Exit Phase Zero: the joys of nature and exercise

After seven weeks of lockdown in Spain, Phase Zero of the ‘de-confinement’ was announced just over a week ago. At last we can go out to exercise, albeit within set hours, close to home and individually. A week earlier, children had been allowed out for the first time and I realised how much I’d missed seeing them. The sight of a parent and child in the street is enough to bring a tear to my eye. Inevitably I think of my grandchildren, wondering when it might be possible to see them again. Will I have to wait till next year?

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On the first day of adult freedom, I watch hundreds of cyclists, runners and walkers stream past on the road below my terrace during the designated ‘sport’ hours of six to ten in the morning and again from eight to eleven in the evening. The release from confinement has made everyone frantic for fitness. I’m desperate to get on my bike but don’t rate my chances on the narrow, twisting road with so many keen young Lycra-types zooming round the bends at breakneck speed.

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Instead, I wait till ten, the hour for older people to walk, before heading down the hill and over to the other side of the valley where a path zigzags up the hill through woods and then levels out to follow an acequia, one of the irrigation channels dating from Moorish times. The path is overgrown in places: undisturbed for so long, nature has taken over. Poppies, dog roses and other wild flowers abound. Riotous broom daubs patches of yellow amongst the differing shades of green. In the acequia hundreds of tadpoles dart about while an old toad with bulging eyes looks on. The views from here are magnificent. I can see my house directly opposite, the Alhambra from a different angle, the Abbey further along in Sacromonte and hills stretching away into the distance.

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Other walks too are within range. I can make for the Abbey, where this year for the first time, roses have been planted along the outer wall. From there I’m surprised to observe that the more distant hills still have a capping of snow. My view takes in poppies and beehives, scattered houses and caves. Or I can walk up the shady path leading to the closed Alhambra, accompanied by the sound of water tumbling and gushing. Yellow irises and elderflower are in bloom. I meet hardly a soul.

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After a couple of days, the activity on the Sacromonte road has lessened enough for me to take to my bike. Early in the morning the air is fresh and sweet. I’ve been out several times, almost alone on the road. It feels good to be using my cycling muscles again. My rides have been accompanied by birdsong, cockerels crowing, goats bleating and a donkey braying; at one or two gates a dog barks as I sweep by. I’ve enjoyed sudden whiffs of honeysuckle, passed fig trees laden with fruit, parcels of land neatly sown with rows of vegetables. I return home after thirty or forty minutes’ vigorous ride, refreshed and ready for the day, which at eight or eight thirty is only just beginning.

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Unlike some parts of Spain, Granada will not be moving on to the next phase tomorrow. Regions and provinces with lower figures of contagion will allow movement within the province and – on condition that social distancing can be maintained – visiting family in the locality, meeting in groups of up to ten, the opening of some non-essential shops along with bar and restaurant terraces. Here we will have to wait.

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Our perception of freedom is all relative. After so many weeks with only essential food shopping allowed, the chance to exercise, to enjoy nature at close quarters in this year’s lush and beautiful spring feels wonderful, feels like enough for the moment. I’m not sure how long it will feel like enough. Another week? Two weeks? How long will I be able to keep my mind free from thoughts of what I would in ‘normal’ times be doing this spring and summer and autumn: trips to the beach, swimming in the sea, meeting friends, seeing my children and grandchildren? Living day-to-day without making plans or thinking about the future is a hard discipline but one I’m beginning, of necessity, to learn.

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