My journey to Spain

Dear everybody,

there are so many of you asking how I was and what happened to me, that I decided I better post it in my website. Thank you to so many of you who have contacted and asked, I was so overwhelmed and busy that I couldn’t write a personal reply.

As some of you may know, I was already very worried about the pandemic and how it was spreading in London. I contacted RBKC twice to call attention about it, as I was not sure we should continue with rehearsals, and it finally was the case they where cancelled.

I cant really explain how is it to have to be making provision for this whilst organising a matrimonial separation and a move to Spain in April because of my father’s health. It’s been double or triple hard, first emotionally but also for practical reasons: I was not staying at my home since mid January. I have to thank and I will be forever grateful to the Sing to Live member who hosted me for almost a month (you know who you are!–I’m not sure you want I disclose your name), and after that I spent some time in an Airbnb, as I needed to be close to Richmond to prepare the boxes.

As time was passing, I was realising I should leave sooner of what I was projecting; it all felt like I should rush, and also I was very concerned about leaving my son behind. Alvaro is just 18 and very unaware of what he should be doing when I told him it would be best he leaves the country, because if something happened to him, he would be without his mother or father or anyone from his family. I was sad that he decided he wanted to stay in London for some time.

But this sadness turned into panic when we where getting closer to the time and I understood that either Spain or UK could close their borders, and he could be locked in the UK without any family. On March 16, the Spanish government announced the closing of its land borders, allowing only citizens, residents and others with special circumstances to enter the country. I was by then staying in Airbnb and doing my best to make him understand it would be best that he comes with me. I was also urging the RBKC to consider whether it was worth the risk of continuing with rehearsals. When I was told that rehearsals where finally cancelled, I bought my ticket to Spain for the 18th March (Wednesday), but realising that it would be too late for me to reach Madrid, because Madrid is shutdown and also because the delicate state of health of my father would put him even more at risk if I go to my parents house and I carry any viral load.

So I really have to leave soon. If I fell ill, I didn’t have a home where to stay and isolate myself, and I couldn’t afford that, I don’t know what the provision would be for that, so I had to leave, and instead of going to Madrid I should go to Almeria, in Andalusia, where I have an aunt who said she was delighted to have me locked down with her if I can reach. I would fly first to Madrid and two hours later take a plane for Almeria. Still I was upset about leaving my son behind. I had allocated six days to make my boxes and get all my stuff together, but I had to do all this work just in two days. I have left a lot of things behind and take a lot of executive decisions on what to take and what I have time to pack.

Finally in the last moment I managed to make my son understand that he had to leave the UK before this gets worse and travelling is impossible. He accepted and I went to buy him a ticket to fly with me. This was impossible, no more tickets where sold for my trip.

This made things more complicated, as I had to be browsing internet for a long time trying to buy other tickets, but as I was paying for them, I would get a pop up notice saying “this flight is now complete”, and I wouldn’t be able to purchase anything!!!

Finally I was lucky. As I was trying to get him into ANY part of Spain, I managed to buy him a flight to Alicante. Not Almeria, but once he has crossed the border, I would manage to find a way to bring him to Almeria.

It seemed that I had everything organised. But I still had to do it!

And this was only the start!

So on the 18th I get to Heathrow airport. My flight had been cancelled. I feel borders will close soon. I stayed at the desk trying every possible combination, and finally got a ticket for Madrid, the most contaminated area in Spain. I would have to stay there overnight, and then get another flight to Almeria for the morning after. This means I would have to find a hotel, as I couldn’t get to my parents because of risk of contamination.

Notice how some people dress at the airport (Heathrow). And he was not the only one!

When I arrived to Madrid I was so shocked. I know this could happen in London in a couple of weeks, maybe less. Every shop is closed. Only chemists and supermarkets are open, but in order to get in, you must queue and be at 2 metres from anyone.

I queued for 1 hour to buy food. Police arrived and complained that we where not at 2 meters. There was a family with 2 kids. They sent the mother and kids home. Only one family member can shop. I found there where so many rules and profilactic measures I had never been told about!

I went to my hotel and ate the food, and yesterday, the 19th I took my second flight. I was very lucky because when I landed I realised that every other flight to Almeria that day had been cancelled.

But I was concerned about leaving my son behind, and worried about if he would make it, as I knew there had been planes forced to turn back and not able to land. Fortunately he boarded and was on his way to Alicante.

I really need to sleep!

I was by then already very exhausted. I tried to find ways for my son to get to Almeria, but the bus didn’t feel like a safe option. No trains. I tried to find a taxi to collect him from one city to the other, but nobody would want to do this. Only a taxi driver who was locked at home but was a good friend of my aunt accepted to do this drive, from Almeria to Alicante and back. This is 186 miles each way. Only an hour before leaving, the taxi driver expressed his concern about the road situation: there is police and the army in the streets and they stop cars in case that was not essential movement, and it might be difficult for him to justify that move. So I had to go with him to explain in case we are stopped by them, explain that I am the mother and that my son was working in UK and run out of money and had to come back.

However, we leant when we started out way, that this was now illegal. It is not allowed to go three people in a car, so we where risking being stopped and them asking me to get off the car. Still worth the risk, as I couldn’t figure out any other way.

Yes, the tins where disinfected.

We have been very lucky, as this worked out to plan. The taxi driver was a bit nervous about driving people who just arrived from London, but still did a fabulous job and now I am locked down in isolation in Almeria, together with my son, in relative safety.

Now the rules here are totally different. When I arrived to my aunt’s house, I had to remove all clothes and take a shower in hot water then put on clean clothes that I had to borrow. Suitcase is disinfected, all clothes are washed in hot water, shoes shouldn’t get inside the house. Nobody should be in the streets, unless you are going to buy food or to the chemist, and you must show your ticket to prove you really did that. Police and the Legion are on the streets to ensure that, and to control entry to supermarkets. Supermarkets are stocked and you can find almost everything because it is controlled who comes in, the separation distance between people, and they make sure you won’t be hoarding. You must take your own bag with you, and when you arrive home after shopping, put the bag to the wash if it’s made of cloth.

Every day at 12pm the church bells ring for the ill and for the dead. Every day at 8pm people is out of the balconies (not throwing themselves, eh!) and out of the windows, to applaud to the healthcare personnel, and sometimes, to sing. We all already know this, but this is one more of the moments in which you realise how much singing gives you strength and puts people together, and whilst we can’t hug each other, we can reach each other far with the gift of our voices.

Isolation means isolation: empty streets.

I can’t believe this is happening, but I would really want to be back in the UK to live, if I manage to organise it and once my family has been sorted and assisted. After all, now I am British, and I am possibly not the same person who left Spain in 2012.

Keep singing,

and take a lot of care of yourselves.

I would love to see you again when all this shit is over.

Warm virtual hugs for all,

Maria xxx