Monthly Archives: May 2020

Still here – in Spain! Days 77-78!

steps to the beach

I thought I might have overdone the tennis when I woke up yesterday morning (but despite that, I still plan to overdo it again next week!) so whilst Jan was on his usual run, I went back to my old ritual of a bit of Bollywood to warm up, then the 7 App, and then 40 minutes of cycling, which had the desired effect of my being able to walk normally for the rest of the day (although not completely, as after a break from the bike for a while, bad legsmy bum seems to have gone a bit soft – and is now quite painful again.  Blimey.  How do you guys (you know who you are) manage to cycle for hours at a time?)!   Anyway, apart from that, it was a lovely day as we went out for lunch – this time with FRIENDS!

Going out required a bit of driving, which was also nice, since to date we have only ventured around the corner to the tennis club, or a couple of times to the supermarket (we are still trying to walk to one of them each day, but it is just so easy to be lazy and nilli beachhop in the van!).  The restaurant we went to was one that we had never been to before, the other side of Marbella on the main road towards Malaga (this road used to be called the ‘road of death’ as it had more fatalities on a short stretch than anywhere else in Europe, so not one of my favourites to drive on!), and next door to the famous beach club, Nikki Beach (possibly one of the reasons why the road was so nikki beachnotorious…..).  That in itself was a bit depressing as it was completely closed up and, without all the noise, beautiful people, music and so on, it looked a bit sad and shabby.   Yet again, we are left wondering if things will ever be the same again (not that I was ever much of a fan of it, but still…).

The restaurant that we went to, however, (unimaginatively called ‘the Beach House’….), was  great, and restored our faith in eating out – an absolutely beautiful setting on the beach (with no-one on it, of course), friendly staff (in masks, but managing a lot better than last week), great food, and the absolute pleasure of sitting and talking to other people for hours (5, actually!)!    If it hadn’t been for the masks, the empty beach and a few little things (for example the now ever-present disinfectant for just about everything) it was just like old times.

In view of the very long lunch, by the time we got back it was already early evening and since we weren’t that bothered about dinner, we went out a bit earlier for our usual walk on the beach, bumping into (not literally, obviously – we now keep our 2 metre distance without even thinking about it or needing a stick!) quite a few people we knew, all making the most of the wonderful weather and enjoying the relatively quiet beach and marbella beachwalk, since it won’t be for much longer!   Tomorrow, Monday, we go into ‘Phase 2’ of the easing out of lockdown, which means, most importantly for us, being able to swim in the pool, exercising whenever we want, the majority of shops and restaurants opening without restriction and, amazingly, the beaches being open!   The excitement is almost too much!

Tempering that excitement, though, is some of the political and other jiggery pokery that is going on and that has prompted me to rant on Twitter quite a lot over the last couple of days.   First, the news that a Belgian prince flew in a few days ago (presumably on his own plane, aka Djokovic) to go to some big party and without knowing (apparently) that he has the virus – the consequence of that being that most of the people at the party also caught it, and the figures for new infections in our area (which had been on 0), have therefore shot up… and the consequence of that being mass hysteria on both the Andalusian FB page and from some of the government (Sanchez is now talking about extending the state of alarm for yet another two weeks – for God’s sake!!!).   (N.B. I thought it would be nice to include a photo of the Belgian prince here, but when I Googled him, the headline that came up was ‘Kinky Belgian prince attends illegal party in Spain – now that has piqued my interest – so no photo, but clearly I need to find out more!).

And then the news that the Czech Republic is planning to bring in some sort of ‘traffic light’ system, whereby people from countries that are ‘green’ will be able to come and go into the CR as they please, whilst amber will have some restrictions, and red may not be allowed in at all – and guess which ones are red – yes, amongst others outside of Europe, Spain and Italy.   Which is completely ridiculous since according to the latest figures, these two countries have the fewest deaths and number of infections (despite the Belgian prince) of anyone.  Added to that, I would suggest, it was all the horror of the early days in Italy and Spain that prompted countries like the CR to lock down early and thus avoid the same situation and then not needing to go into the same sort of hard lockdown as them – but that was then – now, as I keep on saying, people coming from Spain and Italy must be the least risk imaginable.

Whether all of the above means that we won’t, in the end, get back to the CR in the next few weeks, I don’t know… but what I do know is that whatever one country does to another is sure to be reciprocated, so if the CR blocks people arriving in from Spain (and Italy), I imagine that people from the CR will also be blocked from coming here… and that will mean, most annoyingly, a reduction in flights between the two countries.   Since I can’t help thinking that none of this really has anything to do with the safety of people, but more to do with money, politics and power, it will be interesting to see how the CR (and other countries) plans to deal with the UK….. for sure, Spain and the CR will be wanting the tourists and investment that usually comes in from the UK…. but, on the other hand, England has nearly the highest death toll and infection rate in the world…. with not much chance of it brtiains beachesimproving (see the photo of one of the English beaches this last weekend and compare it to ours here!) so presumably it will have to be a ‘red light country.   Hmmmm.   We will be watching!

Ooof.  Sorry.  That was a long old rant – possibly because today, Sunday, it has been pouring with rain (quite incredibly) and that has reminded us just how difficult it was in the early days and what everyone had to go through to get to the stage that Spain is in now.   But hopefully, by the time 15th June comes around (when, it is said, the whole of the EU is supposed to be open for each other (just not sure that those in the CR have read that….!)) it will all be resolved.

Actually, it has been quite nice not to be in the heat today – for the last morning, we were up early to run (when it was still sunny) but by the time we got back we could see that the weather wasn’t going to be good, and that prompted us to get on with a load of things that have been mounting up (and have been ignored in all the sunshine), including some real work as well as things around the house (since, still, no maid… !).   But the sun will be back from tomorrow.  As will I!



Still here – in Spain! Day 74-76

view from window

The last two days have been quite busy with some interesting bits and pieces to report on as well as, very unusually at the moment, quite a lot of work!   First, Wednesday, after our usual exercise and so on in the morning, we walked into the other part of Marbella, Puerto Banus.   Such is its reputation that some of our ‘grander’ friends around the Pueblo have never even been there (despite it being just a ten minute drive in the opposite direction from the Old Town, or a half hour walk).  As you can tell from the name, it is a port, but not just any old port – this is where the footballers and the girls chasing them, the soap stars and, dare I say it, petty (or maybe not so petty) criminals and various other un-savouries, hang out – in the beach clubs during the daytime and then, at night, in the many clubs, restaurants and casinos that line some of the streets.

I quite like it though – during the day, the roads around the port area are filled with Ferraris and other similar cars, usually being driven very slowly by very dodgy looking pb shopscharacters who want everyone to look at them, but the boats are amazing and the shops, well, they are some of the best in the world… plus if you go off the beaten track, as with everywhere, there are some interesting places to see.   Obviously we haven’t been there since the lockdown (with the exception of Jan’s longer runs early in the morning), so we were keen to see how it was looking and that, much as with the Old Town of Marbella, was a bit of a shock.

The walk in from the main road was completely deserted – we have seen it like that before as in ‘normal times’ we often used to run through the port area whilst everyone was still asleep, but it was strange to see it like that in the middle of the day.  All of the beach bars and restaurants were closed (although a couple looked as if they might be  getting ready), but in the port itself a few café-type places were open and desperate looking, as were the majority of the designer shops.   But just no-one there.  I actually ventured into a shop as I had no summery shoes here (we arrived in big coats and boots, and whilst we keep lots of clothes here, other than trainers, I had nothing else for my feet!) and bought some (another experience – disinfect hands first, then put on special plastic covers to try the shoes on (anyone heard of catching the virus through the feet??), then a bit of a jiggery pokery performance to get said shoes from the assistant and then hand back through a hole in the plastic protection by the cashier and ask to buy, all the time not really hearing what she said (big mask again), but I got it that she was pleased to make a sale (and very unhappy to hear that there were so few people around – I did hear her ask that)…. actually this shop is one of my favourite, and has become even more of one as it was the only one that was offering any sort of discount – all the others, whilst being open and having their usual ‘security men’ by the door (to do what??), seemed to still be asking their usual exorbitant prices…

So that was Puerto Banus and I wonder how it will survive…. but, and here I go again, I can’t help but think that this could be yet another ‘hand of God’ type situation – maybe all the wealth and over-the-topness of the shops, boats, cars, etc, had to come to an end one day… and maybe that day has just come….

Yesterday (Thursday) was a relatively ‘normal’ day – tennis again in the morning (and a brief meeting with Manolo Santana himself… his first day out since the lockdown (he is very old and frail), but so pleased to be in the club and actually on the court for a whilemanolo with my Juan!   Even though he is not at all well, he still glides about (albeit a bit slower) at the back of the court!).   Then in the afternoon we decided to pay a visit to another shop – this time a wonderful furniture store nearby.   A quick story on this – when we bought our first house in Marbella (about 18 years ago) we couldn’t find any furniture that we liked (at that time all the shops were focused on selling to the huge modern villas (where most of the Puerto Banus people mentioned above live!), and whilst I do like a bit of glitz and vulgarity, not that much, and not for our very Spanish house.   So in the end, we had a lot of stuff shipped over from our favourite store in Prague, called Kare (a Czech driver drove a big van down here in two days, non-stop, and when he arrived and we offered him a cup of tea or a beer, said not, as he was heading straight back…!).   Since then, we have paid so many visits to Kare in Prague, and each time have pondered whether we should ship some more down here, even though it is easier to find things now.    And then, last year, we were just driving along minding our own business in a nondescript road, and what did we see but a sign to the newly opened Kare of Marbella – they must have heard about me!!!   So that’s where we headed kareyesterday – I love it there, and they, of course, love us (since I can’t resist buying something, pretty much every time, and also because the Romanian manager, when asked by Jan where she came from and told him, was completely overwhelmed when he then spoke Romanian to her – he has a way with women…..).

They (Kare, not the women), are, of course, in trouble, not only because of being closed for such a long time, but also because they do a lot of ordering from Germany for foreign clients, the majority of whom are not now here… so the warehouse (that they can’t yet go to as it’s in another Province) is full of stuff that now, potentially, no-one will want).   Ooof.   I will go back to cheer them up when Jan is not looking……..

The rest of yesterday, and on and off today, in addition to our usual activities, has been spent by Jan, in the dentist chair for round two, and me, battling with broken watches (the new watch still doesn’t work, the old one came back to life when paired with my new phone, but has now packed up again….aaggggh) and the car-hire – I originally hired the van for just two weeks as we weren’t sure how much we would use it, or how long we would still be staying (haha….we were under some illusion that there might have been a plane flying by now!), and the cost was Euro 102 for two weeks.   Now, however, for another three weeks, they are asking for Euro 350, which I think is a bit absurd.   The reason being that they have had to put their prices ‘right up’ as they have so little business…. hmmmm..

I don’t want to sound like I am always on the lookout for deals (I really am not like that… although Jan has his moments), but, you know…. I can’t help but feel that the only way for everyone to get going is to look after the very few customers that are out there – for all of us… and I really don’t think that upping the prices is the way to go.   We shall see.

More from me soon!


Still here – in Spain! Day 74

steps to the beach

So here I am again, with apologies that it is a bit later than expected, for a number of reasons (mainly a complete and utter breakdown of my technology, with the consequence being my own complete and utter breakdown!), but, anyway, we are still in Spain, and day-by-day our Marbella world is slowly getting back to normal.

On Saturday (day 70), I mentioned that we would be going out to dinner, so I thought I would just quickly report on that as it was a bit of a bizarre experience.   First, Jan thought it would be best for us to walk to the restaurant (so as not to miss our evening exercise and avoid taking the van and no drinking!) so despite putting on our ‘glad rags’ (which in my case was a cotton dress and some makeup) we still had our trainers on so the walk wasn’t too painful (but far enough (30 minutes), especially on the way home!).   The restaurant itself, one of the most popular in Marbella, looked similar, but with tables well spread apart and waiters in masks – actually, our waiter, whom we know, was so stressed by his mask that it sort of blew his brains and he couldn’t really cope…. (I am not surprised – we are all used to wearing masks now, but waiter in masknot for a whole evening and definitely not when it is over 30 degrees outside!), plus, I don’t know if I am going deaf or something, but when someone wears one of those big masks, I find it more or less impossible to hear them… so ordering our food and discussing the wine was a challenge (which maybe explained why we got a slightly wrong order… although we were NOT wearing masks, so even if we couldn’t hear him, he should have heard us!).

The food was nice enough, although not great, but what I think the whole evening proved is that one of the main things that you pay for in a relatively expensive restaurant is the ambience (plus the service) and when that/they is/are not there, then you are left feeling that it wasn’t really worth the effort.   I am sure the service side of things in this particular restaurant will get back to normal, but with so many fewer guests (due to the limited tables), all the waiters in masks, so they could be anyone – no longer our usual ‘favourite waiters’ – and a bit of a strained atmosphere (some of the guests seemed super-stressed by ‘being out’ (which made us wonder why they were!) – one group arrived, disinfected their hands, chairs, etc, wore their masks throughout and rarely talked) – you wonder how these restaurants can really continue to operate until things go back to normal.   And, actually, over the last couple of days we have investigated more and it does seem that very few restaurants HAVE actually opened.. I suppose they feel that it is just not worth their while.   All very sad.  (A quick shout out to my friend Sanjiv Suri in Prague, who, as I said to Jan a few weeks ago, would, for sure, zatisi logowork around these problems and will be the first to open his restaurants with huge discounts – sure enough he has and I see that they are full this coming weekend… as usual, he is ahead of the field).

Anyway, WE enjoyed the fact that we were out, even if it wasn’t quite the experience we had hoped for, and then we had the long walk home, which was kind of fun – first night mosquebecause halfway home all the street lights went out, and down here, on a dark evening without any lights, it is completely pitch black – which, after a bottle or so of wine, proved a bit of a challenge! – and then, once we got to our hill, the whole mosque was lit up and as we got nearer to it the muezzin started singing to mark the end of Ramadan, and that followed us up the hill and home.   All a bit atmospheric and surreal!

Sunday, then was very quiet – we were up early for running, as usual, but then it was so hot that we didn’t feel like doing anything much, other than lying by the big pool and sitting in the small one!   Monday, however, was completely different as, being a rest day, we didn’t have to get up so early, and we decided that a day without too much sun might be a good idea.  First we had a trip to the supermarket and pharmacy (standard Monday morning) and then later we headed into town as this was the first day that we could officially ‘go for a walk as a couple’ (God, that sounds like we were allowed out by our parents on a first date or something), but actually it was almost as exciting…. that is, until we got into the main part of the town, which was a bit depressing as an awful lot was closed.

Difficult to know whether this was due to the lockdown (we will find out more later in the week) or whether, in true Spanish style, everyone kept to the usual ‘siesta’ hours and closed for the afternoon (I’m going to sound naughty now, but bearing in mind that the Spanish economy has been suffering for a long time, I have never really understood why everyone keeps to the old-fashioned tradition of having a siesta in the afternoon, especially the shops, who, one would assume, must be desperate to try and make a sale at the moment…).  Actually, there were a couple open, needless to say those owned by the Zara group, who are generally thought to be leading in modernising the Spanish retail Zaraworld, so we did pop into one of those (against Jan’s will I am afraid) but only quickly, as it was a bit off-putting having to disinfect our hands before we could go through the door, and then the disinfectant was so sticky that we didn’t want to touch anything anyway and couldn’t wait to get out and find somewhere to wash it off!.   Otherwise, it was a bit of a ghost town, made even more so by our venturing down to the beach and seeing no-one there – because, as we then remembered, we cannot yet empty beachgo on the beach and can only use the track that runs alongside if we are exercising…. but not for walking…all a bit mad really.

The rest of Monday and the whole of yesterday was mostly taken up by (a) my battle with phones and watches (both my Apple watch and iPhone having given up mostly on Sunday and completely on Monday, with the result that I had to buy a new and cheap watch (which then didn’t work at all!) and a new and bloody expensive phone from Amazon (I’m not even going to describe my complete hysteria), (b) my fury at everything that is going on with British politics at the moment – also not going to describe that!, (c) a few random bits of entertainment (tennis again yesterday – fantastic), finding an ICELAND store that we have never noticed before and which was stocked with just about every yummy food thing that I have been celebrationsyearning for (so look out weight-watching and hello more exercise) and (d) some rather fascinating palm tree watching – I think I have mentioned before that I have a bit of an obsession with palm trees (yes, I know, odd), but I have never seen how they are trimmed in the summer, which is what is happening all around us just now – for the ‘smaller’ trees the guys wear special metal boot type contraptions which, combined with a metal hoop that goes around the tree trunk, allow them to ‘walk’ up the tree and then chop all the badstuff from the base, and for the even big tree cuttingtaller ones, they go up in a type of crane……  And, of course, lots of walking, dancing, singing, 7 app and occasional work (which is slowly getting to be a bit more than occasional)….

And that takes us up to date (but I will be back soon).   And finally, a video that a friend sent, which I liked and am including for no other reason than it is kind of appropriate:


Nearly normal in Spain – Day 70

jw jg in sun

Last night I watched the UK government’s daily press conference where they announced that from 8th June travellers into the UK will have to go into fourteen days’ quarantine (so anyone reading this that needs to go there, don’t worry, you still have a couple of weeks!), as they don’t want people from ‘high risk countries’ to bring the virus in…..With heathrowmy new ‘I’m not going to watch this kind of news any more or get wound up by it’ hat on, I decided to say nothing… but then I raged about it in my head all night and couldn’t stop myself from going mad on Twitter for a good part of the early morning today!

Talk about crazy; the whole world (except for the US which is even worse by all accounts) has been in a much stricter lockdown than the UK for the past God-knows-how-long, so I cannot imagine why anyone that has suffered through that would want to go to the UK now, the ‘highest risk country’ of them all, when it is still seeing huge numbers of new infections and a high death rate – I, for one, wont be going there any time soon.  But poor old Jan is desperate to see his kids, who live in London and who he has never not seen for longer than three weeks, but is he really going to go there now?   Coming from here?  (Those of you that have read my blog regularly will know that it must be a fairly good bet that neither of us could have caught the virus – we only saw and spoke to each other for nine weeks and our region has had no new cases for some time now…. !!).   Bloody Hell.

I expected to see a lot of Twittering about this today, and in the early part of the morning there was a great deal of outrage – particularly as it now sounds as if the French are going to ‘reciprocate’ (how dare they?!) and expect people coming into France from the franceUK to go into fourteen days’ quarantine too…. hopefully Spain, the CR, Italy and others will say the same and then, knowing how Boris and his merry men like to keep changing their minds, I suspect that this might be another of their rules that gets discontinued… Talking of discontinuing rules (or should I say disregarding) news also broke this morning of the main advisor to BJ having travelled right across the country with his wife and child to go and stay with his parents, whilst he and his wife both had the virus – clearly the rules for mere mortals don’t apply to him… Twitter went mad on that today, and now we wait and see if he gets booted out or resigns… but I expect not.  All of this is just too depressing for words and I have now promised Jan that I am not going to watch it any more (although that rule, a bit like the UK quarantine) might not start straightaway……

Despite, therefore, being up early and feeling quite grumpy, I soon cheered up as today was the day that I was meeting my friend Pier for our first tennis training together – so nole runningwhilst Jan headed off for his usual run (and to look for Djokovic, who we now know runs every morning on the beach track as well!) I was off in the van to meet her – even though she lives on the same Pueblo, we have only seen each other twice in 10 weeks, once by the rubbish bins (of course) and once when she drove past me whilst I was walking, so that was lovely!  As was our tennis – although it is now getting very hot, so pretty tough!   We followed that with a drink in the bar (juice, I mean, but a DRINK IN THE BAR!!) and a good natter, before heading back home – me to go and find Jan by the pool, and her to head off somewhere with her kids.

As you can see, therefore, we are nearly back to normal.  We had a bit of a sunbathe at the big pool and then came back to sit in ours so that I could get my poor old legs into the jacuzzi part as therapy, and then the afternoon has just whiled away – soon we will go to the supermarket for a few bits, and then tonight we are GOING OUT FOR DINNER in our favourite restaurant.   I am already stressing about what to wear (especially as Jan thinks we should walk there and back so that we don’t go without our evening exercise!!) and that will be it.

So… since this is now day 70, and with things as they are, I am thinking that it is probably time to stop doing the daily blog – and to continue on an irregular basis, as and when I have something that I think is exciting to say.   I am sure many of you have had enough of me by now – so thank you for following our story!    I will be back soon.   But not tomorrow!   And I leave you with nice video which is suitable for a hot weekend!






We’re out – in Spain! Day 69

big pool

One of the many things we have learned over the past ten weeks is that it is possible to spend an awful lot of time doing not very much, and quite enjoying it!   My friend Adam told me the other day that he has been filling some of his time learning to improve his breathing whilst playing the oboe, (using a technique that requires breathing out through the mouth, whilst breathing in through the nose, and the way that one learns to strawsdo that is to blow through a straw into a glass of water whilst breathing through the nose at the same time).  I plan to try learning this technique when I am able to purchase a straw as I think it could be quite entertaining and possibly quite useful.

As you know, we ourselves have spent an inordinate amount of time watching water pouring out, and then back into, the swimming pool over the last ten weeks (and Jan, today, found a new hobby which is putting ice cubes (from his gin and tonic) into the pool and seeing how long they take to melt), whilst I, in addition to sending emails andjan in pool making calls to airlines most afternoons, have been spending at least an hour or two a day either switching my iPhone on and off an innumerable amount of times whilst reading Apple support on my computer, and/or, more recently, doing the same with my Apple watch (which gave up in the middle of my tennis yesterday, possibly from exhaustion!), and which took up most of my early morning today.   Actually it is really annoying as it still doesn’t work, so I am probably going to have to resort to good old Amazon (but not before I have taken a hammer and smashed the bloody thing into pieces) as I can’t be without a watch or, more importantly, a step and fitness tracker!!

This reminds me of when I was first in Prague – arriving from a company that had a huge manual of ‘support’ that ensured that you just did your job (everything from the T bag lady who came to stock you up whenever necessary, to the ‘brow-wiper (joking, but more or less) – it was quite a shock to find myself somewhere where you had to be able to turn your hand to everything – as mentioned before, we had just one phone line for both the telephone and fax, and one small computer that continually broke down (in fact, in the computermiddle of printing some final documents for a big deal, it stopped working and I had to ask the ‘support’ desk in London to talk me through, step by step, while I fixed it!) – this was all good training for setting up on my own, but more recently I have become very spoilt by having ‘people’ to do these things for me – but not anymore!

Today was a day off exercise (Friday, as usual) so we didn’t have to wake up so early, but my watch had played on my mind through the night which meant that I needed to try to crack it before doing anything else (and failed).   Then we had a whole new change of routine as we seem to be getting through loads of things that weigh a ton (water, juice, washing powder, etc (oh, and wine, of course), so now that I have my van, it is easier for me to go and stock up on those, than one of us lugging them up the hill when we do one of our walks.   It’s funny how the combination of my playing tennis and having a van has ‘lulled us’ into thinking that everything is back to normal, and how quickly we have forgotten the grey days from a few weeks ago, when it kept on raining, we could only sit on the bike or run on the path, and the highlight of the day was the walk to the super – as I set off this morning I had completely forgotten that we are still, in fact, in lockdown, and it was only when I got to the supermarket car park and saw everyone in their masks that I remembered.

Masks have only just become obligatory here (although they have been for public transport) but actually the majority of people have been wearing them anyway.  What was interesting today in the supermarket was the new arrival of the ‘miners’-type’ masks mask with shieldwhich are being more recommended than the usual ones we have been wearing, as they  cover the whole face – and for me, with horrible hay-fever and/or coming off the tennis court in a state of near collapse, they are so much more comfortable, so I grabbed some of them for future use (very nice green stripes with a bit of yellow.. our sort of colours…!).

This afternoon, then, after a couple of hours of sunbathing by the pool, we had a ‘constructive’ day for a change – with some cleaning up of the house and a lot of cleaning up of ourselves – I managed to get to grips with cutting my own and Jan’s hair, as well as ‘tinting my roots’ – I am not sure if we will continue like this once we get home, but blimey, how much money we are saving living this life!  And no, no photos at the moment….!

I am now catching up on my usual news and social media watching, and have just looked at Adam’s blog showing his nephew playing the piano magnificently, and mentioning that he has a birthday today (as does Novak Djokovic, incidentally… wonder what he is doing to celebrate, since he is only just around the corner from us…?) – it reminded me of watching a video the other day of a girl walking along with a friend and suddenly starting dancing in the middle of the street (see below), and thinking how marvellous it must be to be able to just get up and play a musical instrument, or sing or dance spectacularly – I know a lot of people who can do one of these things and wish that I could too… maybe time to do a bit more Bollywood…..



We’re out – in Spain! Day 68


steps to the beach

Last night it was so hot that it was nice to be able to walk down to the beach, where it was a bit cooler (and clearly a lot of other people had had the same idea as it was very busy with everyone pretending to be exercising but actually strolling about and taking in the beautiful scenery).   We are still not allowed on the beach itself or in the sea, unless it is to do some form of watersport, but there are a few clever people that seem to spend an awful lot of time paddle-boarding as, irrespective of what time we go down there, they are always out on the water – I guess if the rules don’t change soon, we will be considering paddle boarderstaking lessons….!  (And, note to self: we should think about including a couple of paddle boards amongst the ’emergency lockdown supplies’ that we are putting together just in case – spare iPhone, spare watch (can you believe that after lots of stress with my phone over the last few weeks, my Apple watch appears to have packed up…. I am not a good advert for Apple…!), packs of pills, etc).

So, by the time we had walked a couple of kilometres along the track and back, and Jan had hugged a tree or two (he misses hugging more than I do – as I said before, he is a hugging tree 2very ‘huggy, person – and, incidentally, sorry about his white socks… I did say that they are not really appropriate, but he felt that he could get away with them as he was wearing sports clothes..), we were very late going to bed (but with less alcohol drunk, which is a good thing).  Despite that, we were still up early – Jan to run again, and me to prepare for my second tennis session of the week – hoorah!   If I thought Monday was tough though, today was a whole different level as I think Juan has barely been off the court since I saw him, and was in a brutal mood.   But, somehow, the tougher it is, the more I enjoy it, even if it means that at the end I collapse in a pool of juansweat (as per today).  Mind you, by the time I got back, I would not be joking today by saying that the two hours we then spent by the big pool really were ‘recovery time’.

We came back to the house around 2.00 as this time of day, now, is a bit too hot for me (Jan, though, likes to top up his suntan whenever he gets a chance….!) so I got on the computer to do some news and social media watching, as well as a bit of work and, what has now become a regular activity, yet more chasing of airlines.  The big news on that is that we finally managed to get hold of Lufthansa and change one of our original tickets to a real flight, which we think really will go (I am keeping it a secret for now, but a clue is that it is (and this was in no way planned!) exactly 100 days from the day that we arrived here.   Which seems kind of apt.

I must just have a bit more of a rant about the airlines here (except for Ryanair (love ryanairyou!).    I do get it that many airlines right now are short of money or, in some cases, near collapse, but what they are doing is, at the very least, annoying and time-consuming, and at the worst potentially fraudulent.   Whenever I mention the long list of flights that we had booked for the spring/summer and that are now being cancelled, whoever I say it to always responds ‘but they have to give you a refund, by law’.  And that is true.   But what they do is make it absolutely impossible to get hold of anyone in order to try to get a refund or rebook the ticket in the first place.   Don’t be fooled by the statements on all of their home pages that, in view of the Covid-19 crisis, they will allow travellers to change flights, get refunds, etc, nor think that because flights are showing on their systems it means that they must go.  It doesn’t.   So what happens is you book your flight (based on the schedule) and then fourteen days or so before you are due to travel, you get an email (that you can’t respond to) saying that the flight is cancelled, and you should go on the website to rebook or claim a refund.  Then you go on the website, and in the appropriate section, it says ‘to re-book your flight or claim a refund, please call x, y, z – due to the high level of traffic, do mad womannot try to contact us by email’ (and that, in itself, is hilarious, since I would happily place another bet against anyone finding a direct email address for someone that is in any way useful on any airline website!).  So then you try to call the number, and ‘because of the high level of traffic’ it either cuts off, or leaves you waiting for so long that you go stark raving bonkers (in my case).

In a very sneaky and unbelievably clever method of stealth and deception, I did, finally, get hold of someone at Lufthansa, as mentioned, and got our tickets for our original flight back home (cancelled) changed, but Iberia has proved, so far, beyond me (another ticket back home from earlier!).  Jan, in the meantime, is in daily contact with the CEO at EasyJet (I think I mentioned in another blog that he has a range of precedent complaint letters available for anyone that needs one, and many of them have been used for EasyJet in the past, which means that he is now known as such a tricky customer that he is fast-tracked straight to the top! – not that it is getting him anywhere!).   Back to Iberia, though – I found a FB page called ‘complaints against Iberia’ or something, so had a rant on that, and judging by the number of outraged responses I got, I am not alone… but still no solution.   When I eventually find a way, I will pass the information on, in case it is useful.

That took up most of the afternoon, and since it was so hot, I offered to whiz down to the supermarket in my van for a few supplies rather than Jan having to go (no chance of me walking today (not sure I even can) after all that tennis, although I hope to have recovered in time for our late-night walk after dinner)… I am thinking a gentle Bollywood jig to loosen up might be an idea – and that will be it for today…

I must just add that whilst I was doing a bit of social media watching late this afternoon, I found this video that I swear must have been written about Jan.   I made me LOL… and I suspect it will resonate with several others… !

We’re out – in Spain – Day 67


As expected, I was pretty wiped-out last night after tennis, heat, walking (and possibly drinking a little too much!) and woke up this morning at 8.30… haven’t done that for a long time.   Jan was already up and out (stunning!) so I had an hour of lolling about and stiffness in the morningchecking messages, news and social media in peace, as well as reflecting on our new-found freedom.

During the last two evenings, as mentioned before, we were finally able to meet up with a few of our friends, and it was interesting to hear their stories and thoughts on the last nine big poolweeks – yesterday evening we shared a bottle of wine with our ex-soldier friend from the Pueblo whilst sitting by the big pool and watching the sun go down (lovely!) and he had some good things to say (we had been worried throughout that he was struggling as, on WhatsApp, he had sounded very subdued, but not a bit of it) – it seems that after the first few weeks when, he said, he had had a bit of a meltdown, his army training had kicked-in and he went into ‘survival mode’ – which, in his case, meant a lot of fitness training inside his house (he lives on his own), learning to cook again (by calling his mother, who he hadn’t spoken to for years and being taught over the phone), and generally stopping a lot of the bad habits that he had fallen into over the past few years (i.e. womanising, drinking, etc) – he seemed like a nearly new person – his challenge now, he thinks, is to keep it going once everything properly opens up again……

That is also what we have been thinking – contrary to what we have read (and the many jokes that we have received) – instead of drinking more and getting fatter, we have fit coupleactually lost weight and got even fitter through this period – not being able to go out to restaurants has definitely helped, and killing our boredom by keeping moving even during the toughest weeks, with all the dancing and Apps, as well as walking miles to the supermarket every day on top of our ‘daily training’, has definitely paid off… but will we keep this level of activity (and reasonable alcohol consumption) going when we get home and back to normal….?  Somehow I doubt it – but we will give it a good go.

Talking about getting home, once we realised we were stuck here, we managed to organise our neighbours to pop into our apartment once a week and just check that all was well, which, so far, it has been – but then last night they called to say that we now have a magpie’s nest and eggs on one of our balconies… bloody cheek!   Clearly they must have been keeping watch and realising that there was no-one home felt it was safe to magpiemove in, but now we are not quite sure what to do about them – apparently, according to Google, a magpie nesting around one’s home is good luck (but, on the other hand, it also talks about magpies attacking anyone that looks at their chicks, so that might be an interesting experience when we get home!!!).  If anyone has any experience of this, please let me know!!

So back to this morning.   Whilst Jan was out, I spent a while on Twitter, after having neglected it for a couple of days, and, as usual, got very wound up about the situation in the UK.   Jan always tells me to stop being so political, but i just can’t help it – first, I was struck by how different things continue to be in Spain compared to other countries, particularly the UK;  here, after one of the toughest lockdowns in the world, we are all so happy to be going through an exit plan that allows us to exercise (but still only early in the morning in public places) to drive with more than one person in the car, to go to a shop or café (but only with someone from our own household) and to meet other people (up to a total group of 10) for a ‘social situation’ – as you have seen, everyone is almost euphoric about this new freedom, even though, whilst masks have only been optional up until now, it is now obligatory that everyone wear one in public places, which is a bit of a step back (although there are some that are resistant to this – one woman on our favourite FB page said that this is absolutely out of the question as when she puts a mask frigthened caton, she frightens her cat…….)..  But since Spain has had only a handful of new deaths and infections over the last few days, I am sure most will go along with it.

Compare Spain’s situation to the UK, where people seem to strain against what they perceive as ‘lockdown’, and yet, whenever we watch the news on TV, we see crowds out running and training, hundreds of people sunbathing on the beaches (we are still not allowed on those!), families out driving together, and groups gathering people on beachevery evening for drinks outside or ‘clapping the NHS’ – and now the UK has the second biggest death toll in the world (and even that is debateable as there seems to be a lot of doubt about whether these are true figures… this morning I saw one of the health authorities saying that they felt the figures were probably double).

I also read an article that talked about the Czech Prime Minister, Babis, running the country as if it were a company, which is something that I have always thought would make sense; ie if one looked at a country as if it were a huge company, and then said ‘what would the CV of the person that you would employ to run it look like’, you might then get the best person for the job (OK, you would have to pay them a lot more, but if they did it fantastically well, who would care?).   So that job spec would probably include things like ‘highly qualified, extensive experience in a similar role, a successful track record in a number of areas that are relevant to the position, excellent people skills, good languages, charisma, etc’ – and if you look at the leaders that have come through the last weeks successfully, they do actually meet that criteria – Merkel has it all (she is even a bio-chemist, which comes in handy at the moment), Babis (OK, you may not like him, but if he applied to a relevant advert, you would definitely interview him!), Sanchez has an amazing CV and experience, etc.   Compare those with a womanising, dodgy property developer and a womanising public school boy turned journalist, and it is not surprising that the US and UK are in the mess they are in.   That’s it.  I have said enough.

So, after reading all of that and raging in my head, I needed to loosen up a bit – that required 20 minutes of Bollywood dancing to get my muscles moving, and then a session on the 7 App, and then I decided that that would be enough exercise for today and actually got down to doing some proper work for a while to take my mind off it all.  That was followed by a bit of sunbathing by the big pool, and blimey, what a hot day – a bit like lying in a microwave – and then we had our first trip out in the van together – a return to car couplethe dentist for Jan and a visit to the supermarket for me.   We know how to enjoy ourselves!  Actually, even a short drive together was quite exciting after all these weeks – as Jan said, it was nine weeks since he had been in a car (let alone a van), which made him an even worse ‘backseat driver’ than usual. I suppose we will get used to this new normality in time.

Now we are getting ready for dinner and a walk on the beach, and that will be yet another day over…



We’re out – in Spain! Day 66


manolo club

Beautiful blue sky and the heat already building when I woke up this morning.  And since this was the day that I was getting back onto the tennis court, this is how I felt:

So off I went in my van to the Manolo Santana club which is, as you can see, in a completely beautiful setting.   It was quite strange to go in there and find everyone in masks (including Juan, the coach that I play with, when he first arrived – actually the masks that both he and the receptionist were wearing were so big that I couldn’t really understand a thing they said, but, generally, I think we were all very pleased to see each other!), and then once we got on court and the masks came off, it was almost an emotional moment (even for him, a tough brute!).

The tennis itself was just fantastic – I was surprised that it was almost as if I haven’t been away (as was he!!), but I suspect that I am going to feel it tomorrow.   I can barely explain the sheer joy of it – we had some rallies at the end where we both ended up laughing just from the pleasure of walloping a ball about again.   Loved it!   When we finished, though, he reminded me that we cannot walk outside the court without a mask on, which was a bit of a ‘back to reality moment’ (plus not very nice with sweat pouring down my face and hardly able to breath at all at that point!)… but only a small thing!

One of my friends wrote on my blog yesterday that he could feel how excited we were to be sort of back to normal and I am happy that it came across that way, as I think it may not have been quite such an emotional time for those of you in countries where it has been a bit less restricted.  A couple of our friends here have said that they almost became agoraphobic after the first few weeks’ lockdown, and I know what they mean – that Saturday, when we could finally run outside, we were both quite nervous when we set off without really knowing why, and almost euphoric once we did it, and I definitely felt that way yesterday, when I went to get the car  – we have all got so used to just being in our house and only seeing each other that once we could go out, we almost didn’t want to.   Now, we continually say to each other how we are noticing and appreciating things that we never noticed or appreciated before – for example, I rarely take photos, but in the last few weeks I have been taking loads of them – all the wonderful flowers around the Pueblo, the views out to the mountain, the colour of the sky…. I can’t even believe that I am actually saying these things as the old me would have thought it was a bit ‘soppy’!  Here are a few of my favourites from the last nine weeks:

So, anyway, once I got back from tennis, we were straight into our now normal routine of a couple of hours sunbathing by the big pool, and then home for lunch, some work, some more sunbathing and then planning the evening (even that is funny, since we have never really had to plan it before, as there was nothing, actually, to do (other than eat and try to avoid drinking!) – which again, tonight, involves meeting up with an old friend (and that will involve drinking! – and how nice it was last night, too, to be sitting outside in a garden, and chatting with other people!  The problem is not the need to be 2 metres apart – that is nothing compared to only seeing people through a window or on Facetime!), but more that we only really converse about the bloody virus and its implications… we really need some other things to get going soon in order to have something else to talk about!) and then dinner at home and a late night walk again.   We are pacing ourselves on the ‘excitement front’ – dinner out in a restaurant will be a bit later in the week, otherwise it might just be too much to cope with!!

Before all that, though, I really must get to my news and social media watching, and a bit of what is now a daily practice – chasing airlines for refunds (and failing miserably – dancing pictureplease do be careful if you are thinking to book something, as I said yesterday (stick to Ryanair!) this is going to be the next big scam of the Covid-19 period….).  Oof, just thinking about all that… I don’t know… maybe a day off it all would do me good… perhaps a spot of dancing instead…!!


We’re out – in Spain! Day 65


Up early again this morning – not because of exercise (Monday being a ‘day off’) but because (a) I didn’t sleep well again (must have been all of the excitement about today!) and (b) I had booked a hire car for our use from first thing this morning, now that we are OUT, and in the end it wasn’t available for collection until 12.00,  That gave me time to at least get myself looking vaguely presentable (first time in 65 days!) since I would be out in ‘public’, and then to do my usual social media and news monitoring before heading off!

Twitter, which I do love and which gives such an interesting perspective on pretty much everything that is going on (politically), and is a lot more balanced than any one newspaper or the biased English TV, was, as usual, full of a lot of outrage about the situation in the UK… which shows no sign of slowing down.  But in amongst all of that was a video that I thought was just about the best explanation of why we need to lockdown/social distance/wear masks (and even stay ‘alert”).  I know that it might be a bit late for some of us (let’s hope), but still, worth a watch and circulation:

So back to today.   I set out just before 11.00 to go to the Enterprise car rental in Marbella, which is about a 7k walk, past the Spanish supermarket and then through the whole old town to the end, just before the famous ‘Marbella arch’ landmark.   I am always amazed when I talk to people about counting steps and they say ‘oh I am sure I walk more than 10,000 a day’ as unless you really do count them (i.e. with a watch, phone or pedometer) you just don’t realise how much this actually is – as you know, we do loads of walking and running pretty much every day, but even then we don’t always hit the 10,000 mark (well marbella archwe do, because we usually end up walking around the sitting room or up and down the garden until we have!) – the walk today, which seemed to go on forever, was actually only 7,500 steps (very disappointingly), but what a walk it was!

First, as I headed towards the hill, a car honked me and it was my tennis partner and her husband, who I have only seen once in the last nine weeks – lovely – although no hugging, of course!  Then I walked past yet another building site and got a few ‘Holas’ from the guys working (they obviously didn’t realise how much I hate them all), and then onto the main road.   Lots more cars whistling past, people out walking (mostly with masks) and then once I got near to the shops, the first real sign of change – lots of people sitting outside Burger King (???!!), then the nice Artisan café, lots of the boutiques and other small shops that line the main street open, as well as loads of flowers, trees full of lavender and a general ‘fiesta’-type feel (and lots of hayfever for me!).

We love Enterprise – I even have a ‘platinum’ card as I use them so much – normally we pick up a car at the airport (where we are usually served by a really nice girl that we call ‘red knickers’ – she is the one that asked us, when we arrived in Spain just before New Year one year, whether we had our red knickers with us (which was a little bit alarming as we were only there to collect a car) – apparently, a bit like the Czechs who have the Easter tradition of spanking their wives’/girlfriends’ with their ‘whipping sticks’, the Spanish all wear red knickers and eat grapes on New Year’s Day (God only knows what happens then.. we didn’t dare ask)), but sometimes it is easier in the town, and that office is manned by a lovely elderly Spanish guy called Sergio, who loves me – so when I suggested to Jan that he walks with me this morning (now allowed) he preferred to leave me to Sergio and lay by the pool instead.  However, when I got there, instead of Sergio there was a very stressed, but very beautiful, senorita (which amused me no end) who apologised for the fact that it was her first day (their offices having been closed for the last nine weeks), that there had been a sudden rush of customers, and that unfortunately all she could give me was a white van.   Which, in the circumstances, I couldn’t really complain about.

So me and the white van hurtled back home, as was only fitting (you know what they say about white van drivers…).  Actually it was good fun, and I enjoyed cutting people up and hooting at them as a reward for all the near misses and hoots that I have had over the white vanlast nine weeks.  I may yet buy myself a pair of overalls and hang ‘Jo’ and ‘Jan’ stickers in the windows.  And by then it was time to join Jan by the pool for a couple of hours ‘recovery’.

Talking of companies that I love, my friend Adam asked me last night why I was stressing about chasing all the airlines for refunds, and why not just wait until they cough up, which they are legally bound to do.   The thing is that at the moment most of them don’t want to give refunds (and I do understand why, but….) and they make it nearly impossible to get them or even change existing bookings.  The only one that is easy, and that is our absolute favourite (and this ryanairmight surprise you!) is Ryanair.  I love them.   First they put on regular direct flights from Prague to Malaga after we spent years lobbying various airlines to do it, then they always go on time, the crew is always nice, and they refund everything immediately – one email, click on it, and the money comes back.  Amazing.  Unlike the big guys, who we are now getting into a good old battle with – look out Iberia…. JG is on your tail…. (and be warned if you are planning on booking a flight any time soon!).

The afternoon, then, took on a fairly normal pattern (news-watching, social media, calls, a bit of work, etc), except that instead of one or other of us having to head to a supermarket to do a big stock up, I went with my van (although Jan, in the end, couldn’t resists a walk to Aldi).   And then the plan for the evening is drinks with our paella friends (drinks!!!  together!!!!).  And then dinner at home and yet another walk.   Exhausting!

Before I go, though, something that I pondered on my walk this morning – we have all been ‘clapping’ the health workers (this, as I have said before, is not just a British tradition, it was started in Italy and then Spain), and I hope, and believe, that there are many people supporting the police (my friends in Prague with their Frontliners’ feeding station for example), but there are so many other ‘heros’ at the moment – the ladies manning the supermarkets, the Amazon drivers and so on, it all makes me quite emotional.  When this is all over, I am sure that we will be doing many things to thank them all.   And, as Jan pointed out this morning, let’s not forget the many people living in tiny apartments for endless weeks without going outside, etc….. so today I couldn’t help but want to post one of my all time favourite videos today:

More tomorrow!





We’re Out – in Spain! Day 64

steps to the beach

It looked like being another lovely day today, and Jan, as is now usual, was up early (I have to say, this is an absolute miracle… bearing in mind that he has rarely in his life been seen before about 9.00 am, him being up and out every morning, sometimes before I have even opened my eyes, is unbelievable!.  Long may it last…!)  Today, of course is the Sunday before tomorrow’s end of lockdown, so he wanted to do a long run down to the port and check out what is going on there in ‘readiness’, whilst I decided to take it a bitpuerto banus easy and just do some relaxed (ish) biking – I’m trying to save my legs a bit now for my big day on Tuesday!

As I have said before, there is one advantage to sitting on the exercise bike instead of running or tennis, and that is that I can do something else at the same time (being a woman, I am used to that….!), and this morning that meant social media monitoring, especially the Andalusian FB page, where there was a huge amount of discussion about  what we can and can’t do in Phase 1 – as I said yesterday, it is not that clear, and our ‘Alicante Lady’ friends have clearly got their knickers in a right old twist about it.   To be fair, they did have quite a few good questions, mostly involving going to bars and whether the toilets can be used (since they are inside and we are only allowed outside) or will there be some other toiletsolution (??!!!) – there was a lot of controversy on that one which the Commissioner of Facebook got very involved in later on, of course – as well as whether we can go out any time or just in our usual time-slots (apparently we can now go out to restaurants/cafes/bars/shops at any time, but we can’t just ‘go out’ – ie. meandering about is not allowed, but meandering off to a bar is…..) and one person asking whether, since we are allowed out, but have to stay in our own Province, they could go, for example, to Malaga from Mijas (a reasonably long way) to go to a specific shop or restaurant, and that provoked a very useful video being posted by someone who appears to be a British ‘town councillor’ in the town, the gist of which was, I thought, quite useful.

Basically he said that he feels that people should use their common sense (hahah…. where have we heard that before – stay alert!) and not try to look for ways to get around stay alertor misinterpret the rules, as if everyone starts doing that then there is a good chance that things will tighten up again (especially if the numbers go up).    And, whilst there is no rule against heading off to another part of the Province for shopping, etc, he stressed that it was really important that everyone should try to support their local communities, most of which are suffering horribly, and not be thinking about going further afield just because they can.  So if they want to go to a bar, restaurant or shop, then go to a local bar, restaurant or shop (at least for now) to help them to get back on their feet, as no-one wants to live in a ghost town, which is what ghost towncould soon happen.   I liked that, and think it is probably relevant to all of us, irrespective of where we live just now.

So back to this morning; Jan did his run, and I finished my biking, and then it was a couple of hours by the big pool to recover, during which time we started to get a bit concerned about some fairly regular ‘rumbling’ above us – first, we thought that there might be a thunderstorm heading our way (we are pretty used to that sound just now) but the sky was bright blue.  Then we wondered if the noise was the beginnings of another earthquake (not sure whether the sky would be blue then, or what an earthquake sounds like, having never, touch wood, lived through one) but then we realised….. there were some fairly regular planes up in the sky!   A bit like London buses – we have waited all this time, and then not only did one plane fly over, but in the course of an hour or so, about four!    How exciting was that!!!

Then just as we were starting to think about when our lunch might be ready, the clouds DID come over and in the space of about ten minutes, for God’s sake, we went from lovely hot sunshine to pouring rain, so it was a fast walk back to the house to wait for that to blow over and hope to be summonsed to come and collect our paella.  This, potentially, will be the last time that we will have this arrangement, since, of course, from tomorrow we can be out and about, and that led us to ponder how it is all going to be; will we see a mad rush of people appearing from nowhere?   Will the restaurants and bars be filled up quickly and have queues forming?   Or will it, in fact, be quitemountain view on way back peaceable and not much different.    I suspect that for us in this part of Marbella it won’t be a lot different, since there really don’t seem to be so many people around (except on the beach early in the morning!) but in other areas it may be different.  We shall see.

Sunday, then, continued as usual; lunch was duly collected and we managed to eat even more than usual, and then there were some calls and a bit of news and social media monitoring, before we were off for what might, possibly, be our last late-evening walk before normality kicks in tomorrow…..!  Should be a lot to talk about then!!