REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL … Notes from an author in lockdown. WEEK THREE …

The Author, taking a different perspective on things, thinking outside the box etc …

The clocks went forward today (or was it back? I can never get my head around this tbh) … Whatever. I’ve always thought it was a bonkers idea. I mean, BRITISH SUMMER TIME … in March? … wtf!

If, like me and our dog, you treat your daily routine as set in stone, then it’s just one less hour of sleep, really. I try and get out of bed before 8am, unless severely impaired (by excess Sangria the previous evening, for instance) and it’s that much tougher if it’s only just getting light outside. It usually takes me, Nikki and Gizmo most of a week to adjust.

When the clocks go back (?) again in the autumn it’s no better. You’d think that I’d get that hour of kip back again. But no. Gizmo wakes up when he sees daylight and insists on his pre-brekkie walkies, whatever the clock says.

So anyway, I drag myself out of bed, get dressed (relatively simple here: shorts, teeshirt, hoodie if it’s cloudy), grab dog plus lead, head out of the door … and stop. What have I forgotten? Keys—check. Sunglasses—check. Ah yes: my phone and driving license / ID, in case I’m stopped by the police. We’re allowed to take the dog outside to do his business, but the police have been stopping people. Nikki sometimes takes Gizmo’s pet passport with her, to prove he’s really our dog and not one we’ve rented just to allow us to go for a walk.

It would normally be quieter than usual on clock-moving Sunday, but this morning is, of course, exceptional. Week three of the lockdown begins today. The silence is eerie, the feeling of isolation total. It feels like all the humans on the planet have been abducted by aliens overnight, leaving just Nikki, me, Gizmo and the seagulls. Alone. Perhaps this is how El Médano was in the Good Old Days: no airplanes, no traffic, no tourists, no surf shops—just a few fishermen and camels (yes, historically true) …

And then a police car goes past, as it does every morning at the same time—as measured by the clock.

We’re like dogs. We need our routines. In fact, they give us freedom. Because freedom only exists within a structure that allows you to appreciate it. Freedom is a state of mind. Imagination is escape. Creativity is therapy.

In these dark days, when borders are closed and we are locked down in our homes, I try not to think of myself as a prisoner … but if tempted to do so, I think of the prisoners who have endured longterm confinement: Nelson Mandela, Anne Franks, Gregory Roberts* etc They survived by escaping via their imagination and creativity.

*You might not have heard of Gregory Roberts, but his is an interesting story … He wrote his novel: SHANTARAM three times after prison guards trashed the first two versions. It’s 933 pages long (and a bloody good read).

One challenge that Nikki, and her fellow artists face is running out of art materials. When lockdown was announced with just a few hours notice, we rushed out to stock-up on food. She never thought about paper, paint, canvasses, sketch pads etc. Now the local Chinese shop and papelería (where she used to get her paper) are closed.

Thankfully, an online search reveals that the art shop in Los Cristianos will still deliver. Phew! Nikki shares the good news with the Arte in Tenerife Facebook group that she set up:

We writers just need a laptop, or a bit of paper and a pen to keep scribbling (as I discovered while waiting in line to get into Mercadona—see my previous blog post) and, of course, our imagination … which, again thankfully, is freely available if you know where to look for it.

Relax and Take It Easy—the universe doesn’t even know that you exist …

Tuesday, 24th March. My first visit to the supermarket since lockdown was imposed. My first time out of the house, except to take Gizmo for a walk in the barranco (ravine) behind us. My first contact with anybody except Nikki for the past nine days (“contact” being a smile from a safe two metre socially isolated distance and a few words exchanged with the checkout lady).

The cosmopolitan, busy little town I call my home, is a ghost town. The streets are empty. The beach deserted. There’s an eerie stillness.

This quote (from the first chapter of my novel: TOO CLOSE TO THE WIND) describes the normal vibe:

“El Médano was a party town, an ‘Endless Summer’ kind of place, a town with no winter where everybody pursued sun, sex, surf, and fun—endlessly. Médanites wanted to let the good times roll …”

So, driving through Ghost Town is weird, but hang on … Every Cloud / Silver Linings / Reasons To Be Cheerful etc … The eerie stillness is actually surprisingly relaxing. Now you can hear the sound of the surf, the breeze in the palm trees, the seagulls plaintive cries. The streets are empty: very few cars—which makes driving a pleasant experience (perhaps as it was fifty years ago).

I arrive at Mercadonna and things get rather more stressful … The carpark is chock-a-block, with cars queuing to get in. Eventually someone leaves and I take their space. Then I notice the queue to get into the shop. It stretches right around the carpark and into the street. Around 30 – 50 people are waiting in line. I think about turning around and going home. But I don’t. And, again, it’s a lot less stressful than I’m expecting.

Okay, the queue is, again, a bit different: sombre, spooky even … Nobody speaks. We avoid eye contact. The person ahead of me puts on a pair of purple gloves and then washes them with sanitiser he produces from a dispenser in his pocket. But hey, it’s a typically glorious day (sunny, 22c, as normal) and nobody is getting stressed.

We wait calmly, patiently, two metres apart, heads buried in our phones—all except me, that is. Unfortunately, my mobile isn’t smart enough to do anything interesting (it’s an eight-year-old titchy little red clamshell that makes phone calls, but not much else). Now I’m regretting not bringing my Kindle with me … Until I realised I have some paper (my shopping list) and a pen … So I spend the time writing some notes for a blog post about going to Mercadona.

Inside, things are again rather less stressful than usual. The shopping experience is actually relatively pleasant. The shelves are well-stocked (no panic buying here). My fellow customers treat each other with exaggerated politeness—none of the usual slaloming around with trolleys. And the staff are super friendly (PD: muchas gracias al personal super amable y servicial).

And To finish this blog post on a high … I invented a new word today: “Vexit” (Virus Exit Strategy). Maybe it’ll catch on, perhaps go viral (LOL) like “Wooftastic” (which Nikki and I invented and is gradually becoming popular). One day ‘Vexit’ and ‘Wooftastic’ will join ‘Brexit’ in the dictionary. You mark my words 🙂