We have been in lockdown for 2 weeks. The Wednesday before we went into lockdown we were still debating whether to head to San Sebastian for the weekend to see friends who were on holiday there and after that we were still planning to go skiing for a week with my parents. We didn’t really understand at that point the severity of this virus, nor the impact it would have on Madrid in such a short time. We never really discussed trying to get back to the UK where all our family and friends are. Partly I think we thought lockdown would be a relatively short term situation, and partly I think we both feel very at home in this city.
The past two weeks have been upsetting for two main reasons.
Firstly Madrid has been hit very hard and the health system has collapsed. Whilst walking our dog the other day I bumped into two men in hazmat suits carrying a body bag. On Thursday night this week my husband and I could hear our neighbour coughing (sounded like a bark) through the wall. We realised whilst he had our number, we didn’t have his. We talked through options of what we could do – we couldn’t call an ambulance because we were pretty sure one wouldn’t come. In the end we thought calling the police would probably be the best option as they would be able to enter the house. In ordinary circumstances we would have popped round. But we are now acutely aware that we both need to stay healthy so that our daughter can remain healthy and so that we don’t need to access any medical services. So we felt very helpless and barely slept that night. The neighbour is ok but he is already sick so we’re worried about his health.
In these first two weeks of lockdown I had vaccinations scheduled for my daughter. At one point these were almost cancelled but I held my ground as I felt these vaccinations were necessary. So we went to the health centre. It was a scary experience, I didn’t fully anticipate how nervous I would feel and staff there were on edge. It all went ahead as usual and thankfully my daughter is in good health so we feel we can retreat inside knowing that we have done what we can to protect her against other illnesses.
The city is quiet which is very strange. Madrid is usually alive in every sense of the word, people are so friendly and people live outside. It is rare to live in a house in this city. Most people live in flats and see the parks as their gardens. Bars and restaurants are very affordable so that most people living in Madrid can afford to go out at least once a week for food or a drink. At 8pm the city comes alive as everyone takes to their balcony to clap health workers and the emergency services. I was out on a dog walk one night and, not realising the time, experienced the clapping from the street. My dog, usually the first to bark at any excitement just stopped and looked upward. I was so moved by the situation, it feels like we are in this together.
Through the news we hear that the death rate from the disease continues to rise. Last Tuesday morgues announced they could no longer collect bodies from houses as they simply did not have the appropriate equipment. I have debated whether to write these more distressing details of the situation in Madrid but, to repeat, two weeks ago we were debating travelling elsewhere in Spain, we had no idea how quickly this virus would take hold.
And so to the second aspect which has been upsetting these past few weeks. Watching the UK a few weeks behind us. I have hope that the UK will somehow avoid the situation Spain is in, perhaps the social distancing phase worked, perhaps telling vulnerable people to stay inside early on will curb the curve. However it just seemed mad to be seeing crowds of people on the tube and in parks at a time where, over here, we are now contemplating washing clothes immediately after supermarket trips and disinfecting door handles when we leave the house. I know that the perspective I see on the news is only one side of the story, and all my friends and family I speak to have been, and continue to be, very respectful of the situation and are staying at home. So here’s hoping the UK health system can survive and the virus doesn’t take hold in the same way it has here.
So two week on I thought I’d share what I’ve learnt in follow up to this blog post: https://bit.ly/3aqPX01 (thank you for all the lovely comments about this piece, it has been read by over 500 people and that’s mostly from people sharing it on to their friends):
1) The new normal takes hold sooner than you think: both my husband and I have reflected that actually lockdown is not as difficult as we’d anticipated. This is largely down to our living situation, a house with enough outside space which means we don’t feel trapped. It’s also due to all other options being taken away at this time, we’re all in this together and we are very comfortable.
2) Weekends need to be different: we’ve struggled to work out what day it is during the week. We are both working so there’s a tempo around work, but the actual day? It always feels like a Wednesday or Thursday. We need to make the weekends feel different to punctuate time. We don’t really have a set routine for weekends, just plans in place during the week to look forward to. This weekend its my birthday so we’ll be celebrating together and speaking to family and friends via Zoom during the weekend.
3) Video calls have never been more important: we actually feel that we have less time right now than we did in life before lockdown. Balancing childcare, work and virtual socialising is tricky! But we’re so grateful for the video calls we’ve been having with friends and family. We’ve a standing quiz every Saturday with a big group of friends, and dates in the diary with other pals to catch up over a glass of wine. This is something to look forward to and means we’re connecting with other people (not driving each other crazy!).
4) Work is a good distraction we are lucky to have: through my work I support charities with their digital approach, this is quite a critical need right now so we are busy. We don’t necessarily have new projects coming in but we’ve decided it’s our responsibility to apply our skills the best we can to support communities. It’s been really busy and I can’t quite believe the hours I’ve worked the past few weeks given I also have a 4 month baby. One day I will tell her why it was important to work at this point in time. I’m aware I’m extremely lucky to have my work, and the stability of my husbands work at this time.
5) Creating an ‘office’ space helps: I have a few office spaces in the house (which isn’t really big enough for one office space let alone a few!). I’ve learnt that the ironing board is the perfect height for a standup desk. So I can work whilst standing and holding my baby in the carrier. Having a designated ‘office’ space puts me in the right headspace so I can focus. But I usually start the day checking emails first thing in bed, with no top on whilst my baby sleeps after her first feed.
6) The house is a mess and that’s ok: at the end of the day the house is strewn with dirty nappies (we use reusables so it’s not as simple as putting them in the bin), there’s coffee cups EVERYWHERE and the dog is basically now ferrell as he trots around the house finishing half eaten plates of food. I’ve always tried to organise the house so it takes 15 minutes to tidy (I think I learnt that from Marie Kondo). By tidy I mean picking stuff off the floor and putting it in its place, not washing pots or hoovering. This is pretty much still happening, but it is quite impressive how messy the house gets in a day.
7) Screen time is high, so avoiding screens is needed: it’s really tiring having back to back work calls then going into virtual social calls. So we do need to programme in time without screens to recharge and switch off. We haven’t really got into a good habit around this yet but I think starting a new book and doing a few craft projects will help me find a balance.
8) Asking ‘how are you?’ has never been more important: I try to find 10 minutes in the day to ask 3 or 4 people how they are doing. This means that over a week I’ve managed to check in with around 20 – 30 people (or check in with the same person more than once). I think something hit the UK news on Thursday last week and I suddenly received a wave of emails and texts from people checking in to see how we were doing. I appreciate this so much.
9) Exercise is precious: I had been taking the dog running to give him some exercise and get some for myself. I was stopped by police last week and told it was not allowed. So now exercise happens in the home, which is fine, I just know I’ll never take running through a park for granted again. I’m doing online classes with a pilates teacher I had before lockdown and we’ve bought some kettlebells so we’ll be using those for workouts.
10) Taking things day by day: things are very uncertain and I find just taking things day by day the best way forward. I’ve realised how fast I usually live my life and I now find comfort in a simple cup of coffee or a game with the dog. Life will feel different after lockdown I imagine.
That’s probably it for week 2 of lockdown, I would love to hear from you if you’ve any tips or ideas for life in lockdown. Tomorrow it’s my birthday and instead of gifts (we have all we need) I’ve asked friends and family to send a piece of wisdom which I will put into a book for my daughter. It might be your favourite quote, book, piece of art or song. If you’d like to share something get in touch via a DM on Instagram.
Peace and love xxx