Monthly Archives: July 2020

Raging in Spain!

we're back

A couple of days ago, my friend Irena in London sent me an article from the Daily Mail (which, I hear, is the second-most read newspaper (I use that term loosely) in the UK right now), which talked about the possibility of Spain going onto the ‘unsafe list’ of countries from which anyone entering the Uk would have to go into quarantine.  This, it said, was due to the fast increasing number of cases that Spain has been seeing.  It’s all rubbish, I said – first, don’t believe a word the Daily Mail says, second, ‘fast-increasing number of cases’ is, actually, a few hundred, and the Spanish authorities know exactly where they are and are monitoring them (and are a million miles away from Andalusia, where we are and where there have been hardly any new cases for weeks now) and thirdly, every country knew that if they opened their borders up to tourists, the numbers would go up – but it was a decision based on walking the middle ground – accept that numbers might go up a bit, but, at the same time, appreciate the fact that the economy is being boosted by the influx of people spending money.  (And fourth, the numbers in Spain still fade into insignificance when compared to those in the UK… so Spain has a lot more to fear from Brits arriving here than the other way around!!).

Today we spent the day on the beach in Marbella – it has been one of the hottest for a long time, and the only place that is bearable is down by the water.   As usual, the mask feds have been walking up and down monitoring whether people are staying in their ‘family groups’ and are at least 2 metres apart (as I have said before, the beach where we go is so expansive and with so few people, we are usually about 20 metres apart at the very least) and that everyone wears a mask until they get settled on their sunbed or whatever.   Whilst we sat watching the world go by and stressing whether we (well I, really) could still get burned after all of this time, a few different groups of British tourists pitched up.  All, without fail, without masks, all, without exception, pretty ‘leary’ and one big group of friends clearly not a ‘family group’.. however, the mask feds seemed to be turning a blind eye and were much keener on stopping the locals and ensuring that they set an example since, of course, Andalusia, of which Marbella is a part, is desperate for tourists (usually 30-40 per cent of its GDP is from tourism).

Imagine our shock, then, when we got home this evening and the news started to filter through that the British Government (again, I use that term loosely) has decided to impose fourteen days’ quarantine on everyone arriving from Spain as of midnight tonight.   This seems to us to be wrong on so many levels, not least that poor old Jan, having not seen his children for about five months, had planned to fly from here to London next week, on his way back to Prague, so for about the millionth time will be changing his flights and plans again.   Added to that, what will happen to all the thousands of Brits that are now here?  They must be completely horrified.  I imagine that this will mean that no-one in the UK will ever try to book a holiday to Spain again?  At least for a good long while… after all, no-one wants to set off for a holiday with the thought that they might, if their government so decides, end up having to go into quarantine on their arrival home.  They may not want to book any sort of foreign holiday again (after all, if it can happen to people visiting Spain, it can happen to those visiting Greece, Portugal, etc as well)…. and will Spain decide to reciprocate?   Presumably so, since I don’t think anyone here really wanted the Brits pitching up with numbers in the UK as they are right now…   And what will other countries do?   It seems to me that, in the end, this decision by the UK might just have the potential to destroy tourism  throughout Europe for, at the very least, the coming months… just like that….!

Perhaps that is the UK’s idea.  After all, all countries would prefer that people stayed put and spent their holiday money at home rather than travelling abroad….  this would be a great strategy if that was the original intention.   As far as we are concerned though, I suppose that we will sit tight and see what happens over the next few days (I am due to fly back to Prague on Thursday), but it looks as if things are far from settled now… despite the fact that Coronavirus in this part of Spain is pretty well non-existent..  What IS clear, now, and, really, it always has been, is that none of the restrictions, lockdowns and so on had too much to do with saving lives, but were, really, political posturing.   We are raging.

 

Heating up – in Spain!

steps to the beach

A particularly vivid memory of mine from when we had our old house in Marbella (which was a bit higher up the mountain), was waking up in the middle of the night and smelling fire – it was so strong that I was sure the house was burning down.  I had staggered out of bed and inspected the whole place, but couldn’t find even a spark, so in the end I took myself back to bed and decided that I must have dreamed it (or just drank too much red wine, which I didn’t think I had).   In the morning, I got up and investigated again as the smell was even stronger, but this time, and still not being able to find any sign of fire, I decided to go up to the roof terrace, where we had a 360 degree view of the whole area around us.  The scariest sight awaited me – the whole area of the terrace (and I mean all 30 m2 or so) was about 8 cm deep in ash.

First, then, I debated how to clear it all away (since it wasn’t actually hot or burning) and then, having sorted that, I went back down and switched on the TV to find out that half of the mountain around the back of us was on fire, even though, at that point, I couldn’t see any sign of it (only the usual blue sky and sunshine.  It reminded me of being in fire in spainPrague during the floods, when from our apartment all we could see was a normal summer day, with no rain or sign of water, whilst the floods raged around half of the country).

I was thinking about this when we drove in from Malaga airport last week and along the motorway were warning signs on the electronic information systems, advising that we should ‘beware of fire’.  I’m not quite sure what we would have done had one suddenly appeared at the side of the road (as apparently happened to people last time – and as could be seen by all of the scorched earth either side of the motorway for a couple of years), but it was a warning that it was going to be HOT once we got here – and sure enough, it has been bloody boiling.

One thing that goes with the risk of fire in the mountains is the fairly constant noise of fire planes going over on particularly hot days – if you haven’t seen one, they are pretty fire planedramatic… big yellow beasts that look like old bombers and sweep down into the sea as if they are going to land, fill up with water and then head off into the hills.   I find them a bit fascinating, so at the moment there is a lot to watch!

What there is also a lot of due to the extreme heat, is the Marbella wildlife – back at our house, we were greeted on arrival, as mentioned before, by four cockroaches (two in the bedroom, for God’s sake, and two in the main bathroom – needless to say, they were dealt with pretty quickly, but it is not easy going to sleep, knowing that there is a risk of another visitor during the night….), a lot of ants (and yes, I know I said I am a bit fascinated by ants, and I am… but outside, not in the living room and kitchen (this reminds of my horse days, when I once had a rat run over my boot in the stables and didn’t even bat an eyelid… whereas even the news that we might have had a rat in the vicinity of the house a few years ago was enough to make me consider putting it on the market), mosquitos and gekkos  I can cope with the gekkos, but mosquitos – what possible reason do mosquitos have for existing, other than making our lives a misery?

Despite all of that, we are having fun – it is so nice to be here and not have to worry Jan at tennis clubabout anything back in Prague (hopefully) and to have a flight back (also hopefully) – and to be able to see all the people that we missed last time (or saw, but in different me at tennis clubcircumstances).  The only downside for me is that I still can’t run or play tennis (but have visited the club to at least watch it a bit and see my Juan), whilst for Jan I would say that it is the wearing of a mask at all times that is getting him down.   Not because he finds them uncomfortable (even in 40 degrees heat this afternoon we managed to walk along the beach and not faint to the floor (as some people in the UK are suggesting could we're backhappen due to the lack of oxygen.. my arse…. I read all the comments that people make in the UK about the pros and cons of wearing one (as if no-one else in the world has considered these things in the past) and really do wonder what their problem is… just put one on and get on with it) but he objects to being ‘ruled’ in this way….. despite that, him being a ‘solicitor of the Supreme Court’ ensures that he does do as he is told (on this) so, for now, we are managing it.

We kind of have to manage it anyway, as the Spanish authorities have employed something like 40,000 former police/army/other people to become ‘mask feds’ (as Jan calls them) – they can be seen on the beaches and around the streets, dressed up in blue shorts, white T shirts, white baseball caps and red bags (and masked to the eyeballs, obviously) and are very visible – they spend their days stopping people who should be wearing a mask and are not – what we have noticed, though, is that if you appear to be exercising (which seems to be based on if you are wearing trainers) then you don’t need one… so you can be overweight and smoking a fag, but no need for a mask as you are clearly training (due to the shoes), whereas if you are wearing flip flops and marching along in a rippling muscle and fit way, you are clearly heading to the beach or out for a stroll, and should be wearing one.   I don’t want to be mean as this is clearly a good idea (and something for the UK to think about?) but… a bit daft in places…..

To finish, and talking of walking along the beach, we were just jumping about in the waves in a small ‘cove-type area’ before leaving to come home this afternoon, when a tall dark stranger came running past us, barefoot, and in a very familiar running style…. he went on a bit further and then turned around and headed back towards us, and sure novak seaenough, to Jan’s absolute ecstasy, it was Nole (Djokovic)… all those weeks of lockdown when we knew he was here, but couldn’t get to see him… and now, here he was.   What a result!

Viva Espana! We’re Back!

view from window

So yesterday, we headed back to Marbella again, flying with Ryanair back to Malaga.  First of all, it was interesting to see how the airport has opened up a bit more (although it’s still not quite normal) – we left through Terminal 2 (Schengen) but unusually had to show passports (impressive how they have re-jigged that whole area so quickly), and security was empty (but slower than usual – I was surprised to set off the bleep as I had put everything in the tray, including my gold trainers, and said as much to the customs officer, explaining that I am a very regular flyer and it’s usually my shoes that set off the bleep, to which he responded that it was actually my bra.  And since my bra wasn’t wired braparticularly metal-laden, I retorted that I do usually wear one when I am flying, so I was still surprised, at which point he was so embarrassed he hurried me through quickly).

Despite people thinking that flying is more or less back to normal, it really isn’t.  Between our arrival at the airport and the time until our flight, there were only three departures, which meant that there were very few people around, and only a couple of cafes and about 50 per cent of shops, including Duty Free, open.   Then our flight, which showed on the tracker as being delayed on its inbound flight by half an hour, actually landed early, so we were called quickly to board, and that was a very straightforward and painless experience – although a bit surprising… no temperature checks (as we had expected), no cleaning of the plane as the bus took us over to get on it whilst the arriving passengers were getting off, and then an early departure!

The flight itself was non-eventful – nice to have a seat between us as a matter of course, food and drink served as usual (although, no coffee or tea… now why would that be?), and masks the whole time, which, after wearing one since arriving in the airport was a jan on boardbit of a drag (in my case) or a huge burden (in Jan’s… although he soon found a solution: if you are eating or drinking, you are allowed to lower your mask…. So drink the whole time and problem solved!).   And, as mentioned above, we landed early, which was a bonus.

I did agree with Jan that we would have a ‘British-politics-free flight’ (the state of our politics being, as I think I have mentioned before (understatement of the year), the source of my daily ranting) but Jan made the fatal mistake of reading out to me a section in the paper that said that the UK Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, is the new political star, despite the fact that (or maybe because of, things being so bonkers over there) he has already caused the UK to have a record debt of GBP350 billion….which, of course, set off a whole new discourse, but at least it took our minds off the general boredom of the flight for a good part of the time…

I must just say here that when I was growing up in the UK I never felt particularly British – coming from a family of Jewish immigrants, I was always proud to be a bit different, and even when supporting some form of sports team or person, I never had much loyalty thomas musterto Brits – occasionally I would support an Austrian (Franz Klammer, Thomas Muster), but usually I just had my favourites, irrespective of where they came from.   That changed when I moved to Prague and saw what it was like to be so proud of one’s country (as the Czechs that I met in the early 1990s were), and I always found it a bit rude when someone was critical of the UK (I must say, I have got very tired of people saying that it always rains in the UK – that’s definitely not true anymore – or is critical of British food (OK, the old-style ‘basic food’ maybe, but now??   With so many fantastic British chefs, restaurants, dishes… excuse me??)).   But today, very sadly, any pride that I had of Britain has gone, and I find myself more and more ‘embarrassed to be British’.

It is thanks to the good old British lager louts rampaging about in Magaluf the other day (unbelievably shocking scenes that I don’t need to describe as I am sure you can imagine magalufthem, and, if not, take a look at the Andalusian Facebook page where the Alicante ladies are going nuts!!) that we arrived back in Spain with a big pack of masks, in readiness for the newly brought in (again) rule that requires masks in all public places, both indoors and outdoors (and God, haven’t we argued about that – Jan, due to occasionally wearing glasses (and also hating being told what to do!!), is very unhappy about it!).   And it is thanks to all those Brexiteers (and yes, I am afraid that I think there is a relationship between the two) that I was slightly embarrassed about showing my British passport and hastily covered it with my Czech residency (and annoyed myself again that I haven’t tried harder to get an Austrian passport) as we made our way through Prague Airport in the morning, but there we are.  It will be interesting to see if we get any more abuse from the locals (as happened towards the end of our 100 day stint and reported here).

So we landed in Malaga yesterday afternoon and made our way through the airport – the only thing different was the handing in of special ‘landing forms’ – extremely unpleasant ‘form Feds’ as Jan called them, who collected the papers that we had filled in previously as we left airside (we found the forms on the Ryanair website, hidden away and only in English (so if you are planning to fly somewhere with Ryanair yourself, be sure to look for them as they don’t hand them out on the plane as Swissair did), so we wondered how some of the Czechs from our flight got on, since the “form Feds” only spoke Spanish and were extremely difficult to understand since they were all, needless to say, masked up to the eyeballs).   Not the most welcoming arrival.

But we got here.  And already so much to report on in future blogs – greeted by four cockroaches, pool full of muck, garden gone berserk, extreme heat… God, it’s nice to be back!!!we're back

At this point you can stop reading unless you are interested in a few more thoughts on flying at the moment, in which case read on!!  If not, I will be back again soon!

Positives and negatives about flying at the moment:

  • So far, our experience in Malaga, Prague and Zurich airports is that there are still very few planes and very few people about – so a positive.. no queues at passport or security
  • Lots of discounts in the shops that are open (but sad to see, nonetheless). Lounges are either closed or open with hardly anything in them and very grim.   Better to sit at one of the open cafes if you want to be entertained.  But don’t get to the airport too early – not necessary and boring.
  • Not many people on each plane, meaning that boarding is quick and easy
  • Guaranteed seat in between – irrespective of where you sit! Nice!
  • Ability to take off early – I reflected on how (comparatively) easy a job the air traffic controllers must have at the moment, and how rare it was in the past that a plane could actually leave early, even if it was ready..
  • Ability to land early – we were 40 minutes ahead of schedule due, of course, to being able to go a very direct route without having to avoid many other planes! Assuming no other problems, therefore, it is pretty safe to say that the at the moment planes are likely to land early!
  • Wearing a mask for the whole time in the airport and then on the plane is a bit of a drag but, as mentioned, you don’t need to wear it when eating and drinking and, so far, the services is pretty similar to before
  • If one is paranoid (which we are not, or only a little bit) no sign of any cleaning of the plane, or anything else for that matter… so if you are worried, best to take your own cleaning spray/whatever
  • Food and drink served (but no hot drinks!) and payment only by card
  • No queuing for the loo…. (but you don’t have to ask permission, as was originally said)… which means that you have to be extremely vigilant and choose your moment to go!!).
  • Less service equates to a more boring flight
  • I think that is about it… really nothing to be worried about… oh…. and no health checks on arrival in Prague, Malaga or Zurich, so far…

We’re back – in Prague! Day 21

lovely prague

It’s now exactly three weeks since we returned from Spain, although it seems so much longer!  After the first week, when we felt completely discombobulated, we started to get back to normal, although spending pretty much every day packing up our office and chucking all those years of history away is not what we would normally be doing – and clearing officeactually that is why I have been so quiet, as there is really nothing exciting to say about the whole experience, except that it is now done!

Lots of people have asked us if we are retiring, since we have given up the office (unless it is just that we are starting to look very old?!) but that is really not the case – our 100 days in Spain taught us so many things, including that we are both perfectly comfortable working from home, and now that we have set up our own individual ‘work stations’ in our apartment in Prague (as far away from each other as possible!) it is, so far, working well.   So with everything here now vaguely under control, it seems only sensible to be heading back to Spain soonish – on Thursday, in fact!  But, by the way, it has been lovely to be here in Prague too, as you can imagine – and if you can’t imagine, then have a look at this link that I found on one of my friend’s FB pages:

Anyway, we had originally planned to drive my car down to Marbella and leave it there – even though it has been marvellous to be reunited with him and to be able to drive myself around Prague, especially at the moment when I am still not keen on going on the metro or tram and still hobbling on one leg, but we really don’t need the car that much here, especially now.  However, at the last minute we decided that we are all (i.e. Jan, me and the car) too old to take on three days plus of driving across Europe, so that idea has been binned and we will be heading off on good old Ryanair again.  Can’t wait.ryanair

Whilst we have been here, in addition to packing the office, doing some work, and having regular physio, I have been pondering some new projects as well as meeting up with friends and doing a little bit of ‘networking’.  Almost without exception our friends have all been changing their ways (and ALL, without exception, are happy about it!!) – quite a few are doing the same as us and are now working from home, a couple have decided to change what they are doing completely, two have given up work altogether, and several are working on new projects that are very different to what they would ‘normally’ (the old normal) be doing… and all of this despite the fact that the CR had so few cases/deaths, and, to date, has seen very little damage to the economy… but it is still early days….  Me personally – and sorry to be giving myself a little plug – I am still open to helping anyone that wants it with their angel investormarketing and am also pondering investing into one or two small SMEs – I am offering a bit of cash and/or a lot of time in return for a share or two… so if you are looking for some marketing or general ‘business’ help, let me know!

Yesterday, we attended a lunch organised by the International Business Forum here in Prague (we are both board members) which hosted the former Governor of the Czech National Bank, Zdenek Tuma; he had been very outspoken about the lockdown in the CR in the early days, fearing that the damage to the economy far outweighed the seriousness of the health crisis, and, whilst he has revised his views slightly now, I think he, and pretty much everyone around the table (except me, up to a point!) agreed that, whilst it was good to lock down here at the beginning, it went on far too long… and that, whilst the damage to the economy had not been as radical as it was tuma lunchfeared, the size of it made no sense when compared with the very low number of cases and deaths.  As always, though, there are two big questions on the ‘no-lock-down strategy’: how many deaths are OK in such a situation?  And how many might there have been if the country had NOT locked down (or not for as long).  We can never know, and, as I have said all along, who would be a politician right now?

So anyway, here we are in Prague, just a few days away from heading to Marbella again (and with a certain person’s birthday celebration tomorrow to look forward to!).  We have certainly crammed a lot into the few weeks that we have been back – I’m still doing my dancing, App and exercise biking since running and tennis are off the cards for the moment… still doing a regular social and news media watch (but, I have to admit, getting a little bit tired of the repetitiveness of it all!) and finally getting back to reading proper books (having given them up all the time we were in our lockdown).  Oh, and still thinking about ways to ‘change the world!’.   Just now, though, things seem to be relatively quiet here, and relatively quiet there, so this may be my last blog for a while…. although…. with everything so bonkers at the moment, you never know – I may well pop my head up for another round soon.   We will see!

For now, thank you to everyone that has followed this blog so far… and I hope to ‘meet up’ with you again soon!