Journal of the Virus Year: Chapter 4

I want to start off the blog with some simple practical points today, so that those who may find the information useful get it straight away. Others with a more leisurely approach, in these times of lock-down might read the less urgent and more general ramblings, or nobody might read them. But no worries: it is a journal and I’m partly writing it for me.

First please watch the video for three pertinent points of practical information: (1) on the domestic IT situation; (2) regulations in the countryside regarding burning; and (3) no passengers allowed in cars.

  1. That gadget – the TP-link repeater – cost me 17.90 euros and is made in Spain. Please support Spanish industry now, wherever you can! 50% of Spaniards now fear losing their jobs, according to El País today. If you live in Spain and are an “expat” (or an immigrant which is the term I prefer) you have a patriotic duty to support Spanish jobs. If you do not see yourself as a patriotic supporter of Spain and you are a permanent resident, you need to ask yourself some serious questions. Nuff said…
  2. No fires in the campo for the duration (“Mientras duré el Estado de Alarma”). The Generalitat de Valencia fire-spotter patrol comes up my road in Realet de Orxeta every day. The patrol was done by Rosa today who explained to me: the usual permissions to burn are being flagged up wrongly by the ayuntamientos, who are simply going by weather reports as usual.
    They have not taken on board the Estado de Alarma. No agricultural burning or waste burning is allowed in the campo and the fines will be enormous if you ignore that instruction! If in any doubt phone 112 and do NOT follow the fire permissions calendar, not even on the official website as Rosa tells me it has not been updated since the lock-down due to staffing problems. No fires, by national order. Simples.
  3. Some British residents have not yet tuned into the regulation about driving when going out for shopping, or going to the other limited destinations allowed. See below Guardia Civil publicity. No passengers allowed, except a child, handicapped person, older person, or “other” justification. (Other justification is not, “Sorry I’m drunk and I forgot.)

That’s all for practical advice now. The rest is just me being pointless and boring as usual. I think it might be useful if I follow the same pattern in future on these blogs… So, there ends the practical and next is the diary and the opinion.

Lock-down in Spain, Day 6

I went out of El Parral to get fresh fruit and vegetables today. It was the first time I have been out for nine days, as I did my shopping three days before the lock down because it was clear that it was on the way and I avoided the panic shopping of last weekend. I had in any case been mostly in self-imposed retreat here since Ash Wednesday during a – now abandoned – Lent routine in which I was going to close down the news and concentrate on the spiritual legacy of Saint Clare of Assisi. Yes great, and how well is that plan going now… ? 🙂

It was a funny feeling, heading out of here into an unknown local world. The main road to the local village had no traffic at all. The little Super Eco in Finestrat was open (note shorter hours 10.00 – 14.00) and I was lucky: there was only one customer inside, and one waiting outside ready to go in. I kept two metres distance while waiting. A third person arrived, a friend of the man in front of me in the queue.

“I’ve been sacked,” he said. “Now all the English have been emptied out of the hotel on the last flights, they have sacked all the staff.”

There were commiserations from the customer in front of me, and he went into the shop. I spoke with the man who had lost his job. I had seen him in the Bar Cantonet once or twice over the years, but never spoken to him before. He was about forty and he looked really devastated. His main worry was the rent for his flat. I explained about the measures introduced for the Estado de Alarma and he could not be evicted. He would even get his rent paid. It was all there in the special financial measures announced this week. He knew nothing about any of it. I took out my Comisiones Obreras union card and found it had no telephone number on it to contact the union, so I explained where the office is, by the Guardia Civil trafico cuartel in Benidorm. “Go and ask in there. They will advise you even if you are not a union member yet.” He was really pleased to have some reassurance. This is the reality in Spain today: 50% of Spaniards feel that they are in danger of losing their jobs because of this.

I bought my groceries and filled up bottles with 18 litres of fresh drinking water at the village tap. I went towards La Vila Joiosa to get petrol (again allowed under the lock-down regulations). When I paid for my petrol I filled up a crate with 12 bottles of beer from their fridge: the assistant offered to carry the crate to the car (obviously observing I am old and decrepit) and I suddenly barked “No!” as he reached for the crate. “Sorry, I’d rather touch it… I mean carry it, myself” I felt guilty at the appearance of distrust.

When I finally arrived home and opened up the car, the sight of the drinking water bottles was more comforting than the beer. That amount of drinking water gives me another three weeks in the house, with no need to go out again. I am on the high risk list for coronavirus. I do not want to take the slightest risk. I owe it to my donkeys to keep safe. The longer I live, the longer they can enjoy their donkey paradise at El Parral.

Why especially at risk? I have had an active life: cycle racing in the RAF, and 5000 metres athletics and cross country in year-round challege competitions against the Army and the Navy in the 1960s and 1970s. long distance 700-mile lightweight cycle trips from Canterbury to Lake Garda – over the Alps in six days 22 hours at the age of fifty-seven. (I’m proud of that personal record, so I have to mention it.) A three-month walk from Worcester via France to Santiago de Compostela in 2008, thirty kilometres a day, every day, carrying 10 kilos of rucsack and a 2 kilogram replica medieval bourdon (a 1.5 metre long ashwood pilgrim staff). Yes I have been active and healthy – with few if any medical issues – for all my adult life.

So why especially at risk from coronavirus? Now in my 69th year I began to feel a tightening of my chest over the past year with occasional worrying wheezes. Any chance encounter with smokers lurking in the doorway of a bar (curse them!) could send me home coughing for the next three days. It is entirely to be expected…

In the 1950s in the great London smog, my parents who were both repertory theatre actors in those days, lived in a dismal little flat in Brixton, south London. They smoked a lot indoors too, as was fashionable in postwar Britain. I began to develop asthma. My chest problems were so severe the doctor warned, if I was not taken out of the London smog, I would not survive another year.

So I spent two years in Westcliff-on-Sea in a guest house run by my grandparents in the fashionable Grosvenor Road. The sea air – or to put it less grandly – estuary air from the muddy brown water of the river Thames, would cure my chest condition. It mostly did.

I remember the horrors of the twice daily balsam treatment: head bowed over a steaming enamel bowl of water into which acrid brown “Friars Balsam” had been mixed, with a towel over my head so I could only inhale the steam. (It was what passed for asthma treatment in those days before inhalers were invented.) And a more pleasurable way to improve my lungs was to take in great gulps of sea air from the top of the cream coloured open-top buses that ran along the seafront in those days.

So, as I gradually became aware of the tightening of my chest in the past year, these long forgotten memories returned, of struggling to keep my breathing going. The fight to get enough oxygen. The terrifying feeling sometimes that I was going to die. The enormous physical struggle to fill my lungs. And all this reawakening of the respiratory memories during the pleasant hot temperatures of the country I now live in, Spain with its all-year-round dry air from the Sahara and fresh unpolluted mountain air in the valley where I am fortunate to spend most of my time. So I felt that the return of the tighter chest and the occasional wheeze would not be too much of a worry. I was in an environment that was best for me.

Then along came the deadly threat of the COVID-19 coronavirus, a killer respiratory disease. I am frightened. I have every good reason to be frightened. It’s like the Gestapo has arrived in town and you’re not only Jewish but a member of the resistance and a stand-up antifascist satirical comedian. The enemy will take one look at you and you can expect to see a few days confined between four pale green institutional walls before they tell you they need the space for another victim and you’ll be dead next day.

Until the coronavirus I had only known Bergamo for one thing: it was the place to cycle down to after those 6-day marathon bike rides from Canterbury to Lake Garda, dismantle the bike and take a Ryanair flight back to the UK. Now we are all aware of Bergamo as the epicentre of a human disaster. A respiratory disaster. A disaster largely affecting the older generation whose immune systems are powerless to fight the virus. Pneumonia is the main cause of death and the army is now the main transport to the place of cremation.

Convoy of Italian army trucks move bodies from Bergamo at night

I know what some readers of this blog will think, as you read this: “Oh dear, we only came here for the comedy and the donkey pictures. What happened to The Peasant? He has gone all morbid now. What happened?

Nothing happened. The comedy is still here: the comedy will return. Look forward to more from Rubí and Aitana. Matilde donkey will also do a piece next week. And best of all, for those of you who know my scandalous character Pablo Pedalo (cause for special mention in the industrial tribunal papers concerning my unfair dismissal from my last teaching job!) you will rejoice to know he will be writing on this blog too, very soon. Yes the light touch continues, and the black humour is all over the Internet these days. I am glad to contribute to it, as dark humour is a time-honoured survival mechanism in every age and every calamity that human beings witness.

But if I did not voice my real and most terrifying fears, in a more direct and honest manner, as I have done here, this would not be an authentic personal Journal of the Virus Year. I will also come back to Daniel Defoe soon, as I seem to have left him out of the blog for a bit too long, and he has much tell us, to educate us, particularly about the haphazard way that the English approached the plague of 1665. I hear some of you say, “Well no change there…” ?

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

  1. Gracias, funciona sin problema. Nuestra hermana en Benigembla me dijo que compré 75 litros de cervez y no hay necesidad de salir de casa por tres semanas. Bueno, pero si compras una cantidad como esto, ¿seguro que sera mas barato un camion directo de la cerveceria, no? Solo hay que construir un deposito de hormigón.


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