Illustration by Mr Ze, Solo El Pueblo...

Dispatch from a Spanish Lock-Down Episode 7 by John Miskelly

Apr 09, 2020

Thanks to Spanish artist Felix Rodriguez Fernandez aka Mr Zé for the above illustration. More of this series and other pieces can be found at

In it for the long haul; “What did you do during the Coronavirus crisis, granddad?”

Spain: 135,032 cases
Asturias: 1,664 cases

The lockdown’s been extended again. We’re in this until at least the April 26, except according to Pedro Sanchez it’ll probably almost certainly possibly be for a bit longer. The logic of the two week extensions—again; my own speculations —is that mass indefinite house arrest in is a bit fascistic and anti-constitutional when you do it all in one go and it’s much more palatable and easier to swallow if you cut them up and serve them in individual chunks. That’s where Hitler went wrong; he should have just announced 312 individual blocks of emergency powers over twelve years and he’d have gotten away with it. “Sorry, still no guarantees a Communist Jew won’t burn down the Reichstag again so no jazz for another two weeks until we get to the bottom of all this.”

Actually it’s because it gives Pedro a chance to put each extension to parliament and the other parties to have their say on the matter, which is completely in line with the democratic principle, but I had to do some taxing math to do that gag so it stays.

The sense of time being robbed from you, the grieving its loss, can lead to all kinds of existential rabbit holes
This is not good news for me, and for folks reading this in the U.K. or U.S. it’s a harbinger of what’s in store for you. We’ve more or less lost spring and summer looks a little peaky. This is a blow that it’s best not to dwell on. The sense of time being robbed from you, the grieving its loss, can lead to all kinds of existential rabbit holes, which itself leads to more wastefulness, as you stare melancholically out the kitchen window at a seagull sit and in turn melancholically wonder where all the free patatas bravas and tortilla de patatas they took for granted have got to. We’re all missing our free tapas mi amigo plumoso.

Bear with me on this, but in a strange way those health and essential workers on the frontlines of this fight—rightly venerated all over the world—are privileged. That’s not to understate the danger and stress and trauma they will or might witness and experience, but when all this is over and consigned to the school history text books our kids will draw penises in in years to come they’ll be able to look back and say they stepped up and did what needed to be done.

They’ll be able to say it was their generation of nurses and doctors and striking retail and service industry workers who made a living minimum wage, universal healthcare, paid sick leave, and a robust, well-equipped, and decently paid public sector the political sacred cow it should be. The vested interests will fight back with their all their puppet politicians and compliant hacks at their financial disposal and it’ll be up to all of us to deconstruct what is demonstrably insane and build what we know to be just. But it’ll be those aforementioned groups who we’ll laud and cite as examples of what our new social priorities should be. I predict statues, maybe even public holidays.

Meanwhile the rest of us, and despite the fluffy rhetoric of “we’re all in this together” (we’re quite obviously are not), are stuck in our houses “fighting” the virus by not doing anything. Fair enough, modern technology lends itself well to mass gestures of solidarity and the fermentation of righteous indignation, but there’s only so many tweets you can re-tweet, petitions you can sign, and money you can donate.

When our grandkids, pausing momentarily to stop drawing dicks in their textbooks, ask us what we did during the coronavirus
Really we’re bystanders. When our grandkids, pausing momentarily to stop drawing dicks in their textbooks, ask us what we did during the coronavirus we won’t be able to say “I saved some people from actually dying” or “I drove the trucks that kept the shop shelves full.” But that also shouldn’t mean the best possible answer we can give is “I won the Champions League with Aston Villa on ‘Legend’ difficulty on Fifa 20” or “I watched every single episode of Community and never even changed out my pajamas, even the season where Dan Harmon was fired.”

the best possible answer we can give is “I watched every single episode of Community and never even changed out my pajamas."
A first port of call for Brits and ‘Mericans should be looking into the possibility of joining a local mutual aid group. I had a search around online for the equivalent here in Xixón and it seems these roles are already filled by police and already existing services, which feels a bit like going on a critical mass and remembering you already live in Amsterdam; well-intentioned altruism positively neutralized.

After three weeks of absolute lockdown (no outdoor exercise for Spaniards, unlike the U.K., where they’re currently whining about not being able to sunbathe or picnic and seeking mental refuge in mind-bendingly thick conspiracy theories. Some real Blitz spirit there chaps) I feel like something of a lockdown veteran. I’ve got a full two weeks on you. And, when you consider that the rapidity of events now makes a week feel like a year, simple math and logic says I’ve got a good two years more lock-down battle-points than you rookie noobs. I bet you hadn’t even heard of lockdown battle-points until just then. It’s because you’re a rookie noob.

My first bit of advice would be to find a project. Something difficult and unfinishable but with short- and medium-term rewards.
My first bit of advice would be to find a project. Something difficult and unfinishable but with short- and medium-term rewards. I found learning/improving at musical instrument to be perfect, particularly the aspects of theory you might have skipped or ignored because they’re used less frequently in your usual genre. I would also recommend learning a language; I used both Memrise and Duolingo when I was starting out in Spanish. Once you reach a certain level but can’t manage regular novels, graphic novels in certain languages can be downloaded digitally. Gardening and veg growing seem to be popular among those who have the means, and frankly the less it’s dependent on the internet and screens the better. There’ll be times when lethargy or laziness means you don’t fancy doing these new projects, to which the only answer is to begin doing it. Literally pick up that instrument and sit down at that desk and begin to do it—break the barrier between thinking about it and doing it and hey presto you’ve killed an hour debating with yourself whether to reduce a largely blameless centre-left politician to a crude Hitler analogy.

break the barrier between thinking about it and doing it
TV and movies do pass the time but it’s a passive activity, particularly if it’s not a very challenging film/show. What you’re looking for is some kind of sense of achievement. I’ve found taking deep dives into deep cuts of favorite directors useful in that it gives an element of exploration and discovery. Some are just more curious than enjoyable. Others are just bad. But it’s expanded your knowledge of that person’s process, how Jim Jarmusch got from Stranger Than Paradise to Patterson, or how Noah Baumbach went from Kicking and Screaming to Oscar nomination.

I’ve also found that the more removed these films are from The Before Times the less they can invoke any kind of morose sense of loss. Choose stuff from three decades back. It’s an alien world where even people doing the things you used to do don’t actually look like those things. Like; why do those beer cans open all weird like that? What’s that thing with the handset and the coil connected to that thing with numbers on? Likewise with books try to tick off the classics you had to pretend to understand the reference to that time you met that one friend of a friend. Pop culture feels less of a waste of time when it’s edifying or might give you an advantage in a future pub quiz/social confrontation. If you’re looking for inspiration browse through UK director legend Edgar Wright’s personal 1000 favorite movies. (It’s in chronological order; they’re not all that old.)

Almost a month into my quarantine—and while I wouldn’t say I’m enjoying every aspect of it and have my lapses in optimism—there hasn’t been a point where I’ve been lost for things to do; between exercising, writing these, playing guitar, practicing Spanish, reading, watching films and preparing every meal I eat myself I’m positively busy. Being cut off from some aspects of our life shouldn’t mean these weeks and months become a write off.

Next time: Lockdown Battle-points. What are they, how do they work and how many do you have?

Livestream gig of the week goes to Weakened Friends.

The curve is officially plateauing. Dedos cruzados ¡Solidaridad para siempre!

John Miskelly lives in Gijón/Xixón, Asturias, Spain. He is thirty-four years old and smells of disinfectant.

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