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A year ago I was away on a research trip to Málaga, visiting wineries for an upcoming article in Decanter Magazine. It was just an over-nighter (March 11-12) and I packed a lot into those two days, arriving back home by train at about 10 pm, then finally getting home (taking the bus from the train station) by about 11pm. A hot shower to “wash the train off me” and then into fresh pjs, I got into bed just feeling happy to be home again.

During those two days travelling around Málaga in the Axarquía, and meeting up with many people, there was lots of kissing and close contact. And it was during this trip that I had what ended up being my LAST HUG… fuck.

Anyhow, the day after I got back, on March 13th, I went out to do some shopping and stopped in at a couple of bars for tapas and heard the first whispers that the bars were about to be shut down, like in Italy… like what? And then the following day, March 14th LOCKDOWN was officially declared. I made a last quick trip to the supermarket that afternoon to stock up on cat food (I always have plenty of toilet paper) and after that the world changed.
I’m going to say that in terms of COVID and what it meant, I had only become actually aware of it a couple of weeks previously, when Italy suddenly shut down – like say what??? – and was wondering what that would mean for us here in Spain. Because there was not much clear information available. I remember being “aware” of it enough that when I went to Ronda by bus the previous week on March 4th (again, to visit wineries) there were quite a few Asian people on the bus and it clicked that maybe they might be from China and have the virus. It was a passing thought but looking back it seems clear that the knowledge of a virus originating in China had already become public.

Then on March 8th I had what was going to end up being my last tapas tour, though of course I didn’t know it at the time. Even then we had gone from kissing cheeks to elbow bumps… so we knew something was up. And when we crossed the Avenida and saw the Women’s March one of my clients asked if it was a good idea for them to be doing this. I didn’t know what to say.

Likewise I was uncomfortable attending a annual wine event the next day (March 9th) in the Alfonso Xlll Hotel. I had met up with friends and we went there together, then met up with other friends, and omg there was so much kissing and hugging and everyone packed together in this enclosed space. And while there was some uneasy joking about “the virus”… we still had no real idea about it, but we all knew something was going on.

Looking back over those first couple of months of lockdown they almost feel like The Good Old Days, back when we thought this was going to be over by summer, and complaining about how we were going to lose the whole spring tourist season. My god how naïve we were. But at least there was a sense of us all being in this together. Then there was the spark of hope at the end of June when we were “let out” again. But of course everything was opened up too soon and too fast. Did we learn from this? Apparently not. We are now facing the FOURTH FUCKING WAVE and this time it’s with a whack of virus mutations because we did not do what we should have done from the beginning. Will the present vaccines (being s-l-o-w-l-y rolled out in Andalucía) be of any use against these new strains? Nobody knows. And still you hear people talking about “saving the summer”. I just cannot deal with this idiotic selfishness any more.

It seems clear now that there won’t be any return to anything even remotely resembling “normal” until probably next spring. After the first round of vaccines have been administered globally and we can see the results. All this talk about numbers going up and down. Dammit, they aren’t just numbers, they are people. People who were very sick, some of whom still haven’t recovered months later, and of course many who have died (“saving Christmas” was responsible for many extra deaths all over the world). I don’t know about you but the thought of doing this for another year… well, it’s hard. The hardest part being that it no longer feels like we are all in this together.