How self-isolation can bring us closer together

By Jake Threadgould

Madrid, Mar 20 (efe-epa).- A strange side effect of government-mandated self-isolation is that it can bring you closer to people than ever.

When Spain ordered a nationwide lockdown last weekend, friends and family who I hadn’t spoken with in months and sometimes years reached out on social media to ask after my safety.

First in line were the parents. My mother urged me to come back to Scotland, but she does that whenever I inform her of any minor inconvenience to have beset my life.

Then the brother, with a simple but to the point: “stay safe dude.”

Then the grandparents, who got in touch to tell me my parents had told them of the situation. My grandma, ever wise, urged me to stock up on wine.

And then came the friends, stretching all the back from the modern day to my high school era.

“You staying there, or coming home?” an old classmate from my high school in rural Scotland asked me.

Spain, my adopted country for the last five years, had just leapfrogged South Korea to lay the unenviable claim to being the fourth-worst cluster of coronavirus globally.

“Staying here I reckon.”

“Well, without sounding too soppy, stay safe.”

What starts as a simple message to ask what it’s like to live in quarantine spirals into a catch-up where you find out who broke up with who, who works where now and who has a child.

And it’s not just long-distance contact.

Every night at 8 pm my whole street erupts with the sound of applause, as people come to their balconies to pay tribute to the healthworkers fighting the Covid-19 on the frontlines.

I use that opportunity to catch up with my neighbor, a woman in her 80s who lives by herself.

Looking across the street, I realize that others are doing the same, shouting down to the floors below: “Well, if you need anything, let me know!”

My friends at home in the UK were curious to know what life is like in a lockdown.

But I think my answers perhaps let them down.

My daily routine now consists of working from home on a temperamental laptop, working out to Youtube fitness videos and procrastinating instead of making a concerted effort to finally read War and Peace.

The streets around my apartment, normally abuzz with people this time of year as the days grow longer and warmer, have given over to an eerie silence.

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