My dear readers, I hereby present a few photos from what is likely to be my last hike for a veeeery long time. Hence the title of this entry. You can google it and maybe even work out the subtle irony. Alternatively, should you wish to broaden your cultural horizons with least possible effort, click here and here.
First, about the hike, then I promise I will promptly proceed to the rant. Walking the old pilgrimage trail to Santiago de Compostela has lately become the favourite pastime of many a burnt-out professional in search for themselves, so you may have heard about it. There are many routes leading to Santiago, and one of them starts in Madrid, known as (surprise) Camino de Madrid. If you enjoy the great outdoors, without being enraptured by religious zeal or existential crisis, any of the first few legs of the pilgrimage (say, until Segovia) are all excellent options for day hikes comfortably reachable by public transport from the capital on both ends. On the day of our hike the weather prediction in the mountains threatened snow and strong winds, so we opted to stay well out of the Sierra and walked from Manzanares el Real to Colmenar Viejo (about 16 km). In theory the trail goes in the opposite sense, but unless you are actually trying to reach Santiago to repent of your sins, the direction we hiked makes for much more pleasant walk, as most of the climbing is done in the beginning, and then the trail just gently descends all the way to Colmenar. It’s a large dirt road, very well signposted, you cannot really get lost. Local buses to both towns leave every 30 minutes or so from Plaza de Castilla underground bus terminal, and Colmenar is also served by Cercanias local trains that go into Chamartin train station. I strongly recommend to do this walk before June, as there is hardly any shade along the trail and you’ll sizzle in summer. We had strong chilly winds carrying light hail from the mountains, but still better than 45 °C.
Now, the rant. Guess the topic. In my previous post, I was sarcastically mocking the panic reaction a lot of people had. If you think that I may have taken the situation lightly and my comments were out of place, well, you are certainly entitled to your opinion, but I was merely commenting on people’s behaviour and possible positive outcomes of the whole apocalypse. I still happen to be convinced that if the world ends, the fact that Instagram and stupid TV shows will perish with it is definitely a good thing. I am also still convinced there is no real reason to panic, because this disease can be managed, but it’s also about time we started managing it seriously. It is of course the UK’s national sport to bash the foreigner, Italians in particular, and claim it’s banter, but unlike one British celebrity doctor claimed on national TV, the Italians are certainly not using the disease outbreak as an excuse to “take a long siesta”. The Italians are doing best they can. The Brits will soon find out that there is not much to laugh about when it comes to Italy. When a person gets sick in Italy, they call their family doctor, and the doctor comes running. Which is why they were able to test a lot of people in the first place. In the UK on the other hand, one can comfortably practice general medicine by advising patients over the phone to take ibuprofen, paracetamol or aspirin as a remedy for any problem. Oh, and wash their hand. While singing happy birthday. Twice. Yes, the response has been slow. But while the fact that action has been taken late in Italy can be put down to being the first European country to be struck by a major outbreak, what is the excuse of all other countries, that know bloody well what is coming for them and still take their time?
Take the UK, for instance. First reaction: we got Brexit done, coronavirus is not our problem. BoJo’s reaction: this needs a parenthesis. You need to understand that BoJo’s biggest disappointment in life is the unfortunate fact that he isn’t Winston Churchill. Let’s just forget for the sake of the argument that BoJo’s leadership skills are nowhere near Sir Winston’s. I am convinced that in his heart of hearts (if he has one), BoJo is delighted that Covid-19 happened, so he now has a massive crisis that enables him to pose as a great leader of the nation through times of hardship and sorrow. And there he goes speaking to the people about blitz spirit, business as usual, keeping calm and carrying on, and warning them to, wait for it: “Prepare to lose their loved ones”. So while everywhere in Europe measures were being taken, the British schools remained opened, pubs packed, concert halls, cinemas and theatres were going forward with their programmes. Because it’s “only a flu” and it only strikes at certain times and places. Like the Messerschmitts.
I’ve been asked, given I criticise BoJo this much, what do I think Jeremy Corbyn would have done. It’s an irrelevant question, because Corbyn is not the PM. One may as well ask what would Henry VIII have done. Or Bruce Springsteen, as the bloke from High Fidelity asks himself in life’s hardest moments. However, I think I can safely guess what would Jeremy Corbyn not have done. Gone against WHO’s advice and recommendations, for a start. He would not have come up with the ingenious masterplan to get 60% of the population infected and hope for the best. Even if herd immunity could be achieved this way, there are no data as yet to support this claim. And with the complete lack of credible epidemiological information (the entire population should be tested – but even people with symptoms are not – to know with certainty who’s contracted the virus, what percentage was asymptomatic and how many people recovered), I simply don’t believe that Jeremy Corbyn would have condemned to death somewhere between 400.000 (1% mortality rate) and 3.500.000 (8.5 % as today in Italy) of fellow countrymen. Jeremy Corbyn (or any other labour leader) would have probably done something outrageously socialist, like freezing loan and mortgage repayments, rents and energy bills, he’d have introduced tax reliefs for self-employed and small businesses, not just banks and big corporations, and I think that if he decided to lock down the country, he’d have done it properly. He would not have introduced half-way measures by strongly recommending to people to stay home and avoid restaurants, while not ordering said businesses to shut down. But BoJo is a clever little chap, isn’t he? Unless there is a clear order from the government, small businesses cannot claim any compensation or insurance. I guess this is what happens when a government is formed by a bunch of complete bankers. I find it hard to imagine that Jacob Rees-Mogg is losing money at this moment.
As of this evening, the penny appears to have finally dropped, and the UK is in lockdown, albeit partial, with BoJo promising to shower cash on small businesses and even pay 80% of the wages if companies keep employees on their payroll. He must be really gutted that Macron got the idea first. I guess he is still also probably planning to compensate with the unpaid pensions of all the people he secretly hopes are going to succumb to Covid-19.
In an half-hearted attempt to be fair to the Brits, the European Union’s reaction, or lack thereof, is equally as outrageous. Besides the fact that some sort of solidarity with Italy would have been nice in the beginning, there should have been centralised, unified measures taken by every member state. Schengen should have been suspended straight away; air planes grounded; schools, restaurants and gyms shut; concerts and sports events banned and social distancing enforced. Everywhere. In this way, the virus outbreak could have been contained in the two to four weeks of isolation. Instead, it was and still is each state on their own. Europe has shown that it is only united when it comes to business, not people. Which is a pity, because the idea of setting aside petty nationalism and working together for peaceful coexistence and common prosperity was beautiful. It is yet to be seen if the EU is going to be Covid-19’s biggest victim.
In Madrid we are now one week into obligatory self-isolation – so how is it? Actually ok, better than I thought is would be. I will speak about life in confinement in my next blog. For the time being: would all the people who moan about their civil liberties being violated by the lock down kindly shut up? Just remember your grandparents were asked (ordered) to go to war. You know, lest we forget, plastic poppies, all those things. You were asked to sit on your arses on the sofa and watch Netflix. So do everyone a favour and stay the fuck at home.
Bonus: dozens of nesting storks. I’ve never seen so many in one place. I thought they were solitary birds (well, in pairs, but then loads of people are alone even within their couple), but there seems to be a propoer stork commune in Manzanares el Real.