Alan and Cathy
I have been living in limbo in many respects since moving to Spain last September so, life in lockdown isn’t very different in many respects.
When I first arrived in the town of Vera in the Almería region I didn’t want to get set up officially as I didn’t know if I would stay a few months or a lot longer. The move was supposed to be straight-forward because my sister owns an apartment on the coast, plus I have rented out my apartment in Kilkenny so, as long as I live modestly I don’t need to work here.
My motorbike, dying within hours of landing in the country, ensured that life here started with a bang, and more bureaucratic learning curves than I ever wanted. It took a week of dogged persistence to be able to buy a new motorbike in my sister’s name; she has official Spanish ID from her apartment purchase 15 years ago.
Lesson One: If you want to buy property here every door will be open to you; otherwise every obstacle will be put up for you
Needing a monthly prescription for sleeping tablets is a challenge even in my home-town, so I’m used to it being a nightmare when I move abroad, which I have done quite a lot. But I have been dealing with this situation for 20 years so I know I will get there eventually. It meant spending my first month in Spain in another bureaucratic loop, which tested my patience further. Many hours were spent filling out forms in the city hall and medical centre so that I could visit a GP.
My situation baffled officialdom: what was a single middle-aged female doing moving countries on a whim, alone, to a near-deserted beach resort off-season, with limited language skills and no paperwork or research done ahead of a stay for an unknown amount of time? And they weren’t shy about telling me as much.
The upside to these challenges is that they force me to work harder on my Spanish, which was acquired a decade ago in university, thus giving me a copious amount of nouns and verbs but less knowledge or confidence in forming coherent sentences.
Meanwhile I began renting out the spare room, often to touring Spanish couples, forcing my language skills further on. One day I took a booking from a Swedish person called Raghnid, who was flying in for a month while searching for an apartment to buy. I feared the arrival of a young Viking, coming to this seaside resort to wreck my new hermit-like life. But I was pleasantly shocked when a little lady in her seventies got off the bus. Not that my new housemate (and ultimately, friend) an addict of cigarettes, coffee, novels, and the chats with a large glass of wine and cake, didn’t bring her share of distractions. But I’m a sucker for older people who live independent lives to the full – they make me hope that, when my time comes, I’ll be as eccentric as they are.
Eventually I did settle into a quiet routine of writing from dawn until the winter dusk. Then I would take a long walk along the deserted coast, via a lake bird-sanctuary, stunned by the exotic flora, fauna and the sun setting into the Mediterranean. How lucky I felt to be able to grant myself this time out of normal work-life back in Kilkenny, as I walked home, backpack full of squid, octopus and anchovies, or melon, peaches and kaki. That’s when I met Alan, a British-born biker farm-sitting in the Catalonia region. Thus began a romance that saw me move up north ‘for a while’. Soon the State of Alarm was imposed and the rest is history in the making.
Two weeks ago most regions in Spain entered Phase Zero in a four-phase de-escalation plan. This meant that my Alan and I could walk up to a kilometre from home together. Such a modest victory step but its impact mentally was enormous.
I’ve now gone so long without many items that I preferred to spend this valuable time away from home just walking around the quiet town or along the river, instead of waiting in line wearing a mask for half an hour outside each small shop. If lockdown has taught us anything, it’s the real meaning of essential.