In our January issue we usually focus on the events of the past year. But last year offered one event that was so unexpected, so shocking and so unforgettable that everything else pales in comparison: Lockdown.
In late January, Spain’s first case of coronavirus was registered in La Gomera. In February, 700 guests were quarantined in a hotel in Tenerife when an Italian tourist tested positive. As cases rose and Italy became the first country in Europe to lock down on March 9th, many on Lanzarote still looked forward to St Patrick’s Day celebrations and carnival parades.
Others sensed something was coming, and some supermarkets saw their shelves stripped of pasta, water, canned goods and toilet roll, as schools closed and sporting events and carnivals were cancelled.
Then, on the afternoon of Saturday 14th March, Spain’s President Pedro Sanchez declared a state of alarm that prohibited anything but essential travel. Bars and shops were closed immediately, and thousands of bewildered tourists were evacuated over the following days.
That was the start of seven long weeks of confinement, with only those in essential jobs allowed to work, and outings only permitted to buy food and supplies, walk dogs or care for others. During those weeks we were introduced to face-masks, hand sanitiser, balcony clapping, rainbow posters, health workers singing Happy Birthday to confined kids, and much, much more.
Musicians broadcast live from their living rooms, and cooks, fitness instructors and many others also got in on the act. Paradoxically, many of us had more contact with family and friends than we’d had for ages – it was face time rather than face-to face, but it still counted.
We also saw suffering on a scale we’d rarely seen before, as the money simply ran out for hundreds of people.
We talked to three Lanzarote residents who surprised themselves during those unforgettable 4 days, but if you’ve got a story we’d love to hear it, too.
Did lockdown catch you out?
It was a hell of a surprise. The police came to the bar at 11 on the Saturday and told us we had an hour to shut down for two weeks. I’d prepped 0 Sunday roasts!
Did you follow the rules?
Very much so. I’m diabetic and asthmatic and so in a high-risk group, and I didn’t leave the house for six weeks. We know more about the virus now, but back then it was pretty scary
Tell us about the baking.
After about four weeks it became clear that a lot of people were having financial struggles. The ERTE (furlough) payments were late in arriving and others weren’t getting anything. I heard that Gary B Bowman from Europ Foods was delivering to people in need so I asked him if they could use pies and cakes. He said yes, brought me flour and sugar and I provided everything else. My oven’s not very big, so it took two days of each week.
What were you making?
Pies, mince and onion, steak and ale, corned beef and potato, quiches, chocolate, lemon and orange cakes.
Stop it, I’m starving. Worst aspects?
I cancelled some surgery I’d been waiting for after the lockdown – I didn’t want to take the risk of going to hospital – and I still haven’t had it yet. Also, there’s a three-year old and a five-year-old in our family, and it was hard for them. I bought them both bikes on the first day they were allowed out.
Any positive sides?
Spending time with family, realising life’s too short to hold grudges, and the prevention measures meaning I haven’t had a cold or the flu for ages.
What about lessons?
I think it changed everybody, made us more aware of life and how it can be taken away, and also made us more aware of other people’s needs.
David Timmons and Susana Fondón
Shortly after Lanzarote’s lockdown started, musicians and entertainers began to livestream performances from their living rooms. It was a way of staying in the spotlight while everything was closed, as well as a new, intimate way of enjoying music. In Puerto del Carmen, Joey Bracken and his friend David Timmons noticed the trend and got to thinking…
David: Looking back, it was scary. The lockdown started just before St Patrick’s Day, and we had Irish musicians booked to come over to the Harbour Bar. When they closed us down for two weeks I initially welcomed it, thinking it was a bit of a break. Nine months later we’re still closed. It’s been hard, but it worked.
How did you come up with the idea for Lanzarote Musicians Unite?
After a few weeks it became clear that people were having trouble. ERTE payments weren’t arriving, others had no payments at all. Joey and I just thought “This is wrong.” We’d seen the online concerts, and wondered if we could raise some money to help.
Why did you choose to raise money for Emerlan?
We preferred to have a registered charity, and we were told that Emerlan were distributing food and supplies to those who needed them and couldn’t leave their home. They’re usually an emergency / rescue service, but this was a different kind of rescue. That’s when I asked Susana to be brand manager.
Susana: I took over the press, the publicity and helped translate for the Spanish community. We even ended up getting covered on BBC radio in England.
What was your target?
David: We set a target of €10,000, hoping to get €5,000, but it just took off. There’s so much love for Lanzarote back in Britain and Ireland, and local businesses were piling in and offering prizes for the raffle. The concert went on over the weekend, and the raffle followed the next Friday.
How much did you raise finally?
€53,329. A straight €51,000 after Gofundme took their cut. It was amazing. One woman just gave €1,000 and we were never able to find her to thank her.
Wanda Knights online fitness classes drew followers from way beyond the island, but when she wasn’t putting her Worldwide Warriors through their paces, Wanda was cuddling up with a sheep.
Tell us about your sheep, Wanda.
He’s called Ronnie, and he’s a Saharan Redcoat. Three days before lockdown, a friend asked if I minded bottle feeding a lamb, and we ended up spending lockdown together. Me sitting on the bed, watching TV, cuddling a lamb. I loved it, especially hearing his happy little feet running round.
Can you house train sheep?
Not really, and the poo and wee started to become a problem. Also, the testosterone – sheep can chew things and butt things. He became a full-blown terrorist so I got him a pen outside, but he cried all night long. Sheep are such social animals, so I got another sheep, Reggie, to keep him company. Now they wake me at the window each morning.
What do they eat?
There’s special grain for sheep, but they also like hay, strawberries, cucumbers, salted crisps and my face powder.
Do they give wool?
No, but they love being brushed. And their poo is great fertiliser.
Why did you start doing fitness classes?
I thought we were all going to die Seriously, the fear was immense, and I wanted to leave a good impression. Then I saw I had 5,500 views and couldn’t believe it.
What’s the response like?
It’s great. There have been the odd person trolling, but my warriors usually sort them out…
Getting better, but it’s still tough. As a masseur what I’m seeing is lots of pain and injury that’s caused by fear and stress. This year’s going to be a challenge, and I’ll be focussing on therapy and healing. It’s not the time to torture people in fitness bootcamps. We need to build our defences.
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