Now this is odd. Spain - and much of the world - is in lock-down because of Covid19, the latest corona virus strain. Yesterday afternoon, Jeanie chaired an elders’ meeting at church to discuss response to a directive from the church authorities. Decision - church will be closed now until the beginning of April. It will be difficult to identify a week in my 82 years of life when I have not gone to church on Sunday, often more than once, often on more days than just Sunday. It will be a very strange experience to wake up tomorrow and know that there is no church. I’ve managed to find a suitable place of worship wherever I’ve travelled in the world: during my time in the Royal Air Force in Cyprus; attending St. John’s College, York; Uganda, Zimbabwe, South Africa, even Tunisia; the United States of America, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand. And now, an empty space. We are an elderly congregation. Many of us are in that category said to be in more risk from the virus: the vulnerable elderly with underlying health conditions.
But it is not only an empty church space. Our choir rehearsals have been stopped and the concerts we were preparing for are cancelled. We have a message from our Spanish language teacher, ‘See you on the other side of the virus. No Monday lesson.’ Jeanie’s band practices are cancelled: she will not be out on Tuesdays and Fridays with her clarinet. I’ve not had confirmation that my writers’ circle meeting on Wednesday is cancelled but it must be, as all bars, restaurants have been ordered to close. And no public market in Almoradi today. Life is just one big empty space.
Knowing that bars, cafes and restaurants were being ordered to close by midnight last night, we decided to go out to one of our favourites, The Bistro, before it was too late. When we went, early, the place was deserted. By the time we had our main course, it was packed and beginning to consider turning people away, so many had the same, if rather belated, idea as us. In fact, because it was going to be a ‘special’ occasion, we decided to break our Lenten vow of no alcohol and have a bottle of wine with the meal. The wine was delicious, only serving to demonstrate what we had been missing. I’m sorry to say that I also had brandy with my coffee and then went to the Bistro Bar next door and had a gin and tonic.
Our friends who run the Bistro restaurant are despairing. The winter season has been very quiet. They have been operating very close to the margins, especially since they enlarged the premises. They’ve made a really good job of gearing up. Now they are ordered to close until April but also ordered to pay their staff as if they were still working. So, overheads still to meet, no restaurant income and staff wages to pay. That is a very bad balance sheet for them - and probably for other small businesses. Times are very hard.
It is really eerie. We have plans. Our life revolves around the daily, weekly, monthly diary. Now there is only an empty space. Our big luncheon group for Mother’s Day is now scuppered. Food shopping is a question of ‘buy what you can get’ without a great deal of choice. We have guests on Sunday and Thursday. Can we feed them? Will Easter, and all the preparations leading up to that, be a blank. Friends were supposed to go on holiday, on cruises. No break for them. Will the OU conference on 24th April still be on? Will any theatres be open? We have theatre tickets for 23rd and 25th April in London. Will we get to London? Where life is normally so clear, so certain, so organized and arranged, everything is now up in the air.
Complacency in retirement. What complacency?