Lockdown Spain

A sluggish feeling, tingling inner ear, scratchy uncomfortable throat, a spoonful of honey taken in the vain hope it would magically work overnight. I had returned from a short pre-Christmas break in the UK with more than great memories! I got home feeling run-down with the start of a nasty wheezy cough, that in the end lingered for SIX WEEKS. I knew I would catch something, its inevitable really during the cold and flu season and literally having to dodge coughs and sneezes at the airports, but this cough hit me hard. I haven't used an inhaler for years, but wished that I had one during coughing fits. The moment my daughter got back from dropping me off at the airport she took herself off to bed with flu like symptoms, she was hit hard too. I wonder, like many others are wondering, did we experience some of the Covid-19 symptoms in the early days? 

As 2020 got into full swing we started to read social media reports and hear stories about a disease spreading through China. To be honest with you, I didn't take much notice, It was in a faraway land which had no significance in my life. I know that sounds uncaring but I have learnt a long time ago not to get emotionally invested in every bad thing happening in the world, otherwise I would be feeding the negative monster within me and he would come and wreaking havoc with my emotional wellbeing.

Do we have enough toilet rolls?

Roll forward to Friday 12th March and we excitedly collected one of our daughters and her boyfriend from the airport. All was good in the Bartlett world. Our daughter was only staying for a long weekend and we looked forward to having some fun in the Spanish sun. In the back of my mind I was a little concerned because during the previous week any discussions in our local and with friends had been overshadowed by rumours of toilet roll shortages and Madrid being hit by Covid-19. My head swam with the statistics everyone was brandishing. Everyone had their opinions and were keen to share them. Obviously with visitors expected I'd already completed a large food shop (panic buying had just started here and I was paranoid I would look like a panic buyer. I actually needed the toilet roll and milk!!) I did purchase some extra water and essentials the day they arrived, as the worry increased over night. I had a 'heated discussion' with Mr B who thought I was overreacting to the local gossip and media news, his views back then conflicted greatly with what I was learning from different media channels. I knew I was being sensible and mindful and went with my instincts. After all, we had visitors and I needed to make sure there was provisions for 2 weeks, enough for 4 people... 'just in case'. In the back of my mind I was preparing for the worse (that's the Capricorn in me), I didn't want to believe that anything would happen here.... how wrong could I be!

We talked about the possible implications as we visited Mojacar the next day, and it was there that we overheard a discussion with a shop keeper who informed his customer that local shops like his were instructed to close the very next day. WTF! Things were sounding serious all of a sudden, things were moving way too fast. My mind went into overdrive. Had I purchased enough food? How long will our provisions last? Would supermarkets open? Will airports close, if so how would our daughter get home? On the way home, at my insistence, we stopped to get more bits from the shops, we didnt panic buy as such, but ensured that we would have plenty of what we needed for the next couple of weeks. Doing so, we finally managed to get alcohol for home-made hand sanitiser and of course more alcohol for our Bartlett Casa Bar. We weren't the only ones. Everyone looked slightly worried and were trying hard to look like they were doing a normal shop. Nervous banter was swapped.

Later that day it was confirmed that there were cases in 50 provinces in Spain. And it was officially announced that a lockdown was immiment.

I tried not to, but "I told you so!" passed my lips.

Worrying times ahead

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced more about a national lockdown and state of alarm imposed on Spain. From that very weekend we were forced into a very strict lockdown. Everyone was confined to their home and no one was permitted to leave unless they:
  • were an essential worker
  • needed to visit the supermarket to get essential food shopping
  • they needed medication from the pharmacy 
  • had a dog and needed to take their dog out for the call of nature. 
I thought "OK, we can do this. Even if the 'kids' couldn't get back to the UK, we have enough food and drink to see us out for two weeks" Little did I know at that time, that lockdown would be extended, and more than once!

Days later it was announced that from March 16th the airports were closing, with only the Spanish being authorised entry. That was the day before our daughter was due to return home to the UK. We sat for hours, all four mobiles failing to get a response from the airline. We voted that a quick dash to the airport was deemed necessary to try and get answers, or even the possibility of an early flight. Bags were hurriedly packed whilst Mr B sorted the car, and I paced the kitchen in-between making sandwiches and putting together a packed lunch in case they had a long wait at the airport (there's that Capricorn again). They all returned a few hours later, their trip was unfruitful, the airport was empty. This was a worrying time as a family but due to the lack of sleep experienced, our daughter was thankfully awake in the early hours to see that their flight was cancelled. She immediately booked on to the very same flight (which was now a repatriation flight) before everyone woke and booked out all the remaining available seats.

Only my husband was permitted to drive them to the airport. I waved them off. I was sad that their visit wasn't fun filled but full of unknowns and fear. I was sad that they were potentially putting themselves at risk going to the airport. I was sad because we had started to suspect that this wasn't going to be over in 2 weeks. Like China before us, I suspected it would be months before any form of normality was in place. I was sad that we wouldn't see any of our four girls for a very long time.

I got cracking on yet another deep clean of our home, and had the hand sanitiser at the ready for when Mr B got back. It was more so I had something to do to take my mind off everything. I think I have driven Mr B nuts with my constant nagging to wash his hands during lockdown. But I was determined to keep us safe and more importantly not to spread anything to others. 

Our usual way of life changed almost overnight.

Life as you know it has been cancelled

It was eerie. No more long walks or leisurely visits to the pub or fun visits to friends and neighbours to use their pool and drink their wine. Events, and important national holiday parades were being cancelled left right and centre. It was like something out of a film. Bad timing but Netflix seemed to be showing an awful lot of pandemic and end-of-the-world-genre films. I refused to watch them and instead dived head-first into feel good films to help lift my mood. 

My mood generally stayed up beat but I had moments where anxiety would take over, no matter how hard I tried not to let it. I read report after report, I was on social media constantly learning of the latest local news and advice (A god-send and a curse in equal measure) Upon reading that 240,000+ police officers and 2,500+ military were being deployed across Spain I got scared, no matter how reassuring it was to know they were deployed to help protect us, from others and ourselves, their increased presence made me very nervous. I like rules, it lets me know what's expected of me, I may not like them all, I may not always agree with them, but I have a healthy respect for authority and laws. I understand that others do not share the same opinion as me, so it wasn't much of a shock to see how many people were being fined and even arrested for violations. I was however surprised by the €600 to €30,000 fines!

Roadblocks were set up and I was getting nervous even thinking about popping to the supermarket. Mr B isn't so unnerved by stern looking men in uniform with guns, so he volunteered to go to the nearest town whenever the shopping list was long enough to warrant it or if we needed gas bottles replaced. I stuck to the local village shop in between (I didn't expect to see a pig/wild hog walking through the village during one shopping trip!). I plucked up the courage to do one big shop in the town after the lockdown was announced and that was enough, I worried about being stopped, I had heard that receipts were being checked and police we monitoring people in stores. I had a headache when I got back from being so tense. I left home with my homemade mask, my ID and my notes in Spanish of what to say should I be stopped by the authorities. Thankfully there were no roadblocks that day. There were no police at the supermarket. The supermarket was well stocked and the staff as friendly as they usually are. I took gloves with me, but they had someone providing gloves for those who needed them. I have huge respect for anyone working all day with masks on, because wearing mine for half an hour whilst shopping was enough, I was hot, felt claustrophobic and almost passed out.  

You would think that a quick morning dog poop walk would be a calming way to start the day. But I heard and read that drones/buggies were being used in remote areas, which made me even worry about that. I was bombarded with so much conflicting information, you're allowed 50 meters from the house, 100 meters from the house, not at all if you have a garden. One thing I was sure of, was that only one person could leave the house with the dog. One person was allowed in the car at any given time and only one person was allowed in the supermarket / local shop. The constant checking for updates, to make sure I was abiding the forever updated rules in this country, made me agonise and worry so much. I really did need that odd proverbial slap and large glass of 'shut up juice' from Mr B to help me 'calm my tits'

Un-following fake news sources (including the people who shared them) and following trusted local Facebook pages and groups really did start to help weed through the misinformation. I have high praise for the following social media accounts that kept us up to date and translated data and documents in a timely manner without feeding the fear. 

Shortly after moving here I got stopped by the Guardia Civil and told off for walking on the wrong side of the road. I couldn't explain in Spanish that I would normally be walking on the correct side, but the road was flooded and I was being chased by stray dogs! I tried in English and was quite abruptly stopped. With my lack of Spanish and confidence in my ability to explain myself and the raised hand to silence me during that interaction, it has made me a little reluctant to converse with the police. (They must be very frustrated with people like me). During lockdown It's been heartening to see the softer side to the police with videos and articles showing them going into towns/villages that are badly affected with this pandemic and playing music and dancing to help raise moral in that area. We all have to try and keep positive even during the most challenging times and stories like that really help. We have to look past the uncertainty inconvenience and worry and focus more on the good that comes from times like this. 

Lockdown is out of our control, there's nothing we can do, other than control our own thoughts and actions... I had to work more on mine!

What did you do during lockdown?

When the UK started to follow suit and their lockdown began, we saw a constant flow of stories and posts of people enjoying their mini holidays in their back gardens. For the first 6 weeks of #LockdownSpain our gardens were being watered so much that our poor mediterranean plants started to suffer from all the excess watering. There wasn't much sun bathing or outside living going on. I got quite jealous of their sunshine, I wanted it back! Despite lockdown and the awful weather I wasn't tempted to have a PJ day or stay in bed. I know plenty of people who did, they had to do what made them feel good and help them cope with what was being thrown at us. But I knew that If I did that, it would have been a slippery slope for me. I had to be up by 8am the latest and get dressed immediately. That's just me. It helps me to stay in the right mindset for the day. I wrote a list of things I needed to complete around the house each day, and ticked them off like a to-do list at the office.

Before coming to live in Spain and becoming a lady of leisure, I thought I would be writing my book or reading someone else's all day every day. I haven't done either since coming to live here. So, I thought, I know, I will use this time productively and write my book and read. During lockdown I started reading two books - and not finished one of them! I wrote social media posts for my Hectors Instagram and worked a little on this website - but not worked on that book! I think it's the need to feel like I am being useful with my time in more practical productive ways. I sorted out the dog (he got a lot of showers what with all that rain and mud), I had that daily to-do schedule, I started baking and dipped in and out of learning Spanish. Being so remote and not having a takeaway service I had to cook every day, finding quickly that I needed to expand on my vegetarian repertoire. I started a vegetable garden and tended to the rest of the garden. I will proably get round to writing a blog post about growing my own vegetables... one day.

When my head hit the pillow at night I would think of a goal for the next day. Just a small one. Then if I felt like it after reaching that goal, I would set another. I told myself to be kind to myself and that I had to 
  • stay home
  • stay safe
  • stay sane 
  • stay busy
I really looked forward to my short time outside in the morning with Hector. He was as unimpressed by the shortened walks, as I was. I was grateful when the local farmer allowed me to walk across his orchards opposite the house, so that we didn't have to go up and down the same stretch of track outside the gate. Obviously still keeping within the 50 or 100 metres depending on what I read! I realised just how lucky I was during those walks. Anyone without a dog wasn't allowed out of the house (unless shopping or classed as an essential worker). Children who wanted to get out and play on their bikes couldn't. There were people, whole families living in apartments and not even allowed in the communal hallways. No matter how bad a day I felt I was having, I had to remind myself how fortunate I was and I tried to practice gratitude every day.

Toward the end of April children were mercifully permitted to leave their homes for up to an hour to get fresh air and exercise.

Thank god for technology!

I was seriously considering deleting my social media accounts at the beginning of the year. I hated the addictiveness of it, the hours lost in rubbish most of the time. Then lockdown came and it turned into a life line. I was able to keep up to date with all the restrictions and find out very important information through Facebook. I doubt I would get rid of my account now.

Technology also enabled us to keep in contact with loved ones and friends like we have never done before. In the early days we were Skyping and Facetiming daily to check everyone was OK. It alleviated the fear and, in some way, may have helped prepare those in the UK to hear about what we were going through.

I loved being able to watch YouTube tutorials on gardening and learnt a lot. I also enjoyed the Yoga YouTube Channel that my good friend Rose from the UK set up to offer Yoga for free to anyone who wanted to help calm their minds and strengthen their body.

Softly softly

We entered week 8 on May 2nd and I took pooch out as usual. Then I packed a bottle of bubbles and dragged Mr B up the mountain so we could look over our valley and the rooftop of our home, and we celebrated. Households were finally permitted to leave their homes to exercise..and together! With less than 5,000 inhabitants where we live, we weren't restricted to the time of the day that we could go out, but were only allowed within 1km of home, and only be out for an hour.Of course, keeping the 2m away from others rule, which when you are this remote it pretty easy! It was an awesome walk up there, albeit very hot. My Instagram account shows my beaming smile and raised glass as we marked the occasion. Unless you've been forced to be so tightly restricted, you'll never know how awesome that day felt. That day was a f***ing awesome day. Bubbles have never tasted as good as they tasted that day at 9am!

Just over a week later on 11th May the first provinces entered phase 1, with some businesses allowed to open under strict safety guidelines and restricted capacity and on a pre-appointment basis only. One of the village pubs reopened as per the guidelines and it was lovely to see people outside enjoying themselves. I am not brave enough and don't think I will be for a little while yet. This was a landmark day, the first date we were allowed to socialise in over 2 months (only up to 10 people at a time). We met up with our friends who live over the road and it was fantastic to see them. We used their pool, drank wine, and had the best laugh ever. A simply brilliant few hours. It was weird not being able to embrace them when saying hello and goodbye and we were conscious of social distancing for the evening. It certainly was the tonic I needed. You should never underestimate the benefits of spending time with good friends. Time with friends #feedsmysoul

The future

They say it could be 8 weeks before we complete the phases set by the Spanish Government. No one knows how the next two days will go, let alone the next two months. All we can do is hope that everyone stays safe as much as they can by continuing to wash their hands, practice social distancing and not become complacent.

Because I would like to see my girls again soon.

Added 13th May 2020

Previous comments

Kiren Sonsoiy-Williams
"Lovely heartfelt blog Tracy. Felt like I was living the moment with you, I know we only live opposite you and it's been nice when we occasionally waved to each other. It's been a tough, unnerving few months. I can't still bring myself to go out in the car!! Things will return to normal and you will be able to see your lovely family soon. You have been an amazing friend. From day one of lockdown and without you we wouldn't of known what was going on, as you kept us informed with regular updates via text message. Thank you. Kiren xx"
Enya Wilson-Blackwell
"Love this blog post Mum! Missing you and Scott millions. (And you too Hector even though we haven't met yet) x"


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