20.03.20 — Journal

Life Before Lockdown

In a stark contrast from my last post, in which I spoke about a trip from last month across Europe and all the way to Amsterdam, I write to you all from a country in complete lockdown. Here in Spain, all but essential travel has been banned, and so I’m now cooped up in my flat until further notice.

It’s a somber time, and something which I’ll touch on in a more reflective post at a later date, but for now I’m going to focus on the positives. I have some fun updates to share from before these measures came into place, and I must also give a huge shoutout to all my colleagues that make up the Erretres team – in a few short days, we’ve managed to move our entire operation online, and we’re all now working from home and as productive as we ever were. No small feat!

Anyway, let’s get back to pre-lockdown life, which I unconsciously but thankfully made the most of. In sharp contrast to the frostiness of Amsterdam, Madrid was just beginning to warm up, and so this meant plenty of outdoor time and wanders around the city to take in the upbeat atmosphere. One evening, I headed down to the river to watch the sun set and advance with reading my book, which I had abandoned somewhat after ditching the train to work in favour of a lift with a colleague.

The sun sets on a red building in Madrid, with trees and a fountain in the foreground.
La Puerta del Sol in Madrid, with the famous Tío Pepe neon sign.
Old text on an orange facade reading "Mercado Santa María de la Cabeza".

At work, I was also presented with a lovely surprise, as the U-Tad University sent me a wonderful gift to thank me for my participation as a speaker at the Prisma Design Fest a few weeks ago, an event which I documented in a blog post afterwards. I was chuffed to bits with my new fancy pen and a fabulous design book!

A pen in a box and Spin 360 design book.

The weekend after, I headed into the fancy Salamanca district of Madrid and met up with Soyoung, an ex-colleague from Erretres. We met at a lovely little café for some brunch and a much-needed chat to catch up on everything, from our work lives to what it was like to live as a married woman after her lovely wedding last year!

I sit next to a large stand with different brunch dishes on it.

I always fancied myself as one of the elegant ladies who lunch.

During our chat, we talked about her family back in South Korea and how the coronavirus was just beginning to spread there, and at that moment we had no idea how soon it would come and change everything here in Spain. Quite the foreshadowing…

The preceding weekend was to be, without anyone’s knowledge at the time, our last weekend of freedom for a while. Thankfully, two friends were celebrating their birthdays that week, and so the days were to be filled with fun evenings in great company.

This series of shenanigans kicked off with a trip to see “La Jaula de las Locas” (literally “The Cage of the Crazy Ladies”), a hilarious piece of theatre led by drag queens and some big names in Spanish showbiz. After paying for the cheaper seats, Bogar (the birthday boy), Hugo, and I were thrilled to be told that we could have a free upgrade, and took our places near the stage to enjoy a few hours of riotous scandal and great laughs.

A curtain on a stage reads "La jaula de las locas".
Hugo, Bogar, and I pose for a photo at the theatre.

I then found myself back out in the city a couple of days later, as Luis was also celebrating his birthday, and I was excited to see him again after he left Erretres a while back. A huge group of us gathered in a bar in Lavapiés, and we were all soon tipsily away, chatting (see: shouting, this is Spain after all), nibbling on some lunch, and roaring with laughter as he opened a few presents (including a prop of a severed foot, brownie points if you spot it in the photo below).

As the celebrations had kicked off at 2pm, I foolishly assumed that this meant that there would be time to head home for a siesta in between the afternoon drinks and the evening’s party, but I was mistaken. Instead I was informed that we’d be heading off to a party called Tortilla, which is named as such as they serve portion of tortilla (Spanish omelette) in the club. Yes. At the bar. In a club.

After a hilarious taxi journey, in which many of Luis’ lifetime friends asked me about my time in Spain, we rocked up at the club, and I was informed that they kick everyone out at 11pm – that’s my kind of club! We headed in, were joined by more friends and colleagues, and boogied on down until the very pleasant time of 10pm, when I said my goodbyes and hopped on the metro back home. I wish all my nights out ended on such a civilised note!

The sun sets over the financial district in the north of Madrid.

As I’d been out with Luis and company that evening, I missed out on the second night of celebrations for Bogar’s birthday, but I had secured him a great present to make it up to him: a trip to Hammam Al Ándalus, an Arab baths experience hidden in the city centre.

Naturally I don’t have any photos from our trip, as it was a lovely opportunity to disconnect, bathe, and enjoy a relaxing massage just as the coronavirus panic was hitting Spain, but we had a lovely time – even if Bogar was somewhat hungover! I do, however, have a photo of the churros which we devoured after a lovely post-bathe lunch – it may have been a mistake to book our two-hour slot for 2pm without having any lunch first!

There’s nothing like a big portion of churros after a steak lunch.

Churros and chocolate.

After this lovely weekend, the fateful week began. Monday began with business as usual, and ended with the whole of Spain on complete lockdown and everyone in obligatory quarantine. As I mentioned at the start of this post, I’ll be following up over the coming days (and perhaps even weeks) on the rapid switch to working from home and what it’s like to be on lockdown by myself.

But hey, it’s not all bad – I’ve been able to pull my favourite game, Roller Coaster Tycoon 3, out again, and there’s a new season of Élite on Netflix ready and waiting to be binge-watched. Also, it’s Friday night, and now I have the perfect excuse to open a bottle of wine and have a night in pampering myself. Every cloud!