Sunday 26 April 2020

Covid-19 Diaries - Lockdown Day 43 - a big day out for the kids

One day we'll go to the park, one day we'll see friends, one day we'll go up a mountain, one day we'll go outside...

"Today is ONE DAY!" I told my toddler, excitedly. "We're going to the sea!"

She looked at me, unsure.  

"We're going on an adventure! Sol and mummy! Outside!"

A smile spread slowly across her face and she started to turn around in circles.

My stomach was hurting with anticipation. She hadn't been outside the apartment block for six weeks. I had been to the supermarket twice and the second time I'd been stopped by the police. I felt nervous about what awaited us. I worried how we would be able to keep the 1-2 metre social distancing rules with other children running about.

The Rule is: 1 adult, 1 hour, maximum 1 kilometre from home.

It had been so long since I'd prepared the nappy bag. I packed an apple, corn cakes, and a change of clothes. The last thing I wanted was hunger or a poo cutting short our maiden voyage.

Sol seemed surprised when, rather than peer through the grills of the apartment block gate, I took out the keys and unlocked it. I carried her through the small kids' play park she wasn't allowed to play in, and set her down on the pavement beyond.

She started to point excitedly.  A dog walker was approaching with a fluffy white dog. Her joy was contagious and he gave her a big smile as he passed.

Next, a car sped by.

"Beep-beep!" Sol cried. "Beep-beep!" 

I'd forgotten she hadn't seen any in six weeks.

As we turned the corner, we saw them... Children! Little children at the water's edge. Some were digging, some were splashing, some were simply staring out at sea. High-pitched giggles filled the air.  

Sol ignored all of them. She knew what she wanted. As soon as we'd crossed to an open space, she walked straight into the water fully clothed. For a moment I worried about her getting sunburnt if I took off her t-shirt. But then I noticed the plump baby sitting in just her nappy nearby, looking very pleased with herself. I threw caution to the wind.

I took off Sol's soggy clothes and let her enjoy herself in the full glorious nude. She loved every minute.  After her swim and her apple, we headed back home, stopping on the way back to stare at a big black cat.  The experience was so stimulating that she was unable to nap. Her face glowed for the rest of the day.  

And I feel like shouting I'M NOT TAKING THIS FOR GRANTED!

They say from the 2nd May, everyone will be entitled to exercise in the fresh air. I can't wait. This is a tough time. It's frustrating for the 14 and 15 year olds who aren't grouped in with the other children. It's demoralising for the group of seniors that would normally be at that beach, walking up and down chatting, or reading the paper with their feet in the sand.

I also think of what my neighbour told me yesterday, of a poor man facing lockdown in his car. No home. Just a car and weeks of waiting. A man who probably has no legal papers and little money and who can't risk getting caught by police for going for a walk. So he sits in his car and he waits.

Everyone hopes things go back to normal. But I'm not so sure our normal was so wonderful. After the lockdown lifts, let's strive for better than normal. Let's show solidarity with each other like never before.   

 Thanks so much for reading. Get in touch on my Facebook Author Page!  

Continue reading blog posts from the Lockdown:

Or, escape the lockdown with a copy of The Hen Party - set in the beautiful island of Mallorca! 

Friday 24 April 2020

Covid-19 Diaries - Lockdown Day 41 - Important announcements

I have a few announcements to make. It won't take long. It's Friday and I'm tiiiired.

Oops, forgot to say Spoiler Alert! That was my first announcement:

1. It's Friday

I know a lot of people are confused about what day or month it is. Generally we all know it's 2020. It's going to be the year that makes it into future editions of Trivial Pursuit:

Q: When was the 2020 Olympics?
Oh, this is a trick questions, isn't it? I know something weird happened in 2020...

I wonder if we will ever forget this year.

2. Don't inject yourself with bleach

No, it won't actually cure you of coronavirus or prevent it. It's just some crazy rumour started by this guy from some Politics Reality TV show. The scriptwriters are hilarious!    

3. My new novel TIPPING POINT is coming out this May!

My editor sent me the finished manuscript with one of the most wonderful compliments I've ever received for a book:

I have to say that I have probably enjoyed this more than any edit I have ever done, thanks to the strength of your storytelling skills. It's great the way you develop the characters through the eyes of the other characters, their observations showing the readers what the people around them are like and building really believable personalities.

I grinned and grinned and grinned... and then told myself to stop grinning and get on with some work.

I can't wait to share the finished book cover next week. I hope the novel, which is set on the island of Mallorca, will provide some hours of entertainment and escape in these challenging and uncertain times.

Thanks so much for reading. Get in touch on my Facebook Author Page!  

Continue reading blog posts from the Lockdown:

Or, escape the lockdown with a copy of The Hen Party - set in the beautiful island of Mallorca! 

Wednesday 22 April 2020

Covid-19 Diaries - Lockdown Day 39 - when we all almost lost our heads

Millipedes make terrible pets. They're either curled up out of reach on the ceiling in the stairwell or dead on the floor. We tell our toddler they are sleeping.

The woodlice are sleeping too. The snail with the broken shell is also asleep.

"Wakey! Wakey!" Sol says. But they do not wake up.

We make millipedes out of egg boxes and name them Milly and Molly. We make them a house out of a cardboard box and feed them plastic grapes. They fail to thrive. On Day 2 Milly loses her head.

Milly & Molly pose outside their mansion

We all nearly lost our heads yesterday when the news announced that the hotly awaited walk for our children from 27th April had translated into: children will only be allowed out to accompany an adult to the supermarket.

The new ruling was supposed to provide Spain's kids, who have been confined for 6 weeks, some relief. As in fresh air, natural light and space to move. We have a terrace and an empty communal area, but some kids, especially in the cities, have nothing. 

How did going to the supermarket count as getting fresh air? Since when did going to the shop in a car count as getting exercise? How did letting touchy-feely little kids into a possibly contagious environment sound like a good idea to anyone?

It was hopeless. There would be no change on 27th April. We weren't going to take our toddler to a supermarket. It wouldn't give  her or us any relief. She was too little for gloves and masks. She would be frustrated at not being to explore the aisles or touch anything.   

The mums in my Whatsapp group sounded like they had reached the end of their tether. They were crushed, angry... reaching for the wine. Even the calmest were starting to wobble.

Notices were passed around to  bang pots in protest at 19.00 from our balconies.

"It's not official," my husband kept saying. 

I echoed his words in my mums' group. I said no one was allowed to panic just yet. Really, I was telling myself. 

That evening, the government amended the rule. Children would be allowed out for a walk from the 27th April. There was a huge sense of a relief. 

We still don't know what the restrictions will be. We don't know how long they will be allowed out or how far from the house they will be able to walk. 

The daydream of going outside as a family will remain a daydream. It's bound to be one adult per child. That's fair, considering everyone else who can't leave the house. 

I hope people won't resent kids being allowed out. We were all kids once, and at least as adults we understand what's going on. 

Sol doesn't understand. 

"One day," I say, when she asks about going to the park, seeing her friends, going up the mountains.   

I don't know if it will be me or her papi accompanying her on Sunday. It doesn't matter. What matters is she has a lovely outing... and if it's not too much to ask, that there are at least some insects awake to say hello on her journey around the block!

Thanks for reading! You can find me on my Facebook Author Page or on Instagram.  

Continue reading blog posts from the Lockdown:

Or, escape the lockdown with a copy of The Hen Party - set in the beautiful island of Mallorca! 

Sunday 19 April 2020

Covid-19 Diaries - Lockdown Day 36 - The world is my kitchen draining board

This is not a political blog so I'm absolutely not going to mention that I recently asked Google whether Trump was a psychopath. Neither will I share that Google requested a more challenging question.

It's not a political blog so I will not mention that I'm disgusted by Spanish politicians using a pandemic in which 20,000 nationals have already died, to bitch at each other in an attempt to further their careers and divisive political agendas.

No, I shall not mention megalomaniacs and egos so big they could sink continents.

From now on, I must limit my newsfeed because I have had a HUGE REALISATION.

It's this:


On a good day. 

It will never be tidy. It will never be completely clear. Even when I think I've achieved the impossible, a little glimmer will catch my eye and I will find a spoon lurking in the depth of the cutlery holder. Even when I've wiped that spoon and put it away and I think I have finally done it, as I back out of the kitchen I will notice in horror that I've completely overlooked my toddler's high chair where more crusty utensils are begging to be washed up, re-starting the whole process.

I am not going to give up trying to clear my kitchen draining board, but I have decided I shall do it without the impatience. I will strive to make the world around me a better place, but I'm not going to turn into an angry bitter person while I'm doing it. How we react to the world may be the only choice we really have. 

And now let me share news of my WALK. Yes, yesterday I decided that I would walk to the supermarket. It's 20 minutes away and I'd been delaying it so I would make the most use of it, buying as much as possible. Although we had done a big shop a week earlier, we had run out of milk and other basics. I got five minutes down the road and was stopped by a policeman.

"Have you got a vehicle?" he said.
"You've won yourself a walk up until here. Now go back for your car."

I felt shaken, rather than annoyed. I had thought I was allowed to walk to the supermarket or the bank. I felt a stab of irritation on the way home as I encountered two dog walkers. WHAT ABOUT MY TODDLER? LET ME WALK MY TODDLER!

A few hours later I started to receive excited messages from fellow mums. "Children will be allowed out from the 27th!!" 

We turned on the news to hear the president speak. I imagined myself in the 1940s crowding around the transistor radio during wartime. Spain has one of the strictest lockdown in the world. The restrictions and limitations will continue, however it looks like from the 27th April, children will be able to go outside for a short walk. Possibly only at a certain time. For instance between 12.00 and 14.00... when Sol naps! 

Thanks for reading! You can find me on my Facebook Author Page or on Instagram.  

Wednesday 15 April 2020

Covid-19 Diaries - Lockdown Day 32 - What episode are you in?

But Mum, I've been spooning sand for 32 days...
You sure I should keep going?

I feel like I'm in one of those 'filler' episodes. You know the ones when the pace slows down and nothing much seems to happen. The sort written by exhausted script writers who finish up their plotting session with a half-hearted 'whatever, that'll do.'

We watched one last night. It was episode 5 of season 3 of Westworld. It's the only show we're following and released once a week so we can't even binge watch it which, in these circumstances, is probably for the best.

One of the characters is given a pill called 'genre' and spends the whole episode looking around him in slow-mo, thinking, what's going on?  

Nothing, that's what. 

There was clever lighting and lots of music, but no progression of the story. 

What we needed was an old or new character appearing to inject some excitement. A change of pace. Some fresh and engaging scenery. SOME PARK SWINGS. A sheep to feed. The seaside. A walk around the bloody block.

Oh, pause it a second... 

I just received a message from a mother of 2 under two's. She reports that her 'Easter Present Campaign' had been a surprising success. It had involved all the neighbours in her apartment block coming up with homemade gifts for each other and leaving them on each other's doorstep. 

Her little toddler had been thrilled to receive a drawing from another toddler. A couple of teenagers had also joined in, unearthing some of their old favourite children's books for her. All her neighbours had also encouraged her to leave the flat and spend some time in the communal area with her kids in the fresh air, something not previously condoned. 

After reading her positive message I realise I'm not STUCK in episode 5, after all. 

This dull feeling will pass. Tomorrow episode 6 will begin and though the new characters may be a woodlice and a spider rather than a human friend, and the change of scenery might be a tent in the living room decorated with scarf; there's no reason it can't be a good episode. 

In fact, I'm going to make sure it's a good one.

Thanks for reading! You can find me on my Facebook Author Page or on Instagram.  

Monday 13 April 2020

Covid-19 Diaries - Lockdown Day 30 - Cardboard Joy

"Spain relaxes lockdown..." say the international papers. 

Have we?

Gosh, that sounds nice. We still can't go outside for a walk, though. More importantly, I still can't walk the toddler. I see people in the UK posting pictures of lush green parks and river scenes and I think, Whaaat? Lockdown is easy if you can go out for walks!  But I know it's not easy. I know mostly families are cooped up. Some more cooped than others.

I was reading an article in El Pais about entire families confined to a bedroom. A mother with a 2 and a 4 year old in a bedroom for thirty days. A mother, father, and two preteen kids sharing one room with a bunk bed. It made me cry. The worst bit is that even after lockdown they will still be living in one bedroom...

Meanwhile, all across the island there are luxury villas lying empty, because we live in a painfully unequal world. Possibly the construction workers allowed back to work today, despite uncertainty about how on earth they'll keep a coronavirus safety distance between them, are building more fabulous dwellings for people who may or may not spend any time in them.

Never mind about the rich. How much would I sacrifice for a more equal world? Would I give up my terrace during lockdown for another family? I like to think so. In the end, we can't expect people to do what we wouldn't. We all have to take some responsibility for the world we live in.   

Do I sound grumpy? I probably need to be walked more often. In fact I did go out today. My second outing in four weeks. I went to the chemist. I saw three police cars in the space of three minutes. The chemist was closed, so I walked back worried that I would be stopped and I would have no receipt to prove my visit.

The highlight of my day came in the afternoon after a few hours at my desk. I walked into the living room to discover my husband had made our toddler a guitar out of cardboard. He has rediscovered his love of guitar playing during lockdown and Sol loves it. She was so excited she was getting her own guitar that she broke into a highly expressive and unintelligible babble, gesturing with her hands, and making certain I understood how brilliant it all was. 

It was wonderful to witness. I sat down on the floor beside her and she gave me a big hug and I thought I'm never buying a plastic toy again...

I also thought, I have the greatest lockdown team ever. This is going to be alright. 

One day we will be able to walk around the block and we will love every minute of it. Until then we will make cardboard instruments and deconstruct cardboard faces and paint empty toilet rolls, and bury treasure in tubs of sand and sing and dance and write and create and feel gratitude for the freedom of our minds to imagine and muster a surprisingly rich life within the confines of four walls.    

Thanks for reading! You can find me on my Facebook Author Page or on Instagram.  

Thursday 9 April 2020

Covid-19 Diaries - Lockdown Day 26 - Be bold

This is a time to be bold.

Not bold so you can break the rules of lockdown. I heard that in Greater Manchester, in the UK, police have had to break up over 500 parties. Lockdown isn't a punishment. It's in place to protect you and your loved ones. Do you want to be responsible for killing your grandfather?

No. By bold, I mean it's a time to step outside of your bubble, not your house.

Are your neighbours okay?

My friend, who lives in a miniscule apartment in Palma, waves to the old man who walks around the rooftop on his zimmer frame every day. He waves back. Human connection. I'm sure it brings a moment of comfort to both of them as they go about reinventing their daily routine.

I'm saying wave at the neighbours you would never have waved at before. Perhaps you'll become good friend after all this.

Open those windows and wave!

I saw a post on social media in which an elderly resident in an apartment block had left a note on her door which said: if anyone is going out, can they bring me back three bottles of milk? The next photo was of three bottles of milk on her doorstep. Okay, between you and me three bottles does seem a lot, but  the point is you have to be bold to ask for help and bold to answer the call.

There are only three occupied flats in our block. The rest have chosen to stay in their native countries or with friends in rural properties. While we chat regularly to the Aussie neighbour below us, we've barely seen our other middle-aged Spanish neighbour. In the five years we've lived here there's only been small talk between us. Still, we have each other's number and we have taken to asking each other if we need anything when we are about to go on a rare trip to the supermarket.

Last week we asked him for potatoes. He dropped off a sack and today I went to his door to pay him. Now I've been assuming all this time he's wanted to keep himself to himself. He's a really outdoorsy type. We know because we've seen his trainers and ski boots drying on the balcony. I thought he was the self-sufficient sort who doesn't need anyone else.

After our chat on the doorstep I realised I might have been wrong about a few things
Evidently he had been reading a lot of news, was feeling restless, and on day 26, was not relishing the thought of continuing at home, alone, and uncertain of how much longer the situation was going to continue.

I admit, as a mother of a toddler, I've felt pretty judgmental of people professing to be bored. BORED? What a luxury! But perhaps I've been too harsh. Our days are so busy with our daughter, and I'm still writing for the magazine, so neither me nor my husband have barely had time to look at the headlines. We don't have to time to worry or speculate. I had to google what day of lockdown it was today because I've lost track. We've adapted to our new life.

But today, after talking to my neighbour, I realised social distancing doesn't mean hiding away and forgetting everyone else in society. On the contrary it means checking in on everyone. After I spoke to our quiet neighbour we sent him a message to tell him that we could always have a drink from one balcony to the other. He replied instantly. He said that would be very nice. Perhaps we'll finally get to know each other. Perhaps we'll become good friends. Or perhaps we'll just be there for each other when it mattered.

Thanks for reading! You can find me on my Facebook Author Page or on Instagram.  

Sunday 5 April 2020

Covid-19 Diaries - Lockdown Day 22 - supermarket trip

After three weeks without leaving the apartment block, it was my turn to go to the supermarket. My husband set about crafting a maximum dual-action defence mask. Basically he sewed a piece of old t-shirt to one of those eye-masks you get free on the plane.

There has been a lot of talk about whether masks are effective or not. Trump has said he won't be wearing one, so I've decided wearing one is probably an intelligent idea.

There was no queue outside the supermarket. Nor were there police. Instead there was a young staff member sitting at the entrance of the shop, wearing a full plastic face shield, a bottle of hand sanitiser by his side. He sprayed my hands and then gave me some plastic gloves. I don't mean latex gloves. I mean that flyaway plastic they sometimes wrap bread in.

Once I had my gloves on I went to get my shopping trolley. Usually I only use a basket because we shop for only two days at a time, but today was going to be different. I hadn't even taken advantage of being able to walk to the supermarket because I knew I would never be able to carry what we needed back.

I began at the fruit and vegetable section. My first item? A cucumber.  Over here in Spain you generally have to weigh the fruit yourself before reaching the till. So I took my cucumber to the weighing scales and pressed the designated cucumber button. Out slid the sticker. I plucked the sticker out of the machine and went to put it on my cucumber. But oh calamity, I discovered the sticker had stuck to the finger of my glove!

I tried to peel the sticker off with my other gloved hand and I succeeded in getting it suck to that one instead. I pulled at the sticker and my glove started to stretch ominously. If I wasn't careful I was going to rip my glove. How many times could I ask for a new glove? Also, if I got a hole in my glove, wasn't I increasing the chance of contact with the virus?!

I looked around me. I was in the middle of a battle with a sticker but no one seemed to have noticed. I felt like I was in the film Contagion and I was Mr Bean. 

Why wasn't everyone else having  the same problem?

They all seemed to be getting on fine, focused on their task of getting as much food as quickly as possible. My absurd struggle continued. The sticker ripped in two. Luckily the bar code was still intact and stuck to the cucumber, so I smoothed the ripped bit over my finger and continued as best I could to attach labels to the rest of the items I had to buy.

My very serious mission became even more farcical when my sack of oranges broke. If I had got the nasty corona germs on my gloved hands, I had now successfully spread it across all the fruit.  

Finally my shopping was packed and back in the trolley to wheel to my car. Unfortunately my car was down a slope. Shouldn't shopping trolleys have brakes for this situation? I almost lost control of the trolley. Imagine how unlucky that could have been. The one time I take the car out in three weeks and I crash into myself!

I wore my mask all the way home. Not just because it's super stylish, but because I've observed I touch my face a lot while I'm waiting for traffic lights. I only took it off once I'd washed my hands at home. My husband later found it discarded on the kitchen counter and lowered my health and safety score to somewhere below five. After all that excitement,  I think I'll stay in tomorrow...

Thanks for reading! You can find me on my Facebook Author Page or on Instagram.  

Wednesday 1 April 2020

Covid-19 Diaries - Lockdown Day 18

I want to report a crime. Well, I don't want to. I would have preferred it hadn't happened.

SOMEONE ROBBED OUR HAMMOCK. They did. They climbed over the gate into our small communal area and took it. It was Sol's wee-wee. It was a big part of her lockdown lifestyle. It overlooked the park she had almost stopped asking after. While she was swinging in it, things didn't seem so catastrophic.   

Whoever did it, I hope they fall off and bump their head, like the five little monkeys in the song we play to get ourselves and little Sol moving in the morning.  We've tried a few motivational YouTube videos but we haven't found THE ONE that works for us yet. 

A zumba one proved too fast. My husband perservered but after failing to replicate five moves in a row I abandoned the dance floor and sought solace in the washing up.

We had a laugh with an old Judi Sheppard Missett compilation (above). Then there was a the funky choreography with the pleasant Australian lad. Trouble was our toddler just stared at him zombie-eyed and put us off completing the half an hour routine. We don't watch much TV in our house and even though we need to entertain Sol at home all day every day we haven't resorted to parking her in front of a screen yet.

Next we tried the incredibly popular PE with Joe. Good luck to him and well done for raising money for the NHS... however Joe was a bit too chatty for us. In the end, we chose to whack a ball against the wall of the stairwell, back and forward to each other, until my palm went red and Sol lost interest in the mud she'd been feeding into the drain.

Game of the week? My white broken keyboard came very much in handy. My husband painted little pictures on different keys and dictated to Sol what to press. "Strawberry, banana, tree, car, car, strawberry..." Our hope is she'll emerge from lockdown a proficient typist. We might need her wages when the economy collapses.

The other day I was trying to locate a kids' poetry book from the vaccum pack bag I'd stored all my books in to avoid them getting covered in mould. Mallorca is a damp island and every winter the mould invades everyone's houses. Anyway, I came across a book by Eckhart Tolle instead. I opened it up on this page:

Become at ease with the state of 'not knowing.' This takes you beyond mind because the mind is always trying to conclude and interpret. It is afraid of not knowing. So, when you can be at ease with not knowing, you have already gone beyond the mind. A deeper knowing that is non-conceptual then arises out of that state.

I don't know about that. I simply don't know much at all. I don't know when this lockdown will end. I don't know what kind of world will emerge afterwords. I don't know if I'll ever find an exercise video I like. And I certainly don't know WHO STOLE OUR HAMMOCK.

Thanks for reading. You can find me on my Facebook Author Page or on Instagram.