LIFE UNDER LOCKDOWN

A daily entry about life under quarantine in Madrid. My outlook, insights, thoughts, fears and joys as they develop.

Having not set aside time to write for years, I decided to seize this opportunity to document this historic moment. I wanted to embark on this project as I have no idea how it will end up and what bumps we will encounter along the way.

Early photos included on the blog were taken by two friends of mine, Maria Madrigal & Rocio Hidalgo as they made their way to work in the centre of the city while I took later photos myself. I hope they go some way to conveying the eerie feeling of such deserted streets throughout the strictest days of the quarantine.

Day ‘far too many to count’

Monday 09/11/2020 Despite largely appreciating the first lockdown – now a surreal and distant memory – I wasn’t too sad to see the back of it and like everyone, managed to enjoy some relative freedoms for a few months. The timing of this dip in cases was perfect and for a short while, I was able to forget the bleak reality that the world finds itself in. As travel restrictions eased off and I gathered my bucket and spade to head…

FINAL REFLECTIONS

It no longer feels right to be writing a blog titled Life Under Lockdown as the period of strict confinement in Madrid is already beginning to feel like a distant memory. After documenting my life for over 100 days, it is time to tie the knot on this project in pursuit of new ones. As Spain strides well into a post-pandemic world, the routines and discipline, instated with such rigour during the lockdown, have gone out of the window and with…

DAY 97

Saturday 20/06/2020 Apart from the sea of surgical masks everywhere you look, life is seemingly back to normal here. It is remarkable how the widespread fear about a second wave seems to have subsided as more and more freedoms have been granted to us in Madrid. The ebb and flow of normal life has once again filled the city and quarantine routines have been gently forgotten. Similarly, my commitment to regular blog posts has significantly wavered as I’ve made up for…

DAY 85

Monday 8/06/2020 Last week saw a big change of scene. After more than two months living with my best mate Flo I moved to another flat in the south of the city where I will ride out the heat of the summer. Leaving her after such a long time in each other’s company felt very strange. We spent 78 days together, slotting into each other’s routines like the only two cogs in an efficient quarantine machine. We ran a seamless lockdown…

Day 76

Friday 29/05/2020 This week has seen us enjoying the glories of phase one and life couldn’t feel any more normal on the streets of Madrid. Bars and restaurants have dusted off their tables and chairs, laying them out in the plazas for thirsty Madrileños to sit at and have a drink. Naturally most people have taken to their nearest open establishment to lift their spirits with a coffee or beer so those who haven’t made a reservation should expect to join…

DAY 66

Monday 18/05/2020 I spoke to a student today who has spent the quarantine back at her parent’s house in the beautiful province of Galicia in north-west Spain. Like almost everywhere in the country apart from here, this region has already been in phase 1 for a week and so she gloated about the luxuries of their freedoms that those of us in Madrid are longing for; having a beer in a plaza, meeting friends and driving to go for walks in…

DAY 63

Friday 15/05/2020 A week of drizzle in Madrid has meant that despite our freedom to roam, venturing out from the cosiness of the flat hasn’t been an attractive option. I’ve always been one for getting the right clobber on and getting out of the house regardless of the conditions, but I haven’t been tempted in the slightest this week. I’m definitely not complaining about the bad weather as it has in fact made confinement slightly easier over the last few months….

DAY 58

Sunday 10/05/2020 Since being granted our new freedom to roam, my commitment to documenting my daily lockdown life through this blog has wavered, as most of my free time is now dedicated to making up for such a long sedentary period with morning runs and evening strolls. It is exciting to drift around the city again and each outing I’ve done in the last week has filled me with nothing but happiness. The fear that filled the streets during the fifty…

DAY 52

Monday 04/05/2020 After the extraordinarily joyous trip out of the house on Saturday morning, the rest of the weekend passed in a sort of haze of happiness, as if both a lifetime of cobwebs has been blown away and a colony of ants have been well shaken out of pants in one outing. Having seen the streets of Madrid full again with people taking advantage of their freedom, the quarantine has become a lot easier to manage psychologically. It seems that…

DAY 50

Saturday 02/05/2020 The day of emancipation has arrived. To prevent everyone flooding outside simultaneously and bounding joyfully through the streets arm in arm like some kind of Sound of Music dance – obviously a deserved way to celebrate such awaited freedom – the government have imposed ‘slots’ when different groups of the population can leave the house. Most of us are allowed out 6am-10am or 8pm-11pm while the rest of the day is reserved for the elderly and kids. Like a child at Christmas…

DAY 49

Friday 01/05/2020 Under normal circumstances, many people should have been escaping Madrid last night for the bank holiday weekend while news outlets broadcasted images of traffic jams on motorways in what they call la gran salida. However, instead of escaping the city to lounge on beaches, families are tussling for the prime spots on the balconies of their city apartments to get their much-needed vitamin-D fix while awaiting the big day of freedom tomorrow. If we hadn’t been confined to our homes,…

DAY 48

Thursday 30/04/2020 With Netflix subscriptions, next day Amazon deliveries and Zoom group calls we have all cushioned our existences as much as possible for the last few weeks. However, fast approaching here in Spain is what everyone is referring to now as the ‘new normal’. While this will be welcomed, I don’t think it will be easy to adjust to. It will require recalibrating our brains and adopting new customs to minimise the social tension that will be found, especially between…

DAY 47

Wednesday 29/04/2020 Since finally granting us the right to do exercise this coming weekend, the government have laid out the four stages that the country must go through in order to reach the ‘new normal’ by the end of June. Contrary to popular speculation in recent weeks, the government’s plan is to prioritise the re-opening of bars and restaurants over the movement of people around the country. Naturally a lot of my students have expressed outrage at the audacity of the…

DAY 46

Tuesday 28/04/2020 The last few weeks have been a prime opportunity to make a dent in my never-ending list of film recommendations and of course re-watch some of the old classics for the umpteenth time as well, most namely two timeless, family favourites; Groundhog Day and The Truman Show. The former is weirdly pertinent to the surreal situation in which we find ourselves right now, as each day is almost identical to the last and times is passing in a blur. The latter however…

DAY 45

Monday 27/04/2020 Donald Trump absolutely outdid himself at the end of last week with a comment that, along with a catalogue of other equally as gobsmacking slip ups, he is never going to live down. The oversized Oompa Loompa’s mindboggling lack of tact is a constant source of humour and at the same time total despair. This particular moment of pure idiocy was a hilariously brainless comment about injecting people with disinfectant “almost as a cleaning for the insides”. It would…

DAY 44

Sunday 26/04/2020 Pure and utter elation today as the government announce that starting from next weekend, we will be allowed out, not only to walk freely in the streets with our lockdown buddies but also to exercise how and when we please. Coincidently – or perhaps not – the day of these freedoms will fall on number fifty of the quarantine. I deeply hope that Pedro Sanchez’s government don’t have an OCD about doing things on round numbers because I can’t…

DAY 43

Saturday 25/04/2020 This morning my best mate and I made a long overdue call to our Chinese friend Yix living in Chengdu, a city about 2000km west of Wuhan. Much to our surprise he answered the video call while out and about in the streets. As he is seven hours ahead of us in Spain, he was on the way to dinner at a restaurant with his wife and friends. For both my friend and me still living under strict lockdown…

DAY 42

Friday 24/04/2020 Possibly the biggest day of quarantine so far and definitely not one to forget. With a couple of classes conveniently cancelled this morning, I was free to indulge in a lengthy champagne and pancake breakfast on the sunny terrace to celebrate my flatmate Flo’s birthday. This sumptuous affair was followed by the unveiling of a tear-jerking, 15-minute video of all of her loved ones wishing her a happy birthday, kindly put together by another friend of ours. While a…

DAY 41

Thursday 23/04/2020 Due to my flatmate’s upcoming birthday, a steady stream of Amazon packages has been arriving all week sent from her various family members. This has meant sprinting down five flights of stairs every morning to meet the delivery drivers and post carriers who understandably refuse to walk up all of the flats without lifts seeing as they are busier now than they are in the run up to Christmas. These winged messengers are some of the unsung heroes of…

DAY 40

Wednesday 22/04/2020 Forty days and forty nights. I wonder if Jesus felt that his own stretch in the desert flew past as quickly as this quarantine has done for us so far. He was fasting and resisting incessant temptations from Satan himself throughout which makes me think we’ve had a bit of an easier ride than he did. The only temptation on a satanic level that I’ve had since the confinement began has been snacking. As I am spending every waking…

DAY 39

Tuesday 21/04/2020 One of the shiniest glimmers of hope that normal life is creeping back towards us has remerged on the streets today and the sight of it was enough to almost reduce me to tears of joy… Madrid’s bicycle rental service, of which I am one of the biggest fans, has just redistributed their fleet around the city centre. I’ve been using these nifty electric bikes since I got to Spain and, like for all of the car-less Madrileños, they are…

DAY 38

Monday 20/04/2020 Is the sky much bluer than it was a couple of months ago without the thick pollution dulling its colour? Are the birds singing louder than before now they aren’t competing with the everyday hubbub of the city? Are the trees which line our streets looking healthier than every other time we’ve walked past them? Does the air actually taste cleaner and fresher now when windows are thrown open in the morning? Has the scent of those flowers growing…

DAY 37

Sunday 19/04/2020 Although the people I am in contact with seem to be in good spirits about their own personal situations, a growing number of the population in Spain are beginning to point fingers at the government as their frustration builds up. Naturally as the quarantine is prolonged, they are blaming them for not acting quicker at the start and for how totally unprepared the public health system has been exposed to be. Initially I was naively of the opinion that…

DAY 36

Saturday 18/04/2020 Having spoken to my friends more than usual over the last few weeks, I am pleasantly surprised that as the quarantine gets extended for another three weeks in UK, none of them are wallowing in pits of despair at the prospect of losing a precious summer. Fortunately, almost all of them are taking this opportunity to look at their lives with some perspective, questioning past decisions and revising future plans while there are less distractions. I’ve heard on countless…

DAY 35

Friday 17/04/2020 Another Friday rolls around in the blink of an eye and I give a little woop of joy as I leave the virtual office for the weekend. I somehow still have a Friday feeling as strong as any other time of the year, despite not having stepped out of the front door of my flat all week. We are marking the end of five full weeks in quarantine with a big old gin & tonic. As I sit on…

DAY 34

Thursday 16/04/2020 We awake to a viral video of Donald Trump poorly deflecting a barrage of questions from incited journalists over his handling of the crisis so far and in particular his controversial withdrawal of funding from the World Health Organisation. With the likes of Bill Gates openly criticising the move, insisting it is “as dangerous as it sounds”, it is understandable that the majority of Americans are concerned. Thousands of protestors opposed to the stay-at-home measures and mostly backed by…

DAY 33

Wednesday 15/04/2020 As we enter the second month of a total ban on leaving the house for anything other than essential trips, the discomfort from a lack of physical inactivity is really starting to show signs. Although I am doing some form of static exercise most days, the feeling of restlessness comes in intense waves like an insatiable itch. Since I discovered jogging on the spot a week ago, I have been incorporating this bizarre activity into my already comical home…

DAY 32

Tuesday 14/04/2020 Trying out new recipes, perfecting some of my party pleasers and baking sweet treats has without a doubt been the highlight of the quarantine so far. The difficulty finding certain things, particularly flour and yeast, in the supermarket would suggest that I’m not alone in having rediscovered the joys of homemade cakes. Such is the scarcity of these products that a friend actually sent a message to alert me that a supermarket in the area had finally restocked. By the…

DAY 31

Monday 13/04/2020 It is almost poetic that as Semana Santa – a week symbolising rebirth and new life – draws to a close, we awake to the promising news that the gradual relaxing of restrictions has begun. Perhaps the synchronised prayers from all the normally non-practicing, quasi-believers yesterday had a positive effect and some divine intervention has helped to turn the tables this morning. In reality, the slight easing of restrictions won’t affect the vast majority of the population as only construction and…

DAY 30

Sunday 12/04/2020 Today we are celebrating a month under lockdown. Thinking back to the start of the quarantine in mid-March, nobody believed that there was any chance we would still be stuck in lockdown by Easter. However here we are, with the end nowhere in sight but our spirits high. On what would normally be one of the biggest days of the year in the Spanish calendar, the plazas and streets of every Spanish city were instead empty this morning despite…

DAY 29

Saturday 11/04/2020 As lots of the supermarkets were closed on Thursday and Friday due to the bank holiday, today everyone seems to have come out to do their shopping for the important Easter Sunday meal. As a result, I waited in a queue outside the local express supermarket for at least one hour to get the bits and bobs we needed. There were probably about 25 of us waiting in the queue which snaked down the narrow street in Malasaña in…

DAY 28

Friday 10/04/2020 After doing my own 5km static jog for charity, I nominated my flatmate to do the same today. When she came to donate her £5 to Virgin Giving, we were amazed to find a 15-minute queue to access the payment page on the website. Not only does this display the huge power of social media when it is put to good use, it also shows the generosity people are trying to exude during this crisis. At a time of…

DAY 27

Thursday 09/04/2020 This week Instagram story updates have been filled with a new money-raising trend that requires people to run 5km, donate £5 to NHS charities and nominate 5 friends to do the same. Through some intense virtual peer pressure, this viral initiative seems to have got everyone off the sofa and raised a large amount of money for a very worthy cause within a matter of days. Never have two better birds been killed with one stone. It was my…

DAY 26

Wednesday 08/04/2020 This week I have taken up guided meditation for the first time in my life using an app called Calm. I am really enjoying training myself to sharpen my senses and pay close attention to the tiniest sensations or sounds that usually go unappreciated. It is a short, but very welcomed, respite from the day. We do tonight’s session sitting out on the terrace in the warm evening sun. I can hear the faint sounds of an opera floating…

DAY 25

Tuesday 07/04/2020 This morning I sketched the art and photos, all perfectly arranged on the main wall of the beautifully decorated flat where I am currently staying. The owner of the flat is an older friend of Flo’s who I haven’t met, so it is interesting to guess what kind of person she is by studying the objects and art that she has collected throughout her life. To her, this flat is full of things that will jog memories, spark ambitions…

DAY 24

Monday 06/04/2020 In order to make these blog posts slightly more aesthetically pleasing, I have enlisted the help of a friend called Maria Madrigal, who has been documenting the quarantine through a series of eerie photos from her walk to the pharmacy where she works. They have all been taken not far from our respective homes in the very centre of Madrid throughout the last couple of weeks. They show how unbelievably empty the city has become as most people comply…

DAY 23

Sunday 05/04/2020 Two notifications pinged onto my phone as I turned it on this morning; the first was the top story on the BBC News app which read ‘Spain death rate falls for third consecutive day’, and the second was an article from El Pais which laid out the steps the Spanish government must take if we want to return to normality by mid-summer. While both articles could easily be interpreted as quite troubling, they are also reason to be optimistic. It feels…

DAY 22

Saturday 04/04/2020 The government officially extended the quarantine to 26th April today. This isn’t a surprise at all so I don’t think anyone will feel disheartened by the prospect of three more full weeks of lockdown. In fact, nobody even thinks we’ll be out of here by the middle of May but psychologically it’s much easier to handle numerous two-week extensions than being told from the outset that we will barely see daylight for two months. Although I am grateful for the…

DAY 21

Friday 03/04/2020 Today marks the beginning of the Easter holidays and, what would be under normal circumstances, the start of one of the biggest weeks in Spain’s calendar. Semana Santa sees not only a huge influx of foreign tourists but also lots of Spanish families moving around the country to see relatives, so for obvious reasons the festivities this year are unfortunately cancelled. Families everywhere will be working out how to adapt their usual Easter plans to the new situation and from the…

DAY 20

Thursday 02/04/2020 I wonder if hermits who hid away in caves hundreds of years ago, found they struggled to keep their dwellings tidy. While excluding themselves from society in order to be closer to God, did they sometimes let their emotions get the better of them and get exasperated at constantly having to sweep the dust that somehow builds up? Did they curse when they had to brush some crumbs that seemed to appear from nowhere for the third time that…

DAY 19

Wednesday 01/04/2020 Although a deadly virus, widespread fear and a quarantine hasn’t exactly created a playful environment in the last few weeks, some people will have had a surprising moment to kick off the new month as it is April Fool’s Day. For the benefit of my Spanish friends, this an annual British custom that always takes place on 1st April during which bromistas and the mass media usually play jokes at the expense of the more gullible ones among us. The newspapers could…

DAY 18

Tuesday 31/03/2020 It has to be admitted that today I’m struggling for inspiration, boxed up inside this small flat for the seventh day straight and hiding from the second of incessant rain. While some writer’s vivid imaginations would no doubt flourish under such strict confinement, mine clearly derives its stimulus from fresh air and sun, both of which I’ve had none of in the last 48 hours. ­I’m by no means trying to write a novel but I have an inkling…

DAY 17

Monday 30/03/2020 As if to remind us what a turbulent time we are living through, Monday morning brings with it some wet, wintery weather, and even some snow on the outskirts of Madrid. This is incredible seeing as less than 24 hours ago we were putting on sun-cream, having a barbeque and gazing over the orange rooftops at the clear blue sky. We are into our third working week and I’d say the novelty of working from home is beginning to…

DAY 16

Sunday 29/03/2020  Last night the clocks changed and to usher in the spring, we have been greeted with another scorcher of a day. Over the past couple of weeks we’ve struck up a relationship with the young, Spanish couple on the neighbouring terrace. What began as a quick and awkward wave during the 8pm clap, progressed after a few days to some polite conversation and then even further with the exchanging of slices of homemade cakes. Today however, Marta & Inigo…

DAY 15

Saturday 28/03/2020  I start the weekend dozing on the sunny terrace with a cup of tea, listening to the notable silence as Madrid begins its third weekend under quarantine. There isn’t a cloud in sight and it’s already quite warm even by 9am. The only thing that can be heard are the occasional opening of shutters as other neighbours let the morning rays in. No voices shouting across from the balconies or car engines starting up like you would expect to…

DAY 14

Friday 27/03/2020  The end of another week has come around again at lightning speed. As there is very little variety to our days, time seems to be passing unbelievably quickly. This is probably a blessing seeing as we are still well under halfway through our confinement. Of course I’ll be over the moon when the government announce the easing of restrictions; when we can walk freely, hug our friends and bars begin to open again, however if I’m honest, a part…

DAY 13

Thursday 26/03/2020  I’m writing today’s entry at my new favourite time of the day: the lull between finishing my various work obligations and starting to prepare dinner. This moment of the day is becoming something of a golden hour; when all duties are seen to, responsibilities fulfilled and tasks taken care of. I’m drinking a beer, sitting on the terrace in the fading light and writing. I am realising the increasing importance of having this respite during which I can reflect…

DAY 12

Wednesday 25/03/2020  Waking up to the sobering fact that 1/3 of the world’s population are under lockdown is surely enough to make anyone sit up and listen. The speed at which this virus has reached every corner of the world is staggering and highlights the extent of our globalisation. About 1 month ago this seemed like a far-flung problem that the media were giving unnecessary amounts of attention and the evenings when we were sat in plazas disregarding any talk of Coronavirus seem even…

DAY 11

Tuesday 24/03/2020  I feel pretty positive today despite not sleeping well after speaking to a couple of Spanish friends with particularly negative outlooks last night. I’m really getting into the swing of things with video classes and starting to manage my time well. It is amazing how quickly your body can adjust to a new life, routine and complete lack of any physical activity. Makes me think that I might be cut out for prison after all. Not a bad time…

DAY 10

Monday 23/03/2020  Boris Johnson finally saw sense last night and ordered the country into 12 weeks of lockdown – by the European sense of the word, not the British one (which until Friday still meant going to the pub pretending nothing at all were amiss). I have decided that the new way to tackle the depressing idea that we might not leave our confines for the best part of 3 months, is to only think and plan week by week. It…

DAY 9

Sunday 22/03/2020 – Mother’s Day!! This day is usually celebrated by families as a way of showing love, respect and gratitude to hard-working mothers, however this one will surely be like no other that has gone before. Most people probably won’t be able to reach their families or will decide they shouldn’t see them to avoid the risk of exposing them to the virus. Despite not being able to be with loved ones in person, adoration and appreciation for them at…

DAY 8

Saturday 21/03/2020  A rare day of rain in Madrid restricts us to the sofa and we plough through film after film, with breaks only to top up our glasses with red wine. Such a day of lazy fun allows us to completely forget our surroundings and situation. We are reminded of them however when we hear the sounds of the 8pm daily clap – a moment that still gives me goose-bumps. Some flats on the street are encouraging others to party…

DAY 7

Friday 20/03/2020  Although I started the quarantine thoroughly looking forward to my daily outings to the supermarket, I now don’t want to go out at all. I find it melancholic to see the streets and plazas of Malasaña, so usually buzzing with life, as empty as they are right now. Casting my mind back a mere 7 days, I have done a full U-turn and am now a complete convert on notions of social responsibility. I recognise that we all need…

DAY 6

Thursday 19/03/2020  I am feeling positive today despite not even leaving the house. Am I learning to tame the ants in my pants? The weather was lovely so took a small siesta on the terrace in the sun after a nice lunch. Cooking and eating have become a main event, a structure to build the day around and definitely something to look forward to. We are cooking and baking things which we would never usually set aside time to make. I…

DAY 5

Wednesday 18/03/2020  Today is the first day I’ve had inklings of frustration and feelings of being trapped in a cycle of which the end is definitely not nigh. I believe it is because I spend about 8 hours a day connected to video conference calls talking about the only bloody topic that people can think about. I don’t blame people for wanting to talk about Corona and to be fair I can barely think about anything else either but it is…

DAY 4

Tuesday 17/03/2020  As we try to settle into new routines, I am feeling incredibly positive and ready to fully embrace the next two (surely more?) weeks of confinement with all my unfinished projects, unwatched films and unread books. At a time of my life when time is passing painfully fast, I know I will cherish having time to do the things that will undoubtedly make it onto my list of New Year’s resolution for the rest of forever. I am becoming…

DAY 3

Monday 16/03/2020  Mondays are when slates are wiped clean and good intentions are (temporarily) reinstated for everyone everywhere. Today should be no different according to prolific governmental advice which encourages people to build constructive routines as a way of staying sane and healthy over the coming weeks.  Keeping active will be the biggest challenge for most people in a city where tiny apartments are not uncommon. No matter how sedentary your job normally is, people will be left feeling incredibly restless…

DAY 2

Sunday 15/03/2020 Today I decided to temporarily move my life from my shoebox flat in Lavapies to my best friend Flo’s slightly ‘plusher’ digs in the trendy, gay neighbourhood of Chueca. Luckily she not only has a spare bedroom, which means I won’t have to spend the quarantine alone (almost unimaginably miserable?), she also has a terrace with outdoor sofas. As the spring is set to stay and possibly even turn into summer during our confinement, this is an absolute game…

DAY 1

Saturday 14/03/2020 The speed at which things have developed over the last few days is quite remarkable. Until Wednesday afternoon you wouldn’t have noticed any difference to daily life on the streets of Madrid. People were going about their business and enjoying the weather as if nothing were amiss. However within 48 hours much had changed. Madrileños’ initial responses to the closing of schools, universities, bars and restaurants were varied, with those choosing to brave the streets and continue with their…