‘cause they know that I’m not a conspicuous consumer. That I’m not one of the bad guys.

Before my dad died, I used to frequently call him up after I’d watch the evening news (from any time zone), crying over the state of the world. In addition to the news, I’d be upset with the broadcasting itself, too, and what it implied about the world and its state of affairs also. My dad, a political activist, would always tell me: “Model the life you’d like. Try to live faithfully to your spirit and your values. Believe that the micro will affect the macro. Remember humor. And live and let live with critical insight, but not fast judgment.”



The Baby Diaries – 12

Never go on trips with anyone you do not love. Ernest Hemingway

coach class on an airplaneWhen my boy turned six months old we decided that he was old enough to make the big trip to the west coast of the USA for a visit with my family. Life a good Frenchwoman, I utilised the healthcare services before leaving: I took my boy to the doctor to confirm everything was okay, particularly the ears, I have problems with my ears, too; got a few ‘in case’ prescriptions, then went to the chemist and bought saline solution for the boy’s nose, Doliprane for any pain or fever, cortisone cream for any skin irritations, and his regular creams and soaps. Luckily, my husband went to the US with me. I could not have done this trip alone.

Before boarding the plane in Geneva, we cleared the boy’s nose and gave him Paracetimal to help him relax. When the plane descended, I nursed him to help prevent pain in his ears from altitude pressure changes. It was the long-haul flight out of London that was rough. In the first instance, the airline provides either a cot or a little seat for the baby to have on take off and landing. Our boy was too big for the cot and the seat made him sit up and therefore not get comfortable for sleep. All around us babies and toddlers slept, but not our boy. By the end of ten hours, he was fussy and folks on the airplane kept giving us dirty looks as though we were pinching him. By the 12th hour of flying, I was about ready to pull my hair out.

Shortly after arriving in the US and settling into my family home, the boy came down with a fever. He was listless, hot, and clung to me as a baby monkey clings to its mother. We decided to visit a doctor and were only able to see a paediatrician because my nephew has been going to him for ten years and recommended us to him (really). The doctor told us that our boy had had an ear infection before the flight (?), which had worsened during the flight, now necessitating a ten-day round of antibiotics. We followed his instructions. Ten days later, my boy was not much better and we only had another few days before making the flight back to France. Should we cancel? We booked another appointment with the paediatrician who advised that he be given a strong dose of antibiotics shot into each of his little thighs.

The hardest thing for me was that I had gone to the doctor’s office without my mother and without my husband The doctor told me that, as the next level of antibiotic, an injected antibiotic, would be very strong, it would be best if I stayed at his office under supervision for an hour to make sure that there is not an epileptic fit, seizure, or heart attack (?!). I was terrified. I desperately tried to call my husband at my mother’s to consult him, but he was not picking up. I then tried to get my mother’s attention in the car outside where she sat waiting for us to leave, in order to get some advice and encouragement, but the doors to the clinic were closed and she did not see or hear me. I made the decision alone to do it. The two nurses came into the room while he was laying calmly on his back with his little legs in the air. They put on blue plastic gloves and held up the shots. At this moment, he realised something was wrong. They simultaneously gave him the injections in each of his little thighs and he began screaming. Afterwards, I took him to my breast in order to nurse him and calm him down. It was the very first time he bit me, which hurt and caused me to cry out, but I figured it was fair. I sat worried and alone with my little person that whole hour, wondering whether I’d done the right thing. Worried that his body would reject it. Worried that his ears would not be better for the flight back and he’d be in so much pain or he’d go deaf.

The flight back was gruesome. He did not sleep, and I was in a chair that had a broken armrest and video. But we got back to France. My boy did not go deaf. The infection was cured. The French doctors told me that it was best to have given him the injections, that it was not the Americans’ being overzealous about the administration of antibiotics.

It will be a year before I make that trip again.