I keep trying to write this post but have been finding it hard to find the right words.
As many of you are aware we are in Spain in our RV on lockdown. We made the decision to stay for many reasons. Not everyone will agree we made the right decision but for us, I still think it was the right thing to do.
Deciding to Stay
A few days before Spain started shutting down we arrived at Camper Area 7 in El Campello near Alicante. The owner of the site shut the door to newcomers a couple of days before the official lockdown and felt that he was obliged to stay open as long as he could to ensure people already on the site had a safe harbour.
When news spread that campsites around Spain were shutting we were slightly concerned that we would be sent packing. Our concern was that with things changing almost hourly if we left the site for the UK, we might not find anywhere to overnight or be allowed to cross into France. So we decided to stay here until we were told to leave. We felt we were in a safe place, we had water, electric, a place to empty our tanks and were on a site with a fence and locked gate so nobody new can enter.
What about our family and friends?
If we had travelled home we would not be able to see them or help them out. As recent arrivals from Europe, we would need to self-isolate, and as I am high risk I should not be going out anyway. Plus, as we are pretty much full-timers staying on campsites most of the year, campsites in the UK closing would pose a massive problem. When we are not in the RV we live with George’s parents, but they are elderly and we could not risk infecting them. Meaning we would have to sit in the driveway anyway and not go inside.
How its Been in Spain
After a week things got more serious and more of Spain was shut down. The police even turned up and shut the communal toilets, showers and washing up sinks. Though they did leave us access to the washing machines, freshwater and emptying point. We were told we could stay if we could cater for ourselves and followed local guidelines. With things getting worse in the UK we were happy with that after all we at least could sit this out in nice weather.
What we Can do
Here in Spain, we can leave the site/home to access medicine, petrol and natural gas, but only one person can go and is allowed in the vehicle unless you can sit a metre apart. We can go shopping once a week to the nearest supermarket, but again only one family member may go, gloves and hand sanitizer is supplied and you must stay 1-2metres apart. At first, some stores implemented a rule where you had to buy anything you touched, but that has been relaxed. One person can walk the dog up to 50 metres or until the dog has completed its business. We can also travel home to the UK, but we would need proof of onward travel to get past security checkpoints, borders etc.
For all of these activities, we must carry our passport and proof of where we are staying/living. If you go out for none of the above reasons and your journey is deemed non-essential you will be fined at least €600.
Shopping and supplies
Thankfully shopping here has been easy, there has not been crazy panic buying. Yes, getting hand sanitizer, flour and sweets have been slightly harder to get. But everything else has been in good supply and after a couple of weeks, even the harder to find things have become easier to get.
We always know when it is 8 pm, every night everyone in the local area is out clapping and making noise in appreciation of medical staff, key workers and police. On occasions, the police and ambulances do a parade with sirens sounding and lights flashing and we all go out to clap and thank them for doing everything they can. It’s very emotional.
For us on the site, we go outside or sound our horns. For the people in the houses and apartments around us, they lean out of windows or use their balconies.
We’ve Been Fortunate
Like most people, it’s not been an easy month, but I think compared to a lot of people we are kind of lucky and really it’s been quite easy.
We already homeschool and have done for many years. So although it’s very, very hard not being able to go out like we normally do. We can’t learn hands-on, explore new exciting places or socialise. The fact that we know how to educate at home, have resources and know-how to get more resources makes it easier for us. Personally I think what we are currently all panic schooling, not homeschooling. But for us, we are just taking this opportunity to get ahead in all our structured learning. If anything this has made our days in lockdown easier as we have something we can focus on. I have told Olivia if she cracks on and completes all her work while we are on lockdown, then when we are free from lockdown we can take time off for pure fun and exploration.
Isolation from Family
We also travel a lot so we regularly spend 3/4 months away from friends and family. So we are used to not seeing them, we’re used to video chats. We obviously still miss them very much but it’s not a new thing for us.
The hardest part is knowing that our parents are at risk as they are over 70 and we are not able to help with food shopping and other needs. Thankfully family and neighbours have been a great help to them.
We ring and video chat with our friends and family on a regular basis which is wonderful. Seeing faces is better than just hearing voices. We have managed to play several games with them on video chat which has been great and meant Olivia gets a bit of socialisation with children her age.
How Are We Really Doing
To start with we were almost obsessed with finding out what was happening around the world, how badly it was spreading etc. We were regularly talking about what was going on. Then Olivia asked us to stop. She was finding it hard and we were always distracted and anxious and depressed. So we reduced our constant need to know what was going on and started paying more attention to what was happening here and now in our lives in the van. This made things a lot better for all of us. We still listened to the English updates in the evenings and checked the local news twice a day. But making sure it was not what ruled our day. The lockdown made it easier in some ways, as all we could do was sit it out.
George and Olivia
I think generally George and Olivia are doing well. They are kind of built for social distancing and isolation as long as they have things to do. Give them videos, tv, movies, their laptops and Xbox games and they are happy. They don’t mind staying home, spending time doing what they want in their own little worlds.
I’m Going Slightly Mad
On the other hand, I need people to talk to, need nature to feel calm and need to be able to walk and move. I have no hobbies, other than photography and fishing. I don’t take time for myself very often and haven’t since I became a mum. I’m not complaining, this has been my choice. All my time is spent making sure George and Olivia are happy and have what they need.
I do the cleaning and (a lot of the – George) cooking. I plan Olivia’s lessons and teach her, keep her occupied and busy. That’s what I do, so when that’s all done, they are happy and doing something they want to do but what do I do? I don’t know!!! I get fidgety and fed up. Before this trip, I’d started trying to take time to read a book or watch a tv show just for me. But doing so is also hard as I feel guilty that I am not doing something. I love George and Olivia and spending my time with them, but I am very glad I have people on the campsite to chat too.
The Best Use for our Dog
I get out of the site occasionally to walk Pepper, our dog. George and I normally take turns but as I like to be outside I’m doing the majority now. Even so, walking her we can’t go too far or spend too long out. Thankfully we have some grassland next to the site. It’s not particularly pretty, has rubbish dumped in it and George would call it more of an overgrown wasteland. But it has a path through it and while walking I am able to see wildlife and get a moment of peace. It is one thing that I look forward to every day and really need.
In the late afternoon around 4 pm I head out for a walk with Pepper, passport in hand. It’s only for about 20 mins but it’s my time. I walk slowly, taking in the smells of flowers, watch the insects, watch and listen to the beautiful birds. I have seen glow worms, giant ants, beetles, butterflies, rabbits and lots of different types of birds. My favourite being the Hoopoe bird and the swallows. Nature and good walks are the biggest things I miss. From the window of the RV, I am taunted daily by a beautiful, ever-changing mountain that I cannot climb. It will be one of the first places we go once we are allowed.
Being that I am asthmatic George very kindly is the one that does the shopping each week. He uses a scarf as a mask and takes gloves and hand sanitizer. He says trying to keep everything as hygienic as possible can be hard, you make mistakes. How you do things is really something you really have to think about to reduce contamination risks.
We’re not allowed outside to exercise, so it has been hard helping Olivia use up her energy. We try to do the Joe Wick work out every day and she regularly rides her bike around. There is also a swing on the site we allow her to use. There are no other children on the site and the adults don’t use it. If we see one of the regularly passing police cars we quickly go inside as although we are keeping our distance we are not meant to be outside.
Some days we can’t be bothered to do anything and we just veg. Watch the tv, play Xbox and have cuddles but they are the hardest days. The days we lose our temper with each other or wind each other up. Some days we do jobs, washing, cleaning, tidying, jobs we just wanted to get done. It’s much better when we have a plan.
A Typical Day
Generally, we are up around 8/8:30 am, breakfast and dressed by 9:30 am. The breadman comes and we get our fresh bread for the day. One of us walks Pepper and then we start some homeschooling, for an hour or two, then PE with Joe, lunch, project work or an online lesson. Then free time for games, playing with toys, video chats with family and friends, tv, Xbox, whatever we all fancy. My dog walks with Pepper at 4 pm are 20 mins to myself with whatever nature I can get. Dinner is normally around 7 pm, tv, movies, games or Xbox then bed for Olivia around 9:30 pm. Then there’s time for George and me to relax on the sofa, chat, watch tv or play Xbox for ourselves.
It sounds like quite a bit of work but it keeps our minds busy. We try and make the work fun, interesting and follow our interests and for us, it is working. On days we have plans we argue less, sleep better at night and feel better in ourselves, it’s good to have a purpose, to have a reason to get up.
Something that I think is helping Olivia get through is learning about viruses and germs. How they spread and how staying in and social distancing helps, and that soap is the best way to clean our hands and protect ourselves and others from becoming ill. It’s always better to know and understand your enemies in order to defeat them.
George and I regularly talk about what impact this might have on our lives and the world long term. One thing that gives me hope for the future is seeing the positive impact this is having on the environment. I hope that the people and governments of the world see how things can improve and find a way for this to continue. Maybe prioritising internet coverage and speeds, along with companies allowing more people to work from home will reduce the number of cars on the roads and flights across the world.
We have no idea how long it will be before we are allowed to return to the world. What that world will look like, how safe it will be. I have made Olivia a mask using good quality cotton. We have no idea if we will have to wear masks but I want to be prepared.
I am scared about how safe it will be after the lockdown ends. I cannot risk catching it, I am high risk, I don’t want to catch it and pass it to family, I don’t want to die and leave my husband and child alone. But at the same time, I don’t want to be a hostage to this disease.
I want my daughter to live a normal life, see the world, be able to hug and play with friends and family. I know life is not going to be normal for a long while, but I want to make it as normal as possible and still be able to do stuff. If it means we need to wear gloves and masks every day to do it then so be it – that will be the new norm.
There are now 14 vans left at the site. Everyone has been here for over 5 weeks and all appear to be healthy.
It feels like a real sense of community spirit is starting to form. Everyone is friendly, asking each other if we need anything from the shops.
We chat while hanging washing or putting washing on. People exercise by walking around the site while keeping a safe distance from each other.
People ask if Olivia wants to borrow games and puzzles and go on bug hunts with them. We get to do some activities and then when we enter our van we wash our hands with soap and water.
As time has gone on and we have started to get to know people we have started occasionally sitting outside in groups, with our chairs 2 metres apart, our own drinks and snacks, chatting. These moments are wonderful and I think George has been surprised by how much he likes that human contact, even if he can then go straight back to his laptop.
I look forward to the onsite party when this is all over.
While my words seem bad, we are truly grateful and in awe of all those key workers out there. They are being true hero’s, working so hard and helping others even while putting their own lives at risk.
We send love to those that have lost loved ones.
And we thank everyone who has stayed in, to help stop the spread and to protect others. Those that have helped their neighbours and the vulnerable, those that are doing anything to help make this situation better in any way.