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Back in Prague – but for how long?

lovely prague

A few of my friends have been asking if all is OK as they haven’t heard from me for a while, since it is a bit more than a week since I posted my last blog.  I hadn’t actually planned for it to be that long, but I found that the combination of the news from the UK re quarantining people from Spain (and generally! – if you are not ‘up’ on the UK news, you might find this article interesting… pretty much sums it up if you ask me: https://www.theneweuropean.co.uk/top-stories/uk-population-being-fooled-by-government-1-6684939), my injured leg eventually revealing itself as a potentially serious problem with my knee, and the rising temperatures in Marbella during last week which were a bit exhausting, kind of put paid to my enthusiasm (and ability to be extreme heatamusing) for a few days!

We actually snuck quietly back to Prague last Thursday – I had originally planned it to be a bit of an adventure since I was to be flying with Ryanair from Malaga to Rome and then on to Prague, but since Jan’s flight to the UK was no longer viable he swapped to fly back with me, which meant that the three hour shopping fest that I had planned (hopefully) for the magnificent Rome airport was no longer possible (even though, to my surprise, the shops were mostly all open) nor was the idea of relaxing over a bowl of rome airportpasta at one of the many restaurants…  Instead we ended up arguing for most of the stayover, partly due to the need to wear masks at all times (and Jan is developing a bit of a phobia about that), partly my inability to move around very fast, and, mainly, the incredible expense of even a glass of beer (Jan is used to having a non-stop supply of alcohol in the airport lounges which, in Rome, were sadly closed).   I shouldn’t complain really, since the whole journey was very easy – again both flights landed early (into Rome and then Prague), felt very safe (both were about half full, so lots of space around us), boarding was controlled and quiet, and everyone wore masks – I even had my temperature taken by a robot in Rome airport which was very exciting (I was singled out for some reason, although I don’t think I looked particularly unwell…).

I know that a lot of people are worried about flying just now, but so far we have felt that the whole experience is actually a lot nicer than usual, so the only thing to worry about (and I know it is a big one for many people) is the chance of catching something on the flight.   For sure on our first flight after our 100 day lockdown we were a bit apprehensive, but on the other hand we felt that the chance of catching anything at the airport or on the plane was pretty remote – flying from Malaga, where there were no infections and everyone had been isolated, there must have been a higher chance of the plane crashing than that we would catch anything on board! Now, of course, the chance is a bit higher, but obligatory masks in the airport and on board, the social distancing, on plane with masksthe fact that the planes are not so full, etc, means, I still believe, that flying is one of the safer things that we can be doing.   Back in Prague, in fact, numbers are rising (they are now higher than our part of Spain) and I have even experienced the slight concern of the friend that I had dinner with on Friday letting me know yesterday that he was going for a test as some of his colleagues at work had tested positive (luckily his was negative).  The fact is, really, that unless we all lock ourselves away completely again, there is always going to be the possibility of catching the virus, irrespective of what we do/where we go…… but still, in my book, it’s a very small one.

So back in Prague life goes on pretty much as normal – the number of cases, as mentioned, is getting higher (but still relatively low, although I do wonder how accurate they are.. in the space of just a few days I seem to have heard of an awful lot of people that have the virus!), the weather is grey and rainy (the first day we thought it was a bit of a relief after the heat…not sure now!), shops and restaurants are quiet, but not yet disastrous, and I continue to hop about on one leg, having various tests, and getting grumpier by the minute.   The consequence of my leg injury means that (a) I am spending far too much time on Twitter each morning and having a good old rant about the situation in the UK (but what joy when one of the people that I follow and quietly hero-worship, ‘liked’ one of my Tweets!), and (b) that I am having to try to limit myself to eating only dust, since hard training is out (even ‘Bollywooding’ is a bit difficult, but I am managing to do a bit of biking, thank God.).  On the subject of eating dust, I saw this great video this morning which, as always with Michael McIntyre, made me ‘LOL’ (as Jan would say):

What else?   I’m getting involved in a fund for SMEs (particularly those that have been badly affected by the lockdown), which I will no doubt start talking about in more detail soon, and am doing a reasonable amount of work (which keeps my mind (some of the time) off the fridge….) but with so many people away just now (it is hard to keep track of the weeks and months at the moment, but it is in fact August!)) and most of what we are working on just as easily done there as here, it is only a matter of time, I suspect, before we head back to Spain!

 

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!

 

We’re back – in Prague! The ‘new normal’

lovely prague

I started to write this blog on Friday evening, exactly a week since we arrived back from Spain, although it seems a lot longer – funny how the days rushed past when we were doing not very much over there, and yet this last week seems to have gone on for ages, what with packing up our office – poor Jan now spends hours at a time staring at the shredding machine instead of the swimming pool – paying several visits to the physio paper shredding(yup, I’m still limping horribly and getting grumpier by the day), and trying to see our friends (which has been lovely).  Oh, and doing a bit of work (Jan more than me).

Obviously a lot of our discussions have been comparing our experiences from lockdown, although most of my friends seem to remember more about what we were doing than I do, having read this blog diligently every day!  But it has been really interesting to hear from most of them how strict they have all been, even though the rules didn’t necessarily require it (and irrespective of where they are living).   All, though, have been a bit shocked and worried about how quickly everyone has gone back to normal – or, ‘the new normal’ as we all seem to be calling it (even though, here in Prague, it really does seem like the ‘old normal’.. but maybe I haven’t seen enough yet!).

Talking of the ‘new normal’ though, I read a very interesting article over the weekend by the Swedish epidemiologist (??) who has been under fire for not advising Sweden to go into a ‘proper’ lockdown.  He said that whilst he believes, now, that they should have been tougher at the beginning, he kind of explained it by also saying that we shouldn’t forget that all of the lockdowns have been primarily to protect the health systems from collapsing (and theirs didn’t).  He does agree, though, that locking down more might have saved some lives, but on a long-term basis he believes that his way forward will be seen to be the best – i.e. they have avoided economic disaster and the problems that come from cooping people up for months at a time, whilst at the same time locking down enough to ensure that their health system can cope, and have protected the vulnerable by imposing slightly stockholmstricter rules on them than on others.  AND, most importantly, they have trained everyone to accept the wearing of masks and social distancing as something that they will have to do forever (or words to that effect) as the virus is not going to go away – and people have accepted that as they haven’t really had to fight against anything else.  And that is the bit that I found interesting.

Since a lot of our friends are Brits, we are all, of course, worried about the situation there, particularly in view of the above.   For those of you that don’t know, the number of deaths each day are still in the hundreds and new infections in the thousands, even though the testing and tracking is so inefficient that it is hard to know where this number comes from (and compare this to Spain, Italy, France and others, who were being shown on English TV as disaster zones when they had similar numbers).  Despite that, the UK is as far down the ‘coming out of lockdown’ road as Spain when we left, which doesn’t bode well for the numbers in the future.   Why people are not being more disciplined (irrespective of what ‘rules’ or otherwise the Government is coming out with) is difficult to understand – presumably the half million people that pitched up in bournemouthBournemouth at the weekend to head for the beach are not all complete idiots? – but having only had various rules suggested, rather than being forced to follow them, no-one really seems to have taken on board the real need for care, whether now or in the future.  One of my friends suggested that perhaps it is just that they don’t read or watch the news, to which I responded that I think they maybe DO read AND watch the news, but it’s WHAT they read and watch that is so shockingly awful and tell such lies, that many of the people that flocked to Bournemouth, or anywhere else, have no real idea of what the country is really up against (nor how it is in other countries).

I remember when we arrived in Spain in early March, having come from Prague where there were so few infections, we were completely shocked to watch the news each evening and see people coming out of hospitals in hysterics having just been told that their husband/wife had died, the army driving trucks full of coffins, the doctors breaking down when interviewed having seen xx number of people die that night – it really Italian doctorbrought it home to us how serious the virus was, and explains why the Spanish, generally, (and the Alicante ladies in particular!!) were all so terrified.  Maybe it would help in the UK if the journalists showed a bit more of the horror in order to get the message across to the people that don’t want to know….

Anyway, back in Prague we attended a wedding on Saturday, which freaked me out a little bit.   The wedding itself was very nice – in the Old Town Hall on the Old Town Square, everyone dressed in their finery, and lovely weather.  But I am afraid I have to say that I did not feel at all comfortable being together with so many people in one room (none of whom I knew, other than the groom, a good friend of Jan’s) – all close together, no-one, of course, in masks, and with lots of kissing and hugging going on.  I am sure everyone thought that I was even snootier than usual as I tried to keep my distance (impossible), but, you know, I haven’t heard anyone saying that the virus keeps away from weddings, and whilst I realise that Prague has always had a low rate of wedding picinfection, blah, blah, blah, it is difficult to go more or less overnight from near solitary confinement to ‘party-on as normal’.    All very strange and for sure Jan and I are going to fight more and more over this as time goes on, as he is delighted that we are back in ‘the new normal’, whilst I want to get back to our reclusive life as soon as possible!    So, for a number of reasons, I headed home after the ceremony whilst Jan stayed on for the reception and appeared late in the evening in a pretty horrible state!

Yesterday, Sunday, I found something else interesting.   I woke up early (while you-know-who was recovering) and did some social media monitoring, and then decided to do a bit of Bollywood, then the 7 App and then 45 minutes on my new exercise bike.  Unfortunately we weren’t able to head to the beach or pool, but the sun was shining, so we spent a good part of the day sunbathing; what I realised, is, of course, that we human beings like our routines – so whilst in Spain we were shaken up for the first couple of weeks, we soon sorted out a ‘programme’ that worked for us and became our norm.  And the reason why I have felt so weird for the last week or so is that our ‘norm’ had to change again… the minute I went back to my Spanish programme, I was happy as Larry!  For now, things are looking up a bit!

And something else that cheered me up no end – I do love some of the videos that are put out on Twitter and Facebook, and one that I found the other day made me giggle.. plus I seems appropriate now that we are getting back to our ‘new normal’ life.  Have a look!

 

We’re Back in Prague – Day 6

prague

I can’t quite believe that we have been back for five days already, but the first couple went by in a bit of a blur, and it wasn’t until Monday, really, that we started to feel ‘normal’.   Saturday wasn’t an easy day as we woke up to grey skies and rain which wasn’t exactly welcoming, but despite that we thought that we should try to do a bit of exercise before we got into anything else.   I was aware that my leg was feeling quite sore after all the travelling the day before (my legs always feel a bit swollen and heavy after jogging on one legflying (it’s a woman and age thing!) but this was worse than usual), and the minute that I started to jog after a bit of stretching (me going right out of our front door, Jan to the left), I realised that there was something not right as I could barely put my foot on the ground, so turned around to go back indoors and then found that I had brought my Spanish house keys, not Prague.   For God’s sake!.

So basically I was stuck outside in the rain for as long as Jan might run.  Thinking that my leg might loosen up a bit though, and on the basis that Jan doesn’t run that fast (apologies dear), I thought, stupidly, that if I hobbled as fast as possible to the park where I knew he was heading, I could loiter about and catch him on one of his rounds, take his keys and hobble back.   Up to a point that actually worked, since I found him relatively quickly, but by the time I had hobbled back, by then drowned, I had made my leg a lot worse and was thoroughly miserable.

Since the main reason why we absolutely had to get back to Prague now was to clear out our offices before the deadline of June 30th, once we had both dried off, the next thing was to head over to see just how much stuff we had to get rid of, store, smash, etc, and that was so horrifying that we decided that the only course of action for the rest of the day was to get back home and hide, and then maybe venture back the next day!  Actually part of the reason for that was that we wanted to watch the next stage of the Adria Tour (the tennis tournament that we watched last weekend in Belgrade, now in Zadar in adria tourCroatia) so that took up the rest of the day, and then I headed out to meet my friend Adam for dinner, with Jan joining us later, and that cheered us both up immensely – thank God, as it was all a bit miserable up until then (and, note, the restaurant was completely normal – no cleaning of the tables, no waiters in mask, no customers in Hazmat suits, etc, and we did hug (I wondered if we would, and knew that I would feel rather offended if we didn’t!).

On Sunday, though, with the sun shining and a bit of a more positive mood, we headed to the office and got started with the mammoth job of clearing and sorting, which, normally, we would have done over the course of three months, and instead have to manage in just 12 days!   Hmmm.   This is proving a bit of a challenge – for Jan as he is a bit of a ‘hoarder’ so he has a Hell of a lot of stuff to go through, and me as I am still on one leg, and my hay fever is much worse here than in Spain, so sorting through a lot of dusty papers and so on is not, exactly, what I want to be doing – but hey, now I really can appreciate wearing a mask!   I am not going to go on about office clearing as that is and has to be the focus of our days until the end of the month, so I could get very boring, plus when I am not clearing the office, I am spending my time either catching up with friends (lovely) or seeing my physio (not so lovely, but necessary). which explains why I don’t have a lot of exciting things to report on.    We have, though, been doing a few other bits and pieces similar to our days in Spain (I have already done some Bollywood and the 7 App, but still waiting for the exercise bike to arrive), plus, of course, I have found time to study the news in all three jurisdictions and rant on Twitter, as usual.

I must say, though, that I have felt quite discombobulated (I do so love that word as, even if you don’t know what it means, I am sure you can probably figure it out!) – even on crowds in parksSaturday, when we first ventured out, I was already taken aback by how little notice anyone took of social distancing – twice, during my hobble to look for Jan, I nearly collided with people walking the other way – I am so used to all of us naturally putting distance between ourselves, that I found it quite disconcerting and, dare I say it, shocking.   Plus so few people wearing masks – I know that everything is back to normal here, but I still found it strange, and actually having parked my car in the underground carpark in town on Monday (my first venture in) and then called the lift, which appeared with three unmasked guys already in situ, I almost freaked out, but masked mendecided that I have to get over it and got in nonetheless (now, isn’t that something… not so long ago I would have freaked out if a lift had arrived with three masked men inside.. now it is the other way around!).

I have also been to the gym (necessary, with only one leg working and no bike at home) and seen my trainer, Vlad, but not yet managed to meet up with Vitek (tennis coach) as, of course, tennis is out of the question at the moment.   The gym was interesting – the receptionist, as I would have expected, was wearing a mask, but otherwise everyone else was working out as usual (to the point that I noticed several people getting off the machines and not bothering to clean them (which annoys me at the best of times)), men in gymplus a couple of guys (Americans) did have masks around their necks… not quite sure of the point of that…  Plus I had my first tram trip yesterday, which I didn’t much like (partly as it was crowded and people were coughing and sneezing a lot (but masked), and partly as getting on and off proved a challenge with one leg not very operational!)

It is all a bit odd.  As I have mentioned before, I used to be a very brave girl, and I absolutely don’t like being a bit of a ‘pussy’, but those 100 days have changed me a bit, and I can see how easy it could be to slip into almost agoraphobia – especially if we hadn’t had the last few weeks of ‘freedom’ in Spain.  I also can’t help but think that even though the CR handled everything so well and had so few cases, this may just be happening a bit too quickly.   Which leads me back to the Adria Tour.

I think I mentioned in my blog last week that we were surprised to see the whole tournament in Belgrade taking place as if there had been no virus (which, in Serbia, is almost true as they had very few cases), with packed crowds, lots of interaction between the ball boys, umpire and players, etc.   When they all arrived in Zadar, it looked pretty similar, although there were many fewer people in the crowd, and I suppose that you can’t really blame the players and their teams for going out and partying every night since Croatia, too, had very few cases.   But when we watched Dimitrov fall apart on adria tour 2court on Saturday afternoon and heard that he had returned home that evening, I started to get a nasty feeling, which was proved right when it was then announced that he had the virus… and over the course of the next few days more announcements of positive results came out (the majority of the players), with the biggest of all from Nole himself…. what the ramifications will be on tennis for the coming months and sport in general, who knows…. but it certainly proved that the virus is still about, even in countries that have low numbers, and, despite what is generally thought, it can strike the young and very fit…. so maybe a bit more caution is still needed… we shall see.

More from me again soon!

 

 

 

 

We’re back – in Prague! (Day 100/Day 1)

at malaga airport

This morning we were up early in readiness for the adventure ahead. No time for any exercise or media monitoring today! Just a last packing-up of the house (we did most of it yesterday), then dressed (in jeans – jeans?!! T shirts and sweaters… it’s a long time since we have worn so many clothes!) and then off in our white van for our last drive together, to the airport.

Since we haven’t really been outside Marbella for the whole of our stay, even heading out to the motorway was a new thing, and as we have got used to everything seeming more or less normal again, our first shock was just how empty the road was; up until we got to the ‘highway toll’ area, where there are usually a row of about 10 manned kiosks and we pay less than Euro 5 – today, the traffic was a bit stacked up as there was only one kiosk open, and that was the one that has a machine rather than a real person (of course, thinking about it, it wouldn’t be possible for the real people to work at the toll moment as too much handling of money…..) and the payment today was Euro 7.95 (also, thinking about it, no surprise that they have whacked up the cost in order to get some money into the coffers). Otherwise it was an uneventful and slightly subdued drive, until we got to the Enterprise office, which was closed….

After an initial mild panic as to what to do with our van, we realised that the parking next door was open, and also offering a courtesy bus to the airport (which is some way from the car hire area, hence the mild panic), so we deposited the car with them and hitched a lift up with a very chatty driver who was pleased to have something to do – he told us that he had been required to work for the whole lockdown period, but apart from watching over the parked cars (which hadn’t moved much) he averaged just one trip a day to the airport, so was bored silly.

So then we got to the airport. We had found out last night that we couldn’t check-in online so for the first time in years had to make our way to the check-in desks – that check in deskswasn’t actually a big deal as there was only the one desk open in the whole huge expanse of the departures hall – just one flight went at 11.00 am, then there was ours at 13.30 and then only one more, later in the day.  We had a bit of a performance as there seemed to be a problem with our tickets (another mild panic), but it all got resolved – we don’t really know what the problem was or how it was resolved as, to be honest, we couldn’t understand a word that the check-in woman was saying as she had one of the bigger masks on, and I really do struggle to hear customsthrough them… but, anyway, we got our boarding passes and headed off through a fairly standard customs and then passport control and into the main gate area.

With only our flight due, the gate area was, of course, deserted… plus our initial thought was that not only were there no cafes or other shops open, but also no loos…. Thankfully (another panic) there was just one in operation, so that was a relief (in more ways than one), and then we sat down for our long wait for the plane to arrive (having been asked to get to the airport at least two runwayhours in advance…. ). In actual fact, the time went quite quickly – we sat by the window looking down at the runway – with no planes arriving or departing, it was quite an amazing sight, particularly when a lone private plane pitched up and caused a flurry of activity – plus it gave us a chance to do a bit of social media monitoring and so on, and then it was time to go and board.   private planeGenerally it wasn’t really as weird as we had expected – there were no temperature checks or people dressed up to the eyeballs – just lots of markings on the floor to remind people where to stand, and about every five minutes a voice on the tannoy telling everyone to remember the social distancing rules…. a little bit irritating and pretty pointless in view of the vast amount of space we all had around ourselves!

Boarding, then, was pretty normal particularly as when we booked this flight (Swissair via Zurich) we decided to get business class tickets as we felt that if there were any issues lovely swissair(i.e. getting stuck in Zurich) we would be better looked after if we had them… so we were first onto the plane and seated in row 1. A rather lovely steward greeted us at the door – pulling his mask down to give us a ‘proper smile’ – marvellous – and then we were spoiled rotten the whole way to Zurich. I don’t know what we expected (although a friend sent me a photo of her daughter flying yesterday, seated next to someone who appeared to be dressed as an astronaut….), but really, apart from everyone in masks, it was just the same great Swissair as usual (if anything, a bit more… when I told the lovely one that I liked the chocolates that they always give out as we come into land, a stewardess appeared with a plate of them, yummy chocolatestogether with (yet more) red wine and cheese for Jan…. so we disembarked suitably cheerful and into Zurich Airport.

Zurich Airport, on first sight, looked pretty much the same as usual – not quite as many people but enough to think that things were not that different (and an awful lot of people not wearing masks), plus the main Duty Free was open and doing a good trade. The rest of the shops, though, were closed up, and all but one of the lounges (which was then so full that they were turning people away) were closed. With so few flights (relatively speaking – still about ten to go from early evening onwards) – we wondered who all the people were that were filling the lounge up, unless it was just tiny inside (which we didn’t get to see). But, anyway, we only had a bit over an hour before our connection, so in the end we plonked ourselves down in the gate area and stared out the window at grey sky and pouring rain….

Swiss being Swiss, though, our next flight boarded on time, and back we went to the business class (third row this time) for a very nice, and very short flight to Prague. The plane was pretty full (why?) with most of those around us seeming to be Russian, which, together with the ongoing bad weather as we flew over, didn’t help with Jan’s mood!. So then Prague Airport – on landing we could see all the stored planes lined up in the far runway area – all of the unused Max 7s, plus a lot of Czech Airlines’ and Ryanair, which made quite a spectacle. In the gate area, however, only one other plane seemed to be ready to go, so when we got off it wasn’t surprising that there were so few people in the prague airportairport itself, apart from around the gate to get back onto our Zurich-bound plane. The shocking bit, though, was that instead of sweeping out of Terminal 2 as usual (and as we now expected), they have installed passport control gates, and with only one open and the 2 metre social distancing lines to keep each person apart, the queue to go through was quite long. And what then became clear was that not everyone was being allowed in….

Jan was about to march through ahead of me, but I told him to wait and let me go first, in case there was trouble, and sure enough, the policewoman took exception to my first proferring my UK Passport – referring to her map of the traffic lights and seeing that the UK is still, of course, red – at the same time, I gave her my Czech permanent residence permit, which she studied in detail, asked me in Czech if I had come from Zurich, to which I responded yes (not exactly rocket science since it was the only plane to come in for the last few hours), and then she rather reluctantly let me through. My feeling, though, was that she wasn’t quite sure whether I should or shouldn’t be allowed in, but she couldn’t really be bothered to check anymore… but that’s OK.  It does seem, though, that everyone is still pretty confused about who can and can’t come in – we know that in Spain from the 21st, all residents of Schengen countries can enter without a test…. So presumably the same will apply here on Monday, as reciprocity will be required…. At least… we hope.

Then, of course, we had the car situation to deal with, but we needn’t have worried. First, we headed to the carpark to see if (a) the car was still there (and yes, there he was, all on his own) and (b) if he would start – which he did. Then we went down to the office, my cararmed with our correspondence from the main parking guy, and sure enough, he charged me for just the period from when we arrived until the State of Alarm kicked off – so actually even less than we would have paid if we had come back as planned. How nice is that? And then it was into the car and home – to our newly cleaned apartment, with everything in place, almost as if we had never been away……

What will happen next?   Keep tuned!

 

Still here – in Spain! Days 96 and 97

steps to the beach

Yesterday, Wednesday, started very positively – we were up early again as, with only two days to go, we wanted to get moving as soon as possible.  I managed to resist the temptation of going for a run on the beach with Jan (I so want to play tennis when I get back to Prague that I am trying to be super-disciplined about letting my calf muscle heal) and instead did yet another 7 app routine and 45 minutes on the bike, and then we headed to the beach for a couple of hours – with the big pool still not properly open (we are not exactly sure why, but have given up stressing about it), and the temperature in the mid 30s, it is definitely better to be by the sea with a bit of breeze anyway.

By the time we dragged ourselves back home a bit of work had stacked up for both of us, so that was the first priority, and then it was a quick lunch and off we went into Marbella Old Town for a bit of shopping and a last look around.   The shops are still very quiet and a bit depressed, and the historical centre was more or less deserted, but we think (and seconc squarehope!) that that will be the last time we see it like that – I saw a post on FB yesterday about Prague still being without tourists and how sad it is, as is the case here too, but until the planes really get going again (and they still aren’t anywhere near to that yet – just a handful going in and out of Malaga yesterday, and not much more in Prague) I suspect that nothing much will change – but presumably, by early July, when it seems that most airlines will be back to ‘normal-ish’ we will start to see a difference…

Incidentally, on that, having said that Spain is open for anyone from the 21st, it seems that the Spanish government is starting to change its mind, at least regarding the Brits (not, it seems, because of fear that they may bring the infection in again, but as a ‘tit for tat’ with the UK for them saying that the Spanish have to go into fourteen days’ quarantine when they arrive there (well, anyone does at the moment, but I actually watched the UK Health Secretary saying that they don’t want to risk anyone coming in from other badly infected countries, and, when pressed as to which ones, mentioning Spain – I nearly smashed the TV up) – but I think it is still not resolved.   How anyone can be planning to go anywhere much at the moment, mind you, is beyond me (unless they have to, of course… like us tomorrow!) since everything continues to change on a more or less daily basis…..

Anyway, we had planned to grab a drink somewhere in the Old Town, but since most of the cafes were closed up, we headed down to the beach and sat outside one of the bars there for a while, watching the world go by and feeling a bit sad about the whole situation – who would want to run a shop or a café/restaurant in a tourist area just now?   Some shops, of course, are putting on a brave face (places like Zara, which are just as popular with locals as with tourists), but even then, it can hardly make sense to open if they only have a handful of customers, and for the cafes and restaurants you have to think that the cost of opening far outweighs any income they might get…. so why even bother….

After a bit of philosophysing, we decided to head home along the beach walk instead of the main street as it was cooler, and since it was early evening by this time it was nice to see that a lot more people had come out – mostly families on bikes and people walking their dogs, but at least they are venturing out more, to the point that it almost got quite dogs on the paseocrowded and difficult to keep the 2 metre social distancing, especially from those with dogs on my favourite long leads, who seem to manage to take up most of the path even when they are only one person….. we do try, though, so you can imagine how upset we were when an elderly lady walking her three yappy dogs who were weaving about all over the place, suddenly turned on us and started shouting at us in English to keep our distance, to not crowd her and to ‘have some respect’ – actually I didn’t really see or hear what was happening until I heard Jan tell her to calm down, that we were at least two metres away from her and she shouldn’t worry – but she was having none of it and started shouting even more.   The icing on the cake, though, was when she screamed at us that ‘we should go back to whatever country we came from’ – I think she thought we might be the first of the English tourists to arrive, and whilst the government may not fear them bringing in the infection, the locals definitely do.  Is this the shape of things to come, I wonder.

Anyway, that put a bit of a dampener on our day, so we were happy to get home and spend the rest of the evening pottering about and starting our preparations for departure.   Today, then, followed similar lines – exercising in the morning, down to the beach and lots of walking about in the water to try to improve my legs, and then into Puerto Banus for another last walk about.   One exciting bit there was the arrival of a yacht that was even bigger than the resident ‘Lady Haya’ and is apparently owned by Aztek shipsome Mexican oligarch… presumably camping out here to avoid the virus that is all over Latin America just now.   Not a bad way to do lockdown!   Other than that, though, nothing too much has changed in the port – the shops are still open, no sign of any discounts or sales (other than in the big El Corte Ingles department store, which is trying its best) and most bars and restaurants boarded up.  Puerto Banus, more than any other place around here, is in need of the pb emptyforeign tourists – let’s hope not too many of the locals put them off (as above!).

Tonight, then, we are off out for dinner in one of our favourite restaurants, and then we will be up early in readiness for our adventure..   I will be reporting on that in due course!!!

Wish us luck

 

Still here – in Spain! Days 94 and 95!

view from window




These have been a busy couple of days.  We had so many flights booked before that then got cancelled, it has been hard to believe that we are really, really going this week and that has hit us hard – it feels, now, that there are not enough hours in the day to get everything done before we go!

Yesterday, day 94, we were up early even though it was a day off exercise; me because my cold sores had kept me awake in the night and I couldn’t wait to get up and go out to a pharmacy, and Jan because he realised that he had quite a lot of work to get sorted before we land in Prague!   So first thing, he was on his computer while I did my social media and news watch and then headed out to try to find some medicine.   That, big poolcombined with a couple of hours by the pool (which is due to open any day now – probably just as we are leaving!) took up the morning, and then Jan went off to the same hairdresser as me for his own refurb, whilst I hobbled out for what was intended to be a last shop in Aldi – how sad is that!

On our return, with Jan looking 100% ‘perfect’ after his haircut (as he likes to say), we decided to try to get all of our plants and garden into a shape to be left – the Pueblo gardeners come in twice a week to ‘water’ when we aren’t here, but that is all, and after three months of battling to revive some of them, using made-up food (banana skins, egg shells, etc) to help, and now having them all in full bloom, it would be terrible to think that they might all collapse once we have gone.   Just on this, when I put together my lists of ‘things we have learned to do’ or ‘how we have changed’ during the last three months, gardening (up to a point) will be very high up on mine (having only ever managed to wield a watering can occasionally in the past!).

Jan decided yesterday, though, that he was up for more than just simple gardening, and took it on himself to get up our palm tree and give it some much needed trimming.  That is not as simple as it might sound as, without the proper equipment, it required him to stand on a ladder balanced on a table and then hack all the dead branches and muck away from the trunk – and since I was required to hold the ladder, most of it landed on my head – I just about coped with the branches and so on, but once he said that he had found an ants’ nest and then, even worse, a couple of cockroaches jan and palmhidden away (I have always tried to persuade myself that I do not need to fear them as much as I do, since they really only scuttle about on the floor – now I know better!), I am afraid that I had to leave him to it – but, to be fair, he did a pretty good job!

Coming back to the cockroaches (as I do!) one of the problems with the whole Pueblo being pretty much deserted over the past three months, is that whilst we had our house treated for them early on in our adventure, the other houses nearby did not…. so for the last few weeks, while it has been getting hotter and hotter, we have had a few visitors from our neighbours each evening – Jan has been in his element, rushing about each night with his bat and scaring everyone to death, but I have lost my sense of humour about it all, so today (day 95) we had the ‘cockmen’ back again to do yet another fumigation – not only in our house, but the drains and so on around us (the idea of going back to Prague, and leaving our house available for ‘squatters’ for the next few weeks pest controlhas been bothering me no end!), so that was another constructive thing crossed off the list.

Today, then, apart from the visit from the cockmen and exercise this morning (back to my drill of Bollywood, 7 and cycling, and Jan running) we have been out and about, stocking up with a few bits and pieces to take back to Prague – again, I have to comment on how quickly everything has got back to normal… people are out shopping, cafes are open, there is very little sign of the past few months! – and then this evening we are meeting the sports photographer that we met at the gallery opening for drinks, and then a last dinner with our friends down the road.   And that will be just two  more full days before we head off.   What a strange feeling that is!

On a happier note, and particularly relevant today – I found a lovely video this morning, celebrating Paris getting back to normal (I have been watching my friend Philippe go through his very strict lockdown there while we have been here – how tough that was) – take a look:

I will be reporting on our last days here in Spain and our return to Prague in due course!