Home alone – a pandemic diary (day six – 16.03.20)

Today it’s cloudy, with a few timid rays of sun appearing from time to time, and it’s windy – unpleasantly windy, as if to tell everyone “stay at home”.


A strange silence

I could not. In the late morning I had to pass by the office to get some documents that I could not print at home. As I drove there,  I found there were more people on the streets than I had anticipated. Don’t mistake me: the city is far, far emptier than it would be under normal circumstances, but still, there is some traffic and people walking about; some bewildered-looking tourists who appear not to have understood what is happening, otherwise they would have hurried to take a plane home, for nowadays Lisbon – as well as the other European cities – is not a place to enjoy, as there is an odd feeling in the air – the other day a friend called it a “strange silence”. Much less cars, much less movement, and the environment is grateful – all around the world CO2 levels are coming down. Even in China, the air is breathable again. We – all, of us, from governments to citizens – should seriously ponder on this. Sometimes change is forced upon us because we don’t have the courage to take the necessary steps to make it happen. This may well be the case.


Closing down

While the Portuguese and Spanish Governments discuss closing the borders, the rest of Europe effectively do it, and our Prime Minister says he will consider declaring a State of Emergency,  the number of infected people raises to 331 but the suspected cases are many more,  around 4500. And growing. Many people are staying at home, complying with the authorities’ directives, but there are those who can’t or won’t. Some still have to go to work and some haven’t a clue about what’s happening, I think. Maybe they just refuse to accept reality.


Shops, restaurants and bars are closed or with opening time restrictions. Pharmacies will only have two customers inside their premises at a time, so now we are getting used to seeing a number of persons outside, not in a queue but trying to keep a safe distance, while they wait. As for supermarkets , there was a crazy rush last week that left many shelves empty and, in some cases, saw huge queues of carts (filled to the top) waiting for hours. To avoid that and also the agglomeration of persons there is now a limit to the number of people they may have inside the establishment, so all others will have to wait outside. Typically, a friend  told me this weekend she had seen a furious man, who, tired of waiting outside the supermarket, wanted to force his way in, shouting and threatening violence so that security had to be called. Shameful, and good evidence of total lack of civility. Still, it’s only a case; most people have been the opposite: a good example.



Today I also had to go to a hospital. It does create some stress, I confess. No matter the fact that it is a private one, not receiving suspicious cases; that the building we were going to does not even have Emergencies and our appointment was at Orthopaedics – my son Afonso was having his stitches taken out – I still suggested he use the only mask I have,  one I discovered in the depths of my bathroom closet, from long ago.  He didn’t want to, as there  has been some debate in Portugal about how  effective masks are. In my opinion this discussion has to to with the fact that the authorities cannot possibly advise the population to wear masks for protection, when for weeks, or even months, there haven’t been any available. When the virus outbreak began in China, Chinese tourists in Lisbon bought masks by the hundreds, I was told by a friend who owns a pharmacy. Afonso not wearing the mask, I did not use the scarf I had intended to wrap around my face. Even so, several patients were  wearing masks. Strangely enough, most of the staff was not, including Afonso’s  doctor.


Thank God Afonso’s scar is healing well this time and we came out relieved, after all the stress of the last weeks. He went back with his father to their house by the sea, where they can be outdoors and breathe fresh air. I suggested his father stays in the car and I go up with him to the hospital, as Miguel has had some lung problems so is definitely in a risk group; fortunately, not my case!


So many things to do

So here I am, back home, preparing for a few hours of writing. I’ve had a WhatsApp call with Mom in the retirement home – all visits forbidden; they have found this way to mitigate the absence of relatives. How happy she was! She misses our visits terribly, of course. Now I’ll dedicate myself to my book. Yesterday evening I had my usual Sunday Facebook call with my editor, and we are making great progress, but I still have a lot to work on. So, there’s one positive aspect of this all – my book will be finished sooner, no doubt! And then, as it will be on Amazon, everyone will be able to order and read it!


Apart from writing, and working, of course, there are so many things I can do at home. I remember a time when I worked full time and life was hectic and weekends flew by. If there is anything positive this crisis is bringing us, it’s time. Time to look inside ourselves, time to throw away all the things that we have piled up in our homes, and feel so much lighter; time to think about what changes we need to make in our lives so that we can still make a life in this world; time to meditate and heal ourselves; time to read all those books piling up in a corner and to watch a few interesting TV series. I’m presently watching a Netflix Icelandic thriller series called The Valhalla murders that I strongly recommend. I’ve become a fan of Icelandic thrillers with Yrsa Sigurdardottir, that some call “the Icelandic equivalent to Stieg Larsson”. She is a brilliant writer, and her stories will chill you to the bone, with their terrifying mix of crime and supernatural. Here’s a suggestion for you; give her books a try during this forced time at home.


We will survive

So, there you are. Today it all seems brighter than yesterday, Afonso is healing well, and I feel so grateful for it. As for the rest, after books and series I will leave you with two songs that I like to sing in trying times. One, that has accompanied my since my youth, is the unforgettable I will survive by Gloria Gaynor, a song about rising yourself again and not giving up, if ever there was one;  the other one is Muse’s Uprising , that leaves you with a very strong message, appropriate for the current situation: “They will not control us/we will be victorious”. It’s a call to resistance, to an uprising against those who are attacking us, so I say let’s use all our weapons to vanquish this virus and get our way of life back; whatever that means – staying at home, protecting ourselves, washing hands a hundred times a day, carrying disinfectants all the time, not going to restaurants, not shopping for Spring clothes, etc, etc… Let’s give it all a break and #stay at home. Because, in the end, we will survive, and be victorious.




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