Eileen from Spain-The joy of a long walk

What joy to feel free to walk without a purpose or a destination. Everyone you meet from gardeners, dustmen, friends and acquaintances greet you with true joy and happiness. Keeping their two meters apart everyone has time for a chat.

Previously when in lockdown my dear friend who is 88 years of age but acts and looks like 70 found the restrictions of not leaving her house at all, very difficult.

She is use to playing golf 3 times a week and walking most days.

So late one rainy night out of desperation she took  her umbrella and went for a walk down her deserted road.

She forgot that at the end of the road there are cameras. She was spotted by the security guards watching the cameras and on her way home via the golf course a security vehicle came charging up the course with bright flashing lights. She crouched and hid behind a bush for a couple of minutes and when they passed she ran into her house. A few minutes later the guards were searching her garden with torches. She watched through the window laughing. However she did not do that again.

Now we can, like a spring chicken she is out every day walking enjoying every step.

We wait each week in the hope more restrictions on our life might be reduced, but we are still thrilled to able to walk freely.

From Eileen in Spain – Death during the Lockdown

Before the lockdown Spain has always buried their dead very quickly. The time between death and the funeral is usually 48 hours. This tradition maybe due to the 800 year Moorish occupation or that the temperatures in southern Spain can be very high.

Last week my husband passed away during the night. Within 2 hours of death the doctor had confirmed the situation and the undertaker had taken him with away.

The next morning on getting the death certificate the undertaker informed me that they were going to have to cremate him at 4pm the same day and I could come with 3 people and they would deliver the ashes to my home the next morning.

That was another shock.

However, I found the strength to email with the help of others most of his friends and family including nearly everyone living on our resort. We asked everyone at 4pm to stop say a prayer then raise a glass to my husband Alan.

I prepared a table of remembrance with his photo, candle, slippers, wedding ring, railway magazine called “The Oily Rag” and a Fulham Football souvenir. I found on the internet a list of funeral prayers and appropriate funeral music on Youtube. Then crying my eyes out I held the funeral for half an hour.

I did not want this lockdown to prevent me sending off my husband without a prayer and au revoir.

Since then I have encountered so much love from people I know.

As it is very difficult to obtain sympathy cards in Spain I have received about 50 handmade cards expressing sympathy. People went to so much trouble in this time of isolation, hand painting beautiful flowers, with wonderful calligraphy and verses.

This is truly the time when you really miss human contact.

from Eileen in Murcia, Spain: the Economic Consequences

April 9. Thoughts on Economic consequences of Covid-19 on this region.

South Eastern Spain’s economy is very reliant on tourism and agriculture. Therefore, this corona crisis is devastating for a lot for local people. As of the 13th of March when the lockdown was enforced 1000’s of people were immediately dismissed without any financial assistance. To make things worse, the employment laws make it very difficult to dismiss a permanent member of staff therefore most workers in the hospitality, tourism etc are on short term contracts giving them very few rights. In addition, many contacts state they are to work much fewer hours than is expected.

My friend Jose had a contract working in a restaurant which stated 3 hours a day. In reality, he was expected to work 12 hours. In normal times he would be paid for the time worked, though I know of others getting paid only the hours stated in the contract. Today Jose’s employer came to pay him the wages he owed to him before the lockdown. He gave Jose the money equivalent to the 3 hours a day stated in the contract and ignored his normal 12-hour shift. Jose had to accept what he is given and feels helpless to be able to rectify the situation!

There are many like Jose here and I think this area will be very hurt economically by this lockdown.

Agriculture on the other hand is roaring. The fields have been blessed with the wettest spring in years. Couple with the mild weather you can literally see the salad and vegetables growing. Daily men, mainly Moroccan immigrants, are working in the fields morning, noon and night. Most of these fields are leased by large English farming companies supplying British supermarkets. The produce is picked, packaged and labelled on the fields.

from Eileen P. in Murcia, Spain: No Semana Santo this year

April 9, Semana Santa (Holy Week) is the most important holiday in Spain. Despite Spain becoming more and more secular they still maintain their religious traditions. Most of Spain closes down for the week and all cities organise processions every night. The most famous processions are in Cartagena, Seville, Malaga and Salamanca. Brotherhoods are formed to prepare all year for the occasion.

Processions can last 3 hours and huge edifices are carried through the streets with bands and 100´s of penitents walking in between them. The penitents wear robes coloured in accordance to their brotherhood, purple, brown, black, white, green, with large Ku Klux Clan type headgear disguising their faces. The edifices can weigh up to 1400 kilos with 140 men carrying it on their shoulders with generators often trailing to provide the necessary lighting.

Each night has a theme according to the Easter story, Good Friday being the most solemn, with no bands only a sombre drum playing. Crowds line the procession route with restaurants renting tables and chairs and the City Hall lining the later part of the route with seats which can be rented, as it goes well on into the night.

Easter Sunday is the pinnacle of the week with a joyous theme parading during the day.

Eileen D. from Murcia, Spain. March 2020.

26 March. Our first death on our resort. As yet we do not know if it was due to COVID-19 . The authorities are here testing as I write. The victim thought he was ill due to a recurring lung problem. He was seen at our local supermarket 48 hours ago after visiting the doctor. No one is going to move from their house. Frightening times!

25 March. Lockdown Extended. Our lock down period has been officially extended for another week. The numbers dying and infected rise every day. I know that older people are very vulnerable but in Spain I keep hearing of relatives of friends who are fighting for their lives in their 20 ‘s and 30’s.

On a positive side the unusually wet weather has been a boom to the agriculture here in the South East of Spain. All around me are fields of produce for English supermarkets. Large English farming companies lease the land and to cultivate them. On the fields the produce is picked and labelled to be transported by lorry immediately to Britain. At present there is great activity trying to keep up with the demand.

Talking to my friends also in lockdown it seems all we want to do is to go for a long walk. We really will appreciate our freedom when it returns.

24 March. Lock Down. In Spain we have been locked down and under a state of emergency for over a week. The numbers infected daily rises and so do deaths. We have over 33,000 infected cases at present. The authorities have extended our lock down for another 15 days. I live on a golf resort and the hotel , golf course and all sporting facilities are close until mid-June.

Looking at Italy, as Spain seems to be following their pattern, I think we might be here for much longer than we think. Maybe our lives will never be the same again!!

Stairs have been my salvation. I tried to find a suitable Pilates class on YouTube but all the teachers were young and supple and did things I could only dream of. Luckily my normal Pilates teacher who is use to people my age 60 plus, will set up a Facebook group and continue putting us through our paces. I have never used technology in this way but I am glad I am being forced to get up to date.

Indoor jobs that have been on the back burner are now coming to the fore. Hundreds of photos have been discarded, old files, diaries and stuff are thrown out. Do I need all these clothes? I have wardrobes of nothing to wear. I trying to be ruthless but it is not easy.

23 March. Today I am going to leave the house to go shopping. I never thought it could be so exciting. Preparations are needed. I do not have a mask as there are none for sale so I improvise with a scarf. Decked in a cap, scarf and disposable gloves I am ready to go. The roads are deserted and the atmosphere is eerie. As it is early in the day the supermarket is reasonably stocked and it is easy to keep your distance from other shoppers.

On my journey I heard a heart-warming story on the English radio in Spain: A lady went at opening time to her local supermarket in a Spanish village who had difficulties keeping the shelves stocked. Before the shopped opened at 9 am all the staff stood outside the shop and sang “I shall survive” by Tina Turner. They had worked hard to clean and stock the store for the day. On visiting the butcher there was a bottle of hand gel outside the shop on the pavement for customers to use and only 2 people were allowed in the shop at any one time. In the shop there was a line a meter from the counter to keep customers apart. We all felt comfortable with these measures. Stocked up I think I might make a Christmas cake to cheer us up.

22 March. How life can change in a week. We had been in locked down now in Spain for a week. Our area in South East Spain had no cases of people being infected 10 days ago. However, Madrid is a hothouse with thousands of cases. Many people in Madrid have holiday homes here as in the summer the temperatures sore in the city of Madrid. Many Madrid inhabitants decided to take refuge in their holiday homes on the coast. Now we have over 200 cases but no deaths. However, in the whole of Spain we have 20 000 cases and 1000 deaths. Everyday the number of cases seem to multiply.

We had been in locked down now in Spain for a week. Our area in South East Spain had no cases of people being infected 10 days ago. However, Madrid is a hothouse with thousands of cases. Many people in Madrid have holiday homes here as in the summer the temperatures sore in the city of Madrid. Many Madrid inhabitants decided to take refuge in their holiday homes on the coast. Now we have over 200 cases but no deaths. However, in the whole of Spain we have 20 000 cases and 1000 deaths. Everyday the number of cases seem to multiply.

Life in lockdown is very strange. If you see someone you stand 2 meters away. Police are everywhere ensuring we all adhere to the restrictions. Only one person per car and you are only allowed to go to the pharmacy or foodstore. You need to keep receipts of your purchases for proof if stopped. It is quite surreal. Very few cars on the roads , no people walking in villages , it is a bit like a ghost town in a movie.