Phase 1 (Fase 1) officially started today. Almost proper freedom. Outside, terrace restaurants are open at 50% capacity (revised up from the initially planned 30%), with tables spaced two meters apart. We can now travel in the car together as a family, providing we are going somewhere that is allowed – i.e. to the shop, the doctors, and now to restaurants. But we cannot simply go for a leisurely drive. And although we can drive to the shop together, we cannot all enter the shop together.
There was never going to be an official ‘Lockdown is Over’ day, but today is probably the closest we are going to get to one, as it’s afforded perhaps the biggest transition from not going out to going out. Depending of course on the infection rates continuing to remain stable we will move into additional, more relaxed phases over the coming weeks.
So far all looks very good, particularly for the Murcia region where we live; there has been no adverse impact since we’ve been allowed out for exercise. But of course, this latest phase is very different with so much more freedom of movement allowed. It’s also going to be much more difficult to police. Along the coast there may be an outdoor restaurant (Chiringuitos) every few hundred yards or so, but in the bigger, more densely populated cities like Cartagena, they are literally side-by-side up and down every main street and narrow side street. It’s inevitable that this will result in far too many people congregating in a relatively confined area. Social distancing will be incredibly difficult. And that’s a big worry.
Let’s just hope that the police continue to be robust in their enforcement as they have so far.
For now though, we are staying well clear of the cities.
We had planned to head out locally. But then strangely, after all this time, we felt hesitant. Should we leave it for a couple more weeks and see what happens? But then what happens if infections do spike again and we go back a Phase and back into the stricter lockdown? We’d miss our chance of a little taste of normality, which I suppose in that instance, would have been the right thing to do? But then again, a glass of vino or two on the beachfront is what I’ve been dreaming of for weeks...
We decided to give it a miss, and after 59 days of isolation, we ironically opted for a quiet night in. There’s always tomorrow night…
60 days… Surely that deserves a celebrational meal out?
Tentatively we headed out to experience just what dining out whilst observing social distancing is really like.
At the restaurant we are greeted by a Masked Server and shown to our table with great views over the lake and golf course beyond. There are no flowers, napkins, condiments or any other items that you might usually expect to see on a table. The tables are completely clear to avoid any chance of infection from previous diners. Stuck to each table is a laminated QR code, which you scan with your phone to view an online menu.
The restaurant is pretty quiet, but there are a few other people sat at nearby tables, all spaced 2-metres apart. It feels strange but contradictively familiar and bordering on almost normal at the same time. A bit like when you visit your home town after many years away.
Sat together with my family, enjoying a chilled glass of Vino and some complimentary olives, next to the lake, it’s the best I’ve felt in months.
The Masked Server returns to take our orders. Both Jo and I decide on the Chicken in Tomato and Rosemary Sauce. “And how would you like your chicken, sir? Medium?”. I looked at her confusingly, “err, large?” I offered, desperately hoping that the options being presented to me were all related to portion size.
Her piercing eyes suggest that from behind the facemask, she’s pulling a face that implies I am the stupid one. “I mean, how would you like it cooked - medium, medium rare, well done?”. Well isn’t this just perfect; we’ve so far survived the coronavirus by being locked down for 60 days to just be killed off by salmonella poisoning on our very first day out.
“Well done” I snap. “Very Well Done”. With no facemask of my own it’s difficult to hide the look of fear on my face as this Masked Server apparently plots to wipe out my family. Jo takes mental notes for her Halloween costume later this year.
The meal arrives, and the chicken was indeed very well done. Which all things considered, was probably the best outcome. Archie ordered a lasagne and is served a novel eclectic twist on the traditional version, with the addition of pieces of ham and various pasta shapes to the more usual mince and pasta sheets. And there is an obvious lack of any white sauce.
Still deeply, mentally scarred from our stint as restaurants owners, we seldom ever complain in restaurants, and we are certainly not about to raise our issues now with this Masked Poisoner.
Besides, nothing was going to spoil our first evening out in such a long time. The food wasn’t great. But the company was first rate.
Amazingly, I am still getting up earlyish each morning and having my daily walk. It’s had absolutely no effect on my weight whatsoever. I guess the net result of two months of wine, chocolate and not moving will take some shifting.
This morning I wasn’t quite as earlyish as normal. Since moving to Phase 1 of de-escalation we have had much more freedom of movement, however our allocated exercise timeslots, based upon age, still remain strictly in place. I left the house during my timeslot, but because of the late start, I suddenly realised that I was not going to make it back home in time. I was now committing an offence by being out walking during the Over 70’s allocated timeslot.
I increased my pace and took the back roads where I thought I would be less likely to be spotted by either security or angry pensioners. The downside to this plan, was that it added yet further time on my already illegal walk.
In the distance, I could see security driving slowly towards me. There were no more side roads between me and them that I could dive down. I briefly thought about doing an abrupt U-turn, walking back to the side road I had just passed and then running down it as fast as I could to try and lose my ‘tail’. But then I realised I wasn’t actually starring in some American cops and robbers TV show and that would only raise their suspicion further.
I kept walking, desperately trying to recall from the hundreds of Articles laid down within thousands of pages in the Royal Decree, a valid defence for why I’m so blatantly disobeying the law. Security drew alongside me. This is it I thought. Maybe I’ll just get off with a warning as this is a first-time offence.
The security officer wound down his window. My heart started beating faster and my anxiety levels grew.
“Buenos días señor”, he greeted me, before continuing on his rounds.
The son of a motherless goat actually thought I looked old enough to be out in the Over 70’s category!
So much for exercise keeping you physically healthy and of well mind. I felt crap on both accounts.