It’s just as well that the Spanish prime minister is easy on the eye. Guapo, we say in Spanish. Just as well, as we sit glued to the television watching his almost daily pronouncements. It’s just like those days last year when we couldn’t tear ourselves away from BBC Parliament.
And he is very definitely on a Spanish timetable. The Friday afternoon governmental declaration was due at 2.30. President Sánchez finally emerged at 3.15. The more significant Saturday evening official announcement of the state of emergency was due at 8pm. The Twitter feed of La Moncloa (the equivalent of No 10 Downing Street) was full of sarcastic comments, and questions as to whether the president was on Canary Isles time (an hour later than mainland Spain). In the end, he was an hour and a half late, as the cabinet meeting had gone on for over seven hours.
He spoke clearly, with both compassion and authority. He emphasised that we are all in this together – but here it actually rang true, unlike when that phrase was used by the UK Tory government about austerity. Later on Saturday night it rang even truer, as it emerged on social media that Sánchez’ wife has tested positive for Covid-19. So we really ARE in it together right up to the president’s family, and he emphasised the need to act together and sensibly in order to protect the entire nation.
And he raised his papers, shook them in the air, and told us that the lockdown would start with immediate effect, 10pm on Saturday night. By chance, just as he finished, right across Spain people broke out into applause on their balconies. It wasn’t for him, it was a social-media spread idea to show thanks to all our health and emergency workers. It was a huge success, and the videos were incredibly moving – a visible and audible show of gratitude, and I sincerely hope that it was heard by those to whom it was aimed.
Today, Day One of the Lockdown, it is Sunday so it would be a quiet day anyway. We are allowed out to buy food and go to the bank. These little pleasures, along with taking out the rubbish and the recycling, will no doubt become the highlights of our day. “Social distancing” is the new buzz-phrase. Here in the village the shops (yesterday, before the lockdown) were well-stocked and nobody was panic-buying. This morning I shall go for a VERY short walk to see if one of the mini-supermarkets is open. As much to get some fresh air and stretch my legs as anything else. Sunday is usually a sofa-day. I’m beginning to wonder what a sofa-fortnight will be like.
This morning we had a “socially-distant” gathering of the women in my little callejón (cul-de-sac). One in pyjamas, one in a bathrobe, the rest in trackies or floppies. One up on her balcony, the rest of us on our doorsteps. Five of us, 45 minutes together but apart, though Antonia beckoned me closer while she disappeared indoors to gather up 14 beautiful freshly-laid eggs for me. “They just keep on laying!” she said exasperatedly, carefully passing me the bag of treasure. We finished our gathering with an agreement to do it every morning. Not breaking the lockdown, not really bending the rules, but managing to be a little bit social while maintaining social distance. All in all, it’s not the worst place to be trapped.
Social media is both a blessing and a curse. An absolute pandemic of mis-information! Yet a few gems, small groups springing up offering local help, ensuring that neighbours have all they need. And jokes. Of course there are jokes. A debate is raging on social media about why hairdressers are allowed to remain open, while other retail and service shops are not. The reason is for older and disabled customers who can’t wash their hair, but it has become a major talking-point (internet displacement activity, maybe?). So of course, the idea emerged that bars could rebrand as hairdressers! (la peluquería)!
I have no idea whether the approach adopted in Spain is the right one, or the one in the UK. None of us do. I don’t doubt the medical experts on whom the UK is relying, but nor do I doubt the Spanish ones. All of them are aiming to keep us all healthy, and they have come to different conclusions as to how to do that. We won’t know which is right. Not until it is way too late.
© Tamara Essex 2020 http://www.twocampos.com