LIVING IN LOCKDOWN IN SPAIN
Updated: Apr 27
THE DAY THE WORLD WENT BAT-SHIT CRAZY!
What a strange world we’ve found ourselves in. A world that is reminiscent of apocalyptic movies, sci-fi novels and doomsday predictions. Who would’ve thought that this is how the new decade would start? Not me, that’s for sure.
Initially, like everyone else probably, we had been hearing of the Coronavirus that was running riot in China. We weren’t actively ignoring it, it was there, humming away on the news every day but it wasn’t happening to us. It was elsewhere.
We had a week-long holiday at the end of January to Cadiz, Sevilla, Cordoba and Ronda to celebrate Ivan’s birthday. We saw some people covering their mouths with scarfs or masks while they were out sightseeing but most people didn’t seem that bothered and neither were we. In fact, we thought they were being overly dramatic.
You can watch our Youtube video on Cordoba here.
We came home and I immediately started planning a trip to Italy for the Easter holidays. We decided to fly into Naples, visit Pompeii, Sorento and do a whirlwind tour of the Amalfi coast before heading up to Rome for a 3-day city break. It was going to be amazing! I’ve never been to southern Italy before so I was really excited and in full planning mode.
A few days after we had booked our flights and hotels, we had Ivan’s mother on the phone in full panic mode. She was adamant that we should cancel our holiday and that if we went ahead with it we were possibly the worst parents in the world. Again, we considered her to be a tad over the top. After all, at this point, there were only around 5 cases in the country but within a few days, it had grown to over 150 and then it just kept going up. Besides the awfulness of the situation for the people of Italy, the tragic waste of lives and the cancellation of our holiday, I also hate my mother in law being right.
So our flights got cancelled, our hotels returned the deposits which we were very grateful for, and within 2 weeks we found ourselves in lockdown.
For us, lockdown started on the 12th March and not the 14th. We were heading into school and found out en-route that 5 people had tested positive for the virus in our town. We knew this probably meant that the school would close so we just turned on our heels and went home. We decided to start isolating even if the government didn’t make it law.
Ivan went off to the shop to stock up. Not to panic buy, I promise. Although he did buy 6 bags of dried soya mince that he has no excuse for.
Two days later the Spanish government announced a State of Alarm and we were in lockdown.
SO WHAT IS LOCKDOWN IN SPAIN ACTUALLY LIKE?
For the most part, we are not allowed out unless it’s for essential supplies such as food or medicine. We’re lucky, or unlucky depending on how you look at it, in that we have two dogs that need toilet breaks. We’re allowed to take them out twice a day but no further than 50 metres from our residence and for only up to 20 minutes.
In the first two days of the lockdown, Ivan was stopped by the police for being on the seafront walk, which is about 200 metres from where we live. At this point, they were just warning people that they would be fined if they were found to be breaching the lockdown. In Ivan’s defence, there was a lot of confusion in those first few days as to what we could and couldn’t do. The government quickly clarified and since then we’ve stuck to the guidelines. People who do breach the lockdown have been fined, A LOT. The fines range from 600 to 600,000 euros. Yes, you read that right! There have even been several arrests made for severe disobedience of the lockdown.
There are police everywhere, stopping cars, checking people’s shopping and asking for ID. I know of people who have been fined 600€ for not ‘buying enough’ on a shopping trip. I haven’t been out because I don’t want the stress of dealing with it. You have to carry all your documents with you so when asked you can present them to the police. Knowing my luck, I’d probably lose them all along the way.
There have been many people stopped and fined for trying to come to the coast from the rest of Spain, especially from Madrid. It is infuriating. Many of them have second homes on the coast and think nothing about spreading the disease just so they can go on holiday. The excuses people have given for being 5 or more hours away from home have ranged from “I have to feed my chickens” to “I’ve left my mother on the beach”. So far, our town has had just 7 confirmed cases and it’s only thanks to this lockdown and the efforts of the police that it has remained this low.
I know many people feel the police are taking liberties in fining people and think it’s started to feel like a police state. I personally feel that they’ve been amazing. Each evening they tour the town with the fire service, lights flashing and siren wailing and our Chief of Police has been seen dancing in the streets to entertain the clappers on the balconies. This isn’t an isolated episode - there are numerous videos from all across Spain of the police entertaining people on lockdown. It makes me love this country even more. Unfortunately, the government decided to ban this show through the town.
When it comes to shopping, we’ve had almost no problems in buying what we need. The first few days were a nightmare with everyone rushing to get their shopping done but since then it’s calmed down and the shelves are all stocked up. We even managed to buy a birthday cake from the supermarket for Enzo’s birthday at the beginning of April. I didn’t bake one as we couldn’t get the icing for it and the supermarket cakes are really tasty compared to my poor efforts!
HOW ARE WE COPING?
The first two weeks went by fairly quickly and I hardly even noticed that we hadn’t left the house. This was partly because we had moved from our old apartment, which was a lot smaller, to a larger property with a bigger outside space and partly due to having to unpack everything and organise our new space.
Having a larger outside area has had a huge impact on our quality of life during the lockdown. I cannot underestimate this. I’m so pleased we moved when we did as having just a small balcony to use for fresh air would’ve been very limiting. Many of our friends have small balconies but they’ve been allowed up onto the roof of their building for some exercise as long as they don’t make too much noise.
The kids haven’t left the house at all. Not even to play in the small play area in our complex that is directly under our apartment. I’ve had one dog ‘walk’ and Ivan has been responsible for all the dog walks and the food shopping. He is the one that will go crazy not being allowed out at all so having a weekly or sometimes bi-weekly shop plus the dog walks keeps him, at least partially, sane.
As we entered the third week of lockdown, I started to mentally deteriorate. The lockdown had been extended for another 2 weeks and, even though I knew it was going to happen, it still felt like a punch in the gut. I didn’t want to get out of bed. I didn’t want to teach the kids. I didn’t want to play games or read books. Nothing. It lasted for about 2 or 3 days before the guilt of not being there for my children triggered me into action. Part of the reason for my mood swing was that the UK hadn’t yet locked down the country and I started to worry for my family back in the UK. Some people were taking it seriously and then there will always be the minority who spoil it for everyone else.
Another week and a half went by before I started to feel down again. I’d had Enzo’s birthday to organise so I was busy making plans then once his birthday was over, I couldn’t face homeschooling again for 3 days. The kids didn’t care though. They had a blast with Ivan playing games, making videos together and loads of screen time including quite a few movies.
Ivan and I decided that we both needed to do the homeschooling and that it shouldn’t just rest solely on my shoulders. I’m not a teacher for a reason. I have limited patience and I’m just not very good at it. I’d love it if I were, I’ve trained adults before but it’s a whole different ball game with kids. I’d rather be doing crafts and making things together. Ivan’s other work has slowed as has the entire world’s economy so he now has more free time.
We’ve also made sure that the kids get active breaks and we’ve split up their lessons. Now they have maths first, followed by Spanish, then exercise followed by a topic that they are interested in like dinosaurs for Tai or Geology for Enzo. After lunch we do English reading practise and an art, craft or baking class. None of the above actually goes to plan, ever. But we keep trying.
The kids are adjusting to it. They hate being taught at home and just want to play all day. I’m quite lucky that they are quite good at entertaining themselves with games and activities. They do argue, like all kids, but I feel like they argue less now that they are at home than when they went to school. Probably because they’re not forced out of bed each morning so they’re not overtired anymore.
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?
We’re about to go into the 6th week of lockdown. It’s been extended again until the 26th April but we know that it’ll be extended until at least the 9th of May. I’m trying to take each day as it comes rather than focusing on how many days are left. We’ve heard that it’s possible that the children won’t be going back to school until September. The schools close in the third week of June so that means that we’ll be homeschooling for another ten weeks. TEN weeks!!!! During summer break last year we didn’t do very much schooling but if we’re stuck indoors all summer then you can bet I’ll be doing it. As much as I dislike doing it, the kids need it and they need the routine more than anything else. But 10 weeks of proper schoolwork from their teachers is going to kill us all.
I’m hoping we’ll all will emerge from this with a renewed appreciation of the world. For our freedoms and our way of life. We’ve already decided not to travel this summer and to stay in Spain. Italy can wait until next year, hopefully.
I'm also hoping my local community is going to come out of this relatively unscathed but I know that many businesses may never open again. For my part, all I can do is try to stay local and put back into the local economy to support those around me. I’ve already planned that my first activity will be going to our local cafe on the seafront for a lovely coffee and a bowl of ice-cream. I might not be able to talk to anyone as I’ll have forgotten how to interact with people but we’ll all be in the same boat.
Ivan wants to go hiking immediately. His love of the outdoors is being severely curtailed and he can’t wait to tramp across the mountains with the kids and dogs. I might actually just let him go without me because by the end of this I'm going to be craving some space. To be in the house alone, in silence, sounds so decadent - and selfish. He won't understand it at all so I'll probably be forced to go for a hike. Which will no doubt be a good thing for me and for us all, to blow away the cobwebs that will be weighing us down after months inside.