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Friday, September 11, 2020 5 comments

9/11. 19 years on. Still Feels Like Yesterday.

 (The annual "reprinting" of my inaugural post on Sept. 11, 2011. We shall never forget.)


The thing I remember most about 9/11 is how selfish I felt - at the very beginning.

September 11th was supposed to be the day I paid my debts and made some serious money. I clearly remember the last thing I said as my balding head hit the soft pillow on the 10th: "Tomorrow is going to be a great day, man, tomorrow is going to be a great day."
Source: Anthony Grimley

Five months prior to 9/11 and new to California, I had met several fellow Irishmen at a pub or six, which networked into an interview with a starched suit who looked me up and down to see if I could sell gold coins.

"I can sell a Yankees hat in Boston, or a Cowboys jersey in New York, surely I can sell a little coin over the phone?" I said, full of the optimism of the uninformed American sports fan.

My new boss didn't really care. I'd earn a bare stipend for a couple of months, and then work on one hundred percent commission, so no skin off his nose.

They call the big investors "whales," and it took five months of living off credit cards to reel two in. One lived in New York; the other was in Jersey. I arranged great deals with both retired men; deals that culminated on Monday the 10th, and happy as a pig in a blanket, I later went for a few drinks with the boys, having promised my whales that they'd receive the official paperwork via fax before noon EST Tuesday.

That's the only reason I was up at 5:50 a.m. PST, but as soon as I saw the plane hit the second tower just after 6 a.m. my time, I knew the deals were done - and so was I. (I had no clue how bad it would be - did anyone?)

I wallowed in pity for about thirty-five minutes until I heard another plane had crashed into the Pentagon. Driving to work in my new, unpaid-for Mustang, I jumped up as far as my seat belt would allow, and let out a scream of hurt and anger I hope my ears will never again endure.

As an immigrant with naturalization papers in process, I had no doubt that the attack was on my country (I swore in July 3, 2003,) and my people.

In October 2001, I tried joining the USAF, but the recruiter told me a 19-year-old's pay "ain't going to take care of the credit problems belonging to a 31-year-old."

On 9/11, as always, I'll wear my Liz Claiborne WTC shirt that I bought 'cos the Statue of Liberty looks cool in the forefront (it was 2002 before I "saw" the Twin Towers for the first time.)

I will also reflect on how I awoke thinking only about me, but ended the day thinking only about "U.S." and the thousands whose lives had been destroyed by hate and fear.

May the good God bless the souls of all those lost on 9/11, and Lord, please continue to protect those who, with a servant's heart, always run into harms way while we scream to get the hell out of there.

One of 343 firefighters who sacrificed everything, Thomas J. Foley, 32, Rescue 3, FDNY, died in the collapse of Tower 2, WTC, New York, 9.59 am, 9/11/01. RIP

Friday, April 10, 2020 11 comments

My CovBlog: Day 26


Well, I will never win an award for math! I just now figured out today is Day 26, (not Day 25,) and this is blog post #498, (not #499!)

On the upside, I get to write one more post Monday and celebrate Tuesday with one less day before the lockdown ends in [insert best guess here.]

Though it's Easter in many parts of the world, Holy Week in Spain is a wonderful and proud tradition, and I'm sure there are hundreds of thousands of people around the country missing the annual tradition of the penance processions.

I'll leave you with these pictures taken either 78 or 80 days ago, depending on who you ask.

On Jan. 17, I was walking to the pub, when I heard a commotion...

From Wikipedia: "Seville arguably holds some of the most elaborate processions for Holy Week. The tradition dates back hundreds of years. The "Semana Santa de Sevilla" is notable for featuring the procession of "pasos", lifelike painted wooden sculptures of individual scenes of the events that happened between Jesus' entry in Jerusalem and his burial, or images of the Virgin Mary showing restrained grief after the torture and killing of her son."

...Around the corners comes at least 21 lads under a bulky, heavy "practice float."

"Some of the images are artistic masterworks of great antiquity. One of the Most Popular and Beautiful Image of the Virgin Mary depicting her Sorrows is the Nuestra Señora de la Esperanza de Triana, "La Reina y Señora de Sevilla" (The Queen and Lady of Seville)."

As they can't see a thing, the lads trust and follow the voice of the guy out front...

"These pasos (which usually weigh MORE than a metric TON) are physically carried on the neck of costaleros (literally "sack men", for their distinctive -and functional- headdress)."

The procession continues up the hill... So sad their efforts were in vain this year

"Anywhere from 24 to 48 "costaleros" are hidden inside the platform of the "paso", so it seems to walk alone. Historically dock workers were hired to carry the pasos. From 1973 onward, that task has been universally taken over by the members of the confraternities who organize each procession."

An example from the same town during a recent Semana Santa

And finally....
The countdown to Semana Santa at 10:15 p.m. this past January...

12 mins & 17 seconds later... according to my timestamp.

Only in Spain :)

Wishing everyone a Good Friday and best wishes for as happy of an Easter holiday as is possible.
Thursday, April 9, 2020 6 comments

My CovBlog: Day 24


Alright quick one for today, 'cos how many adventures can one man, stuck at home for 24 days, have and not mention porn?

Well, I never run out of things to say. Ask anyone who knows me if they've ever seen me silent AND awake at the same time?

Today? Long day, but got lots of stuff done, so that was good. However, wandering out to the balcony I was robbed! All day sunny until I crack a beer and the clouds roll in like they were waiting for me to relax. I was mad and securely transferred my feelings to the cloud.

"You looking at me?"

The cloud drifted by with nary an error message so me and my jammie, jumper and beanie sat and sipped happily in the shade.


(I would have enjoyed my beer if I'd been in an Anchorage snowstorm, but that's a different story.)

Ohhhh! Part 1...

Several people, (yes, Ma....🙄)…. (<< What is he looking at? Making me nervous...) wondered what was in my care package that the other (better & sexier) half of M&M sent...

Let's go back in time, shall we!

I was running toward the sid--

NO!! Just tell us, for the love of Sunderland AFC, what was in the package??

Had fun opening my care package & after 14 handwashes, all was out!

Ohhhh! Part 2...

Speaking of beer, I started Round 3 of the Cider House Brews a couple of days ago. While different in scope to the similar-sounding 1999 movie, I continue to experiment on how to make the best possible home-brewed cider. ('Tis a difficult job being Head Cideree, but one must suffer for one's science.)

Pfft 2.0

Don't mind our wine-y Professor, Al Coholic. He's a nerdy cork who loves maths and stuff.

Life is so much more fun brewing cider. Caring for one's "Fermenter" is like being a Fosters parent in Australia, and now, if I'm locked down past my birthday, I won't need a store run to drown my sorrows 😇. (Please share if you need a restock of really, really bad pub-related jokes :)

Delicious (solar-powered:) cider in the making

The 23-liter (6 gal.) Fermenter (known in Dublin as a "Bucket") must sit there, examining the world like a nosy, old grandparent, (*via the grandfathered rule) excerpted from The Great, But Small And Yet Detailed Booklet Of Instructions.

On Page 3 (of 4) TGBSAYDBOI ("the booklet") calls for the Fermenter to be in a room where the average temperature is 20 - 30c (68 - 86f).

You must be bloody joking.

While one enjoys sampling a home-brewski or 16, one is not switching on the bloody heat to help along the process, no matter what Prof. Coholic says!

Patience is a virtue and anyway, solar power is good for the economy. Yeah! And stuff like that, too.

"Hello, children. This is your uncle Markito… don't be like me and buy cheap beer....sit in a cold room, wait a few extra days and make your own!"

(Ed. Note: Apologies. While I'm currently Covid free, I have, since Christmas 1993, had a terrible case of "Love Actually Quotes" syndrome.)

Books sunbathing when a bottle of hot sauce died in the cause of Delivery...

Ohhhh! Part 3A... Tomorrow will be my last post for this week.

(Quiet down! No cheering allowed:)

Not only is it Easter weekend (Are you heading home? :) but I'm planning to visit many awesome,❤ supportive blogger friends. Everyone's been so kind to comment -- and comment again so I absolutely need to crack a beverage and wander around going, "'Sup?"

(I'm truly shit at leaving brief comments so it will happily take awhile.)

Ohhhh! Part 3B... 

I realized the other week my blog will hit a *Big Milestone* soon.

I'd swerved out of the way of dealing with this months ago, especially on Hiatus, but then along came this Covid adventure... and the game is up, guv'nor.

My 500th post will drop Monday...

... and that's just Completely. Mind. Boggling.

I kinda have an idea what my favorite post (that I'll "reprint" one time only,) will be, but I'm not sure...

So... once I return from the blogosphere, me and a full cooler of cheap beer are getting shit-faced on the balcony while I spend many (and more than a few emotional) hours rewinding through this little blog that fucking could.
Wednesday, April 8, 2020 6 comments

My CovBlog: Day 23


Day 23: Tuesday, 7 April - With a face like mine, one must be prepared for life's many adventurous ups and downs.

That's what I tell myself as I wash me teeth, look in the mirror and wonder if it's Friday yet?

Until today, it's not been warm this week

In breaking news Sunday, (don't shake your head sir. It's a blog, not CNN :) the Spanish lockdown has (not unexpectedly) been extended to April 26.

However, may I say then (with a light dollop of abundance of caution) that I hope Sunday the 26th, the 51st occasion of my birth, will bring the Spanish people (and me! and me!) a special gift.

Best part of working from home? Me @ 4:59 p.m.

Whoooo... While editing the post, I realized the last two pictures (not staged in that order!) look like I've nooo sense of fashion (true,) but that I've also lost 6 inches in height, put on 100 pounds and have a 64-inch waist (which I will have if the lockdown continues much longer...)

Where was I?

In the meantime, maybe I can go to the store twice (the scandal of it all!) twice this week? I have an off-road shortcut into town, oh and then! I can see "my" puppy who's not had any treats for 24 days (but is healthy and safe.) I drove past his house Saturday, but didn't stop/block the way in case that was the moment the Guardia Civil came down the skinny lane.

Me at 5:01 p.m. (Leave the black socks alone, man! Better than white, like!)

(Oh, Senor Braveheart, where are you now? We want our Freeeeeeedddoooommmmmm (minus the head-chopping-off part, mind you.)

I'm expecting wayyyy too much, yes, I know that, but nothing ever really happened on my birthday, did it? (Ma might disagree, but I feel absolutely horrible and birthday-ly discriminated upon!)

Why do St. Paddy's Day kids; Christmas babies and all those lucky people who celebrate the 12th of June (when Ray Houghton stuck the ball in the back of the English net) get to have all the fun memories?

Ray Houghton heads home the winning goal for IRL v ENG in Euro '88❣❣

Me? The only major event on my birthday was the Chernobyl disaster, which happened April 26th 1986, and that's not particularly useful as a conversation starter in a room full of strangers, is it now?

It did warm up today, so cheers, proost y salud!
PS: Package?

What package?

Tuesday, April 7, 2020 8 comments

My CovBlog: Day 22


People reading this in the future may laugh, but the highlight of my day was getting delivery of a "care package" sent by Lady Mirjam, the Sweetest. Considering she mailed it from Holland only 10 days ago, and they tried to deliver it Friday, we were both well impressed with the non-Amazon or DHL delivery company!

The reason I didn't get it Friday - I mean, I was home! - was a simple error. I'd called Thursday to confirm my address, they'd asked for my phone number and one digit got lost in translation.

Today, I was determined not to miss the driver. Not knowing what time he'd arrive, I stayed in my trendy, blue plaid jammies set off by a delightful, but casual off-the-shoulder top, but my master plan called for a pair of jeans on the couch and shoes next to a chair. I was in full on fireman-getting-dressed-in-an-emergency mode.

When the buzzer sounded, I would grab the phone-thing and tell the driver I was on the way, but to, "Give me 3 minutes to change and I'll be there in the flashiest of flashes." (Totally borrowed that one from Love Actually. Sorry Richard Curtis and Rowan Atkinson!!)

However, this is Spain, where nothing goes to plan, especially when I'm slowly morphing into the land of the locals.

I kinda thought he'd call in the morning, so I was half-listening for the the buzzer (which I haven't ever heard before!!) so when the damn thing went off, I nearly crapped myself, shot out of the chair and let out a light, manly squeal.

I jumped for the phone, but my plan was out the door before I was.


I had no idea what button to press to open the door, so I pressed all known, including the "*" and the trusty old pound sign "#."

I scanned my emergency preparedness outfit and thought, ah shag it, it will take too long. I grabbed my keys, ran down the stairs (skipping the coronavirus-filled elevator... ewwww,) pushed the door and ran like Forrest Gump to the main entrance.

I didn't know how long the driver would wait, but surely three minutes... When I got to the gate, I heaved and pulled, got it open and stood outside... staring at an empty street...

Noooooooooooooooooooo [several deep breaths] ooooooooooooo--

Oh shit! The side door! At the other side of the community!!

Off I scattered again, waving at a guy leaning on his balcony. He'd seen me run past a minute ago and now I was legging it in the other direction again, like a blue-arsed fly. Of course he didn't wave back, but I like to think he went inside and told his wife that they really needed to move to a community with better-dressed residents.

I got to the side door and yes! He's there, but a bit taken aback as I kinda skidded into the gate while trying to get my key in the lock.

"It's open."

"Yes, I'll sign for it, just have to open the gate for you."

"It's open..."

"What is?"

I pushed on the gate. Totally closed.... pfffftt.

"You have to pull it. It's open."

In my own defense, I have never used this side gate before,,, only discovered it on Saturday, when I walked to check my mailbox... Oh, look! A side gate, that's cool... but who would ever use it??

I pulled on the gate, thinking it would be as heavy/spring-loaded as the main gate, but of course it wasn't and I nearly yanked my shoulder out and the gate clattered off the wall. Poor delivery guy must of thought he was about to be murdered by the (mightily out of breath) Blue-Plaid-Pajama Killer.

He took a step back and then we had a little dance of the social distancing package tradeoff. I apologized, thanked him and asked if I needed to sign anything? He nodded vigorously in the negative and took off for his van.

I stood there, victorious at last, and then remembered coronavirus can live on cardboard boxes for up to a day...

Run, Forrest, Run.

And so, off I ran.
Monday, April 6, 2020 6 comments

My CovBlog: Days 15 - 21


Day 15 - 21: Sunday, March 29 - Sunday, April 5 - As I enter the turd week of dis here lockdown, I know I'm not alone anymore.

The sun came out for Palm Sunday. It was well missed...

According to the BBC and other news outlets, more than 40 percent of the global (bloody hell) population is under some sort of lockdown or "stay-at-home" order.

But Mark, you've skipped ahead a whole week. How are we going to know what happened in this, your Lost Week?

Don't worry. I've had enough blackouts in my time. You'll get used to it. For now... Er, just read a few of my last posts like this one...

So, tomorrow, Tuesday to stop wrecking your heads (and allow me a chance to visit the blogs who've been kind enough to comment) I'll be live daily (well, with a 24-hour delay, but apart from that, like, totally live.)

Sunday was a good day and I hope it was for you, too... so cheers.

As it is a new day where things remain uncertain (but will certainly get better,) I leave you with the immortal and cool-as-shit final words of Sgt. Phil Estherhaus from Hill Street Blues....

"Let's Be Careful Out There..."

Sunday, April 5, 2020 6 comments

My CovBlog: Days 13 & 14


Having procrastinated for the last 45 minutes, my always-on-random-play Spotify playlist clicked over to "Going the Distance" by Bill Conti from the ROCKY soundtrack and I'm like, OK, OK. Jeez, I'll start writing already.

(Stupid Spotify. I'm gonna change to iTunes.)

December 2019: How Alan, me, Emmet, Paul and Mark used to video call :)

Day 13: Friday, March 27, 2020 - You know things are so not normal when I wake up going, "Yes! It's Shopping Day today!"

After the weirdness of last Friday, I feel more comfortable, but retrieve my passport and lease--just in cases, (as Aurelia from Love Actually would say.) I filled up the 3/4-full car first and then headed to the store. The parking lot was as quiet as before with only a few, random shoppers on aisle 5 or anywhere else.

After an hour of mini-dawdling around, I had everything on the list. Great to see that all the fresh veggies were more or less stocked as normal (and the beer & wine aisles were completely restocked,) so, even though we have another couple of weeks to go... I know we're going the distance and will get through this.

Day 14: Saturday, March 28 - Been looking forward to this since Thursday. Today's the evening the lads and I are going to at least try to reconnect (remember, we're a bunch of 50-somethings that can text, but don't necessarily call their mates via Facetime!)

Clockwise: Liam, Steve, Alan & me.

As we were yapping throughout the day, I told them we'd try video calling on WhatsApp first (max 4,) and if more wanted to join, we'd switch to the House Party app (max 8.)

Suffice to say that after 2+ hours of bantering, slagging, teasing and grief-giving about various hair (or lack of) hairstyles, our virtual happy hour was a resounding success!! Highly recommended if you're still looking for a way to reconnect.

Emmet making some sideways comments :)

Many thanks to Alan, Emmet, Liam, Mark (who later made it onto the call:), Paul and Steve for their lifelong friendships❣

I'll let the pictures to the rest of the talking ;)

We're old... nearly time to go to sleep, lads :)

Saturday, April 4, 2020 7 comments

My CovBlog: Days 9 - 12


Day 9: Monday, March 23, 2020 - Started the second full week of working from home today and the commute was murder. I barely made it to work on time.

Last week, I was getting up at 7:15 a.m., having a shave and showering with a spring in my step (but not too much mind you. I don't have a shower mat and didn't want to fall on my arse and break a leg for all the wrong reasons!) Surviving the shower, I proudly sat at my impromptu office by 7:55 a.m. ready for 08:00 and the workday to begin.

Today? Pfffft.

I set my alarm for 7:58 a.m. and blearily switched on the computer right at 8 a.m. I get it that I'm one of the lucky ones to still have a bloody job, (and won't forget it,) but the news that the state of emergency will extend through Easter has, for now, beat the shit out of my optimism that this global Covidfuck will be solved sooner than later.

Even the weather, normally a consistent in Spain, has done a runner and I leave the dining room light on most of the afternoon as I, the ultimate (but secretive) drama queen, spend the day huffing and puffing as I am (Californian king duvet) covered, nay blanketed in gloom and doom.

Day 10: Tuesday, March 24 - Well now. Wasn't yesterday a jolly entry!

Last night, I knew well enough not to fall asleep (and wake again at 7:58 a.m.) feeling like crap, so when I saw a banner on Prime saying Love Actually was "going away" March 31, I had to watch it for the 18th time. (Why was it going away? Had it done something wrong? Was there an appeals process I could join or start?)

Such a great movie.

(We should all be so lucky to "Get the shit kicked out of us by love!" -- young Sam.)

So yeah, I woke up on the rocky side of tired, but a whole lot more motivated by Prime Minister Hugh Grant who reminded me again that, "If you look for it, I've got a sneaky feeling you'll find that love actually is all around."

(Richard Curtis... you... you writing god, you.)

Happy sigh in the early morning then. I threw off the sheets, had a quick shower, changed into my big-boy day clothes and realized with a start... here were eight or nine hours that I didn't have to worry about what to do. Duh! While the weather was completely shit again, the gloom in my head drifted away (like me trying to enter the local pub... we're both barred from re-entry.)

Best part of the day was right around 8 p.m. As it was too cold to sit outside, I middle-aged marinated myself on the couch with only one book for a change, and then heard a minor commotion.

Being too lazy to move (it had been such a busy day, apparently) I wondered what was up? Something tickled the end of my weak brain stem.

Barcelona neighbors were amongst the first to honor all our front line workers❤❤


8 p.m...


Sounds of Suppo--

Oh shit! That's right!!

It's the 8 p.m. clapping for the front line workers!!!

Needless to say, by the time me and the expanding stomach pushed ourselves off the couch and outside to the balcony, everyone else had gone inside. I half-waved and clapped and fully nodded at no one, and then, feeling a wee bit sheepish, walked back inside.

Originally, I'd heard a movement started in Madrid or Barcelona where the locals would go out on their balconies at 10 p.m. to clap and salute those doctors, nurses, grocery staff and anyone not home with their families.

I'd poked my head out the other day at the announced time, but nothing happened. What I didn't know, but found out, after a quick shout to "OK Google" that the time had changed to 8 p.m. so kids could join in, which I thought was a great idea.

Note to self: Set alarm again for 7:58, but this time p.m..

Day 11, Wednesday, March 25 - Today, Spain announced they had a death toll greater than China and only second to Italy. What??

This jarring news led me to check in with as many loved ones as possible.

Mirjam is safe at home with family, my boys are happily ensconced in Virginia and my brother, Carl, is staying with Ma and Da for the duration of the pandemic. Ireland is in lockdown mode, and as my parental units are old farts, I am grateful to my absolutely, most favorite brother (OK, I only have one, but still 😇) who is there to do a bit of shopping as the oul' wans cocoon themselves from the outside world.

While a Knight dresses in the background, Ma practices early Social Distancing techniques last December :)

Happy to hear from some of those who willingly put up with me, I stood on my balcony and, as the time clicked over to 20:00, I began to clap. A little self-consciously, because our balconies aren't opposite each other, so I couldn't see anyone, but I got goosebumps as my clapping was joined by dozens of others, with a bit of hooting and hollering going on.

It was brilliant and although I couldn't see a single soul, it was the closest I'd felt to anyone who lives in the same country as me.

Side note: Once this is 100 percent behind us, I pity the first fool that accepts a hug from me, but I do promise I'll be there while their broken ribs heal.

Day 12, Thursday, March 26 - It's not breaking news, but I'm wrapping my head around the Spanish government's extension of the lockdown through Easter.

(And, will that even be enough?)

This is a hugely proud nation and the many gazillons of events surrounding Easter that make up Semana Santa are now all cancelled. It's mind-boggling and I (again) don't know what to say...

For years, our local takes great pride in simple things, like the count down to Semana Santa...

Then I read something online how millions of people are reconnecting via Facetime, Zoom, Messenger and other video-related apps on their mobile phones.

My mind starts to make a plan that simply can't fail this time (and people all over the world who know me go, "Nooooooooooooo…")

For the last several years, I've been a proud member of the nine-strong, "Rialto & Northside Lads" WhatsApp group. We're an absolute bunch of misfits, and I'm sure many can relate to those friends you grew up with, and for whatever reason, still hang out with. In our case, most of us know each other 45+ years, so it's even scary that we still get along.

Anyway, there was a video coffee hour at work, via Skype, and it was fun to see the five colleagues who joined the relaxed meeting. With lots of laughter, some serious moments and lots and lots of mutual encouragement, I sat back thinking...

Oh. Yeah. I'm setting something up like this with The Lads.

Later, after the 8 p.m. appreciation, I texted the group and the general feeling was a bit of confusion ("Why do we have to look at each other?") and ("What do ye want to talk about?")


I've set up a "happy hour" for this Saturday evening, and though I will need to text 3,520 reminders, I have a feeling this weekend will be a lot more fun than the last couple...

Members celebrate a quorum of Bald Ones at the recent Annual Guys Meeting (AGM) of the Rialto Lads 

Friday, April 3, 2020 4 comments

My CovBlog: Days 4 - 8


To get rid of one of those pesky 24 hours, I've started a daily blog and using my journal, I'm playing catch up for a couple of days. The first post is here.
My Christmas tree! From mid-Jan. - mid-Nov., it makes a great nightlight

Day 4: Wednesday, March 18, 2020 - Wow. No hangover after St. Paddy's Day last night, which is a very lovely and nice change. Ha. I'll try that again next year (the non-hangover part, not the self-isolation party!)

Making a big deal of something so normally mundane, I go through every shelf of the fridge, freezer and pantry like I'm doing a restaurant P&L weekly inventory. As I count, I write an actual list of things needed to make Operation Grocery Store a success.

In the old days (did I just write that!) I had (and will have again!!) a 40-minute walk home. With a handy grocery store at the beginning of the route, I'd become adept at filling my backpack to capacity. The middle-aged man in me was also happy to get in some upper body exercises without the need to reserve actual time to do so.

(Sadly, as I sip here with a second glass of wine and a heavy bowl of delicious stew, I can't figure out how my extending stomach can do a little more of its own withdrawing from society.) 

Day 5: Thursday, March 19 - Gazing from my 3rd floor balcony, the white delivery truck hasn't moved yet and I thank my lucky stars (again) that I'm able to work from home.

This afternoon, from my "office," (aka the other half of the dining room table,) I hear a small bunch of kids (and I guess) a dad hollering and having a laugh with a soccer ball. The sound--that simple sound of fun happening--makes me smile. While I can't see the family from my balcony, it makes me miss my boys even more.

They're safe in Virginia, at home where they live with their Mama, and while things are a lot better in the U.S., things aren't yet getting better here. Surely the same will happen Stateside? My big trip this year is to see them for a month, starting June 12. I can't wait!!

When we Skype later that evening, I'm relieved to hear the boys understand the basics of what's going on, the importance of social distancing and washing their hands so many more times than normal. I'm relieved, but know they are in the best possible (and well-washed) hands.

Day 6: Friday, March 20 - I shut down the computer, head out the door, my passport and original lease hidden in a folder deep under my shopping bags.

I don't think I'll need the docs, (but I am a Koopmans!) and have read rumors of police checkpoints and the Guardia Civil making sure no one is out there driving unnecessarily. 

Get to the store (think Wal-Mart sized) and there's like seven cars in the parking lot. No wait, one is driving away. I look at my watch. It's 5:30 on a Friday afternoon and the place is empty. Really strange feeling walking the couple of hundred yards of the interior. All the small businesses, a flower store, beauty parlor, cell phone depot and even the lottery kiosk... all closed.

Management have locked down all non-essential aisles and the only parts open are the usual grocery sections. I wander the aisles, instinctively giving the skeleton crew of stockers as much space as possible. They're all wearing blue gloves and face masks and I'm sure some of them must be freaking out--I would be. I'm super grateful that they are open and refilling shelves, so make an effort to at least nod my thanks and say hola whenever possible.

Fresh veggies are the only items in short supply, but I'm so not going to complain there are a few items on my trusty list left unscratched to oblivion. Deep sigh as I make it safely back to the apartment. That's it until next Friday. My passport stays in the shopping bags. Not needing it, apart from shopping, for a few more weeks yet.

Mirjam and I have a trip scheduled at the end of April to visit all the Normandy D-Day sites. It's a huge bucket list of mine to see Utah beach and that whole historical area... Thinking about it, I remove the passport and return it to where it normally lives.

Miss you.

Day 7: Saturday March 21 - About six weeks ago, I scheduled a Brunch for my teammates to celebrate St. Paddy's Day and a couple of birthdays (aka any excuse for a party.) I'd cancelled it well before the lockdown started last weekend, but today would have been the day.

Having spent the last few weeks squirrelling up on various cases of beer and wine, I scan the floor of the spare bedroom and shake my head. With all the uncertainty of these crazy times, I may one day starve from the lack of fresh veggies and store-made guac., but I'll never die of thirst, that's for bloody sure.

I've rescheduled the Brunch for April 18 when all this is behind us. The Spanish government said the emergency action/lockdown will end on the 29th of March, so tack on a couple of extra weeks. Surely, we'd all be back to some semblance of normality by then... Right? 

Day 8: Sunday, March 22 - One week done. One week to go.

I sit outside and plough through several chapters of three books I'm reading. Normally, that drives me nuts as I start getting plot lines mixed up (who knew Jack Reacher was once a young, rainmaking lawyer in Mississippi?)

In-between all this, I spend way too much time reading updates from NPR, BBC, CNN (and RTE for news about Ireland.) The U.S. is acting way, way too slow, in my humble opinion and that is making me nervous. I start mentioning this to any of my buddies who text. I know I'm being annoying, but don't know what else to do...
Thursday, April 2, 2020 9 comments

My CovBlog: Days 1 - 3


Nothing like a global pandemic to get one's arse behind the keyboard again.

It's been a few months since I've posted and the title of my blog is a bit ironic now! Have to say I was half-enjoying not having a blogging schedule, but for the past 18 days, me and the other 46 million residents of Spain have been under a strict lockdown. (Nod if where you live has joined the "club" by now.)

To help pass the time, I began a daily journal, thinking there might be, when this is all over, a book in there somewhere, but with my near-100 percent record of not finishing a book, I've decided to run a daily blog instead.

For the first few posts, I'll play catch up with highlights of these past couple of weeks and go "live" daily for as long as this lasts...

Settle in. I so want this to be a series of posts that ends soon, but we may be here for awhile...

How does this bloody camera work?

March 15, 2020: It's Sunday and after all the rumors and reports, resignation sets in as I wake to Day 1 of the lockdown.

It's official and I stand on the balcony practicing this new social distancing thing. I don't live in the loudest of communities, but can't see or hear a soul moving.

A delivery van sits in my line of sight to the street and the world beyond. It's Sunday, so I'm used to seeing vans and small trucks parked out there, but this already feels different. Wonder how long it's going to be sat there. I'm not being a snob, but realise the longer the van doesn't earn for its owner, neither does the driver, my unknown neighbor, who's normally behind the wheel.

Essentials Part 1. Kitchen towels, baby! No hoarding of toilet roll here :)

Day 2: Monday, March 16 - Thinking about the driver of the white van -- it's still there this afternoon.

This was my first full week of working at home and I'm humbled and lucky to have the security of a job. Having worked almost 20 years in the restaurant business, I still have many good friends in the hospitality industry. How will they cope? What will they do? How long will this last??

Essentials Part 2: Well, it was St. Patrick's Day (week:)

Day 3: St. Patrick's Day - Truly. The strangest and soberest Paddy's Day. Ever.

As we're all self-isolating, I spend an hour taking silly pictures of me in green and message them all over the world. I'm not a huge fan of social media, but it beats social distancing any day of the week, especially this day and I really enjoy a few hours going back and forth with family and friends, some of whom I haven't talked to in years.

Maybe its just the greenness of the day, but I get a real sense of people wanting and making the effort to at least answer the notification ding! a bit quicker than normal.

Giggling because I kept supping while forgetting to snap the damn picture!!

Coming Tomorrow... As I prepare for my first trip to the store, I need to find my lease and passport in case the Guardia Civil stop me...
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