A friend wrote to me tonight from London saying, ‘there are worse things than an enforced spring exile in our beloved Tangier.’
These words meant a lot and to be honest, I hadn’t thought of it like that. I haven’t really had a chance to think about anything as its all happened so quickly.
Over the past two months our attention has been focused on COVID19 and the domino affect its had throughout the world; the spread in Europe in particular. Australians have written to me over the weeks with news that they are doubting plans of travel for the next few months, for no other reason than it’s all just too unclear. And then, ‘just like that’ last week, there was talk of borders closing, flights being cancelled and further countries going into lockdown.
On Friday night at a dinner in the Kasbah, where Italians sat alongside the French, an Englishwoman had just flown in from the States, and a Frenchwoman was planning a shopping trip for the days that followed before jetting back to France, in came the news. The ferry to Tarifa (Spain) would no longer sail and all flights in and out of Spain to Morocco were cancelled indefinitely. In the hours following, an announcement came in that travel between France and Morocco would also be barred. By Sunday, all travel in and out of the country from anywhere in the world, was not about to happen.
Our borders were closed.
This virus is proving to be a pain in the neck. But a bigger pain in the neck would be if you were old and had recently suffered from pneumonia and you were to contract it. Or, if you were currently being treated for cancer, an aneurysm, a brain tumour, diabetes or chronic asthma (I’m not a medical professional and I know the list is exhaustive but these are front of mind as I type with an absent mind). We must do everything to contain this monster who seems to attack our oldest along with our most vulnerable.
Financial markets might suffer a short term crash. Planes will be grounded. Medical professionals will be exhausted. Shops will close. Restaurants, cafes and bars will shut until further notice. Small businesses will groan under pressure, and big businesses will feel the pinch. Parents will also feel the pinch as schools close. This is all relatively sudden, and none of us were actually prepared for the lockdowns that are being imposed by our governments.
But, if we can all do our bit to protect our most vulnerable, isn’t that the most rewarding thing we’ll ever do?
Today in Morocco saw the closure of all museums, mosques, gyms, cinemas, hammams and any public place where the virus could potentially spread its nasty little wings. The government here has looked to our neighbouring EU states and realised that we can’t risk heading in the same direction. No country can, and no country would surely would want to?
I am an avid taxi user here in Tangier – I dont have a car and I delight in jumping into a little shared blue taxi and sailing along the busy streets, winding through back roads and listening as my fellow passengers natter to the driver, as the radio blasts pop or conversation from its speakers. This is a joy I have until now, taken for granted. If people can’t go to the mosque or attend school, why should I be able to travel in a shared car that poses the same risk of spreading the infection? We have to eat and we all need fresh air and, for some, medicine. Therefore, shops and pharmacies will remain open, and the souks (markets) too.
On my doorstep I have everything I could possibly need on foot.
But suddenly I want to go out to a restaurant for dinner. I passionately hate nightclubs, but I’d love to go to one right now. I barely ever go to hammams but I as I write, I feel the urge for a good scrub. That place way out of Tangier, unreachable on foot – never wanted to inspect it more! Heaven knows what I’ll be craving after (possibly) weeks or even months of this – we’ll see. For now I feel very safe and incredibly grateful that measures were quickly put in place to combat a mass spread of this virus in our beloved Morocco.
The borders will open again and the world will eventually return to normal. So many people barely even know they have COVID19- this is widely reported and relatively heartening. In a global sense the numbers are but ‘few’ who have died. Sure, other strains of flu kill more people each year, but this one is quick and we know who, and what, it attacks. I think. Again, I’m not a professional but I know what I’m more interested in, namely those who it will attack and their families who could be left behind. All the things I will miss in a short period of time whilst we do all that we can to contain this little cretin, will come back to all of us who have the fortune of good health.
For now, its back to basics. Let’s make soup. If my oven wasn’t run on a gas bottle fit for a barbecue, I’d maybe make a cake. We can chat on FaceTime and share the hilarious stories of self isolation as we prepare for the weeks and months to come. Oh, I have plenty and I’ll pepper them into my writing as we go through this together.
I’m sitting like a nutter typing this with a glass of wine reflecting on my recent trip to Australia, where the only Corona I was interested in was bottled, cold and served with a fresh wedge of lemon. How times change quickly, but I am so very proud of the way Morocco has taken every step to keep this as contained as possible, and will continue to do so.
The person who inspired the title of this blog is in London and, with the border closures indefinite, probably wont be out here any time soon. He has a wonderful garden in Tangier and he finished his email with the following words which made me smile, ‘if you ever need a walk in my Tangier garden, please do.’
Life will be simple for a while, but a walk in the garden, a chat on the phone and a glass of wine will always be available – just like the old days – as we prepare to return to our busy, wild and modern ‘normal,’ which was so suddenly swept out from under our feet.
My thoughts are with anyone already dealing with a preexisting illness, and are understandably very afraid of this virus.
With much love from Tangier.