surinenglish

THE BOTTOM LINE

Lost connections

I was asked earlier this week to briefly sum up the general mood among international residents in southern Spain in these unprecedented times of coronavirus lockdown.

It's interesting when someone thinks that you can put tens of thousands of people all in the same sack and make a sweeping generalisation when the only thing they have in common is that they're not Spanish.

The international/expat/foreign resident (however you like to call it) population is indeed diverse, with a wide range of nationalities, ages, backgrounds, fortunes, professions and myriad other circumstances.

I sat down and wondered how I could possibly speak for everyone in one simple statement, until I realised that there is one thing that links us all. One thing that the international community as a whole is missing now, which is what is perhaps producing more coronavirus-generated unease than among the population in general. Our connections with the rest of the world, including our home countries, have been lost. It's almost as if Covid-19 had eaten its way through the umbilical cord that links us to what was, and maybe for some still is, our home.

While we can keep in contact with anyone we like virtually, we have lost that security of knowing that dozens of airports in the UK and around Europe are just a couple of hours away.

We might not necessarily have wanted to go anywhere this spring, but the idea that we currently can't go beyond our municipal boundary, or that friends and relatives can't just come and see us, is unsettling to say the least.

Some have found themselves literally trapped at the wrong end of that cord, while for others its detachment represents a loss of livelihood. Thousands of jobs here on the Costa del Sol depend precisely on that ability for people to hop onto a plane and be in the sunshine in no time at all.

And now two months after this lifeline was lost there has been mixed news about its return.

First we hear that Spain, and the UK, are going to force anyone coming in from abroad to go into quarantine for two weeks. Not such a big deal at the moment as few are able to come in anyway, but how long will that be in force?

At the same time companies such as Ryanair - responsible for the strength of that lifeline - are announcing that flights will resume from July. Meanwhile Brussels and the travel industry are doing their best to get things moving sooner rather than later.

Everything, though, at the moment, from what time we can go for a walk this evening to when we can fly to London, depends on the announcements the Spanish PM and his ministers deliver every so often on our TV screens, guided wisely - we hope - by those studying the behaviour of a virus.

Soon we'll get that connection back, albeit not quite in the same way, and with it that comfortable feeling that no one's really that far away.

Meanwhile we'll just have to take things one "phase" at a time.