Journal of the Virus Year: Chapter 5

Hello and welcome to the blog: this is the end of the first week of Covid-19 coronavirus lock-down in Spain. And if you are still bothered, it is the end of the Third Week in Lent; so hands off those cream cakes! Tomorrow is Laetare Sunday, the day when there is traditionally a relaxation of the Lent discipline so I had sent out invitations in early February to a paella party here in El Parral.

Two weeks ago, even before the lock-down was announced, I wrote to the invited guests cancelling that. I could already see the dangers of people socialising in the present hazardous environment. In yesterday’s blog post I explained why I am particularly at risk – and it was good for me to express those worries – but I do not want to dwell on it further. We all need to at least be honest about our fears and voice them, but not to dwell on pointless panic. This blog is about survival.

But here’s an instructive tale involving pointless panic. Two Russian shoppers, a late middle-aged couple apparently, were in a queue at Carrefour supermarket in La Marina commercial centre yesterday. They decided it would be funny to start loud coughing, possibly in an attempt to disperse the queue and get to the checkout quicker.

I have this story on the authority of a Carrefour check-out worker via her husband who comes to collect the donkey manure for orange orchards on Saturdays. (Yes, that’s allowed: agricultural routines continue.) Unseen by the silly Russians, a pair of Guardia Civil officers were nearby on duty in the supermarket to ensure the rules were respected.

The two Russians were approached swiftly by the officers and told to leave their supermarket trolley, and then they were escorted out of the queue. The Guardia Civil read them their rights and arrested them. Since the husband of that supermarket checkout worker is also a friend of local Guardia Civil, I presume that’s how he knows what happened next. The Russians were driven to Alicante where they were fined 3000 euros for exhibiting dangerous and threatening behaviour in public (i.e. theatrical coughing) and failing to have any identification on them. They had to spend the rest of the day in the Guardia Civil station while they waited for transport back to Benidorm.

When we see those sorts of behaviours – similar to the irresponsibility of the British in Benidorm who I mention in my video above – it only strengthens the civic sense of duty felt by most people to make this lock-down work. There are good reasons for the rules and we must follow them carefully. But the fact is that many British residents are quite hazy on what the rules are, either because they don’t speak Spanish and haven’t troubled to find the rules in English, or they are displaying the usual British exceptionalism: “Oh this is just a typical over-the-top Spanish reaction to something we know all about. It’s just a ‘flu epidemic and we see it every year…” I have seen that sort of comment three times now, even though I do not read much of the British reactions here, or listen to their local radio stations.

The opposite reaction – again as a result of not knowing the actual rules – is to invent your own understanding of what the rules are. So, for example an English friend who lives in a very isolated setting in the mountains further north in Marina Alta, messaged me to say it is a pity she is no longer allowed to sit outside on her terrace and have a drink. What a completely mad idea! It is perfectly OK to go outside on your own land in the country areas, and in fact I’m writing this blog while sitting outside with a laptop watching the donkeys.

So if you are confused and British – two conditions that often go together – read the blog of my friend and ex-science teacher colleague Steve, specially written to help Brits in Benidorm understand the Estado de Alarma rules: https://linuxcostablanca.blogspot.com/2020/03/estado-de-alarma-for-benidorm-brits.html

So that’s enough about coronavirus lock-down and the rules in Spain. Let’s move on to another piece of creative art to come out of the crisis. Hand-washing is a key part of our routine now, as everyone is aware and even the Brits at least know that! So here is Iranian Danial Kheirikhah in an amazing and very amusing hand-washing mime. I found it funny but also remarkable: it reminds me of the early surrealist film work of Buñuel, in films like the silent Un Chien Andalou and the later L’Age D’Or. The mime routine is first class.

Stay safe. Next week we will see the debut of Matilde donkey with a regular food column, starting with her method for cooking paella. Since my Laetare Sunday paella party was cancelled, I have time now to learn from Matilde how to improve my technique. At least I hope she can tell me an authentic Valenciano method. But isn’t she Andalusian…?

Matilde, improving her technique of reading the newspaper upside-down while eating breakfast.

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