Our problem now is getting a flight home from Spain

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view of apartments in Spain

We own an apartment in Spain, on the Costa del Sol, in a little town on the coast.

We are both retired  and came over in March and were  supposed to head home around the 21st of April. 10 days after we arrived the lockdown started (14th of March). 

The lockdown regulations in Spain are quite strict.

empty beach in Spain

We are only allowed to go out one at a time and only one person per car. The only reason we can go out is to get food or go to the pharmacy. There’s no exercising outdoors allowed, although  that rule is now changing this coming weekend – thank Goodness! 

There are police checkpoints – it is a bit like being back in Northern Ireland in the ‘70’s. They check where you are going, where have you have come from and why are you out. We also have to carry our passports and evidence of where we are living, and the papers for the car hire. 

The police issue very heavy fines.  

It’s 300 euros so  if  you are out for any ‘unknown reason’ and they will just fine you on the spot. If there are two people in a car it can be up to 1000 euros.

It’s nerve-wrecking. I suppose it’s because we are in a different country and my Spanish is very limited –  which adds to the worry of having to explain things to a policeman. 

empty street at beach in Spain

All parks and beaches closed from the 14 March and schools had stopped the week before that.  Children’s playgrounds were closed the Thursday before lockdown. You don’t see people out and about and there are very few cars on the road. At the little village there’s an eerie atmosphere, just because there is no-one around.  

In Spain when you go the supermarket you have to wear a facemask. They give you hand sanitiser and gloves as you go in.There haven’t been the huge queues here or  panic-buying…plenty of toilet rolls, rice, pasta.   The shelves  were never, ever, empty  – unlike what I was seeing in Tesco’s and Sainsburys. 

When you actually think about it… it’s like you are watching a movie. It doesn’t seem real…it’s not real life. If you were watching it on TV you would think –  wouldn’t that be horrendous! 

bed with clue quilt and window with bars Spain

We live in a two-bedroom apartment. Our neighbours are a Spanish family with three children and we both have quite a big terrace. There are so many families in Spain living in apartments who don’t have outdoor space.

Malaga city has the most incidents of coronavirus  in Andalucia.  But, fortunately coronavirus cases in Spain are beginning to lower and last weekend the Government voted to allow children to go out with their parents. That is, three children with one parent for a walk – no further than one kilometre from home. 

Had we known lockdown was going to happen, and flights cancelled, we probably wouldn’t have come. 

Our problem now is getting a flight home from Spain.

We’ve had four flights cancelled-  three with Easyjet and one with Aer Lingus. They let you book knowing that there probably wouldn’t be flying. The Aer Lingus flight was just cancelled the day before yesterday.  

If you go on any of their websites there are no flights, or they are cancelled, or full. With Aer Lingus you can transfer to another flight but they will charge you.  Easyjet  let you transfer everything over for free so you just keep going forward.  Currently, there are no flights going in or out of  Malaga.

We just want to get home. We could be here for…  I don’t know how long. 

The Spanish government has said they don’t want visitors coming in.  So, I don’t know what they will do for the holiday season because they rely on tourism. This coast is all tourist related. I don’t know how the economy will stand it.

For us, it’s about trying to fill that time where you would normally have gone out and about. 

living room in beach  apartment Spain

We get up a bit later… watch the news and have a cup of tea. We listen to the news for about half an hour before breakfast and after breakfast we do pilates for an hour online  – with someone I go to at home. I have an online Spanish  class… I do about an hour every afternoon. 

Because we don’t live here you never really saw many people before – maybe they were out at work. We have got to know people from upstairs. We talk from one level to another  shouting up to each other. There are people that we had never met before after years out here for holiday. Which is nice –  to know your neighbours. I had joined a walking group  and I miss  the company of other people.  We were making friends out here. 

If we were living in a rented holiday home things would be a lot worse. We have clothes here and I have a sewing machine and have started  making pancakes and baking again – which I haven’t done for years. 

craftwork on terrace spain

We are lucky to have the terrace. The settee – we call that  ‘the café’. So we go and have our morning coffee in ‘the café’.  We have a table  at one end –  so that’s ‘the restaurant’. And as the sun sets in the evening we have our sundowner in the ‘bar’ area  – which is another little corner.

I’ve had a few down days where I’ve thought… how are we ever going to get home? I feel very apart from my family. The realisation hits that we are over here… and the rest of our family are very far away.  My mum is 90. She sees my two sisters but my worry would be that something would happen to either of them. 

My mum is still in her own home. She has a carer comes in just in the morning. For a long time the carers didn’t seem to have gloves or aprons  so my  mum was worried about who they had been with and the house where they had been beforehand.  

She would say: ‘where are your gloves?’  Because they didn’t have any.  Because of coronavirus she is quite nervous of the carers and won’t let her make  her breakfast or  do anything.

I phone her twice a day when I’m here, just for some for her to talk to. There’s not a lot to say. I’m not doing very much… she’s not doing very much.   It’s usually the same conversation every day. 

terrace furniture spain

When this is over I’m most looking forward to actually giving someone a hug.  I think everyone is the same. I’m missing that contact…. where you can meet up with a friend.  

Whether we will ever get back to ‘normal’…. They are talking about the  ‘new normality’

In Spain everyone seems to wear a mask as a precaution. I think now I would be very wary about even going to the city centre  or  into a crowded area like a shopping mall. It would be nice to be able to do that… but to feel safe and secure. Every country is the same. 

We bought masks from the chemist – 10 euros for three masks. My partner has just bought two paper masks for 5 euro each –  even though the Spanish Government  issued a statement saying they should not be charging more than 96 cents for a mask! 

From this weekend we should be allowed to go together to a restaurant and sit on a café  terrace.. that is, with a  third of the tables they would normally have. Even with that, I’m not sure I would be happy sitting there.

Even though it’s just the two of us here, I’m constantly washing my hands. 

When we return from the supermarket we take our shoes off at the door and  everything goes out onto the terrace, then we bring it into the kitchen and it all gets washed with hot soapy water. Everything else gets sprayed with bleach and water. It is time consuming. 

I am a bit hyper about it. That’s why I wouldn’t like to be going out every day to get shopping.  Once a week, or once a fortnight  – that’s enough. 

When the lockdown started we were watching every news item –   Northern  Ireland as well and the UK Government daily report.  

There are Facebook groups from people who live here permanently who translate a lot of the local Spanish reports. Our TV package does all the UK channels. We were listening to it all day.  Now, we listen to it in the morning and usually  in the evening. We don’t put it on as much…. Because Spain is an hour ahead we found we were eating later and later in the evening. 

We are hoping from this Sunday that we can go out for a walk– they say it can be for half an hour within a kilometre from where you live.  So, hopefully we will both be allowed out together! 

beach apartments in spain

It’s very strange:  you live in an apartment together, you do everything together and yet if you go out in the car it can only one of you. Walking to the supermarket – that would be our ‘daily walk’.

We have had dreadful weather in Spain since we went into lockdown. On and off it has been cloudy and dull. If you are feeling a bit flat and you look out and see grey clouds you feel even flatter. Plus we were phoning home and everyone was saying.. ‘ the weather is wonderful here…we have been out in the garden all day… we were sunbathing… we went for a walk along the beach..”

We have neighbours checking on our home and garden and sent a photograph of it and you just think:  I want to be back home.

view of terrace through window bars

But today the sun has come out. We feel a little bit of hope that we will be able to get out  for a walk this weekend. That will lift our spirits a lot in that, we won’t  be confined and won’t feel like we are behind bars. All the apartments  here have metal grilles on the bedroom windows for security.  

Things you wouldn’t have thought of as normal have suddenly become ‘normal’. It becomes ‘normal’ to live inside the confines of your own house. Before this, you would be called a hermit. It shows that you can become used to it.  

The thought of going out…. I am a bit nervous about it. I suppose it’s because you have to make sure you have your passport, ID everything.  Have I got my mask… have I got this..  and worrying about touching anything when you are out….

At the beginning I took every chance I could to go to the supermarket  – just to get out.  But soon realised that I don’t feel safe or secure there.  

Will we always do that or will it get to the stage  where  we are relaxed about going into a restaurant and talking to people  we don’t know? Or, sitting  beside someone on the bus and the train and chatting to someone you’ve never met before?

We are at the age where we both have medical appointments at home. D. has an appointment that has been rescheduled a couple of times now.  I have this awful notion we won’t get home until the end of June or July…. 

empty street apartments Spain

We just don’t know when it will be.

All photos by respondent.

Follow Nuala Rooney:

I am a creative professional and award-winning author, currently developing new approaches to design research through storytelling. With unique skillsets, developed as a design educator in Higher Education institutions in UK and Hong Kong, my interest lies in exploring design within lived experience.

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