Category Archives: Uncategorized

Sand-walking and endless other forms of excitement

Most mornings recently, after lying around and doing my social and other media trolls, I have been heading off to the beach to walk on the sand. Now I know that those of you in Prague, especially, will probably say ‘oh what a drag for you’, but actually it is really blimmin’ hard work, as I am doing what my physio asked, and that is walking barefoot for as long as possible in quite deep sand in order to strengthen my knee muscles. When he first suggested this I said, gaily, that I could do it ‘standing on my head’ (not literally, another of our weird English expressions….) because it sounded so easy. And it is not at all!! After about 20 minutes I am dripping with sweat and in a state of collapse, which is not great when you consider that I then have to walk all the way back up our hill to get home.

It also involves quite a lot of concentration, which is not always my strongest point, especially when I have my phone in my hand! The other day, whilst chatting away at the same time as walking, not only did I go straight past my friends setting up camp on the beach for the morning, but I also continued right into the sea since I had got to a part where the tide had come in further – and it was only because it was freezing and made me jump that I avoided becoming a first line of a thriller – you know the ones where a man (it is usually a man (at this point Jan will probably say that that’s because a lot of men live with women!)) was last seen walking out into the sea and either pitches up some time later with a new identity, or turns into a nutcase and becomes a serial killer or similar… I know. I have a funny taste in books…!

The other reason why I am doing the sand walking as well as my usual training regimes, is that I have been putting on a bit of weight over the last few weeks – to say that that has incensed me, would be an understatement, but those of you that have read my earlier blogs will know that this is one of my lifelong battles. Actually I read an article the other morning in the Czech media that said that according to a recent survey, something like 60% of people asked said that they had gained weight during lockdown (plus there was a lot of talk about various psychological problems and addictions caused by it), and I am not surprised. It is just so difficult to stay disciplined day after day, especially when there is not a lot to do – in fact, against my better judgement, I decided to try one of those ‘fasting’ diets for a while (the one where you have eight hours of eating and 16 of fasting, on the basis that if I stayed in bed for long enough and then went walking and training, the sixteen hours of fasting would be easy. So it was, but by the time they were over, I was so hungry that I had to eat everything I could lay my hands on for the other eight hours and in only four days I managed to put on a kilo. Great. I know, of course, (and I can hear Vlad the Impaler in my ear as I speak) that at the end of the day it is all about calories in and calories out, and it doesn’t really matter when they go in.. just that more go out. For me, though, being a ‘woman of a certain age’, I either have to eat dust all day and exercise hard, or eat a bit more and/or exercise even harder. So here we are, back to the dust.

The other way to avoid eating is, of course, to keep away from any source of food or drink, so whilst we are able, we are keeping on the move for a good part of the day. Just now we are unable to go outside Marbella (yup, Spain has got on the ‘making up individual (and, in my opinion, daft) rules on a regular basis’ bandwagon), so pretty much every time we get into the car we see loads of police; this has been even more the case in the last couple of days as there was a murder in the next town along from us during the week, so cars are being stopped all the time (apparently they are looking for a tall, blonde guy, possibly English, and since there aren’t a lot of those around here (tall, blonde or English), hopefully they will find him soon!). Still on the ‘Costa del Crime’ theme, we were chatting to the girlfriend of another house owner by the pueblo pool just today (sorry, yes, it is warm enough to lie by the pool!), who, whilst we were discussing running, said that she doesn’t like running up or down our hill, and I commiserated. However, it has nothing to do with the impact on her knees (as it is in my case) but more because, she said, she was nearly kidnapped last time she ran up it. She actually said it quite normally, as if people get kidnapped around here all the time (although.. maybe they do, we just don’t know about all of this excitement!), but, anyway, it seems that a car with some dodgy-looking characters inside followed her up the hill and then parked just around the corner and lay in wait for her – she, in the meantime, had called her [Columbian] boyfriend who arrived by the car at the same time that she did, so they legged it…. Well. It seems that all of those days of walking to and from the supermarket every day may not have been as safe as I thought (although, to be fair, I am probably less saleable on the ‘white woman slave trade’ market than her).

Other than avoiding the police, kidnappers and tall blonde killers, we have been quite busy doing not a lot, although there has been some tennis for me, running for Jan, and a new sport of ‘counting the cars passing under the motorway bridge’ on our evening walks, on the basis that everywhere is closed from 6.00 pm, so we wonder where all those cars are going. We know how to enjoy ourselves.

I joke, of course, since despite the lockdown here being a lot easier than anywhere else (and a million miles from the lockdown earlier in the year) it is, nevertheless, getting a bit tedious, and for sure once the sun eventually cools down it will be a lot more, but so far we are managing to stay fairly cheerful. I therefore thought that the picture that I saw on Twitter this morning was apt, and a good way to sign off for now. More soon.

Good publicity, bad publicity and no publicity

I had planned to start this latest blog with the words ‘bit by bit the autumn/winter in Marbella is setting in’ since for most of last week the days were much cooler, plus we had a bit of rain. But then we woke up yesterday morning to bright sunshine again and saw, according to my weather app, that the forecast for the rest of this week is for more of the same, so I scrapped that.

One thing about the weather being less good though was that I found it easier to motivate myself to move on with a few potential projects, and some of them are starting to get quite interesting – more on those soon. I wonder, though, if I am the only one that has secretly started enjoying not doing very much – maybe it is just that we have got used to it now, but even though we can go out and about here in Marbella (unlike before) most days I can barely be bothered (especially when the sun is shining!). Once our exercise is out of the way (and thankfully I haven’t lost my appetite for that, otherwise I would have turned into a fat lazy sloth by now) I am pretty happy just sitting about pondering – OK pondering some work-type projects, but not actually doing a great deal. I must say that if I was nearer the start rather than the end of my career, I would be very worried! And that makes me wonder how all of this is going to affect those people that have been furloughed for ages; I can’t help but think that by the time they can go safely back to work, they just won’t want to. We shall see.

Having said that, though, I did have a call with an IT friend this morning who said that he is absolutely flat out as all of his clients want to speak to him, not any of his team, and having to find time to do that as well as managing everyone else remotely AND actually doing the work is proving near impossible – that brought me up short, as of course he is seeing the other side of the coin, i.e. the additional burden of having to manage both his clients and employees from afar, whilst still actually doing the work. I think, at the moment, I would rather be in my shoes than his!

So what’s new? As usual, there have been a few interesting bits on social media over the past few days; first a small article about the England football manager having tested positive just a day or so after a big event in London, and how that news was kept very quiet – in particular, the person writing the article had been at the event and hadn’t been informed. Once upon a time, this kind of news in the UK would have been splattered all over the tabloid papers, but since he is generally regarded as one of the better football managers, I suppose it has all been hushed up (of course, had he patted a young lady’s bottom or something like that, they would still have jumped all over it!).

What hasn’t been hushed up, though, is BJ going into isolation again, having been in contact with someone with Covid – just imagine if he proves positive…. either he will be one of just a handful of people to get it twice, and/or there will be speculation that the first time around was made up. Either way, I think that it doesn’t bode well for his future; particularly as, and apologies in advance for the corny play on words (but Jan will love it), there have been lots of Cummings and Goveings over the past few days, with Cummings, BJ’s senior advisor having been kicked out (sorry, left), and Gove being rumoured to be getting ready to do a leadership coup (and what a nasty little reptile he is).

Meantime, in the Czech Republic, the numbers are coming down and there is talk about things opening up again in time for Christmas (although we now hear that they are going to try a new idea of only allowing one person per 15 m2 into each shop…. I dunno. I think I have said this before, but wouldn’t it be sensible for all countries to do the same things rather than individually trying to come up with some new ‘solution’ to the spreading of the virus? This one seems to me to be a bit daft – I was in Aldi yesterday bobbing and weaving around a small traffic jam of two elderly people and a trolley and trying to keep my distance, so not sure how that is going to pan out….). But, anyway, let’s hope that if the lockdown does ease up over Christmas, the numbers don’t go soaring back up again in January and another merry-go-round kicks off.

I know we are all keeping our fingers crossed for the vaccine… but personally I don’t see that making too much difference for a while yet, so just wonder if we shouldn’t be focusing more on other ways to get back to normal… and on that, here is yet another link to an article that was sent to me by Jan the Elder and which I think has some interesting points to make:

https://thecritic.co.uk/where-is-parliament/

Outside of all that is going on with politics, Covid and the weather, we have settled back into our ‘new normal’ routine which, at the moment, includes a lot of tennis (both playing and watching) – my knee is bearing up, so that is great, and Marbella has been inundated with tennis players (Karolina Pliskova seems to have more or less moved in, plus there are Czech kids all over the place), and the London Masters has started. So that’s good – or is it? Just two thoughts on that (for now): one, how is it possible for these tennis players (much as we love them) to travel to the UK from all over and not go into quarantine? And two; does anyone other than people like us (fanatics) find it in any way interesting when there is so little atmosphere without fans (I even fell asleep on Sunday night watching Nadal)? I can’t help but think that unless these sports get back to some normality, they will be doomed – sponsors will drop out, and without income from entrance fees, how will these huge prize money events continue? And if they don’t, then bye-bye all the big names….. hmmmm?

Finally, as I feel I may have drivelled on for a bit too long; it’s not just the Czechs that are pitching up here at the moment, but quite a few Brits too. And what we hear from them is exactly what I said some months ago, and that is that the PR that Spain gets in the UK is terrible – all of those that we have met have told us that they have wanted to come but were scared to – the feeling being that the minute they stepped foot on Spanish soil the virus would jump on them (unlike in the UK huh?). And since they got here they have realised how daft that was. I hope they will keep spreading the word, as Spain needs tourists! But then, don’t we all.

Autumn in Marbella

I can’t believe that it is more than a week since my last blog. Doesn’t time fly and all that. But despite the fact that just about all of us are now in some sort of lockdown, a lot seems to have been happening, not least, of course, the big news from the US.

We watched quite a bit of the first night of voting; I went to bed when it started to feel like ‘deja vu’ and the unbelievable was about to happen: I refer, of course, to June 2016 when we arrived here in Marbella late at night and decided to stay up to watch the results of the Brexit vote coming in. I went to bed at about 3.00 am when it was looking dodgy, but sure that the next few hours would put it right, and then got up again at about 7.00 am only to hear that it was all over and the UK had voted out. I remember that we spent most of that day, and a lot of the weeks and months after in a state of complete shock. So last week, at just about the same point, it did look as if Trump was going to win – and whilst we could just about understand why he got in the first time, the idea that enough people would vote for him second-time around, having seen everything that he had been up to since then, was beyond shocking. Thankfully, as we all know, it didn’t happen. Hoorah for that (and let’s hope that he does, in the end, accept the result!).

The other big news, at least as far as the UK media is concerned, is the success of the Pfizer vaccine (so far), which now seems to be the light at the end of the tunnel – BJ took great pleasure in announcing it at his press conference a couple of days ago, positioning it in such a way that you could almost think that he and his merry men had had something to do with it (actually, they have been very lucky over the last few days to have two such huge pieces of news to talk as that has ensured that no-one has been taking too much notice of the disastrous numbers in the UK just now). Let’s just hope that the vaccine is as good as everyone hopes, and will arrive as expected (the UK apparently has ordered 40 million pieces and hopes to have them by December – blimey, a huge pink pig just flew past my window).

Incidentally, during my now regular morning social media watch (again), I read a very interesting article from the Economist that is all about this Pfizer vaccine. The link is here as it is really worth a read:

I also saw quite a lot of Twittering about a talk that (my) Sir John Major gave a few days ago on the situation in the UK. I say ‘my’ as a few years ago Sir John visited Prague and I was invited by the then lady Ambassador to attend a breakfast with him, along with just a handful of other business people. I wasn’t, initially, that enthusiastic, having never been a fan of Sir John when he was Prime Minister (I was a young and rebellious left-winger at that time!). If you are old enough to remember him, you will know that he was called the ‘grey man’ as he came across very unimpressively on the TV (and the media hated him). His reputation wasn’t helped by him having an affair with another politician, Edwina Curry, who was extremely unpopular (probably because she was a woman, it was that sort of time (looking forward to comments on that!), and no-one could quite understand why (on either side!). However, on meeting him, well. How different was he in person! So charismatic, charming and interesting, I could have listened to him all day (and when he had left and I was saying goodbye to the Ambassador, she said ‘what did you think of him’ to which I responded ‘I think I am in love’, and her answer was ‘Oh don’t worry, Jo, everyone falls in love with him sooner or later!’).

Anyway, if you are at all interested in the situation that the UK is in right now, you might like to watch the video below (it’s a bit long, but worth it).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h93AZirB7rA

So that’s the UK and the vaccine covered. Meantime, the Czech Republic seems to be improving very slightly, due, of course, to the much stricter lockdown that it has been under for the last couple of weeks, and which I understand has now been extended. And here in Marbella – after five weeks of thinking that we are the luckiest people in the world, living a completely ‘normal’ life, with everything so well organised – here we go again on a second lockdown, although, thank God, not as strict as last time; restaurants, cafes, etc, closing from 18.00 onwards, curfew for everyone from 10.00 pm until 07.00 am, and no moving between municipalities. It’s a bit surprising as the figures are so low down here (Andalusia has seen them rising, but mostly due to Granada and Seville), but there we are. Let’s hope it is not the start of something nasty.

So we are back to our former ‘lockdown’ traditions; getting up early, studying everything we can find on social and other media – Jan is delighted that all of his old favourites are back and busy (the Alicante ladies have been thrown into turmoil with this new ‘moving between municipality law as we didn’t really have that last time, and it appears that the divisions between some municipalities are not very clear; apparently there is a popular shopping mall that has its entrance in one and exit in another – imagine the hysteria that that has brought about!) – and then exercise, eating, drinking, walking and occasional ‘worky’ or ‘housey’ things, in no particular order. Jan remains reasonably busy with ‘proper work’ whilst mine is pretty much non-existent, but I am keeping my brain busy with lots of writing – my book of blogs, new and soon to be daily lockdown blogs, blogs about hotels, blogs about pretty much anything I can think of really – whilst the rest of me has been busy hurling itself around the tennis court again (I am up to twice a week now, and knee is coping) and/or walking to the supermarket (yup, we are back to that as, even though we have a car now, the more we can move the better). And if all else fails, there is always the cleaning out of the pool (which, it now being Autumn, is a pretty much daily task) and/or disco/bollywood dancing, although I have slightly lost my enthusiasm for that at the moment. It’s going to be a long autumn/winter I suspect…

Hospitality in Crisis!

With the Covid-19 pandemic causing havoc all over the world, and the hospitality industry and those associated with it being particularly hard hit, I thought I would talk to some of my favourite hotels and restaurants to see how they are coping (if they are), find out what sort of marketing tips and tricks they have been using, and, hopefully, encourage people to visit as soon as they possibly can!

First up, Puente Romano Beach Resort in Marbella, Spain.

PUENTE ROMANO BEACH RESORT

Puente Romano Beach Resort (‘Puente Romano’) has always been one of the biggest jewels in Marbella’s crown, with its beautiful Andalusian architecture, award-winning restaurants, world-famous tennis centre and other ‘wow’ amenities.  Actually, many years ago, when we first realised that we could just about afford to look at buying a property in Spain’s Costa del Sol, we treated ourselves (in order to get used to the lifestyle!) to a stay in this beautiful hotel whilst we went house-hunting.  At one point, having not yet found anything suitable, I suggested that we give up on buying and instead book into a suite in Puente Romano for a week a month for the indefinite future, such was its appeal (and despite it being pretty expensive, I figured that it still wouldn’t cost as much as any potential property purchase!!) 

In the end, after two different visits we found our house, and since it is not so far from the Resort we walk or run past it on a more or less daily basis when we are in Marbella, and often visit one of its restaurants or the tennis centre (which has been home to many different international tournaments over the years, including the GB – v- Spain Davis Cup tie a couple of winters ago, and where, just recently, we were able to watch Novak Djokovic training before he set off for Rome – it’s that good!).    

This blog is not, however, a marketing piece to promote Puente Romano (although that would be very easy!), but since we have spent a good deal of time in Marbella this year (we set off from our home in Prague in the middle of March for a five-day break and ended up being locked-down for 100 days!) and I am telling everyone I speak to at the moment that Southern Spain, and Marbella in particular, is probably the safest place in Europe just now, it seemed appropriate to focus my first blog in this series (Hospitality in Crisis) on an hotel in Spain, rather than anywhere else.

I should just say here that all hotels in Spain had to close completely from 15th March until June 1st, so with the traditional summer holiday season about to get started, I assumed, rightly, that Puente Romano, and its sister Nobu Hotel Marbella (which sits on the same site and is under the same ownership) would have opened their doors up as soon as they were able (in fact, they re-opened on the 2nd June).  The first question I had, therefore, when I met with one of the hotels’ managers, John Thompson, was how things were going now in November, particularly with Spain being a ‘red’ country for most of Europe, and so many of the hotels around the town closed up and silent.  

I asked this a little bit cautiously as I had, of course, expected to hear a tale of doom and gloom – on our daily walks past we had seen signs of activity in the beach restaurant and the tennis club (as above!) but assumed that with Puente Romano’s 186 rooms, suites and 3 villas to fill, and Nobu’s 80 rooms and suites), as well as the fifteen restaurants and all the other amenities, life must be pretty tough – in fact the answer was very different.

First, the management had made the decision that once the Puente Romano opened, it would stay open (only closing if the Government demanded it).   A risky strategy in view of its high operating costs, but, on the other hand, a good signal to the outside world, particularly when so many competing hotels are closed.   It ensures that the hotel’s ‘regulars’ can be confident that if they book something for now or in the future, they don’t need to worry that it might yet get cancelled and they could have a battle on their hands to get their money back.  It also means that those regulars that are ready to travel continue to visit (both from inside Spain as well as abroad).  The hotel has also attracted new business from customers that might not, previously, have chosen it, but who have found their own regular hotels closed (despite the restrictions for most travellers into Spain, not everyone has stopped coming, and Puente Romano has been gaining a lot of new business from Scandinavia – hopefully, with the rule being that it is much more difficult to gain a customer than to lose one, these may now be new regular customers that the hotel has won over).

So whilst occupancy rates have been nowhere near what they would normally be for the period July 1st to end-October (although, unbelievably, the Resort had more Brits than ever in July!), the management has ensured that the staying open strategy has made sense, and unless there is another lockdown (which looks unlikely for Andalusia, with relatively low case numbers) the next couple of months up until Christmas, should continue to go in the right direction.  

So far as the restaurants are concerned, the fact that there are guests in the Resort ensures that they are not suffering quite as much as some of their ‘stand-alone’ competitors (in July, the hotel was busy ‘re-launching’ many of its restaurants whilst others in the town stayed closed… many for good); in any event, guests of Puente Romano right now are actually preferring to stay put and eat on site rather than head out into the Old Town or port, as would be the case during normal times.   But still, restaurant life is not easy, and Puente Romano and its range of restaurants is working hard to attract the locals (whether Spanish or expat), since just being open (even with reduced prices) is not enough – people’s perceptions have to be changed or enforced (all the restaurants are open, they have all the necessary safety procedures in place, they are not as expensive as people may think, etc), and this can only be done by getting the customers in to see for themselves. 

Puente Romano has, of course, a lot of advantages over others, since it is so much more than ‘just’ an hotel and it has a lot of different ways to attract visitors – even the fact that it is right by the beach gives it a marketing opportunity that others don’t have – you can’t fail to notice the restaurant that looks right out on the sea and one of its pools on the water’s edge.  What is interesting and relevant for this blog, though, are some of the ways in which it has kept its brand(s) out there, particularly during the period when it was completely closed and now, with a significantly reduced marketing budget.   These have included:

  • Adjusting its marketing strategy rather than sticking to the ‘same old, same old’; in general, Puente Romano’s focus is to offer customers more of a ‘staycation’ than a vacation, so in addition to the obvious attraction of the rooms all being very much self-contained, the marketing has been pushing the world class sports facilities (coaching by Djokovic’s brother anyone?), amazing ‘Six Sense Spa’, the variety of different eating outlets (helped by having one of the area’s top restaurants, Nobu Marbella, and its famous chef on site), all with a view to showing guests that there is something to be said for choosing a place where they can comfortably stay safely within the Resort’s own grounds and rarely venture out (other than to its beach).
  • Social media – has played a big part, especially when the Resort was closed, and has focused on giving visitors to its various sites ‘free information’ (always a good tactic to keep people returning) with tips for healthy living, eating, fitness, all provided regularly by the hotel’s in-house teams.
  • Whilst all of its traditional PR stopped whilst the hotel was closed, rather than staying that way once it was open, it actually stepped up its game by bringing in a full-time PR person from July, (Grace, one of the most impressive PRs I have met for a long time), who has been busy getting creative, launching a new ‘Ambassador programme’ for some of its celebrity guests, putting on special events in the restaurants and elsewhere to keep the locals visiting, organising media visits and so on.    
  • Using its own ‘PR people (Puente Romano employs various locals that it calls its ‘PRs’ who are freelance ‘influencers’ with far reaching fingers into different nationalities around the Marbella area, who are able to bring guests to use both the hotel and the restaurants on a regular basis
  • Events – as the team said, it would have been easy to stop the special events when things are so slow, but, again, with a focus on getting people into the Resort/its restaurants at any opportunity, they have been prepared to ‘bite the bullet’ and, actually, by bringing in sponsors from outside (there are still companies that are looking for promotional opportunities, even if they don’t have such big budgets anymore) they are running most events at least break-even if not a profit.   In fact, with a charitable element being an important part of most of the hotel’s events, the feeling is that it is more important than ever to be raising funds for local charities.

Having said all of that, life is by no means easy for Puente Romano and it would only need another lockdown or similar for things to get very difficult.   But as a marketing person myself, I find it very encouraging to see a ‘hotel’ that could, one might assume, have ‘rested on its laurels’ and just closed up until things improved, or at least reduced its offer, and instead stay open and put a lot of its focus on marketing more rather than less in order to make it all work.   Hopefully that is some food for thought for others.

You can find out more about Puente Romano Beach Resort on http://www.puenteromano.com. Prices at the moment are significantly reduced and the weather, as I go to print, is still, as would be expected on the Costa del Sol, beautiful and warm!

Lockdown here, lockdown there…

Well blimey. These last few days have been pretty grim outside of our own little bubble here in Marbella. The CR lurches from restriction to restriction, with the number of cases increasing every day and a new Health Minister being sworn in just a few days ago (and who would want that job eh?), whilst the UK has been getting more and more complicated and out of control (I had planned to say ‘where’s Boris’ again at this point, since he has barely been seen or heard of for weeks (I even wondered if he had got another dose of the virus (one of the reasons he disappeared last time, the other being a new baby, and surely he couldn’t have had another one of those, although knowing his track record, no-one would be that surprised…….??!!) But then he popped his head up last night and bang, the whole of the UK is off to lockdown (although in true BJ style not quite yet… they will give everyone until Thursday to party like mad, spread the virus as much as possible and then close it all down).

Sadly the UK isn’t the only one; even Germany (and frankly, wouldn’t most of us like to go and live there with Mummy Merkel, the only European (world?) leader that actually seems to know what she is doing) is seeing its case numbers soaring and they too are back into lockdown, along with France and some of Spain, plus others are following suit day by day.

Meantime, Southern Spain is turning into ‘the place to be’ as it seems that half of the Czech Republic has pitched up here in the last few days (even the Prime-Minister’s ex right-hand man passed through last week). It is no surprise, therefore, that most of our Prague friends have also legged it (or are planning to) – Adam is in Madeira, St Rostya is off to Dubai, Irena (my co-ex-puffer) went to France for a while (from the UK), kept on delaying returning and is now locked down for who knows how long. Then Jan’s friend Eva (the actress) is in Sicily (depressed, what actress wouldn’t be?!), whilst his footballer mate arrived here a couple of days ago, and a few others have asked us to look for places to rent over the coming months. Bloody Hell, Jan, the social secretary, will be in his element! By the way, one of our friends asked me to tell him to wear some sunscreen; don’t worry, he does… he just has that kind of skin – at this rate, as Uncle Christopher pointed out, when we do eventually get back, people may well have to ‘take the knee’.

On a similar Czech theme, and as mentioned before, there is a ‘Challenger’ tennis tournament taking place down the road from us at the moment and every day when we have left the beach after exercising we have popped our heads through the hedges to watch whoever is playing, and apart from a load of young Spanish, the rest seem to be mostly Czechs as well. We had hoped to go and support one of them ‘officially’ in today’s final since Jan has now hooked up with a Czech coach who offered to sort us out with tickets, but then he got knocked out (the player not the coach!) so we went off the idea. Meantime, in my own club, where I have now managed four training sessions without any knee problems, hoorah, most of the courts have been filled with kids from the Karolina Pliškova tennis academy, plus she herself pitched up again earlier in the week … soon we will have to head back to Prague to get away from all these Češi!

Seriously, though, I think we are very, very lucky to be here just now, and I feel very guilty writing all this fluffy stuff when everywhere else is so awful (although who knows what might happen next in Spain, since there is now some talk here, too, of locking down more, but we are not yet sure if that means everywhere or just certain areas). For now, though, we are making the most of the sun and outdoor life just in case (and encouraging anyone reading this to think about coming down and joining us before it’s too late).

It’s not just the Czechs that are turning up here in their droves though; quite a few of our British friends that have houses around us have been arriving, supposedly, in the beginning, for a few days to ‘get away from it all’, but now to stay indefinitely. Since, as mentioned before, Jan can barely walk down the road without stopping to chat to whoever he sees, irrespective of whether he knows them or not, we seem to be collecting a lot of drinks and dinner invitations (albeit, don’t worry, super-socially-distanced!). Last week we had dinner out with an English couple whom we last saw when they were leaving for a trip to Australia, and who regaled us with various stories, including their 24 hour non-stop flight back, with only their own ‘packed lunch’ to eat and entertain them (God, imagine that!), then yesterday we had drinks with the amazing sports photographer that we met at the gallery opening after lockdown and who would normally be travelling the world just now, but instead is grounded with very little to do. He has just launched a new website which he said he has been planning to do for years, but only now had the time (and if you like horses, like me, take a look.. amazing!):

www.poloartimages.com

That reminds me of one thing I meant to mention, and that is how many different things we have been doing to entertain ourselves, both during our 100 day lockdown here and more recently, just in case they are of interest to anyone else about to do the same. As I have said many times, my own work has dried up pretty much completely (and here I must just rant a bit, not for myself so much as everyone else in this position – furlough seems to me to be a good thing for some businesses, but what about the owner-run small companies, the service suppliers (yes, it is awful for hotels, restaurants, airlines, shops etc just now, but what about all the PR and advertising agencies and others that work for them?), and the actors, musicians, sports people, sports trainers and other self-employed), so I have been self-generating new projects, as I have mentioned before and I am sure I will mention again.

As has Jan (who, actually, stays relatively busy (bloody lawyers eh)) and who is now pondering taking an online course in cookery (I know, staggering!, although he did go off the idea a bit as he thinks that it may not be macho enough for him. I pointed out (and apologies in advance, just in case!) that most chefs that we know or who are ‘TV celebrities’ or both, are usually ‘tough guys’ (Gordon Ramsey anyone), womanising lunatics (no names) alcoholics (same applies) or just regular nutcases (or all of the above), which cheered him up and got him back on course).

I’ll be talking about all of this and more in the coming days, since the weather is changing, the fag-ends have stopped, and all the other entertainment we had at our disposal earlier in the year (cockroaches, noisy neighbours, whipping sticks etc) seems to have disappeared. In fact, life in Marbella is relatively normal (hopefully I am not speaking too soon)..!

Having said that, there was quite a big demonstration in the town a couple of days ago entitled ‘RIP Commercial Marbella’ and I am not completely surprised. I have mentioned before how many of the small and family-run shops and cafes are closed up now, and each time we go there the number increases. Even the churches are deserted (possibly the disinfectant mats at the entrances puts a few people off, along with the taped up pews….!). Seeing all of this and the lack of people (even though in the main town there were a lot more locals out and about) I can imagine that there will be quite a battle if the central government or Andalusia imposes any further restrictions down here … we shall see. They have, though, ring-fenced all of the different provinces for this weekend (bank holiday on Monday… again… the Spanish do love them!) so hopefully that is the way that things will continue for the meantime. Time will tell.

Barry, Boris and Barbara

I had quite a few comments after my last blog, particularly about calling the virus ‘Barry’ (in case you didn’t see it, my idea came from the way that all these bad weather situations get given affectionate names, for example ‘Storm Barbara’ which is lurking about in Malaga at the moment). Most liked the idea (although my friend Barry wasn’t very happy!), but one, Roger (not Federer), suggested that a better name would be Boris, which I loved, and which is why I will now be referring to the virus as such.

On the subject of Boris and so on, the last few days have been a bit crazy, to the point that I am having to keep away from social media (as much as is possible) otherwise there is the potential for never getting off it…. Chaos is reigning in the Czech Republic, with the Health Minister ‘doing a Cummings’ (hmm.. better explain that I think, since it has nothing to do with the UK Health Minister, Hand-on-cock….! In case you don’t know, in the UK the chief advisor (and dictatorial lunatic) to Boris Johnson is called Cummings, and he made a name for himself by travelling with his wife right across the country whilst both of them had the Boris, being caught out sightseeing and so on whilst the whole country was in lockdown.

In the CR, the Health Minister was caught, apparently coming out of a restaurant at 11.00 pm, without a mask, when all restaurants in the country are closed (other than for take-out up until 8.00 pm), and wearing a mask is now obligatory). Whether he will resign (he has been asked to, unlike Cummings) remains to be seen. Personally, I am still pondering it all (being a good PR girl) – my main question being, how did a photographer from the country’s main tabloid happen to be hanging around a relatively unknown restaurant in a quiet part of Prague at 11.00 pm at night….? I would hate to think it was a set-up, since that would beg the question, who would do that….??!!!

Spain, in comparison, is ‘relatively normal’; lots of fighting between the different political parties, Madrid and a few other areas in a sort of lockdown, and the usual mad stuff being put out there on the Spanish FB pages (caused, I might say, by most of the Spanish (and other) media stoking things up in an overly dramatic fashion, depending on which political party they are aligned to, but nothing new with that).

Down here, though, there is still not too much sign of the Boris (and hopefully there won’t be), nor ‘Storm Barbara’, and life is continuing in a fairly normal fashion (in a ‘new normal’ sort of way, and with a couple of additional restrictions added today) to the point that there is even an international tennis tournament starting this afternoon at the big tennis centre down the road from us, so no doubt we will be paying a visit to that in the next few days (peering through the hedges since no spectators are allowed).

With the last two days being full-on rain we had the chance to catch up with some work bits (Jan is quite busy still, whilst I have managed to ‘self-generate’ a few things (actually I have overdone it a bit so I have actually ended up doing more than I really wanted to!), preparing a new website focusing on hotels and restaurants, and writing a blog to go on it (which enabled me to spend a bit of time in the lovely Puente Romano hotel, talking hotels and restaurants with the GM and his PR lady.. and, really, I am never happier than when I am doing that kind of thing (with a few exceptions, particularly tennis, which I am going to be doing again this evening!).

Actually, during the course of one of my visits there I bumped into the owner of my absolute favourite shop in Marbella, which every time I have walked past has been closed. Apparently it is opening just a couple of hours a day (over lunchtime, which is the time we are least likely to be around there) but she offered me a ‘private viewing’ if I wanted to call her and she would open up just for me!!!! Blimey. How Madonna-esque is that?! I am tempted, of course, but being British and polite (and unable to say no and offend someone), I would, for sure, feel obliged to spend a fortune and end up with a load of clothes that I have no reason to wear anymore. Or should I, as a way to help the local economy? Still pondering (but not mentioning to Jan as I can imagine what he will say!!!).

Today, anyway, the sun is shining, so we have been out and about early on; me to the pool since I am playing tennis tonight (third time, and knee bearing up, although it is still relatively ‘gentle’), and Jan to the beach for his usual run, which then turned into a very ‘un’usual one, since it transpires that we now have to wear masks all the time, even when exercising. Jan, as mentioned before, whilst being very law-abiding (he is, after all, a ‘solicitor of the Supreme Court’, as he loves to tell me on a regular basis) absolutely hates masks and swears horribly every time he puts one on (which means that the air is blue for most of the day), and was not at all amused, therefore, to find out that his reading of today’s new rules was wrong (i.e. that it didn’t apply to the Marbella region) by being stopped by a policewoman on a motorbike and told he had to wear one after all.

Since he didn’t have one with him, he was asked for his identity card (in order to have a fine issued), which he also didn’t have…. luckily, and maybe it was his pretty blue eyes, the policewoman took pity on him and let him go…. this time… (incidentally, his new Czech friend, one of the many that he has picked up over the last few days, questioned him today as to whether ‘wearing a mask at all times’ included when lying on the beach, to which the response (after some research on the Alicante Ladies page), is that you have to wear when when walking or sitting, but not when lying down…. really??? No Boris germs are expelled when lying down? Or you can’t catch them when you are. There must be a joke in there somewhere……)

Anyway, other than discussing that and all the other usual things that keep us occupied (and no, no fags OR mattresses have arrived in the last couple of days…. ), we have meandered through the day and are now pondering whether I will wear a mask for tennis tonight and, if so, whether I will survive to talk about it tomorrow. We will see!

It’s raining Czechs!

Yesterday we woke up for the first time in months to pouring rain and news that ‘Storm Barbara’ is going to hit Malaga in the next few days (I know I’m not the first to say it, but isn’t it weird how all of these bad weather conditions get given such affectionate names?!). Whether it will hit Marbella, which lives in its own little bubble, remains to be seen, but let’s hope not (in fact, so far, no sign of a storm, but a full-on power cut for most of the day which wasn’t expected).

Meantime, the CV-19 virus is going nuts all over the world (maybe we should give viruses nice names too – I think I am going to call this one ‘Virus Barry’ from now on, or ‘Barry’ for short, which will be easier) – and whilst in Spain he still seems to be mostly creating havoc in Madrid and a couple of other areas (sadly, today, Thursday, Spain has reached more than 1 million cases, more than a third in Madrid… that’s pretty scary), there is no doubt that everyone is watching what he is going to do next, even down here.

With the news coming out of the UK and the CR even worse than Madrid, I am back to starting my days with a lot of social and regular news-watching, and generally raging on Twitter (I saw this picture on there this morning, which seemed particularly relevant…!) plus, sadly, this time around we have several friends that are suffering, either directly from Barry or from situations caused by him, which means a lot of messages and calls to be made before starting the day proper. It’s not that easy, therefore, to stay cheerful, unless a lot of radical action is taken, but I know that is how it is for everyone…..

Yesterday, due to the weather, which has continued today, was a bit of a ‘non-day’, very much like the early days of lockdown. Once we got moving, Jan went for one of the killer runs that I used to do (when I could) around the mountain (and whilst there was a break in the rain) and I walked – actually I spent my whole walk (an hour) on the phone to a friend who asked me if there were many people about, and I realised that I had actually only seen one the whole time I had been out … and even that was Jan!. It’s that quiet down here. Then a bit of work, and a bit of constructive stuff around the house (in my case) before heading to the supermarket, and that was pretty much it. Not very exciting.

The highlight of the day, though, was when we headed out later for a walk on the beach-track, once the rain had stopped. I am not sure if I mentioned it when it happened, but at some point during the lockdown period when we could first run on the beach, I managed to collide with a bench at the side of the track – my eye had been caught by a beautiful dog in the garden of one of the houses that line it, and I was so busy looking at him/her that I didn’t notice the bench and ran straight into it – in fact, I suspect that was the starting cause of my knee injury. Not only did the noise of the collision cause the people walking past to nearly have a heart attack, as, of course, did I, but it also made the dog jump out of his/her skin, and run off terrified. Since then I have looked out for it, but not seen him/her again until yesterday – here he/she is – gorgeous! (I have always loved chows – Jan does too… he thinks he is being clever when he greets one ‘cau chow’ and falls about laughing… hey ho).

Today, then, as already mentioned, we woke up to yet more rain, and I was back to yet more social media and Twitter ranting – pretty much bad news everywhere I looked. I think I am going to have to stop doing this soon as it is not a good way to start the day – Jan, however, tends not to look until later, and then, after a couple of glasses of wine he likes to get well and truly ‘stuck in’ – as I saw on reviewing FB this morning. Oh dear. The Alicante ladies must have missed him…… So, with the rain really bucketing down,, I was onto the bike for 45 minutes before handing it over to Jan, who despite being a ‘Gold PIM King’ is a bit of a ‘fair-weather runner’, and then it was pretty much work and TV watching for the rest of the day until late pm, when we were finally able to head out for our regular walk.

One really weird thing just as we got to the beach track; what first sounded like a swarm of bees above us, eventually showed itself to be a large black ‘drone’ buzzing about on the water’s edge. Since the beach was more or less deserted (obviously after all the rain) we couldn’t really understand what it was doing – was it a police-drone? We saw a lot of those about during lockdown, but never very close up. This one was almost like a live bird or something, since it hovered about close to the water and at one point flew right at us and hovered about 2 metres away from our faces. I found it all a bit spooky, but once it took off again we decided that we needed to find where it came from and who was operating it (since they couldn’t be far away). Sure enough, just around the corner was a young guy and a very pretty girl, leaning over the beach railings and guiding the drone back in. Jan (being Jan.. .you know.. got to talk to everyone), had to go over to ask what they were up to and find out more (although I wasn’t entirely sure whether he was more interested in finding out about the drone or the girl) – it turned out though that the drone could fly up to a distance of 7 km and take pictures while it was at it (which I thought was pretty amazing… who knew?)…. and not only that, guess what.. they were both Czech. Again.

Tomorrow, Friday, the sun should be out (25 degrees expected…sorry), so I imagine we will spend some time on the beach… but who knows…. it’s still possible that Storm Barbara will make her way here (being so close to the sea, the weather can change quickly). Let’s just hope that Barry stays away.

More soon.

The Czechs are here!

If you read this blog on a regular basis, you will know that I am always banging on about how organised Spain, particularly Andalusia, is right now; frankly at the moment it feels as if Marbella is just about the safest place in Europe! However, as you will also know, I get very frustrated by the outside world’s perception of it and how scared people appear to be to come here, despite the cheap flights and hotels, the weather (24 degrees here today, sigh) and everything else that makes it so special. That appears, however, to be slowly changing, as this last week we have seen quite a few tourists arriving, and have been bumping into a lot of Czechs!!!

The Czech theme started with a continuation of our fag-end drama. Last weekend, as I mentioned, threats of denunciation were hurled at the neighbours just behind us, and all seemed to have gone very quiet until we woke up the other morning and I went out onto the bedroom terrace to do a fag inspection, only to find a rather nice mattress lying on the floor, which had appeared out of nowhere. This seemed a rather unlikely retaliation, but with no way for it to have got there other than from the windows behind us, it seemed we had really started something…. first fag ends, then mattresses… what might arrive next? (The mattress, actually, was quite nice – it looked like something that usually sat on a park-type bench or similar, so I was quietly hopeful that one of those might follow, as it would actually look very good either on the terrace or in our courtyard).

But anyway, back we went to the Pueblo Manager, who wrote to the owner again, blah, blah, blah, and later in the day an elderly woman appeared by our gate, explaining that the mattress was hers and could she have it back (Jan, who met her, didn’t think to ask how it had actually got onto our terrace… for God’s sake….so that’s still a bit intriguing). Anyway, she spoke first in broken Spanish, so he suggested English, but that was equally broken, so he asked where she came from (Jan, being the linguist as already mentioned, will manage whatever) and yes, guess what, she was Czech. Not only that, but her family were emigres from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia (a subject that Jan is mildly obsessed with), so that made his day. (I know that this is a bit of a long-winded start to the ‘Czech theme, but stay with me on this).

THEN, that evening, we had drinks with our Czech modelly friend (the one we met in the art gallery) and she told us that Karolina Pliskova (one of the top women tennis players in the world) was here practising on the same courts as Djokovic the other week. Since I used to play on the court next to her when she was a junior at our club in Prague (just saying….!), that didn’t generate too much excitement from us, but the next day as we were heading to the beach, there she was, out sunbathing with everyone else – see her picture here and ours in exactly the same place later!

Jan has some fascination with Czechs abroad (no idea why, since he is not that fascinated when he is at home!) so every time he hears someone speaking the language, he has to stop and talk to them (actually, on reflection, he tends to stop and talk to pretty much anyone anyway (especially if they are attractive ladies), so he had a quick chat with her before we took up our usual places right on the edge of the sea. No sooner had we got comfortable, than two very pretty boys of about 10 appeared, kicking a ball around and wearing Slavia (football club) T shirts, so Jan (of course) called out to them in Czech to ask if they were real Slavia fans (since he is), to which they responded that yes they were and, in fact, Dad was a former player and was sitting in the beach bar (wouldn’t you know!) just along from where we were parked. That required us, of course, to leave via the bar (although no sign of Dad by then) and to wonder who we were going to bump into next.

We didn’t have to wait long. Next morning, as Jan was running to the beach, he was stopped by a couple out walking who asked in broken English how to find a place just near to our house, and, again, on asking where they were from (Jan always has to know for some reason, which sounds rather sweet, but can get awfully irritating…. a bit like being out for a walk with one of those dogs that has to pee on every tree….) was told that the guy was a Czech tennis player and he was here to play in a tournament this coming week… blimey. Needless to say, telephone numbers had to be exchanged and no doubt we will be off to watch that over the coming days, since it is actually looks like being quite a good one. I could go on a lot more, since we seem to keep on bumping into them (to the point that Jan has started hailing everyone that we meet in Czech, first, just in case they are) but I think that’s enough.

Mind you, it’s no wonder a lot of Czechs are heading over here just now, with the Covid situation as it is in the CR. At the moment it is difficult to know what to read and what to watch in the way of news, since what is coming out of the UK is absolutely dreadful, and the CR is not far behind.. and watching either or both are sure to whip me into a frenzy (and, in the case of the CR in particular, to have an even worse effect on Jan!) For sure, anyway, we won’t be leaving here any time soon. In fact, I have even started to do a little bit of work for a company here in Marbella, virtually for free, but who cares – it is giving my brain something to do and may turn into something more (I will talk about it once it is a bit more established).

From what I have been saying, you might think that it is all completely back to normal down here – and it is, up to a point. But what is clear is that it is not just a question of getting control of the Covid situation, then opening everything up and boom, the economy bursts into life – far from it. As I have said before, apart from people wearing masks and socially distancing, everything appears to be fine.. but with such a reduced number of tourists and with locals still being very cautious, a lot of people are already in a very difficult situation, and it is going to take a long time before the economy really starts to improve… virus or not.

Alongside all the shops and restaurants for rent or sale here, the roaring trades that the porn shops seem to be doing and the number of people that we are seeing begging on the street is, sadly, the increase in crime – not just the big stuff that is being reported (I think I mentioned before about a hotel being burned down (insurance?) and some other nasty things..). But now we are being warned about squatters breaking into houses all over Marbella and then refusing to move (with so many holiday homes standing empty and the law very relaxed on these things), plus one of our good friends has had her house broken into twice in the last couple of months (something that is never normally heard of down here).

Actually this last time was just a couple of weeks ago and was by a young guy (her son came home and found him) who literally ‘walked up the wall of the house’ and climbed in through the top window, and then, when he was caught, jumped straight back out, dropped to the floor more than 3 metres below and legged it (we decided he must have been one of those amazing ‘parkour’ guys…). Clearly there are, and will be everywhere, an awful lot of desperate people about. Which is very sad.

On that note, I am now getting ready to watch the latest BJ press conference in the UK (not that that will cheer me up!!). I have been tweeting all week about the situation there, whilst Jan is doing his bit on the Czech FB page (thankfully he has been leaving the Alicante Ladies group alone for a while)….. I’m not sure that either of us are achieving very much other than irritating everyone, but it makes us feel better. More on that soon!

Sandcastles dissolving into dust

So here we are, nearly two weeks since we arrived in Spain and it looks as if we ain’t going anywhere soon; the situation in the Czech Republic gets grimmer by the day (as, of course, does the UK, but who knows when we can ever get there!) so it looks as if we are now back into another, but this time ‘self-enforced’, lock-down, for another who knows how long.

That is not, of course, a hardship, and I have been reminding myself of that every morning, as despite all of the loveliness here it still feels pretty depressing, as I know it is for everyone else (unless they live on the moon or some other ‘Corona-free’ place that we have yet to hear about. That, actually, reminds me of an article I read on Twitter the other morning that talked about how the majority of people in the UK have no idea about what is happening elsewhere… I suspect that is the case in most countries as everyone is so focused on their own situation, but it seems to me that it would be useful for the media, generally, to give a much wider picture of the situation in some different places (Africa, Middle East, Latin America for example) in order to put the whole thing into a better perspective. Plus if everyone in the UK realised how just about the whole world wears masks all of the time, they might not fight against it so much…just saying).

So anyway, as I say, here we are again, back into our regular schedule of social media and news-watching then fitness training, sun-bathing, working and so on, all much the same as before, with the only difference being that we can actually go outside freely and the Marbella world is operating almost as normal (although not quite.. more on that later). We still try to speak Czech and Spanish during the morning (alternately, although I must say that in my case it is often together as I keep getting my wires crossed, maybe due to age or madness from the last eight months, or maybe I am just not much of a linguist – Jan, of course, flips from one language to another all day long and completely effortlessly).

That reminds me of my early days in the Czech Republic when I shared an office with a rather bonkers but lovely Czech lady called Irena, who was completely fluent in about 20 different languages and who could conduct conversations in all of them at more or less the same time, barely drawing for breath unless it was for puffing on one of the many cigarettes that would be burning in various ashtrays around our office – I, too, I am afraid to say, was a puffer, but only about 40 a day, unlike Irena, who was up to about 100 by the time she quit (she will kill me for saying all this). BUT THEN one day she returned from a trip to London and boom, no more smoking. She had secretly been for some hypnotherapy in a place that I followed her to soon after (best thing I ever did!), and many friends followed me .. so actually she probably saved all of our lives in the end!).

Still on the subject of fags, though (rather a smooth movement I think!), and the situation that I mentioned in my last blog. Having initially thought to storm round to our neighbours’ house and dump everything that we have collected on their doorstep, we decided that, in the spirit of good Pueblo relationships, we should go through proper channels to make a complaint (which meant reporting it to the Pueblo manager, who then sent a rude email to the owner of the building where the fags ends were being chucked from). And that resulted with an apologetic message from a rather grand Spanish guy who promised that it wouldn’t happen again. And it didn’t… until a couple of days ago, when we came out to check on the state of the now clean and empty pool and found about 20 new fag ends floating in a pool of dirty water. And since the only way it could have got there was by someone chucking it all over the wall, we are now moving into all-out war. Jan needless to say, and being a lawyer, has threatened all sorts of nasty things if this fag-harassment doesn’t stop, including just about the worst thing that you can do to a Spaniard, and that is to ‘denounce’ the owner in the local court (in Spain you can threaten murder, run off with someone’s wife, steal their dog, do whatever… but that all fades into insignificance compared to denouncing them!). We will see what comes next.

Sometimes it is very handy to have a lawyer in the house, but it can also be exhausting to live with (I can hear the comments already!!), since, as I am often being told, lawyers can’t help but have to argue every single point, irrespective of how important it is to one’s daily life – it is their training. My answer is that lawyers always like to see things in black and white, right and wrong, whereas we [former] PR people are more likely to say ‘what would you like it to be; black or white? I can do either’. I was thinking about this whilst walking on the beach track the other morning and pondering the Albanian comment (and the Albanian, although he has not been seen again, sadly!) that I made in my last blog (and on which I have had several responses) as it reminded me how we are so quick to base our assumptions on what we have read or heard rather than on fact – so our idea that someone Albanian must be a drug dealer or gigolo is based purely on the fact that we only ever hear about Albanians when they have done something awful (people trafficking, prostitution, etc) and all it would take is to get a few good Albanian footballers or something into the public eye to change that perception….

This then led me to think about Spain, and what a bad PR job they have been doing in regard to the virus (or, alternatively, what a good job other countries’ PR people have been doing to make Spain look so bad!). I know I keep banging on about it, but whilst it is all so well organised and safe here, it still seems that everyone outside imagines that it is the biggest virus Hellhole on earth, hence why pretty much no-one except us is travelling here. And that is starting to cause some really big problems that it is difficult to see the end to.

I have already mentioned how quiet the beaches are and all the businesses related to them, but the longer we stay here, the more we see how hard all the other businesses have been hit. Of course the hotels have suffered massively, although some are now open (Marbella being an ‘all-year-round destination’) and most of the restaurants, but there are so many other businesses that are allowed to be open but are not, since it is just not worth their while if there is no-one here. The lovely shops, the less lovely estate agencies, many different service companies, the publishing houses (the once-great monthly magazine, Essential Marbella, now reduced to a quarterly, due to so little advertising, events to cover, etc)… all of these businesses seem to get forgotten in the scheme of things.

Even our Slovak friend who builds the amazing sand castles that line the town beaches (he has a degree in sand-sculpture from, of all places, a university in Slovakia (who knew??!!) and who, we used to say, must be one of the richest men in Marbella, as every time someone walked past the statues they would hurl cash onto the carpet around them, and since the smallest coins seemed to be Euros, and about a million people passed each day…. need I go on. But, anyway, he has now been demoted to selling beach beds and umbrellas, so I doubt he is going to retain his title any time soon, and the lovely sandcastles that he made are slowly dissolving into dust.

Hey ho. I think there is only one thing for it at this point, and before I depress myself any further, and that is to go out and help the local economy. More from me soon!

In Spain – 10-10-2020!

Well, it’s hard to believe it’s already a week since we got here as the time since has just flown by. Despite the fact that the virus situation in Andalusia is pretty well under control, we seem to have gotten ourselves into a vague sort of routine again – a kind of ‘lockdown with a twist’ or, as some friends that we saw this week called it, ‘living our life how we want to live it, but with caution’.

Our standard day is to get up relatively early (in my case) to monitor social and regular media, although, and I hate to say it as everyone did warn me, I am getting pretty fed up with the constant ranting on Twitter (not me… yet… but most others) – which is mostly, of course, super-critical of what is happening in the UK (Covid and Brexit) and, of course, Trump – whilst, actually, there is some quite useful information on the Czech and Spanish Facebook pages that we follow – even the Alicante Ladies have calmed down a bit since down in Southern Spain life is almost normal (if you ignore the fact that everyone is in masks and socially distancing (almost without exception and almost too much) and so many shops, hotels and restaurants have closed down).

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Then, once Jan is up and about, we are back to exercising fiendishly – he is running, as usual, and I have been doing my Bollywood, followed by the 7 app and the old bike, but the big news for me is that on Thursday, after being given the green light by my physio, I was able to get back on the tennis court, after more than three months away! I can’t even begin to explain how fantastic that was.. I think I had sunk into a bit of depression, since there was a point when I thought that running (either on its own or after a ball) would never be possible again, but after a very cautious start and no pain, I was off – and yes, I could still hit the ball, and yes I could still remember how to run (but not too much as yet). And the best thing of all is that since then, my knee seems to be OK…. phew.

After exercise, then, (and sorry to say this) we have been heading to our deserted beach each day for a couple of hours – as mentioned before, usually there is hardly anyone there and the weather is lovely. Actually, though, the other day we had the added bonus of a very nicely put together young guy appearing, plonking himself down quite near to us (which, in itself, was a bit strange, with so few people on the beach) and keeping us both intrigued as he spent a good part of the time on the phone, speaking a language that we couldn’t distinguish. (The fact that he was a good-looking version of George Michael (alive, obviously), but with bigger muscles, dark glasses, near naked… (sorry… I’m not getting carried away… just saying that if you wear the kind of swimming trunks that only guys from Central Europe feel comfortable in (aka Djokovic) you might as well be…) was by-the-by, since it was the language that held our interest, honest). So Jan, being Jan, couldn’t help himself when we got up to leave, and had to go over to ask him what language he was speaking, and it turned out he is living and working down here, and is Albanian. I don’t think I have ever heard that spoken before. And the thing is, sadly (and apologies to any Albanians reading this as I know it is wrong) we spent a good part of our journey back home trying to decide (a) what he was doing here – bodyguard? Drug dealer? Gigolo? I erred towards gigolo, but I am a bit disappointed in myself for making such a generalisation… and (b) why he chose to sit right next to us when he could have gone anywhere on the beach (on reflection, though, and something that we often comment on (and it seems to be a Central/East European thing), is that you can sit down at the only table in a restaurant or similar and someone else will come in and sit more or less on top of you… so maybe not so strange), but, anyway, we wondered if he thought that we could be potential clients, or was just lonely. Next time we see him on the beach, Jan will, of course, be asking.

And then after the beach, we have been spending the rest of each day watching Roland Garros (needless to say Jan has been cheering on his new friend Djokovic, whilst I am still missing Roger), interspersed with bits of work, and then mostly eating at home and taking a late-night walk or, a couple of times, meeting friends for socially distanced elbow-shaking and drinking/dinner. I am conscious, though, that once Roland Garros is over I could, dare I say it, be a bit bored (especially if the sun stops shining), and since we may not head back to Prague quite yet (in view of the CR getting to be a bit of a mess), I have been putting together a few new projects which I will talk about again soon.

The situation in the Czech Republic seems to be pretty grim just now. Tne numbers are, of course, relatively low (in comparison to, say, the UK or Madrid) but the percentage of population is much higher than most, particularly in Prague. Barely a day goes by without us hearing of more friends and people we know with the virus (and just on that, Jan made an interesting observation that in March, when the virus first appeared in Europe, lots of actors and well-known personalities were quick to come out and announce that they have it (publicity?) but then it went quiet, since it all got very serious. But now we are seeing something similar in the CR, only it’s not actors and so on, but lots of people that we know on Facebook, where it seems to be almost a ‘badge of honour’ to announce that someone ‘has it’. I think we both find that a bit strange.. not sure that we would want to be quite so public about it, but maybe it is a way of letting others know if they have been in contact?). But, anyway, as I say, in view of all that, it looks like we will be staying put for a while!

Coming back to my new projects – one, as mentioned before, is to tidy my first 100 days of lockdown blogs into a shape that they could be published. That is nearly done, and having been through them quite a few times, now, I am reminded of some of our favourite activities, all of which are sure to form part of our life over the next couple of weeks, or however long we stay. First, wildlife. So far, no cockroaches (thank God for that) locusts or wild dogs, but one gecko (in the kitchen, nearly gave me a heart attack) and loads of mosquitos. No noisy boys in the apartments behind us, but an unnamed (as yet) neighbour who appears to be using our upstairs terrace as an ashtray (a window at the back of his/her house looks down on us, and it seems that he/she chucks their lit cigarettes out each time they are finished, whereby they land on our floor/table/chairs and make nice little burn marks)…. clearly they haven’t realised that a lunatic part-Serb lives here, but they will soon find out. Then all the other things; we are back to walking to the supermarkets, so I will report on that in due course, we have cleaned out the swimming pool (again, seemed rude not to) and are now getting ready to fill it again (same comment), and we have dug out our two metre stick in case we need it (and, of course, it may come in useful when we deliver the fag ends back to their owner later today.

And for sure there will be more bits and pieces to talk about soon.