Risking life and limb for art 

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First of all, let me mention that the photos in these posts have little if anything to do with the posts. They are just photos from the past, like, before Corona. If I go outside to take photos, I risk getting fined up to 1000 euros. Well, according to the new and even more draconian rules from the Spanish government at least. Are people really that unruly? Not in my neighbourhood they ain't. Here's the latest: 

One person per family may visit the local supermarket, chemist, tobacconist, petrol station. 

Dogs may be taken out to relieve themselves but not for walks!

Remember the fines for disobedience are high ranging from 300€ to 1000€ + or even prison will be contemplated.

"Taken out to relieve themselves but not for walks" indeed. I don't think they understand how dogs work. I really don't care for the word "disobedience" either.

How could this happen in only five short days? I risk being fined more than the gross domestic product of North Korea just for going outside? How is it even... legal? Sounds like certain officials could be longing for the days of a certain military dictator of not long ago. Anyway, when I do go outside, everything seems pretty normal. 

And no one can force me out of my Luddite-hood! So this morning I did a drop. Yes, a drop. A friend, let's call him or her IT, has many DVDs just like me. One would think IT had lived near paradise for fake DVDs and handbags Shenzhen just across the border from Hong Kong, but no. Still, we did an exchange of DVDs, because, busy as I am, I still need to relax with some moving faces and talking voices that aren't Breaking Bad or Friends. 

We saw each other at a pre-designated place and did the drop behind the third Audi from the left. I had disinfected the DVDs with vodka and, while wearing latex gloves,  put them in a plastic bag not touched by humans for several weeks. We dropped our bags, making sure we had at least 10 metres between us, exchanged some bitter pleasantries and turned back in opposite directions. 

Later today I handed over a key to my house (sterilised and put in a plastic bag) to a neighbour - in case I fall down the stairs and break my neck - so she can get in and take Koldbrann to relieve himself, not for a walk.

Then Koldbrann ate a lot of human poo on our afternoon walk. Yes walk, because there must be limits to my obedience. I wish humans wouldn't poo outside. Dog breath takes on a new meaning. 

Here is the illustration for the advert I made for my neighbour's alteration business: 

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Using the time wisely by elbowing in on a saturated market

Have you ever read Gone With the Wind? Or any novel about a war or warlike situation? These books are often about one type of person sitting around reminiscing about the past and how much better things were, dreaming about what they will do "when all this is over", while the other type, the Scarlett O'Haras of this world, go out there facing the enemy head-on without looking back, setting up profitable businesses in the bomb shelters during the Blitz, so to speak. 

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So now here we are, five days into this baffling situation, and people are already saying, "when all this is over..." - including me! But that is mostly to cheer people up. For this is not going to be over any time soon. Even without the virus the world economy will probably suffer for years to come, and nothing will ever be "the same." But then again, what has ever been the same? We (westerners my age and younger) are the luckiest generation that ever lived. It's been 70 years since a major upset. Before that, life was short, nasty and brutish for the majority of people. You want someone to invent a vaccine for Covid 19 which, if you get it, will probably feel like a normal flu? It's not that long ago that you couldn't even get an injection for extracting a tooth. If you had teeth at all. My grandparents' generation often had their teeth removed before they were 20 so they could be fitted with dentures. 

Anyway, the highlight of today (so far) was going to the post office. This is a good time to write letters, don't you think? Especially to old people, isolated at home. After a 20 minute wait I was allowed into the post office where only one of the two clerks was wearing a mask. But hey. I asked for sillas, which means chairs. But this clerk must have been of an unusual intelligence (which I complimented her on) because she understood that I meant sellos (stamps)! 

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Vowels, eh? 

But this brings me to the theme of today's Lockdown! Namely: How to use the time wisely. And yes, that means not only watch Downton Abbey and drink moonshine. 

It started a while ago but now I'm really ramping up my new project, namely writing a Spanish textbook in a market simply overflowing with Spanish textbooks. What the...? Why, that would be like writing a course in Mandarin (except I can actually say "stamps" in that language)! But my course is different in that most of the people in it are plonkers and make lots of mistakes, so the people taking the course, taught by my excellent friend H who is super fluent, can learn from other people's mistakes. 

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You see, the course is a meta course, a course within a course, where the people in it are learning Spanish from a book called Spanish for Idiots. Because I didn't want to call my book that. And it's not for idiots, per se! Only for people who for some reason think they are bad at languages. But you know what? Nobody is bad at languages. If they were, they wouldn't be able to speak their mother tongue. 


No social life, society pulling together - ish

Last night at 8 o'clock the whole neighbourhood erupted in cheers and applause, combined with a lot of boats hooting or honking or what they do, in gratitude to our health personell and how they put their lives on the line. Or maybe it was in gratitude to someone else last night? Whatever the reason, I joined in. It felt good. In fact, I feel I'm part of something now, for the first time since... Oh! Since I was on a road trip, or had dinner with someone, in what seems like another lifetime. Ah, restaurants! Wine! 

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This morning I risked trekking over to Mercadona (a famous Mallorcan supermarket), very ostensibly carrying shopping bags to prove to marauding police that I was going out with a purpose, not just milling around to spread death. I saw some black-clad people down a side street. Was it a road block? Checking of ID? Meh - nothing like Tibet in 2004 when all foreigners were unwelcome, as we discovered when we tried to cross the country by hitch-hiking.  Still, I imagine this must bring back bad memories for many locals. 

In Mercadona it was business as usual; the staff were all wearing masks and gloves, but many customers weren't. The shelves were mostly well stacked and I managed to get three packets of frozen meat for my dog Koldbrann. As long as the supply lines stay open, this quarantine thing won't be too bad. Something good must come of it. Oh, I know! Now I can finally sort out my millions and millions of photos stored everywhere, and file them properly. 

Not in Dropbox though. They DELETED all my files last year. That's right, I bear grudges! Because I had paid Dropbox to store those files. 

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Koldbrann in Hong Kong, resting among urns full of human bones. 





Tips for living in genteel poverty 1

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Heh! Who would have thought that going for a sedate walk in the forest with your dog is now OUT? For one thing, the forest (park) is closed off. And new guidelines are being issued all the time. "Carry ID and your dog's passport, keep it on a leash at all times, don't let it sniff other dogs, stare right ahead as you hurry past any dog owner or human"... well the last sentence was just what I read between the lines, but still! Don't they know a strong immune system, acquired through dog walking, fresh air, etc, is our best defence against this bastard virus? 

Fortunately I live a bit further out from the centre of town, and so far haven't been picked up by any marauding fine-collectors. But it is a concern. 

Meanwhile I'm well prepared for any eventuality, with hand-axes, bazookas and a whole bunch of instant noodles. So today I will share with you how to keep the electricity bills down. It takes a bit of preparation, but fortunately I started weeks ago. 

First of all, always carry a rucksack and a little saw or axe when out dog walking. There's lots of firewood lying around, and often fallen branches after storms. Don't thrown away ("recycle") your empty Nespresso sleeves, but keep them and fill them with scrap paper and cardboard, as well as dog hairs. Force as much burnable stuff as possible into the boxes (sleeves).

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Then, when the temperature drops, set fire to three Nespresso sleeves and use lots of twigs (which you have ALREADY collected!) to get a fire going. When it's roaring well, add increasingly larger pieces of wood until the whole house is pleasantly toasty and smells good. Important! Don't try to put the whole branch inside the wood burner, but cut it in suitably sized pieces with a saw. Sawing will also keep you warm and healthy during the winter months. 

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P.S. You will need a wood burner and a certain (low-ish) outdoor temperature for this to work. But it's FREE! Except the Nespresso. But we have to have certain standards. I said genteel poverty, right? Not abject poverty. 

This time it's personal

Corona_Koldbrann_walk_me Pen & Wok Blog - PenAndWok.com - Cecilie's PenAndWok.comInstead of tomorrow (Monday) morning 0800 as threatened promised, the total lockdown of Mallorca thundered into action today, Sunday. All "well" and "good", but what about Koldbrann, my ginger brute, flown here at great expense from Hong Kong? Wouldn't I be able to take him out - for 15 days?!? The rumours started flying on Facebook, but after a couple of hours word came down via the Citizens' Advice BureauCitizens' Advice Bureau that 

The Board has approved a general measure to maximise restricted movement by citizens. Citizens are only allowed to leave their homes, individually (unless accompanying a disabled person or for another justified reason), in the following situations, both on foot and by car:

  1. to buy food or other primary necessities, or to get prescription meds from the farmacia
  2. to visit medical facilities in case of urgency
  3. to go to your workplace or to carry out labour, professional or company duties
  4. to return to your habitual home
  5. to take care of children or other dependant family members or to assist elderly or disabled people
  6. to visit banking or insurance institutions
  7. for reasons of overwhelming force or situation of necessity
  8. for any other activity of an analogous nature duly justified
  9. to walk your pet (this was not mentioned in the original list, but mentioned specifically during the Q&A after the press conference)
  10. to fill your vehicle up with fuel.   

Basically, you can go out for any reason at all it seems, except that all bars, restaurants etc etc are closed. Only nature is open.

Distant memory from pre Corona times

But then two separate friends told me that they had tried to walk their dogs this morning but had been "sent home" by "stern" police. What the hell? My Koldbrann needs two hours' walk per day and so do I.

 I had planned to cook for some people today and indeed had started inviting them more than a week ago in the halcyon days of "only Italy is closed down." Even yesterday morning we thought the lunch could go ahead, as a Last Gasp (ha!) before total house arrest set in. But bugger me if I didn't have to cancel! I and my friends are now the, cough, splutter, TARGET GROUP for this virus. That's right - me, old?!? But, but... I have only ever been young? How can this be! Anyway, I did the socially responsible thing and cancelled. But even a socially responsible person gets hungry, and so I made dumplings for myself.

Corona_table_garden Pen & Wok Blog - PenAndWok.com - Cecilie's PenAndWok.comHaving completely missed the run on the supermarket a few days ago, I didn't have any meat, but had already taken the dumpling skins out of the freezer. Soy beans and potatoes mashed together with salt, Sichuan pepper and egg yolk to the rescue! It's delisssshhhhes. In fact, better than pork.

This is a strange time. It's the kind of time when people instinctively huddle together, but now you get fined for that. Fortunately I'm used to living and working alone. And fortunately I live in Mallorca and have a garden, so I can follow this excellent advice from the time of the Spanish flu: Get as much sunshine and fresh air as possible! 

You know those plucky Italians who go out on their balconies and sing Nessun Dorma or whatever, to cheer each other up? I tried that with Chinese opera. Got pelted with objects. 

Are you quarantined? Use the time wisely. Learn Cantonese from me on Skype! Me, I'm writing a Spanish textbook. More about that later.