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Time to move to Spain

Medically retired at short notice our plans to move to Spain are brought forward by a few years. With little time to spare, this is our story.

Baby Steps... To A New Future
29 May 2020 @ 12:55

I ventured out two weeks ago…

So, we’re actually on our way to the ‘new normal’, whatever that may be. It’s hard, practically impossible to predict what that may be. In August 2006 whilst I was on holiday in Menorca, and just days before I was due to fly home, the decision was made to severely restrict the number of fluids on flights. The 2006 Transatlantic Aircraft Plot was an attempt by terrorists to detonate liquid explosives on flights between the UK, USA and Canada. The terror alert had been raised to ‘Critical’ and restrictions on hand luggage came in. I remember it well because we had to quickly reassess our hand luggage requirements, which were practically banned, and our hold case became our sole luggage and duty-free carrier. 

I mention this because at the time, even though the restrictions were said to be permanent many people thought that this would be a temporary measure. It became a new normal. 

Fast forward about 14 years and I wonder just how many of the measures currently in place, will actually turn out to be permanent? Maybe none but then do any of us know how this pandemic is going to play out? Some say that without a vaccine we will never go back to what we took as normal. Some say that vaccines are a sinister way of conveniently playing into rich drug company hands. Maybe the truth lies somewhere in between, who knows?

 

A cautious lifting

It’s nearly 11 weeks since the state of panic and our last visit to a bar. The now, restrictive measures have been put in place, and a cautious ‘lifting’ is currently happening. Two weeks ago, we decided to take our 8pm walk and treat ourselves halfway round by visiting a bar. Incredibly, since the lockdown started in mid-March, the weather has been very un-Spain like and, quite unbelievably it’s rained in half of the first 42 days. Our first venture out was dry but cloudy and the bar we chose had tables the stated 2 metres apart and of course all outside. While we enjoyed our drinks, the bar was visited by Police who made a note of the customers, checked inside and outside and chatted to the staff before moving on. It was clear that the lifting of restrictions would be taken just as seriously as the maintenance of restrictions. 

Although we didn’t feel uncomfortable at any time during the half-hour or so we were there, we did feel an array of emotions. There is an odd feeling of freedom when outside for the first couple of times and as we sat down, there was a sense of feeling unusual to be out in public. People walking past had an array of masks, face coverings and some with bare faces. 

A small bowl of mixed nuts gave us our first dilemma. We looked at each other. “Are they safe to eat?” Our next dilemma was the visit to the toilet. I had hoped to avoid such a visit but a much-needed pint of lager, a bladder well into its 6th decade and the half-hour walk home put paid to any bravery on my part. It’s the first time I’ve ever sung happy birthday in a public toilet, but new challenges require new actions. Clean hands and safely home, just as it got dark, we had negotiated the first step.

As we are now allowed to work, we are conscious of the safety restrictions required from us. Our masks are expensively assembled as we have yet to find the source of the cheap ones, we are told are available. Our local pharmacy charges €5.80 for a mask. Another one nearby €3.50. We are told you can pick them up for just under one euro, so it's ongoing. As for cleanliness, a fair few years ago, I was a nurse as was my mother and I have been brought up to wash my hands thoroughly, so I’ve never felt the need to use hand sanitiser. I notice it in the supermarket now and it’s expensive, but I don’t know whether that’s the normal price or a new inflated one. We have one that we carry one about for our clients use and ourselves. 

 

Washing hands...

It made me reflect on a three-month stint as an operating theatre nurse back in the ’80s, we had to wash and scrub our hands methodically up to our elbows for at least ten minutes (if my memory serves me right, it could have been longer) and that was before you were allowed anywhere near gloves. To put that into perspective, that’s 60 happy birthdays in a row. 

Call me a grumpy sod but It’s been a source of irritation for me, that up until 11 weeks ago, I would estimate that only about half of men who visit public toilets, don’t wash their hands. Maybe that’s something that will change in the future. I remember as a child when my mum was reiterating her handwash rule to me, she would tell me that when you shake hands with someone, and they’ve just been to the toilet, it’s not just their hand you are actually shaking. That message alone has stood with me for many years. Well, it would the way my mum put it!

Our concern that local bars and restaurants would suffer were reassured when one by one, they began to open. Of course, they have suffered without business for so long but in our small local square, all but one have re-opened and the one that hasn’t was only newly open two weeks before the restrictions came into place. 

 

Saturday afternoon

We went for a drink early on Friday evening locally and then on Saturday into Torrevieja for drinks and something to eat. Again, it seemed odd as eleven weeks of being confined to home took their toll. Saturday afternoon in Torrevieja was extremely quiet, with very few people about. The exercise restrictions were still in place which is probably why most of those that were outside, were sitting in one of the open bars or ice cream restaurants. It also seemed as if people weren’t sure what the rules on masks were. Older people tended to wear them constantly, whereas younger people only wore them indoors. Rumours of fines given for not wearing a mask outside were allayed as those ‘naked of the mask’ were left alone by the numerous police patrols we encountered. Although it got busier into the evening, I would estimate that only about a third were open. 

The beaches were empty and news that they will be opened in June for phase 2 is to be welcomed. We are told that, as well as the expected distancing rules, there is to be no peeing in the sea! The Guardia Civil will have their work cut out enforcing that and I feel and suspect that some of them may be thinking it wasn’t quite what they signed up for when they joined. Maybe there will be a use for the dye that was used in swimming pools in the ’70s that showed up during a sneaky wee. Maybe with technology, its been developed to show blue dye for a boy, red dye for a girl and purple dye for those who prefer not to say.

 

                                     

 

The difference between Spain and the UK is stark from over here. Media pictures of crowded streets, beaches and parks in the UK compare with the empty beaches, parks, and sparsely populated streets in Torrevieja. I hate the strict lockdown rules, but I’m also reassured by knowing exactly what I should and shouldn’t be doing. Massive fines and arrests tend to focus the mind as well. There are many who will be reading this from the UK and unless you are here, I don’t think you can possibly imagine how restrictive the strictest lockdown in Europe actually is. More importantly, how supportive people have been about those restrictions.

Over the two evenings, one of the things that struck me was the variation in interpretation of the new rules between the various establishments. The only consistency between them is the gap between tables of about two metres. One bar had handwash at the entrance and was heavily policed by the owner, forcing you to rub hands both in and out, yet there was no sanitiser in the actual toilets. Others just have strategic handwash and signs dotted about and one made me wear a mask to go to the toilet, even though I was on my own. All the tables are scrubbed after each use and masks by staff tend to be worn unless they want to smoke or chat with friends, which then reduces the mask to something akin to a neck warmer.

We had a meal out and the owner gave every customer a glass of cava to finish their meal, I assume as a thank you for custom. Prices have increased in one of the bars we have been to and one bar that gave tapas with every drink doesn’t anymore. 

 

Into Phase 2

With the weather in the foreseeable future back to its hot and sunny norm, the baby steps back to normal at least have the weather onside. It will be one of the big advantages that Spain has over the UK when the bars and restaurants open again there. Our part of Alicante has been held back from entering phase 2 of the lift of restrictions so that the north of the region can catch up. We will enter phase 2 on Monday 1st June all going well. Our business is slow, but we are hopeful that it will pick up with everyone else. The news that tourism will be encouraged from July 1st is being cautiously welcomed. 

 

It made me think

Just one observation before I wrap up. I saw a Facebook post that announced the daily death toll from the virus had dropped below 100 deaths for yet another day. My first thought was “oh great” before I quickly chastised myself. Along with others, I had fallen into the trap of celebrating death and forgetting, albeit briefly, that 83 families that day have lost loved ones to the virus (we are now in the '30s). Reading the replies to the post, I wasn’t the only one. 

Our local general hospital has had no admissions for Covid-19 in over three weeks I read today. Baby steps to a new future and hopefully we will soon be looking back on this period and how we not only survived but made us stronger. 

Stay safe everyone!



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