187 – Empty Benches in Empty Squares – Lockdown Day Nine


Monday is the first “normal” day of the lockdown.  I go to the surgery for routine blood tests.  Everyone is maintaining social distance.  Doctors and nurses are wearing masks and gloves.  The village is VERY quiet.  I use the opportunity to go to a couple of food shops.  In the first, they have put tape on the floor to keep people queuing at a good metre’s distance from each other, and that works well.  It feels a bit like a board game, when the person at the till leaves the shop we can all move one square forward.  In the bakery, a sign prohibits more than one customer at a time, and there is a tray to put the money on.

We learn to ration our “treats” – in the morning the socially-distant doorstep chat (shout) with the neighbours.  In the afternoon a walk to the shop.  A chance to talk to humans, whether the can of tuna you buy is absolutely essential or not.

A purple button has appeared on our health app.  This app, Salud Responde, allows us to book GP or nurse appointments (usually the same day or the next).  The purple button, marked “Coronavirus” is slightly too vibrant, and throbs ominously.  I haven’t dared press it as it has the air of being poised to squirt disinfectant in my face.

In the squares all the benches are empty.  It looks and feels very strange.





Every night at 8pm, across Spain people take to their balconies and join together to applaud the health workers and the emergency services.  It is incredibly moving.  Videos from the big cities show neighbours leaning over, waving at each other, and clapping.  It is sparser in my village, but as I clap on my top terrace our thin and scattered applause merges above us and floats off to join in the nation’s gratitude.

The Spanish king addresses the nation, as does the Prime Minister.  The general view is that this will go on for a couple of months beyond the initial fortnight.


The shop at the top of my road) has upped its game.  We queue outside until someone leaves.  A squirt of disinfectant on the hands as you enter.  It is no surprise that here nobody is taking advantage of the situation – I bought a 12-pack of loo rolls for 1,40€.

There’s bad news from a dear friend whose brother has the virus.  He’s in hospital in Madrid so she can’t go to see him, and he’s in his 80s.  It brings it home.  It’s not just about funny memes and clapping on balconies.

On the patio it is very quiet.  There is almost no traffic, and the road improvements in the village have had to stop.   The sound of birdsong is everywhere.  It was there before, but we had forgotten to hear it.


Life inside the prison cell has just got a whole lot better.  A bunch of women friends have done battle with technology and we manage a group video call between five of us.  I have an extra-long shouty-chat with Ana-Mari opposite, she on her balcony, me inside my front door but with the glass section open, shouting through the bars.


From next door Isabel waves, but today she doesn’t come out.  She’s at the kitchen table with her sewing machine, making face-masks for the healthcare staff and for local people, she is one of a team of volunteers across the village doing this, and a bigger team across Andalucía.  Not all heroes wear capes.

We discover that the Spanish Prime Minister is going to ask parliament for an extension to the lockdown, to April 12th.  We knew it was coming, but there is still a sinking feeling.

It’s drizzling, which cuts down slightly on terrace-exercise.  On LBC radio this morning they interviewed a Frenchman who has just completed an actual Lockdown Marathon since their confinement began in France.  His terrace is 7-metres long, and he has counted up all those 7-metre chunks and has done 6,028 lengths of his terrace.  In many ways it’s a metaphor for seeing the bigger picture, seeing how small contributions, small steps, add up and contribute to something big and valuable.

Like staying indoors, for the greater good.  #MeQuedoEnCasa


©  Tamara  Essex  2020                                 http://www.twocampos.com





5 thoughts on “187 – Empty Benches in Empty Squares – Lockdown Day Nine

  1. Always great to read your blog Tamara, so keep them coming. My sister and I were rattling around on our terrace last night. We were the only 2 in the vicinity but could hear Viva Espana further down the street and the clapping. We joined in – the plus side being that no-one could hear our very bad singing! Exercising will have to be on the steps leading to our roof terrace! That shouldn’t take long!

  2. Thank you again for your interesting blog Tamara things much the same here in Scotland except almost impossible to get certain goods in the shops and supermarkets due to people stock piling. Very difficult for us oldies who also get pushed aside by younger folk at times. However I am also self isolating now and my dear son who lives nearby does help getting my shopping etc. What a weird time it is I feel the world has gone mad. stay safe and be kind, regards Margaret x

  3. It’s nice to read your blog and feel that we’re not alone, we’re down in Valle Niza and are strictly observing the lockdown. My husband is elderly, 21 years my senior, and I’m being very very careful to limit his exposure to ANYONE!
    Last night at 8pm I heard music and went outside on our decking to hear some very uplifting music coming through a loud speaker, then the Spanish National Anthem started to play, and someone let off a couple of quite colourful fireworks. We think it was being played from the little village of Valle Niza behind us. The fireworks aside (my dogs hate them!!!) the music made the hair on my scalp stand on end and brought tears to me eyes, I felt a great sense of solidarity with my fellow human beings, here in my adoptive country. We can do this, if the health workers can work their bloody hearts out for our benefit then we really can do the stay at home bit, it will keep us safe.
    Stay healthy and well everyone.
    Hugs Sharon xx

  4. Tamara, that photo of the square with the empty benches is actually gorgeous. I understand that it must be sad for you to see it without any people. Once Coronavirus is over, It would be amazing for you take another photo of the square from the same place. Stay safe and keep on writing. Looking forward to your next blog post.

  5. Pingback: 189 – Walking Through Lockdown | A Foot in Two Campos

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