Lockdown Log in Mallorca – Day 45

No people are walking the lanes during lockdown

It’s hard to believe that we have lived here in rural Mallorca for 16 years. This milestone was clocked up on Sunday, April 26th. Sixteen years during which a lot has happened; although not so much in the last 45 days, whilst we’ve been on lockdown in Spain.

When we first moved here, one solar panel mounted on the roof provided us with electricity. This wasn’t enough to power sockets but, assuming the sun had shone during the day, gave us approximately two hours’ lighting (from dim 12-volt bulbs) in the evening.

We had no TV, radio, or Internet. My computer remained packed away until such time as there was something to power it. We had no house telephone – only our (non-smart) mobiles. But, frustratingly, there’s barely any mobile coverage in our valley. If, however, we stood in precisely the right spot on one of our walls outside, it was sometimes possible to rustle up a signal. That’s if we’d remembered to charge the battery on our phones (by plugging into the cigarette lighter in the car during trips out).

Power to These People

It would be eight months before we had ‘proper’ electricity (powered by 16 new solar panels in the field), and several months more before we had a house phone. Each development brought a wave of joy and appreciation for what we finally had.

Accessing the Internet from home took a lot longer. Several providers came out to our valley, looked around, shook their heads, shrugged their shoulders, and said ‘Nunca‘ (meaning ‘never’) or ‘Imposible‘ (no translation required). Our valley may be beautiful, but it had One Huge Disadvantage.

Pork Bellies Anyone?

I worked in BBC local radio before we moved here. The computer on my desk in the newsroom – or in the studio, when I was on air – gave me access to any information I could possibly need, in the course of my job as mid-morning-show presenter. At any time, for instance, I could have told you the current price of pork bellies. (Wouldn’t that have made for riveting radio?).

Living in rural Mallorca, the closest I got to pork bellies was on a walk past the pig farm further down the valley. To say I felt distanced from the world as I’d known it, would be an understatement.

A few years later (yes, it took quite some time), a small company called WiFi Balears (now renamed Fibwi) was able to connect us to the Internet – thus changing our lives.

Life’s Online….or Not

Since the lockdown began, the whole of Mallorca has been living online. Whether it’s socialising, learning, entertainment, exercising, shopping or whatever, it’s all being done through the Internet in this time of physical distancing. By everybody.

I had promised myself that, during this lockdown, I’d take advantage of the opportunities to visit museums and galleries around the world, watch West End musicals, learn new skills, attend concerts, and more – all from home and online. And I would if our wifi signal were up to it.

When yet another attempt to do something new and interesting online fails for want of a decent signal, I try to adopt an attitude of gratitude: we’re a lot less incommunicado than we were back in 2004.

Jan Edwards ©2020

 

Lockdown Log in Mallorca – Day 40

Rural Majorcan poppies

We’ve missed seeing the poppies this spring

It’s Day 40 of the lockdown in Spain. A third extension to the original state of emergency was approved in Congress yesterday, which takes us to 00:00h on Sunday, May 10th. The Spanish prime minister’s proposal received 269 votes in favour; 60 against, and 16 abstentions. I am not even going to think about whether this may be the final extension.

Instead, realising that we’d reached the 40th day of this current situation, I distracted myself by diving into the Reader’s Digest Wordpower Dictionary. This weighty tome makes an occasional efficient doorstep, in our grandly named ‘library’ (where I write), to prevent the French windows blowing shut; there always seems to be a breeze here in our rural Mallorcan valley.

But the book’s real purpose is to fill any wordsmith with wonder and a sense that curiosity has been satisfied. It’s a fascinating book to dip into when a few spare minutes present themselves to be filled.

Q is for Quarantine

I knew that the word ‘quarantine’ came from the Italian quarantino (which means ‘forty days’; quaranta being Italian – and, indeed, Catalan – for ‘forty’). As many people are in quarantine now because they have symptoms of COVID-19 – or have come into contact with someone who has the virus – it seemed fitting to delve a little deeper into the word’s history.

The Reader’s Digest Wordpower Dictionary told me that originally the word denoted a period of 40 days during which a widow – with entitlement to a share of her deceased husband’s estate – had the right to remain in his house. (Not sure what the poor woman did after the 40 days were up). According to a bit of legalese from 1628, if said widow remarried within the 40 days (which would be indecently hasty, IMHO), she would lose this right.

The word ‘quarantine’ in English has had its current meaning since the 17th century and, in 1663, none other than Mr Pepys referred to it in his famous diary, as a 30-day period. From then on, the word became used to describe a state of isolation, rather than a specific length of time – which would vary depending on the disease in question. Fascinating.

No Time for Boredom

‘Time to get on with some writing now,’ I told myself, replacing the book on the shelf above my desk until my next bout of etymological curiosity.

I wouldn’t want you to think that The Boss and I were twiddling our thumbs here, with nothing to do during this lockdown period. There are (still) rooms to be decorated, terraces to be cleaned, and garden furniture to be brought out of hibernation. And it’s World Book Day today, which demands that I spend some time reading a book – as well as writing one.

Jan Edwards ©2020

Lockdown Log in Mallorca – Day 33

Wisteria in bloom at Alfabia Gardens (photographed in a previous year). A spring sight that few will see this year.

Really? Day 33? I would never have imagined spending such a long time at home and going out only once in all that time. But here we are, Easter already over, and halfway through April. With the lockdown in Spain likely to be extended to almost the middle of May, this will surely be known as The Lost Spring.

We have a list of jobs to done around the finca and I’m itching to get on with them, so that there’s something visual that we can look at and say, that’s what we did during the lockdown. But Spanish tax returns loom and The Boss is mired in paperwork and spreadsheets. Must start gathering my own together soon.

Meanwhile, I’ve been making impressive (for me) strides with The Novel. Well, it was about time, as I had the idea for the story when I moved here in 2004. Much has changed from the original storyline, but I think that the long gestation period has been beneficial – and the writing of it takes me temporarily into a world where there’s no COVID-19.

By this evening, I should have reached 51,000 words. Only another 30k or so for that first draft to be done. Say it quickly enough and it doesn’t sound too bad.

A New Chapter for Chico?

People who know me may guess that cats feature in the story. And one of our cats – Chico – features in this latest blog post. And sadly it’s not good news: Chico has been missing for a week.

Chico was one of the second litter of ferals born to Jetta in July 2011 and, unlike his siblings, he’s always been wary of us (and any other humans). We’ve never done anything to hurt or scare him (except take him to be neutered when he was a kitten and old enough), but he’s always the one who waits at a safe distance until we’ve walked away from putting his food out. He’s also nervous of having his photo taken and, because of that, we have few photos of him.

Yet, he’s also been happy to sit in our dining room window recess, as long as we’ve ignored him, and spent most of the daytime snoozing somewhere within sight of the house.

We have no idea why he’s so nervous around people but have witnessed that, of all the cats, he is the one who’ll chase any ‘outsider’ felines who dare to intrude on his (shared) territory. Bravery lurks within.

Plenty of Questions; No Answers

It is nigh on impossible to look for a lost cat in open countryside – especially as we’re in lockdown and not allowed to go out of our property except for shopping etc. Losing a cat, in whatever way, is always upsetting. What’s happened? Are they lying injured or sick somewhere? Have they found a new home? Too many questions and no answers. All we can hope is that he’s safe and well on his solo adventure.

Here’s a coincidence: Chico’s departure was exactly two years ago to the day that our beautiful Beamer – the alpha male of the glaring – disappeared. Beamer was adored (visibly) by his siblings (and us). He enjoyed being around us when we were outdoors and loved to be fussed. But he still disappeared. As has Chico.

Could it be something to do with the arrival of spring? A touch of wanderlust inspired by the rebirth of Nature? For Chico, it’s not so much The Lost Spring, as lost in spring.

Be brave, Chico, and come back one day if you can.

 

Jan Edwards ©2020

Lockdown Log – Day 26 – The Supermarket Sweep

Let’s hear it for home deliveries!

We’re fast approaching a month in lockdown in Mallorca. When it started, I had plans to do so many things, including decorating. There’s still plenty of time, though, because the lockdown is being extended to April 26th – another couple of weeks from the already-extended date of Easter Sunday.

The last time I left our finca was on March 14th, when we did our usual Saturday morning trip into Manacor. The good old days. Since then, The Boss has done the past two weekly supermarket shops, and local Manacor agricultural producer Terragust has delivered fresh produce to our rural home.

The Boss volunteered to do the supermarket run. I could tell that it was somewhat stressful, and not just because of taking the necessary paperwork, disposable gloves, sanitizer, and wearing a tightly wrapped scarf around his upper orifices – like a 21st-century Dick Turpin.

Aisle Call

I may be a writer, but my handwriting is shocking; I blame years of computer use. My handwriting could part-qualify me to be a doctor – a career path I’m very pleased I didn’t pursue, in the current circumstances. Only I can understand the scrawls on the shopping list I usually take on our forays for food. On those occasions, The Boss pushes the trolley and probably switches off mentally until it’s time to get his wallet out.

To make shopping easier for him, I typed out a list, in the order of which he would find the items located in the store. I pictured him whizzing around with his trolley (he’s usually in charge of it when we shop), plucking the required items from the shelves and dropping them into the trolley. Job done.

Alas, it wasn’t quite that easy. I received several calls on his mobile phone on both occasions, with various questions. What was the Spanish for linseeds? What did dried yeast look like? That type of thing.

Stepping Up to the Trolley

With Easter almost upon us, I decided I’d do this week’s shopping run. I hadn’t driven the car since March 9th, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to give my motoring skills an outing. Unlike the almost-deserted car park and store that The Boss had reported after his trips, yesterday was a busy day of pre-Easter shopping and I had to queue to enter.

I wore disposable gloves and a Mrs Dick Turpin-style scarf as I pushed my sanitized-handled trolley through the store. Every now and then, my reading glasses would steam up from the breath trapped by my scarf but, even visually challenged by the fog on my lenses, I could see that social distancing was Not Being Observed. I spent much of my shopping trip avoiding other trolley-pushers and muttering crossly under my breath, like a mad woman. By the way, muttering crossly under your breath, like a mad woman, is an effective technique to make people give you a wide berth.

A large number of shoppers were men, I observed, and most of them appeared clueless. I saw several apparently phoning home, from the exasperated ‘get me outta here’ looks on their faces.

I’m not a stock-piler – we wouldn’t have space to store stuff, even if I were – but I did decide to buy two of certain items, in the hope we could extend the time before the next shopping trip. It was with a well-filled trolley that I arrived at a till, where a friendly young lady wearing a clear perspex face shield gave me a bit of a turn when she told me how much my bill was.

Digit Dilemma

No worries. I extracted my Banca March card (which I almost never use), and duly inserted it into the machine. That was when I realised how difficult it is to tap out a PIN number wearing disposable gloves, with fingers that extend way beyond the length of your own. Three unsuccessful attempts later – although I was convinced at least the last one was correct – my card was rejected. (It was only when I arrived home that I realised the card had expired last November!).

I looked at the three packed Sainsbury’s trolley bags (brought over from the UK in 2004 and still serving us weekly) and envisaged having my purchases taken away from me. My UK bank account card came to the rescue; two unsuccessful attempts at its PIN number and I was on the brink of another card rejection. In a red-faced huff (it really was too warm to be swaddled in a lambswool scarf), I ripped off my right-hand glove and stabbed out the number on the terminal keys. I did, though, thank the cashier for her patience – and for being there in the first place. Judging by the look of surprise on her face, that didn’t happen very often.

Back in the safety of the car, I went a bit wild with the hand sanitizer before driving home. Shopping in the time of corona can be pretty stressful…

Jan Edwards©2020