• Marie Bateson

When This Ends

I keep wondering what life will be like once lockdown ends. How soon will we go back to 'normal'? How long before we forget what it was like to live like this? Will life be markedly different AL (after lockdown) than BL (before lockdown)? Or will it just spring right back to how it was, albeit with a COVID-19 season as well as a flu season?

There are so many little changes that might occur. Here in Spain, like in many European countries, we kiss each other hello and goodbye. Will that practice resume? What about handshakes? Perhaps we'll remain wary of physical contact with others and a namaste bow or elbow bump will become commonplace instead.

So many horrible diseases have originated due to close contact with animals. Will we learn anything from that? Or will factory farming and wildlife markets continue? We're not SUPPOSED to be in close contact with animals. Humans cannot handle the diseases that originate in animals (and there have been many - SARS, MERS, HIV) but I don't see the majority of people giving up meat anytime soon.

I suspect we'll slide back into some of our previous habits far more quickly than we think we will. The lost freedoms we took for granted before the lockdown will probably slide back into the unnoticeable within months. Perhaps it will be hard to remember how flipping weird things got for these few months.

This is a little summary of the COVID-19 state of affairs before it all slips back into the recesses of my muddled mind.

  • On Thursday, March 12th, we were told that Friday, March 13th would be the last day of school for some time.

  • On the afternoon of Friday, March 13th, we were told that all restaurants, clubs, bars and cafés were closing that night.

  • On Saturday, March 14th, 2020, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez declared a state of emergency and that a full lockdown would commence the next day. (Oops. I thought it was supposed to start as of 8am Monday the 16th of March so the kids and I headed to a remote part of the beach on Sunday 15th to grab a last little bit of freedom. My bad, Sánchez, sorry!)

  • The lockdown was initially supposed to run until Sunday, March 29th, but given what was going on in Italy, we all knew it would be much longer. Nobody was surprised when it was extended for another 2 weeks until April 12th. We're now resigned to the fact that it will likely be extended through April 25th at least.

  • It feels like the whole world has come to a standstill. TV shows and films are no longer recording. Entire sports seasons have been cancelled. Fans have nothing to talk about! Sports sections now just reminisce about previous games and when the various seasons might resume. Live music and theatre - cancelled, but many stars are performing from their living rooms which is wonderful. Weddings, Easter, funerals - cancelled.

  • Different countries are handling their lockdown in different ways. It's hard not to be bitter about those that have far more freedom than we do. For example, most places allow their citizens to take an hour or so of exercise each day outside in the fresh air with their children. However, here in Spain, we're not allowed out AT ALL except if you are going to buy groceries, to the pharmacy, to the doctor's or if you're an essential worker. My children and I have not left our apartment for almost four weeks. Daniel's been to the grocery store once in that time (we usually get our groceries delivered). We have friends who don't have any outdoor space. Their children have not been 'outside' since lockdown began other than to stick their heads out of the window.

  • On the very scary front, we can no longer rely on the stellar health services we have here in Spain. There's a shortage of ventilators for the critically ill. Masks, gowns, gloves are in short supply for our front-line workers. An ice rink in Madrid has been converted into a makeshift morgue. It's not as bad as in the U.S. where their health insurance system basically guarantees that doctors and nurses are going to be forced to work without the necessary safety measures, but it's still frightening.

  • We have difficulty getting delivery slots for our online grocery shopping. I know, this is such a first world problem. But being able to get our groceries delivered in a day or two was one of the luxuries we took for granted prior to COVID-19. It's not so much the concern that it takes a long time to get a delivery slot secured, but the way my mind quickly spiralled into, "What if our food supply is threatened?"

  • That worry spiral was also provoked by the heart-breaking photos of old people standing in front off bare shelves in the supermarkets due to the initial panic-buying that took place.

  • Doctors and nurses are being asked to make enormous sacrifices for their jobs. Most are afraid of either catching COVID-19 themselves or spreading it to their families at home.

  • Manufacturers, distilleries and other businesses have switched their production lines to help make visors, masks, hand sanitiser and PPE.

  • We can't go ANYWHERE. Police are patrolling the streets and handing out fines. This seems ridiculous to state seeing as I can't even walk out of my front door but it's really distressing to know that my family is an ocean away and I have absolutely no way of getting to them.

  • It's very hard right now to imagine the economy not imploding. Friends' businesses have been wiped out overnight.

  • Some things continue as normal - Amazon deliveries, for example.

  • Some wonderful things have come out of this. With friends and family scattered all over the globe, it's usually rare to get a group of us together. But, with everyone at home, it's finally easy to arrange a group call. Sure, it's not the same as seeing one another in person, but it's better than nothing. Socialising in pyjamas and no make up is the new norm and my friends are still beautiful.

  • This is the only time in my life that I have not loathed the spring daylight savings time change. The clocks springing forward by one hour did not cause any havoc or lack of sleep whatsoever. HALLELUJAH!

  • Today, the 9th of April, marks the beginning of the kids' Easter break. We're supposed to be en route to Cancun to meet up with my whole family. Instead, we're all stuck in our individual homes. My parents can't even give their 7-month-old granddaughter a cuddle and she lives 10 minutes away from them.

  • There are currently 15,238 deaths in Spain from COVID-19 and 14,797 in the USA. There are no doubts that the USA will surpass Spain's total deaths within the next day or so.

  • I am jealous of those in lockdown without children. SO JEALOUS. People on social media report that they've "just finished reading the 6th book since lockdown began!" Oh, piss off.

  • We plonk the kids in front of screens far more often than we'd like to admit. They're up to about 3 hours a day now. An hour of that is educational - doing online math or reading that their school sends home - but about two hours of it is Barbie or Paw Patrol or whatever god-awful dreck Netflix is serving up. I try to not feel guilty about it because this isn't our norm. Usually, they're allowed an hour on Saturday and an hour on Sunday but they often miss those hours if we're out with friends anyway. I console myself that they're just making up for lost screentime now...

  • The aplauso colectivo every night at 8pm is even lovelier after the time change. The later sunlight means we can now see our neighbours in the apartment block across from us. There are only about 20 occupied apartments and so, in the few minutes or so of applause, we can send an individual little round of clapping to each of our neighbours.

  • Almost everyone knows someone who has or has had COVID-19 now. My uncle in Madrid was infected and wound up in isolation in a hospital suffering from severe pneumonia. He's fortunately recovered and is now back home with my aunt. To say we're relieved would be an understatement of epic proportions.

  • The comedy coming out of COVID-19 is exceptionally good. I've even been tempted into downloading Tik Tok. I've not yet recorded anything as I don't know how and am probably too old to ever figure it out, but the breadth of human weirdness and inventiveness on there is fabulous.

  • I love that we've collectively re-discovered (or at least been gently reminded) how much we love and need the arts, music especially.

Speaking of music, we never really do anything to mark Easter (other than take advantage of the time off school to visit family). However, this Sunday I'm planning on tuning into the live broadcast of Andrea Bocelli singing from Milan's empty Duomo Cathedral.

As Variety magazine reports, "Bocelli will be accompanied only by cathedral organist Emanuele Vianelli for the occasion, which will, of course, take place without a live audience. Sacred pieces slated for the set list include Ave Maria and Mascagni’s Sancta Maria."

We're not remotely religious, but I have a feeling this Easter Sunday concert will be a tonic for the soul. As Victor Hugo said,

Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and cannot remain silent.

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