Gosh, how things can change in the space of a fortnight. Last time I wrote on my blog, I was preparing to move to my new home in Carregal do Sal. And indeed, that move has happened, and my new house is lovely, but the move has been tinged with sadness as the coronavirus crisis escalates and I realise it’s going to be some time before I get to properly meet my neighbours or explore the new area. These are strange times we are living in, and I doubt life will ever be quite the same again.
So. Coronavirus – or Covid-19, as we now know to call it. The Portuguese government was quick to respond to the situation and orders went out to close all council-run facilities – including the local markets, libraries, swimming pools, schools and language classes – and cancel events several weeks ago. On the whole though, life carried on as normal for a while, but now it feels like we are living in some bizarre film, where no one knows the next plot twist or how things will end.
On my last Thursday in Pampilhosa da Serra I met up with friends at our favourite café for coffee, cake and a chat. It was a glorious day but then I spotted someone walking around wearing a face mask, and it gave me a bit of a jolt, that someone in our little part of central Portugal felt the need to do that. Now it’s a familiar sight, with hand sanitiser and gloves available in the entrances to most shops, and supermarket staff wearing masks and gloves. There’s even a plumber working on site at the moment who is all kitted out, even though the house is empty and I’m thirty feet away in my cabin.
Although the infection and death rates here in Portugal are lower than in other parts of Europe, the government has gone in hard and declared a state of emergency last week, with a number of “lockdown” measures coming into play at midnight on 22nd March. This includes very stringent laws to keep those infected or at risk of infection off the streets, and to limit the movement of everyone else in a bid to reduce the spread of the virus. Basically, we are only allowed to be travelling on public roads for essential shopping, trips to banks/post offices, to aid vulnerable relatives, for brief exercise or pet walking, to accompany children on exercise, for medical appointments or if it’s unavoidable for work. Anyone found breaching these laws can be fined and charged with acts of civil disobedience.
Ordinarily this wouldn’t be an issue to me. Anyone reading this blog will have realised that I lead a fairly isolated life anyway. I was looking forward to hosting my mum at the new place, and my son wanted to come over too, and I was planning a trip back to the UK at some point, but obviously all that is on hold. However …. exciting news flash …. I now have a boyfriend, who lives about half an hour’s drive from my new home, and while we have spent a lot of time together leading up to the lockdown, we are now planning to stay in our respective homes and communicate only by phone/video etc. I don’t think we’d pose any risk if we did travel to see each other, but I don’t know which of the reasons it would fit into, and I just feel we need to make sacrifices along with everyone else. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, or so the saying goes … so we will see how this new relationship fares in these testing times.
Anyway. The new house. It’s wonderful! It’s a wooden cabin on the edge of a village, two large rooms and – get this – A BATHROOM! With a shower and flushing toilet! The living room has a work area, a sofa (actually a sofabed, so perfect for when I can finally have guests here!), a TV – hooked up to my laptop to watch DVDs! – a very effective woodburning stove and an open kitchen area. The bedroom is huge; there’s a double bed, chest of drawers and clothes rail, and a sink, and there’s plenty of room for my yoga mat. And then of course there’s the wet room/toilet. I’ve got a good area of garden and have already dug a small veg patch and hung up my hammock, and the house dog gets on really well with Pickle and Bobcat. Within ten minutes’ walk there are two small café bars and a village shop, and I have neighbours either side of me, who I’ve waved at from a distance. The scenery around here isn’t a patch on the mountains of Coelhosa, but I’m less than five minutes’ drive from a small town, and there’s a beautiful river not far the other way, that I can’t wait to explore when I can.
And of course, that’s the burning question right now. When will life get back to normal? And what will normal look like when this is all over? For now, all I can do is stay home, work, read, garden, craft, and hope for the best.