They’ve locked down Lombardy”, my husband Oliver tells me. I’m cooking dinner for us and our daughter in our kitchen in our house. “How can they lock up a whole region?” I ask, my mind racing to understand the ramifications of a lock down. We watch the news, it seems unreal. All of those people confined to their homes because of a dangerous virus that was out of control. Surely this was the plot of a movie?
It’s March 9th 2020. A couple of days before we had completed the seven day walk of the GR221 for my birthday. We had been sleeping in the refugios in shared dormitories with strangers. All of us in bunk beds, sharing the bathrooms, sitting next to each other eating dinner and breakfast. Laughing, making conversation, having fun. Returning to our house and the news of the rapid spread of COVID19 was shocking. My parents in law arrived from the UK for a week’s visit. My mother in law, a retired nurse, presented me with some homemade surgical masks that she had sewn at home. “What are these for?” I asked scornfully. “You can’t be too careful,” she replied. Wear a mask? What, like an anxious Asian tourist in London? What an overreaction I had told myself and put the masks somewhere on a shelf. How naive I was.
Friday March 13th, Coronavirus was confirmed in all of the 50 provinces in Spain. I took my daughter to school in Palma. “Babe, bring home your school books with you, I have a feeling that you won’t be going to school for a week or so”. My daughter looked at me as if I was mad. “Err, okay.” The news through the day, the rumours of a lockdown similar to Italy’s. How it could it not happen now? The virus was rampaging through the population. On the TV news there were terrifying scenes of people in intensive care hooked up to ventilators. “I think we are going to be locked down” I said, but only to myself, and very, very quietly. And the next day, on March 14th 2020 we were. The news came to us in the evening. My father in law, already worrying about getting back to the UK, began to panic a little about their flight. The text came that all flights were cancelled, but that now there would be repatriation flights. He spent hours on hold.
On the Sunday I went to a supermarket. Pulling into the car park, and seeing thirty people in a queue just to get into the shop, I turned around, and headed for the exit, briefly seeing the face of a client waiting in the line. I was definitely in a movie now. With no warning, the strictest lockdown in Europe was imposed upon us. How did we cope? We coped. Like everyone else. Every day was exactly the same, and completely different. Most days there were tears, at least from me, if not also from our daughter who was desperate to be able to get out of the house and go to see our horse a fifteen minute drive away. But with it being non essential travel and under 18s banned from leaving the house we just couldn’t do it. Stay at home, wash your hands, clap at 20.00 everyday. The clap became the defining point in the day in our house, everything else was fluid.
On 25 March, the official death toll in Spain surpassed that of mainland China at the time. The shopping trip became my responsibility. Preparing for it felt like I was about to fight in a zombie apocalypse. Driving along empty roads which would normally have been busy, avoiding people, washing and washing my hands, disinfecting again in the car, trying not to touch metal in the petrol station because I had read somewhere that the virus stayed on metal for longer. Putting the shopping outside in our yard when we got home to allow it time to breathe, stripping my clothes and putting them in a hot wash because maybe the virus was on the fabric. I did it all. I also would disinfect my dogs’ paws after taking them for their 50m walk for a pee, they hated that.
But amongst all of this fear, confusion, terror, somehow we also found love, joy and community. I rang my mother every day, we played Cluedo via video call after the Clap. My little family developed a passion for the Marvel movies, and watched the entire series in order, one a night. We spent more time together than we have ever done before. We argued, we laughed, we played with our dogs (they will never know how much we relied on them for humour), we cooked, and we ate. I learnt how to make bread, and a decent curry through the tutoring of my friends on Facebook in the Majorca Mallorca group. I still managed to do some work, but my husband’s work stopped entirely. We worried about money a lot, we worried about the future, and we worried about Majorca. How would it cope? What would the pandemic mean for the economy? Could the health system manage? We lost friends to the virus, and we might still lose friends to the virus.
But I am proud of how we lived through this past year. As soon as the lockdown was lifted we went back to the things which we found still mattered the most to us, swimming in the sea, being with the horse, training at CrossFit Mallorca, riding a bike up a mountain, walking with the dogs in the Tramuntana. In a way the lockdown proved to us how right we had been to choose to live in Mallorca amongst these resilient people from all over the world whose sense of community meant we all stayed in our homes because that was the right thing to do for each other.
It’s a year since the lockdown was imposed on us. Celebrate your life and your loved ones today. And ask yourself, what have I learned in the last year about myself, and what can I be proud of?
You can join our gang on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/MajorcaMallorca We are still there, taking care of each other and supporting one another.