Home alone – a pandemic diary (days eleven and twelve – 21 and 22.03.20)

DAY eleven, Saturday

It was not the relaxing day I had imagined.


In the morning, the lady who helps me with the beach apartment called and said she was cleaning everything, so by the end of the day I would be able to move in. I decided I would leave Lisbon tomorrow. Then a friend called and mentioned the Government will be releasing a new package of restricting measures as from midnight, so I thought I’d better leave today. Instead of relaxing after breakfast, reading in bed and then dedicating the afternoon to writing, I packed, and packed and packed for hours.


An endless list

My list included everything, from laptops (from work and my own), books, face cream, very few clothes (to stay home you don’t need much) and tons of food! A few weeks ago I had the brilliant idea to do my usual shopping on line and order a few more items than usual, such as toilet paper (that soon ran out of stock), oil, canned tuna fish, eggs, rice, pasta, butter, fruit, onions, potatoes, vegetables… and I will keep from you the rest of the endless list. What I can say is there were around twenty big bags, and heavy.


How I managed to get them all into the car, I will never know. Worried about contamination, I never put the bags on to the floor while I carried them to the car, so you can imagine I did around ten trips down to the parking and back. My arms ached when I finally sat on the car, ready to leave!


Away from the city

This took me all afternoon, so when I got here it was already dark – around 7.30 pm. The boys came to help me bring everything inside – I declare I had no strength left. They helped put everything into the kitchen cabinets  and stayed for a while chatting. Keeping social  distance. We must. My son Pedro wanted to give me a hug but for the first time in my life I said “No”.  When this is all over, we will hug as much as we want!


The apartment looks brand new – they have done tremendous work and in so little time. And spotlessly clean. I am so grateful to all the people involved, they worked fast because they knew I wanted to come here. Incredible solidarity!


On the way here here were very few cars on the road. Again, the silence. It seems nobody is driving too fast, anymore, it all seems to have come to a halt, there’s no hurry to go anywhere. It’s an odd feeling; we used to hurry all the time, remember? Well, no longer.


When the boys left, I sat down to eat some muesli. I had no courage for more. I was exhausted. I had a shower and relaxed for a bit watching TV. I looked at my Mac but had no strength left in my to write a post, as much as I love writing. I ached all over so went straight to bed. Surprisingly, I didn’t sleep too well; I suppose it was due to all the exhaustion and stress of the day. Most of all, the feeling that I was leaving my Lisbon apartment, not knowing when I will go back. God only knows.


DAY twelve, Sunday

I woke to the sound of birds singing on the tree outside my window. It felt good, because it’s something that always happens when I’m here, on weekends or holidays. It’s related to something good, relaxing. Like going the beach, getting some sun on a terrace over the sea, having a drink with friends… something that will certainly not happen this time.


A walk by the sea

I brought breakfast to bed and sat down to enjoy it. I didn’t. I spilled most of the orange juice on the bed (fresh linens, from yesterday) so I had to take the duvet cover and put it in the washing machine. I was mad at myself!


Then I organised a few things, but there’s still much to do in order to have the house as it usually is. Still, there’s no hurry, no visitors will be coming, I’m afraid.


It was a lovely sunny afternoon, so I went for a walk. Very few people on the street, a few walking on the beach but keeping their distance. Everything is closed but the pharmacy. On a normal Spring sunny Sunday – yes, Spring has arrived, and no one remembers – there would have been many  people in the cafés, terraces, walking back and forth, many cars passing by… the supermarket, butcher and baker shop will be open tomorrow. There is a message in the butcher’s saying they only accept orders by phone. I wonder if they will bring them home.


I walked along the sidewalk with the sea on my left. It was windy, but it felt invigorating. I took a photo of a surfer who was getting ready to get into the sea. At least, surfing is allowed, I thought, no coronavirus among the waves. Then I saw a police car stopping by a family of three who were looking at the sea and I believe they were scolding them for being outdoors. I wondered if they were going to address me too, but they just looked and moved away. Another police car appeared in the following minutes, but they did not stop. I think they are trying to stop people getting together in more than twos. While I was standing there, I saw my son Pedro coming towards me. He was walking his dog with his stepmother’s son who is like a younger brother to him. We exchanged a few words but keeping our distance, lest the police saw us and scolded us. They went on with their walk and I headed home.


While we try to go on with our lives as best we can, numbers keep growing. 1600 infected cases in Portugal and 14 dead. Today I heard the Minister of Health on the radio and she said that 80% of the patients are at home, with mild cases. I know I keep writing about this, but it is very important to keep this in mind.


Friends keep calling, many of them with videocalls. We need to hear each other. Yesterday I called my friend Rosario who is in Madrid, where the situation is dire. In Italy numbers are escalating again, after one days’ brief respite.


Music and the sea

As I write I look at the sea in the distance. The sun has given way to the soft light of dusk, and the clouds give the sea a silvery shade. It looks like a mirror, without waves. It could be any Sunday evening of another time, when we would be packing to go back to Lisbon and face the week. Back in those days we wished we’d be staying, now I wish things were normal so that I would be able to go back to Lisbon to work. Such is life.


Afonso has just arrived. He comes to have dinner with me, to keep me company. We have missed each other. He brought his piano and plays the new songs he has learnt and I let myself be rocked by some of my favourite songs that my boys have adopted, like the unique, melodic and so full of wisdom, Father and Son by Cat Stevens; He plays it and we sing together. Today, the title could well be Mother and son. I look at the sea outside and wonder how peaceful it looks. On the sofa next to me my beloved son concentrates on his piano. A moment to cherish.  For the first time in many weeks, I feel happy.

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