• Marie Bateson

The Last Supper

Valencia cancelled Fallas on the 10th of March, and the city is now an odd mix of people holed up in self-imposed isolation and others who insist this is all a storm in a teacup. Like most people here, I didn't really take this whole coronavirus thing seriously until they cancelled Fallas, as this screenshot of my messages to my parents shows:

There are now rumours that an Italy-style lockdown is inevitable. I don't want to believe that we could find ourselves stuck in our apartment for weeks on end. But I've read enough about COVID-19 to have the sinking realisation that this is probably exactly where we'll end up. This article in particular convinced me that lockdown is the corner Spain's government has backed us into.

Yesterday, Thursday the 14th of March, a couple of friends and I had a lunch date planned. I found myself really on the fence as whether it was wise to go, especially as one of them was feeling under the weather. On the one hand, it seemed like social distancing was the only wise course of action. But it also seemed over the top and a bit silly to cancel. In fact, my husband and I were still discussing whether or not we should take the kids to Andorra that weekend for a ski trip. One of the friends I was meeting for lunch was returning my daughter's ski suit, so I bit the bullet and went, just in case we could get to the slopes. Here's a photo another friend took of my husband and I while we were having the ski trip discussion... a.k.a. living in a state of total denial.

So I went to lunch, but, man, was it strange. Rather than the warm greetings that we typically give one another, we stood a metre or so apart and exchanged awkward waves. Meanwhile, at the table next to us, a group of friends embraced one another with loud kisses on both cheeks. If there was ever a time to question the standard Spanish greeting of pressing your faces together, TWICE, it would be now.

Lunch that day felt terribly pre-apocalyptic, like all of Valencia was waiting for disaster to strike. And now it's Friday the 13th, aptly enough, and the people of Valencia have been told that, when the kids come home from school tonight, they won't be going back again anytime soon. All schools are closed 'indefinitely'. If that's not the apocalypse, I don't know what is.

Valencia has also announced that all bars and restaurants will be closing as of midnight tonight. I do have to question the logic in telling people about the closures several hours before the actual shutdown. Upon hearing about the restaurants closing, I'm sure I wasn't the only one who thought, "OOH, tonight's our last chance for weeks to have a meal out!" which is completely counter-productive to the shutdown. I dithered a bit as to whether I should just march the kids straight home from the school bus stop or whether we should savour this last little bit of freedom.

Naturally, I chose the utterly irresponsible option.

I picked the kids up and took my little coronavirus-carriers straight down the beach to La Más Bonita. My logic was that the beach enables a huge amount of social distancing, and if we were headed for lockdown, we needed to cling to normalcy these last precious hours.

I'd brought a ball and the kids ran, jumped, shouted and generally enjoyed the expanse of physical freedom that the beach affords them. I'd also packed a bag with their winter coats so that we could sit outdoors in the corner table where no other customers could come and breathe their virusy-breath on us.

Our waitress approached warily, flaunting fashionable surgical gloves, and took our order from a safe distance. Daniel joined us after his footie game, where I'm sure he exchanged sweat with at least a dozen infected specimens. We downed Aperols as the sun went down; I let the kids have Fanta AND cake. It was our version of The Last Supper and it was lush.

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