The husband and I managed to swerve the first few days of Spanish lockdown as we were busy trying to extricate ourselves from a holiday in the Dominican Republic. The nice President gave us barely two days’ notice that he was closing his land, sea and air borders and we were officially advised to consider leaving quickly. Having imbibed enough G&T to settle the nerves, we spent several unsuccessful hours calling Air Europa, embassies, consulates, friends who worked in travel, friends who worked in newspapers (yep, you Jason Moore), before pouring our belongings into suitcases and hoofing it to the airport.
As luck would have it, a Bulgarian lady accepted wads of cash in three different currencies in return for the last two seats on her flight now boarding for Madrid. After a mercy dash through security and immigration, we threw a few ecstatic air punches and ordered a couple more celebratory G&Ts at 35,000ft. That ecstasy melted into agony as we assimilated the horror-movie-esque scenes at Madrid-Barajas. Toddlers with gloves and masks and worried eyes, adults with fevers and dry coughs. This COVID-19 thing was real.
Three weeks on and, while COVID-19 is still blood-curdlingly real, lockdown is almost (almost) becoming normal. I reckon many of us have fallen neatly into the Kübler-Ross grief cycle: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.
The denial bit came late January/early February when it was ‘just a touch of flu’ that you would only catch if you happened to find yourself in the province of Hubei or on a Princess cruise ship. For British partygoers singing ‘f*ck coronavirus’ at St Patrick’s Day celebrations, this denial continued deep into March, but, even for these revellers, anger wasn’t too far round the corner.
‘Why did it take Boris so long to get serious about COVID-19?’ ‘Is there a massive Chinese cover-up?’ ‘How the heck do you home school in a one-bed flat without a playground?’ and ‘When will Sainsbury’s get their loo roll act together?’. Then, the bargaining. If the deal is to stay home for a fortnight and then we can all roam free again, we’ll take it - it might even be fun. Swiftly followed by an awakening that a fortnight isn’t going to fix anything and, when you mull it over, everything is actually ruined. Cue depression. Glastonbury is cancelled, I can’t pay the rent, my April birthday’s going to be a washout, and there is not even a flicker of light at the end of the tunnel. But, I hope, and believe, that most of us have rattled through those four stages and reached the last leg: acceptance.
Acceptance is double-sided. On one hand, it’s the acknowledgement that life will be tough, we may well catch COVID-19 and, worse, know people who have fought it and lost. There will be global recession and a mental health crisis, and we will have to work out how to deal with this - and fast. On the other hand, it’s making the best of the lockdown to paint the window frames, do the mother of all de-clutters, bake 21 varieties of cake, call your long-lost cousin in Croatia, and gawp at PE with Joe Wicks - if you can find the time whilst wading through 5,000 WhatsApp videos and every series made for Netflix ever. Essentially, looking for the good in each day, finding the silver lining, however deeply it may be buried.
My acceptance is now peppered with another emotion, and that’s fear. Not fear of the dreaded C word, but fear of reaching the end of the to-do list. Once I’d emptied the holiday suitcase and washed the bikini collection, I enthusiastically detailed a quarantine action plan. This action plan would easily be mastered in two weeks with no distractions. Would it heck. As week three draws to a close, the carefully-selected TED talks and podcasts are yet to be listened to, the wardrobe remains as bulging as before, and there is no hint of a six-pack - not even if I breathe in and squint a bit. What, exactly, have I been doing with my time?! Lordy knows, I suspect the answer lies somewhere between the fridge and the mobile phone.
Just as I was about to punch myself in the face to teach me a lesson, I read a random comment on Facebook, it simply said: “Don’t beat yourself up about it. I don’t think people realise the anxiety that creeps in every day. People are dying by the hour and we’re not on holiday. Does NOT make for hours of placid, uninterrupted creativity and focus.” It was exactly what I needed to read at the moment. We are all doing what we can, and that’s enough. Never feel alone, because, with an estimated 3.5 billion of the planet’s inhabitants under coronavirus lockdown, we are most definitely all in this together.
Oh, and just to round off the Dominican Republic soap opera, turns out taking matters into our own hands was the correct decision. Had we waited for Air Europa, we would, er, still be waiting. Palma-headquartered charter airline Privilege Style stepped in to rescue a bunch of stranded Spanish on 28 March - some 12 days after we’d scarpered…