Anything But Paella

2020 – The year that never was!

2020 will always be known as the year that never was! To be fair, the signs were there from the very start. We saw in the New Year in Guardamar with friends but the location of the municipal celebrations changed. Prior years had been seen in under an awning under the town hall with food, drinks, live music and fireworks. 2020 began as a damp squib in the newly refurbished basement “casino” with squealing speakers, no fireworks and not even a new year countdown as the band hadn’t set up in time!

January

We spent a bit of time in January exploring the area around Jerez de la Frontera in Andalusia. It was a fabulous trip with lots of wine, tapas and flamenco as well as catching up with some friends we hadn’t seen in a while. Later in the month I was laid low with a mystery illness for a few days and struggling to breathe during the night. It was quite frightening and very unusual for me to be so poorly. Was it Covid? Who knows!

February

February saw us take a trip back to the UK. For me it was to see Brighton v Watford and for Mrs P it was a chance to see her parents. There were signs that something was about to go wrong with the world as the new virus which had paralysed parts of China began to be found in other countries and Europe was no exception. We also got our first taste of inflexibility by airlines. Sadly my uncle Keith died while we were there so we changed our plans to attend his farewell. Ryanair were prepared to change the flight, but for a fee. That fee was more than the cost of simply writing off one flight and booking another! On our return to Spain we had a quick work trip to Madrid but it soon became clear that normal life was about to end for everyone.

March

March was a traumatic month. We were supposed to go to Morocco for work which had taken a bit of logistical planning. That coincided with the beginning of international flights being cancelled and our trip was duly cancelled. Iberia still refuse to refund the flight and insist that we must use our vouchers before June 2021. Fortunately our employers paid our expenses anyway. We were also supposed to nip back to the UK again. Sadly my Grandma passed away at the grand age of 97. I did get to say goodbye on our last trip which is some comfort. None of the airlines were particularly compassionate in their prices for short notice flights but we paid up and looked big. The flights were then duly cancelled as Covid began to get a grip and our battle with airlines and refunds really began! EasyJet were, to their credit, quite quick to act in refunding us. My cousins tried to live stream the funeral for me but the connection in the crematorium wasn’t great and we resorted to audio only. I guess we were pioneers in remote attendance of funerals. Full on lockdown soon followed in Spain and I kept a daily diary for the 99 days it lasted.

April

April was just a blur when nobody knew what day it was or what they were doing! Mrs P took to baking and I got the bread machine out. We set ourselves exercise routines to try to minimise weight gain and health problems. It seemed to work. I was also quite busy with teaching online which passed the time!

May

May was a difficult month when so many plans, which had taken lots of setting up, had to be cancelled. It was my 50th birthday and luckily our full lockdown was eased just in time for us to go out for a meal with two dear friends. We missed out on our usual football experience with the Seagulls Flying Squad for the last game of the season as there was no football being played anyway. Harder to take was the cancellation of the big trip for my birthday when we were supposed to spend seven weeks travelling through Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia and Turkey. Even worse, it took a whole six months to get our money back. Never book with Opodo! May was also the first chance to have a haircut. I’d done my best with clippers but you can’t beat having it done properly.

June

June was supposed to be a whole month of travelling. Instead we were stuck at home and not even the community swimming pool was open as the weather warmed up. That got us thinking about our long term vision of where we were living. We started to look around at some other options. I don’t think we really anticipated how quickly things would then move. On 20 June lockdown finally finished and we emerged into a “new normality” of restricted lifestyles, sanitising and face masks. Football also came back on our TVs, and I was able to go to Elche to see my fellow Real Betis supporters in our bar for a game too.

July

July was really the pivotal month of the year for us. We agreed to buy a house we loved and got ourselves ready to move the following month. We also managed to travel a little which helped with the itchy feet! We ventured up into the Sierra Espuna in Murcia. A trip to Granada saw us visit the Alhambra palace without the crowds. At the end of the month we flew to Tenerife too on a trip planned and paid for a long, long time ago but our friends who we were due to meet could not travel from Scotland. It was great to get away again.

August

August began in Tenerife where Covid numbers were so low we were able to move around freely and masks were not required outside. Back on the Peninsula we then completed our house purchase and moved. Summer was nice and hot and finally we had a swimming pool we could us!

Saying goodbye to our house in Guardamar was hard. We had had a very happy six years there. The pyramids came out to give us a spectacular send off and this image now sits proudly on our wall in the new home.

September

September didn’t really have anything special about it to report. We were getting used to our new surroundings and learning a little about gardening! The sunflowers did well!! Work was ticking along nicely and life was starting to feel good again once we were inside the gate and the face masks were off.

October

Our days of sunbathing and swimming came to an abrupt end in October! The pool began to cool down but we were insistent on using it until the bitter end of summer. We had a fantastic mini break where we drove up to Peniscola at the northern end of the Valencia community. By then we were not allowed to travel into neighbouring regions so we felt quite lucky that we could finally do a trip we had been meaning to do for about seven years!

November

In November it started to become apparent that Covid was going to be with us for some time to come and so our travels would be confined to places close to home. Luckily for us a new bar opened in nearby Rojales. Triple Brew is where we go to get our fix of craft ale and kebabs cooked on an open fire!

December

December was a pretty quiet affair as various restrictions were placed on us preventing much in the way of social interaction. By Christmas we were under a tight curfew and needed to be home before 11pm, although we had an extra hour on Christmas Eve. Only two households could mix and only six people in a group, which put paid to any plans for celebrating anything. We made it to the beach on Christmas morning and the weather was kinder than forecast. It looked like it was going to be so bad that I brought forward my festive swim in the pool to Christmas Eve. It was painfully cold! New year plans were scrapped but Triple Brew came to the rescue with a plan to celebrate the New Zealand new year instead, at midday here! 2020 still had one final kick in the teeth to give my family though, as my Uncle Benny succumbed to Covid with just a few hours of the year left. RIP.

2021

So, here we are in 2021, and what hopes do we have for the year ahead? Well, I think that any far flung travel is out of the question even with the roll out of Covid vaccines should they ever get around to vaccinating us. We hope to get to the UK at some stage. Who would have thought back in February that we wouldn’t have the chance again. We hope we might be able to travel around Spain a bit more freely, and Extremadura is definitely on our to-do list. Selling the house in Guardamar would be nice too! If you are interested, it’s listed with CGI! There’s also a fantastic virtual walk through if you want to take a closer look.

We wish you health, wealth and happiness for the year ahead. I’ll try to continue writing fresh materials about Spain to help you think about where you’d like to go in the future. Let’s hope that future comes soon.

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