I wasn’t going to write anything related to the dreaded C word on my website but, as we’re going to be in lockdown until 11th April at the earliest, my plans have been seriously scuppered and life under lockdown is now the reality for everyone living in Spain.
I’d made the decision to leave my job as an HR Manager at the start of March with lots of plans in mind. Little did I know that just a few days later most of those plans would be put on hold for the foreseeable future.
The day after I left work we flew to Krakow for a long weekend. We obviously knew about the virus at this point but made the decision not to cancel our trip. Malaga airport was the quietest I’ve ever seen it, a few passengers were wearing masks, but by and large it was business as usual.
When we returned to Spain the government had already taken action to lock down certain parts of the country including Madrid and, over the next few days, the situation worsened until on the ominous date of Friday 13th March, the Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, declared a national state of alarm.
At this stage there was no indication as to when it would come into effect, although Monday morning at 8am seemed the most likely (if social media was anything to go by) so the following morning we went to our local supermarkets. The news from the UK at this point was of panic buying and stockpiling, particularly toilet roll which was a prized commodity. In Mercadona there were no toilet rolls, and soap and handwash was in short supply as was fresh meat. However, there was still plenty of pantry staples like rice, pasta, beans and pulses. In Lidl there were, again, no toilet rolls nor bottled water (Spanish tap water is awful to drink so luckily we always have a decent supply of bottled water at home). The fruit and veg stocks were rapidly diminishing, the rice and pasta sections were empty and, although some shoppers did have overflowing trollies, there didn’t seem to be any evidence of stockpiling.
Later that evening the PM announced that the entire country would be locked down for a minimum of 15 days in a bid to contain the spread of coronavirus infection with immediate effect.
What does lockdown mean for us?
In a nutshell, we’re only allowed to leave home for essential reasons – anything else and we could be fined or face arrest. The essential reasons include travel to/from work, to the supermarket or pharmacy, and for medical appointments. Public transport is still running, albeit on reduced timetables and all parks and beaches are closed. There’s a strong police presence to ensure that people aren’t simply out and about getting some fresh air as, unlike in other parts of the world which have now also gone into lockdown, here in Spain we don’t have the luxury of getting out for some daily exercise. The only exception is for dog owners – they can take their dog for a walk, but only for it to do its business. Family dog walks are out – it’s one family member at a time and the walks must take place close to home.
Police officers can stop anyone out of their homes to ensure there is a valid reason for them being outside – without a valid reason you’ll be ordered to return home. Anyone not obeying the rules can be fined (fines range from €100 to €30,000 with an average of €600) or face jail.
At the moment we don’t need to fill out a request form to show our reason for being out of the house, as residents of some other European countries do, but this may change as the lockdown continues.
Other than to take out the rubbish and recycling I haven’t been out of the house. As only one person is allowed in the car at any one time and I don’t drive, Mark has been on two weekly supermarket trips now. Cars on the road are being monitored by the police so, as well as taking the usual supply of shopping bags, he’s also been taking his passport and residency card with him so that he can prove who he is and why he was outside if he was to get stopped.
At both supermarkets there are restrictions in place as to how many shoppers can be in store at any one time so although there have been small queues to get in everyone has been taking the social distancing measures seriously and standing the required distance apart. When one person leaves, security guards let the next one in but not before providing hand sanitiser and gloves. We’ve been able to get everything on our shopping lists and there’s plenty of stock on all the shelves.
The PM has now announced an extension of the lockdown until 11th April – that’ll be a total of 28 days in total lockdown and, of course, it may be extended further.
Coping with lockdown
As the coronavirus continues to spread around the world, the lockdown situation is already becoming the norm for many people and everyone will have different coping strategies. Personally, I haven’t found it too difficult. I’m reading, writing, watching TV, spending far too much time on social media, making sure to keep (roughly) to my usual schedule rather than going to bed late and having a lie-in every morning, and I’m still not bored with the view from my window.
I mentioned earlier that I had plans when I left my job at the beginning of March. I was going to focus on my blog, taking lots of day trips around my local area and writing new content, as well as updating all my old blog posts. I was planning longer trips both in Spain and overseas, and I also had some freelance writing work that I was looking forward to getting stuck in to. On top of all that I was planning to use the time to market the book that I published last year. Based on my many years working in HR and recruitment it’s a guide to finding a job that you love and, while sales have ticked over, I figured this would be the perfect opportunity to give it a good push.
Obviously, some of those plans have had to change so I came up with a lockdown to do list.
Improve my Spanish
Podcasts, apps, revisiting my textbooks. You name it, I was going to do it. And I will do it. I just haven’t got around to doing it yet! I feel that this one will be on my to do list long after lockdown is over.
Last year I set a challenge to run every day. By New Year’s Eve I’d reached my goal and clocked up over 1,300 miles. Admittedly I’d slowed down this year but was still racking up over between 15 – 20,000 steps a day and was training for the Sherry half marathon in Jerez (now postponed until September). Since lockdown I’m lucky if I’ve managed 1,000 steps a day mooching round our apartment.
There are no end of at-home workouts I could be doing – YouTube yoga, podcast pilates and apps for aerobics – but I’ll be honest, the most I’ve been doing is going outside to put out the rubbish.
Dog owners can get out briefly so I did consider fashioning one out of the mop, but then I read that the police have been handing out fines to people who had the same idea and went out with toy dogs or even Roomba vacuum cleaners.
Unlock my creative side
I admit I have spent more time in the kitchen but that’s more because my daily consumption of coffee has increased in line with the amount of time I’ve had to spend indoors rather than creating any culinary masterpieces. Other than try to invent new ways with lentils and pasta, I have come up with a two ingredient banana and muesli cookie to avoid wasting over ripe bananas. Just call me Nigella!
We don’t have a garden where we live but we do have a decent-sized balcony so I started sowing some seeds – if the lockdown continues for months, all being well, we’ll be eating a lot of home grown salad stuff over the summer months.
Expand my mind
I read a lot anyway, and always have, but here was the perfect excuse to do more. Visions of sitting on my balcony in the sun, Kindle in hand, were soon scuppered when the weather took a turn for the worse on day three and the sun has kept a low profile most days since.
Maybe instead, a few weeks under lockdown would be the perfect time to catch up on all those TV shows that I never got around to watching first time round. We’ve started with Prison Break. Perhaps this was our subconscious trying to tell us something. I wasn’t sure at first – do I really want to watch 90 episodes of someone trying to break his brother out of prison (I appreciate that there may be more to the story than this) when Bruce Willis could probably manage it in a 2 hour movie? One episode in and I was hooked so yes, yes I do.
Thankfully, although we live in an apartment, having the balcony means that, weather permitting, I can at least sit outside and get some fresh air. While a garden would be good, if only to stretch my legs, I appreciate that a lot of Spanish residents, particularly in the cities, don’t have any outside space so I’m counting my blessings.
What’s been your experience of quarantine or lockdown so far? Have you got any strategies for coping with what’s a surreal situation for everyone?