Stroud’s Sarah Phaedre Watson writes from Spain (Malaga)

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Sarah has been a Stroud resident for 12 years and is a regular contributor to many local projects. She’s currently living in the mountains near Malaga – waiting for a “rescue flight” home:

“I’m stranded in Spain, which seems a strange sentence to write – as we’re all living in a strange limbo right now – what difference does it make where? Well, the virus is more prolific here – and we’re a few days into ‘social distancing’ measures that have been brought into force by the government – the UK isn’t far behind though, and I wanted to share a bit of what it feels like to me, here in your future.

It’s quiet, unnervingly quiet – we aren’t allowed out onto the streets unless it’s for something really specific – like medicine, or to get food. There are no cars, but you can hear the most beautiful bird song – the air smells really fresh and clean.

The supermarkets that have been so full of people desperately searching for some comfort and control in the purchase of reassuringly mundane objects are deserted. Only one person is allowed to enter at a time, and you must be wearing gloves.

It’s ridiculous, and reassuring – both at the same time.

Police stand guard, and the few staff seem solemn – you can’t go within around two metres of them – there’s a clearly defined line that can’t be crossed.

Children are not allowed outside at all, but if you peer through windows families can be seen crowded around TV screens that seem swamped by the families surrounding them. People play cards, or row. They’re talking to each other.

Occasionally a police car will patrol the towns and villages, encouraging people to go home – the police wear masks, and gloves too. We’re all the same, quiet communities gently struggling with the same uncertainty.

I’m told that every evening as the health workers change over shifts, a loud applause fills the streets – a resonating respect for those who are working so hard to protect the people we all love – no one here is going to put them under more strain, or put the old and vulnerable in more danger for the sake of ‘self’.

This is new, strange, but we’re adapting – we’re all obeying for our communities and each other. And somewhere, somewhere under all of the quiet obedience there’s a fire starting to burn. The people of Spain are watching the government, they’re giving them perhaps two weeks to show that they’re keeping their side of their bargain.

It’s a precarious contract.

People are angry that it took the government so long to act – there are whispers of discontent at how some people are being treated – there’s a growing chorus for change.

For now this is our new normal, and it’s ok UK, you’ll be ok.

But a change is coming.”

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