So, a week ago today we were given a day’s notice that we were going on lockdown. Luckily, I live in Spain. The weather was warm last weekend, and we could spend time on our terrace. Then the clouds came in, and they have stuck around all week, just like my family members. We can’t get away from each other.
I’m luckier than some, I can escape next door and work by myself in my neighbour’s holiday home. There are lovely views, over the swimming pool, of the mountains in the distance. I can see the palm trees swaying in the wind, and I can follow the dark clouds across the sky.
The great thing is that the clouds will blow away soon and the warmth will be back, that is why I am an expat in Spain. The sun always comes back to warm us up. We also know that the coronavirus will go away at some point and we will return to normality.
In the fifteen years I have lived and worked in Spain, I have seen a financial crisis in 2008, and a couple of devastating storms, but we have always come out the other side, and been cheered up by the warmth of the place. The weather helps, but the general Spanish way of life helps us through these moments. No panic, everything gets done in the end, sometimes I wonder how, but it always gets done.
So, I survived my first week of lockdown working. Not a bad week, I’m being upbeat, there is work to be done. My job is to help clients save money when exchanging currencies, and that doesn’t stop because we are on lockdown. I’ve spoken to plenty of my working partners, and we are all working as hard as ever to do our jobs and help our clients.
This time on a Friday, I would be looking forward to going for a quick drink overlooking the sea with a couple of my working partners. That’s not happening today, but we have just had a group WhatsApp chat and wished each other a great weekend.
Tomorrow evening I will be on a video call with my brothers from New York, South of France and Monaco, and we are going to have a chat and a few remote drinks. We normally only get together annually, but this situation may bring us closer together as we have our weekly beers together. Always look for the silver linings, they are out there.
Today is a holiday in Spain, but what difference does that make? I am still not going out, and the internet still works, and the financial world still wants US Dollars.
Stick to the routine! My alarm goes off as usual, and so does Claire’s. “Why are you getting up early, when there isn’t home school today?” I ask innocently. The grumpy reply was along the lines of, forgot to change my alarm, please go away quietly and leave me alone. I understood the message.
I’m at my desk at 07:30 and ready to go. Morning stuff done, and I’m off to my own kitchen for a coffee. Still all quiet, until I turn the coffee machine on. Obviously, the volume of the machine increases when the boys don’t have to get up for school. “What’s that noise?” gets shouted from one of the bedrooms, not “Good morning Glenn, did you sleep well?”, I replied that I was getting a coffee and then returning next door to do some work. Apparently, that warrants a grunt from the teenager.
It gets to mid-morning and Claire visits me at my desk. She asks me why I am not working from home, as there isn’t any home schooling. I point out the safety of my environment – no teenage boys! Five minutes later and she is back with her laptop, maybe she has an allergy to teenage boys as well, and she is their mother. We are now talking of reimbursing my neighbour for their electricity, maybe she is moving in permanently.
Lunchtime and I am by myself again, school teachers seem to have an inbuilt body clock for their breaks. I’ll cram in some client calls while it is all quiet here. I used the time well, it’s a lock down, it’s a holiday, but everyone is desperate to work. Even my brother from New York FaceTimed me. You would think as he is senior management at an FX company, and I do FX it might be about the chaos in the FX markets, but no. He is organising a brothers FaceTime drink on Saturday evening (Europe), lunchtime (NYK). Four FX brothers have a beer together from NYK, Spain, France and Monaco, to discuss brother stuff. To the rest of the world that will be rubbish, but we will put the world to rights and compliment each other on the inherited Tullett good looks. What could be better?
I have now not left the confines of my property and my neighbour’s since Saturday, when I went food shopping for our little family group of one girlfriend, Claire, and her two early teenage boys. The reason I include my neighbour’s property is that it is their holiday home, they are not here, and they have something that is more important than anything these days, not UK toilet paper, but internet.
After a sunny Sunday, when we would have normally gone to the beach, and had a couple of drinks, it was pointed out that a little bit of gardening might be in order. So, in true bloke mode, I found tools of various sizes that only had one job, and that was to cut things. Off I went and randomly trimmed or massacred, depends on whose point of view, various growing organisms. Looking back, I think it is clear, even though I have a City and Guilds qualification in horticulture, why I did not take up gardening when I moved to Spain. The good thing was that after all that manual work I obviously deserved a beer or two.
Sunday evening, we sat down as a family and discussed how work and school will be conducted from home. Good news for me, I was immediately banished to next door to be by myself, the boys were allocated a spare room and two desks created, Claire taking the kitchen to do her online pre-nursery teaching.
Monday morning; I change nothing to start with, alarm clock goes off, wash, clean teeth etc. get dressed, but wear jeans and t-shirt. My commute is 2 minutes, I’m up and running easily by 07:30. I do my reports and pick up on overnight messages. 08:30 and time for coffee as per normal routine. I venture back, I open the back door, I close the back door, but I haven’t gone in. It is chaos, lots of stress, boys think it is a holiday, but their classes start in less than 30 minutes. Leaving that to Claire. I return to my area to see what must be done for my work.
We survive the first couple of days; the boys seem to know they have lessons; Claire is on top of her stuff, and I am making sure I am structured with my work. I take regular breaks, and occasionally check that the boys are working. To me it looks like a YouTube monitoring set up, but they assure me it is break time and all is above board – I have my doubts. I report my findings to Claire, pick up food and drink and return to my peaceful station.
I have found that I am ‘phoning more now, I need to have conversations. I have had ten-minute calls with other men. That’s unheard of; normally we make plans by text to meet in the pub, we meet and then talk rubbish, and claim we have had a great time. Now I’m asking, “how’s the family?” and “have you been shopping?”, it surely is a new world.