What life's like living under lockdown: an ex-pat Lancastrian reports from Spain

Former Lancashire publican Mick Dennison moved to Spain four years ago and in a special despatch reports on what life is like living under a strict curfew

Thursday, 19th March 2020, 11:45 am
Deserted street outside Mick Dennisons apartment in Javea, Spain

Day four of the ‘lockdown’ in Spain. Lockdown, a word usually associated with prison, a loss of liberty, contemplation time, a punishment. But what have we done wrong? Has a crime been committed? Is revolution in the air?

I would not have thought, after four years living in Spain, I would be in a situation which banned me from going to the bar, taking my wife out for a meal or my grandchildren being able to go to school. That sadly is the way of the world right now in Spain – measures possibly coming to a town near you – soon.!

We completed our last ‘big shop’ on March 12, not an easy task owing to the supermarkets running out of many items, similar to the panic buying which has been going on in the UK. A visit to three different stores was needed but we didn’t worry, we would be doing a top up at the weekend. Or so we thought.

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Mick Dennison outside a supermarket in Spain where people have to keep their distance in queues

The first casualties of the coronavirus scare were the schools – they were instructed on March 13 to close indefinitely from the following Monday. My daughter is a teacher at an international school near Javea, in Alicante, my two granddaughters attend that school and my wife is a support worker there. I teach an English class on that site on a Saturday morning.

The whole family is affected by the closure. Things were moving fast last Friday as more information was released by the Valencian regional government.

All bars, clubs and restaurants were to be closed for 15 days from midnight.

No sports activities were to be undertaken, including cycling which is massive in these parts. My son-in-law is a cross country cyclist, his competition at the weekend was cancelled.

Mick Dennison and wife Lynn in Spain in happier times

I arrived back from the radio station I work at Monday to Friday knowing I wouldn’t have to get up early on the Saturday morning to teach my class, at least – I’d be able to go for a last beer in my local bar before the closure.

I walked along the main street of my village, Jesus Pobre, in eerie silence. It was just after 8pm and normally there would be people out and about especially as there are four bars along that street. None of them were open. Back home for a few cold ones out of the fridge. The village would have been packed on the Saturday as it was the annual onion/leek festival. Yes, the locals celebrate these humble vegetables with a day of eating, drinking and partying.

The organisers managed to sell off most of the food to the locals to try to make something back. We invited our family around for a late lunch seeing as our son-in-law’s cycling had been cancelled.

The weather was beautiful and had been since the middle of January. After lunch we had a walk into the countryside around the village; at least they couldn’t take that away from us. Halfway round our walk, as we were enjoying fantastic scenery and uninterrupted sunshine, our son-in-law told us to stop for a minute.

Mick Dennison in his radio studio

He’d checked out the internet as more Draconian measures were being implemented nationwide. It was now going to be illegal to leave the house from the Monday morning unless going to the shops, chemist, hospital appointment or work.

Walking out in twos was to be stopped and dog owners could only walk their animals for a short distance from the house. Suddenly, we all agreed, it was finally starting to bite. Life would have to change considerably with all aspects of daily life being scrutinised by us and of course officialdom, Spain loves officialdom.

We woke up late on Sunday morning. Normally there would have been the bustle of the weekly Sunday market held just yards from our house, the car park overflowing across the road, visitors to the village milling around and children running and laughing outside our front window.

The silence had misled us to thinking it was early, looking out, it was empty. Not actually a ghost town but near enough. I didn’t go into the radio station on Monday morning. I had been informed the police were stopping all drivers and being very strict with documentation.

I’m more than legal, and have residency in Spain, it’s my car that is the issue; the MOT or ITV over here was out-of-date. It would’ve been my luck to have been pulled up for that. I spent the day working on a distance learning pack for my Saturday class. If I want to be paid by the school I have to comply.

On Tuesday morning I was set for the radio station. I borrowed my son-in-law’s pick-up truck, he wasn’t working and drove the 15 minute journey from Jesus Pobre to Benitachell.

There was very little traffic moving about and for the first time in four years I noticed a popular workers café/bar was closed. I wasn’t stopped but saw plenty of Guardia Civil patrolling the streets.

It was St Patrick’s Day but I wasn’t reporting on any functions taking place that evening. Instead, I was telling people not to go to the supermarket in twos (600 euro fine for one unlucky couple), check hospitals for appointments being cancelled and that Spain was shutting its border with France and all flights being cancelled - doom and gloom but necessary measures.

The world definitely has gone crazy since last Thursday and to compound it all we have a week of rain to look forward to. In the meantime, I do the shopping, when things are available, we both sit in the house and read and as for going to the restaurant! Well, that may be a while yet. Masterchef on the telly it is then!

* Mick Dennison is a former landlord of The York pub, in Morecambe.He moved to start a new life in Spain in 2016 and lives in Alicante province where he has a radio show for ex-pats.