Today in Spain around six million children aged under 14 were finally allowed to leave their homes after 43 days, officially for an hour every day. Earlier in the week, however, it wasn’t totally clear what they’d actually be allowed to do during that hour. Ask your average toddler what he or she would prefer: a trip to see the bank manager to beg for a loan or overdraft, perhaps? A trip to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription? Sit squashed and sweaty in a supermarket trolley for an hour, whilst licking the trolley’s grubby handlebar during this pandemic? Or, wait … what about taking your bicycle or scooter to the park and then kicking a ball around or throwing a frisbee?
It’s not rocket science, is it? Apparently it is, though, for the Spanish government’s spokeswoman, María Jesús Montero – or at least it was. On Tuesday she said that kids would only be allowed to accompany an adult to a supermarket, pharmacy or bank during their daily hour of freedom. But then because everyone in Spain suddenly went on social media to say that was a bit silly (to put it politely), the Spanish Health Minister, Salvador Illa, then had to announce a rapid U-turn and reverse the decision.
So kids were allowed to do things other than go to a bank, supermarket or pharmacy today – and I went out to take some pictures of them for an article. It’s not something I normally do, of course – approach total strangers and ask if I can take pictures of their kids, or ask friends to send me photos of their own – but after 43 days of lockdown, it seemed perfectly acceptable. And you know what? It was great to see kids out and about again. Our dog seems happier, too. She’d assumed that every small person – all those little people who like to stroke her – had left the planet.
This week, too, I picked up a free surgical face mask from a local pharmacy by simply showing my ‘Cat Salut’ health card. I hadn’t expected it to be so simple. I thought they’d require two copies of my birth certificate stamped by a notary in Barcelona and a copy of my passport plus a registered burofax letter signed by Spain’s immigration ministry or something … but, no! I asked the girl in the pharmacy if she at least wanted to know my mother’s maiden name but she looked at me as if I was nuts. It might have been my hair, of course. It’s got even worse since last week. I’ve gone from Einstein, to Brian May from Queen, to one of the Gypsy Kings, to being told that my hair also now looks like Fernando Simón’s – the director of the Spanish Health Ministry’s Coordination Centre for Health Alerts and Emergencies. Google him.
Talking of hair (again), Denmark opened its hair salons and barber shops this week and their Internet crashed from people trying to make appointments. I can sympathise with that. I even tried booking a flight to Copenhagen … anything to avoid being mistaken for Fernando Simón. In the state of Georgia in the USA, not only hairdressers, spas and beauty salons have reopened, but tattoo parlours, too. So that’s something else Zoom will never be able to replace: haircuts and tattoos.
Talking of tattoos, we watched the Tiger King on Netflix last week. Joe Exotic! It was ‘okay’ – I guess it was ‘entertainment’ – but to be honest, I spent most of the time just shaking my head at the TV screen, mumbling ‘only in America’ to myself.
Talking about America and Donald Trump and disinfectant … no, let’s not.
I’ve written here before about April normally being the perfect month to spend time out and about in Barcelona, especially during the magical day of Sant Jordi on 23rd April, or with the Godó tennis tournament or Barça playing a big Champions League fixture. This week I have really missed all that … that feeling. In fact I’ve missed simply being able to go to a tapas bar. I’ve missed roaring with laughter with friends, face to face. I’ve missed hanging out with people in real life and not just on video – but I also know that I can’t complain.
We also completed the third season of Ozark. I spent most of it shouting at Wendy Byrde’s brother to piss off back to wherever he came from. I’ve actually started to enjoy watching people being interviewed on TV from their homes during news bulletins. I find it fascinating to see their surroundings, the bookshelves behind them, the decoration, or a strategically placed award or photo. It’s weird.
One thing I highly recommend: Unorthodox, also on Netflix. I didn’t think I’d enjoy it. But not only is the production quality and overall casting first class, but the main actress, Shira Haas, is quite simply the best actress I have seen for years. I was transfixed by her. I still am. Watch it – and then watch the ‘making of’, if you can.
Stay safe. We’re nearly there.