Lockdown in Spain – day 9

I say day 9 but I’ve already lost track of the days if I’m honest. We started self-isolating the day before the government officially shut the schools, which in turn was the day before they declared a state of emergency and subsequently a state of alarm. Then, of course, in the midst of all this we had an unexpected trip to Accident and Emergency. Suffice to say we’ve been on full lock down long enough for the novelty to wear off, the rules to embed and our psychological map of the world to shrink to miniature proportions.

We are lucky to live in the country, in a house with a garden, so our lockdown is less intense than for the majority of Spaniards, who tend to live in city apartment blocks. The weather has been consistently warm and sunny and instead of having to gaze out upon it from behind a fourth-floor window we can still drink our coffee on the terrace and I can distract my mind and busy my hands digging in my hitherto much-neglected vegetable plot.

My son can bounce on the trampoline in the back yard and kick his football in the garden to let off steam in between bouts of the schoolwork that arrives daily via email, and we can walk the dogs on this  even-more-quiet-than usual country lane.

Dog walking is a permitted necessity wherever you live: one person per dog, no socialising with other dogs and their owners and only a city block or two in distance. Here we don’t meet anyone other than the odd farmer tending to their livestock or fences. We salute from a distance and questions on health and news from elsewhere are yelled across fields and hedgerows.

The horses in the field next door are the only company we have at home. There is a constant tinkling music from the bells around their necks that joins with the birdsong to provide a soundtrack to my gardening, one which is reassuringly more country idyll than horror apocalypse. I know how this movie goes – it’s going to be all right in the end. And if it’s not all right, then it’s not the end.

Back indoors I watch the horses through my kitchen window as I do the dishes. They occasionally  break into a playful canter or roll on their backs, kicking their legs up in the air. But mostly they eat. Slowly, steadily chomping their way through all the grass in the field and then lying down for a nap.

I, too, am filling a goodly portion of my days with eating, wearing a track in the tiles between desk and fridge. Periodically I wonder what I would do if this (or some other as yet unknown disaster) dragged on long enough to warrant food rationing.  At this I snap the lid of my macbook closed, pull on my wellies and get digging in the garden again. I sow seeds with a new reverence and plot how to get hold of more seedlings.

There were no plants on sale at the local farm shop on last week’s shopping expedition to our local village – just 3 km but currently a world away. Their latest delivery languished, untouched out the back. It had come from Madrid, the epicentre of Spain’s coronavirus outbreak. No-one was taking any chances.

Otherwise the shelves of the local shops are fully stocked. Essential shops and services continue to operate during the state of emergency, in fact they are obliged to, but with strict new hygiene and distancing practices. The shop owner is masked and gloved, gloves are handed out on entry and a limited number of shoppers are allowed in at a time to ensure a minimum distance of 1.5m is maintained at all times. Queues outside the bakery snake gappily down the street, two large paving blocks left empty between each patient shopper.

To tell you the truth, I only know all this at second-hand. I haven’t left the confines of our garden other than for a dog walk in over a week. Only one person at a time from each household is allowed out to go shopping. One person allowed per car and cars only allowed on public roads under seven specified, essential circumstances. Richie did our shopping last Monday. I haven’t sat in the car in over 10 days. Considering I regularly do several hundred kilometres a day in the course of my work, this is a radical (and not entirely unwelcome) change. In fact this must be the longest time I have ever gone without travelling in a motorised vehicle. Our car sits unmoved, now serving only as a block to prevent the football rolling down the steep drive.

My only real contact with the outside comes via WhatsApp and other social networks. The WhatsApp groups are particularly buzzing, with funny memes pinging back and forth, links to home exercise videos and online educational resources being shared and friends generally cheering each other on in our locked down lives. Solidarity and community are fundamental tenets of Spanish society and are displayed more vividly and are more welcome than ever in the current circumstances.

Saturday night drinks are organised via video call – scheduled to start after the daily ‘aplausos y cacerolada’ finish. This is the applause and banging of saucepans that happens throughout the country at 8pm to signal  loudly the immense gratitude that we all feel towards the frontline workers in the health service. Alone in the country we miss this live display of camaraderie but friends forward me footage from their apartment blocks in the cities and even the local village. (Watch the video below, where the local police can also be heard adding their voices to the public’s salute as they serenade the hospital with their sirens and see if you don’t cry. Gets me every time.)

Thus the inequalities between my life in the country and lock down in the city are somewhat ironed out. I can exercise in the fresh air in my garden while my city friends have to set up mini-trampolines and rollers to convert their bikes for indoor use. But my friends drink their Sunday vermouth (an unmissable ritual) in the company of their neighbours, all raising their glasses to each other from the windows of their apartments and to the accompaniment of live music and I get to watch the replay online. Their children play ‘veo veo’ (I spy), voices ringing out to each other across the square, while mine can only chat with his friends on Tiktok.

The vibrant street life that is so dear to the heart of Spain may be temporarily on hold but the spirit that propels it is undiminished. For now I must live it vicariously but happier than ever with my decision to live in this big-hearted and socially-responsible country.

¡Viva España! And down with coronavirus.







  1. A great insight for those who might not know. We are luckier than most I suspect.

  2. What they would say about us, our ancestors, who 80 years ago in most of Europe were under a war, or Spain that had just ended a Civil War, and with a harsh post-war and many Spaniards had to leave, and with destroyed industries and infrastructures.

    • Ya, es que no lo tenemos nada duro. Podemos colaborar con simplemente quedarnos en casa viendo Netflix. Van a venir tiempos duros en términos económicos pero hay que ser consciente de la suerte que tenemos. Lo importante ahora es la salud y proteger los más vulnerables. Un saludo

  3. Jayne Hollinson says:

    Loved reading this. Johnson’s just announced our lockdown from tonight here in the UK. Really interesting and heartening to hear your account and others from around the world. Going to share it on Facebook if that’s okay. Thanks.

  4. Love the pics and reading about how you’re spending your days under lockdown. I’ve a great image in my head of the untouched car blocking the runaway footballs! I hope the food supply chain won’t be affected but if it is, I’ll have to tunnel my way over your direction : ) All the best and hope to see you soon, here or there, when all this is over PamX

  5. Lovely entry Mary. On day 11 here in Valencia and starting to count bubbles on gotelé on the wall

  6. Mickey Neeley says:

    Great post. We’ve been in Spain for 15 months and I’ve often wished to live in the heart of Valencia. However right now I’m very thankful for our semi-isolated beach house in Denia. Like you, we are taking full advantage of and feeling blessed to have a large outdoor terrace and lawn. We are missing the fantastic weather we had in February. But that’s a minor issue. I guess you don’t miss the beach walks so much when it is cold and rainy. :-)

    • Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment Mickey. Glad to hear lockdown’s not got you down… definitely a good time to have a house and a garden rather than that funky downtown apartment that often seems so appealing!! It seems we’ve got our weather switched around at the moment – it’s like summer here! I’m sure it will switch back at some point. This too shall pass applies to everything!!

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