Taking things day by day

And so the lockdown continues … Nearly a  month since I last wrote a blog post and nothing has changed, really. Here in Portugal we are into the third 15-day period of lockdown and it’s likely to continue well into May at least, though there is now talk of how it may be eased as Covid-19 confirmed cases and deaths stabilise and gradually reduce. While part of me is excited at the prospect of being able to get out and about, meet my neighbours properly, visit the local town, and get back to my regular coffee and cake / people watching habit, another part is nervous that restrictions may be lifted too soon and lead to a second wave and another longer, more restrictive lockdown. But we shall see.

Since my last blog post, the UK also went into lockdown mode, worryingly late, and the statistics on cases and deaths over there are terrifying. I have to admit I was maybe a little more relaxed about this whole pandemic thing until the Saturday morning when I read on Facebook that someone in my old home town of Faringdon had died of the virus – the father of a boy in my daughter’s year at school, someone I had met and who was a very well known and popular character in the town. It really hit home then just how serious this is and how we all have to do our bit to fique em casa, stay at home as much as possible until this is over, however challenging that may be.

I’ve been reflecting a lot on how much easier lockdown is for me than for my family and friends back in the UK. As you’ll be aware, I lead a fairly simple life here and spend a lot of my time alone at home anyway, but it must be a huge change when your life revolves around a working and social life outside the home. My mum is in her seventies but very active and sociable and is out of the house five days out of seven usually, at various meetings or volunteer jobs or social events; my daughter is a primary school teacher, now learning how to teach five-year-olds remotely; after a few very difficult years my son had just begun to enjoy going out and socialising and is now stuck home alone; and my dad doesn’t go out anyway but is in quite poor health and was struggling to get shopping delivered – for a while he was reliant on my brother, who is still working in London, taking it round for him, which was far from ideal. I’ve been quite down about how my family are coping with all these huge changes to their lives – irrationally, as it turns out, because they are all coping with it far better than I am!

Because despite my life being largely unaffected, other than not being able to explore the new area, I have been really struggling. I think a lot of old, unresolved emotions have come to the fore and I feel like I’m hovering on the edge of depression once again. It’s not a nice feeling, and it’s one I need to deal with now, before it really takes hold. I have booked a consultation with a recommended therapist on Monday – online, of course – and hope I can crack this feeling quickly.

Talking of online meetings, one upside of the pandemic is how we have all adapted to social distancing by taking our lives online. I feel like I’m more in touch with my family than I have been in a long while, and the highlight of my week is the virtual pub quiz on a Thursday night – we all get together over video chat, and compete against each other. There’s a lot of laughter, a lot of banter, quite a lot of singing and it is awesome to spend time with the people I love.

I’ve rejoined 4Networking, the networking organisation I was a member of for many years, because all meetings are now online, and it’s been great seeing old friends and meeting new people. I hope some work may come from it too! I’ve had meetings with clients over Zoom, I’ve been to a virtual pub, where you actually mingle with people at different tables, and we even took our writing group online last month (which reminds me, I must do my homework!).

I’ve also finally found myself a project. One morning I was idly swiping through Facebook when I read a post from a friend asking for one word to describe how we met. Well, I met this particular person through the magazine I ran back in the UK in 2007-2009, which was called Community Times in the Vale, but as that was more than one word I decided to look for a photo of the magazine cover. I found one on Google, but I also found a blog post I wrote when the magazine folded, and as I read it I realised how much I’d enjoyed running that magazine, and how much I missed being part of the community in some way, and it suddenly occurred to me – why not do the same here in Portugal? Obviously not a printed magazine, as that would be expensive, but an online magazine, either website or newsletter or both. So I posted on a couple of the Facebook groups for immigrants and expats in Portugal, and got such a warm response that I decided to buy a domain name and get going! Ten hours later I launched the Living the Portugal Dream website, and had set up a Facebook page, and already had people offering to write articles for the site. No doubt this will be yet another of my hare-brained ideas and once the novelty wears off I’ll move on to something else, but I’m in talks with a couple of people to link with them to create a forum and other exciting things, so we will see. It kept me out of mischief for a few days, at least!

Otherwise, I’ve been mostly working – I’ve had a big proofreading and book formatting job to do, and now have a website and blog to build and a blog post to write, so that will keep me busy and hopefully keep my mind occupied – so long as I can get motivated to get started 🙂 Free time has included DDP Yoga most mornings, dog walking most afternoons, a lot of reading, a bit of whittling (I’m trying to make a spoon, and a lizard sitting on a rock!), some water colour painting, and I’ve learned three chords on the ukulele … again. I’m working my way through DVDs of my favourite ever TV series, Six Feet Under, and also enjoying past and present episodes of RuPaul’s Drag Race and the wonderful Dinnerladies and Brooklyn 99 on Netflix. I’ve been for a few walks through the village – keeping my distance, of course – and have waved at and even had a few conversations with people there; they seem a very friendly and welcoming bunch. There’s a tiny shop in the village which, sadly, doesn’t seem to be open right now (though I did see a delivery truck there one day, complete with two people wearing perspex face shields) so I tend to go into town once a week for shopping, and to hover outside the local camara (council) building with my laptop, downloading as much of Netflix as I can on their free wifi. The wifi at home is pretty good but I pay for data and it’s amazing how much I am getting through with all these video calls…!

However, my favourite activity at the moment, when the sun is out (and to be honest it’s been a very wet month so far!) is to spend time in my secret spot. There’s a house for sale over the road, and down the side of the house is a path that turns into a woodland walk before opening onto a grassy field and a beautiful wetland meadow full of wild flowers, with a stream running along the bottom and a big flat rock in the middle. The dogs have great fun playing in the stream and chasing butterflies, while I read, listen to the bird song, practise my Portuguese or sunbathe on the rock. In the UK I’m sure I’d be moved on for loitering, but I’ve never seen another person down there, so for now I think I’m okay enjoying the peace and quiet in my special place!

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