Journal of the Virus Year: Chapter 1

The blog title is offered with apologies to Daniel Defoe, whose novel A Journal of the Plague Year recorded the narrator’s experiences of the great bubonic plague of 1665 in London, with an important sub-theme dealing with God and religion. I will return to Defoe’s novel later.

Every year that I try to follow some kind of Lent discipline, I come to the conclusion, “Well, that was not a very successful Lent, was it?” Usually I arrive at that conclusion on or around Palm Sunday as we begin the Holy Week lead up to the Easter celebration. In Spain this year – at the rate we are travelling – there will be neither Holy Week nor Easter in churches. The Bishop of Orihuela and Alicante – our diocese – has closed the churches and relieved the Catholic faithful of their Sunday obligations.

Well, sorry, but that’s not the kind of customer service I expect for my fifty cents in the collection plate on Sunday, and I wonder what God would have to say about it. I am reduced to abandoning Lent before the third Sunday and saying, “Well, that was not a very successful Lent, was it?” in record time this year. With no Sunday Mass, no Holy Week celebrations, and probably no Easter, there seems little point in Lent. Particularly now that everyone in the country – Catholic, vegan or satanist – is now confined to their homes in an extended retreat, with strict rules about the reasons for going outside. Lent retreats are now a police matter.

GUARDIA CIVIL: Hola, hola, hola: what’s going on here then?

CITIZEN: I am going outside to buy some candles for my Lent devotions.

GUARDIA CIVIL: Under the present state of emergency you can only leave your house to buy comestibles or pharmaceuticals. Candles constitute hardware. The ferreteria is closed.

CITIZEN: I wasn’t intending to buy a ferret. Anyway, I didn’t expect the Spanish Inquisition.

GUARDIA CIVIL: Nobody expects…

Well, you get my drift. It is rather difficult trying to maintain an individual routine of Lent deprivation when the entire citizenship has been collectively deprived of its civil liberties and an increasing portion of it is being deprived of health and life (RIP the people who died in Madrid today, doubling the number of fatalities within 24 hours).

Also, a key element of my planned Lent retreat was a forty-day fast from the daily news. No newspapers, no radio news, no Internet news. Suddenly, for the sake of survival and civic responsibility, everyone needs to follow the news in order to know the rules we must be following in order to comply with a national state of emergency. Yesterday afternoon, news was sinking in that all the bars and restaurants were to close at midnight, and when I went to the village of Finestrat to collect some last-minute cash from the cash machine (putting on latex gloves to touch the keypad, as advised), I noticed that the Spanish bars were either closed or empty. The two British bars were full of the usual suspects, carrying on as if none of this really mattered. It was a theme picked up in today’s local press (Información), with photographs of the British in the pubs of Benidorm, and the damning words: “They either had not heard about it, or they assumed it did not apply to them.”

British pub in Benidorm on Friday 13 March after the announcement of a National Emergency and the closure of all bars and restaurants. (Información de Alicante)

As Daniel Defoe wrote about the 1665 Londoners: ““They did not take the least care or make any scruple of infecting others.”

I was looking at that photo gallery provided by the Alicante press of the British pubs in Benidorm yesterday when I became aware that it had been eerily silent for a few hours. Yes, the skies were empty. No jets had flown over our valley for a long time. The news filtered through gradually. Jets flying into Spain from the UK had been turned around in mid-flight. Spanish air space was now closed.

Thank God for that. If you can’t follow the safety rules here, Brits, then stay in the UK and behave however you like! Maybe you can convince your idiot Prime Minister to keep public events in UK going right through the summer and infect as many as possible to achieve “herd immunity”. But the herd may have to see a great loss of its prime gammon first, in a large smoking burial pit, before they thank their Great Leader for allowing their loved ones to be his burnt offering for the greater good of his immortal place in political history.

There’s a reason for the lock down. And it is very scary. I shall be blogging with the latest news from here as we go through the next few weeks. Please keep me in your prayers, even as I fail in mine. Welcome back to readers and commenting is once again enabled.

The Four Stages

4 thoughts on “Journal of the Virus Year: Chapter 1

  1. Hola Gareth! I am glad that you are OK. It is a shame that your Lent routine has been interrupted, but surely St Claire will forgive you. It is important to receive information from authorities at times like this, even if (like some of those silly Brits) you proceed to ignore it! Here in UK, I think Mr Johnson has realised that he is behind the curve. Citizens have been cancelling events regardless of his carelessness and I have heard that he will be running to catch up with us! Stay well.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello and welcome to lockdown! We are 5 days in and still quite enjoying it really. No one can try to make us feel guilty or antisocial for being…..antisocial! And the jobs that get done when there are no interruptions! And of course, more time spent with donkeys! I just hope all those in town are coping as well with it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Liz and Martine! It is a very strange feeling being in state-imposed lockdown having already spent nearly two weeks in a self-imposed Lenten retreat, because I have got used to a perfectly peaceful isolation, then suddenly I now find myself living exactly the same routine but with an increasing anxiety because it is imposed from from without! Does that sound weird?

    I did wonder how things were going with you in Italy, Martine and David. I tried to stick with my Lent routine since the beginning of last week, but I was getting emails telling me about the Italian situation and UK news, so in the end it was a relief to just turn on the news and spend a day catching up with the newspapers, to be properly informed.

    For other readers of the blog, Martine and David are in the Marche in Italy (I think that was where the Franciscan Capuchin reform took place, but I’ll need to check on that!) and Martine’s blog has some lovely donkey photos, far more professional than mine!

    Take care everyone. I’ll be blogging regularly again now. Rubí will be back with her blog on Tuesday and I think she will have something to say about Chinese traditional medicine (and donkeys).


  4. Good morning (here in Hungary at least) Gareth! Good to hear that you are able to keep your Keyboard Warrior spirits going! Stay safe and give the Donks a pat and extra carrot from me! I’m isolating myself in my Wine Cellar with some 13% alcohol and sniffing up the Angels share!


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