Hello, this is Will Faulks, the editor of TalkChelsea.
At this moment I’m sitting on a boat moored in a marina in a resort town on the south coast of Portugal. There are about 100 boats around me, and around them there are bars and restaurants on three sides of the harbour.
Not a single one of them is open. It is silent and dark all around. The country is now in a state of emergency because of the coronavirus pandemic, and the government has told everywhere but the shops to close.
The suddenly empty streets would be eerie enough in a big city, but in a tourist hub like this which is geared towards a hectic summer season with every venue crammed full of people and pumping out music (if you can call karaoke versions of “Sweet Caroline” music), it’s even more strange.
It has the feel of a haunted theme park: somewhere built for better times that stands empty and lifeless. There is an unsettling feeling gripping the whole place.
The lockdown in the UK begins tonight, with no set date or even prospect of when it might end. Those of us who have been experiencing it for a week already know that the prospect of this continuing for more than a month seems unbearable – but it is the reality of the situation we are now all in, worldwide.
Until late January I was in Madrid, where I have lived for four years, but reading about events in China and then in Italy and then seeing the terrifying dystopian signs around the city, I decided to come and stay here with my friend, a little more out of the way.
What better way to see out your quarantine than on a boat, sniffing out a bit of free hotel WiFi when the wind is in the right direction, ready to cut the ropes and drift out to sea if things ever really go Mad Max?
Since my departure Madrid has been the European hotspot of the virus* outside Lombardy, and my Twitter and Instagram feed provide an occasionally heartening but overwhelmingly horrifying window back onto the friends and colleagues I left behind, now trapped in their pisos watching the sickening numbers on their TV screens climb higher.
Interspersed, I have the bizarre contrast of posts from friends in London, enjoying their time at the pub or at the football, mainly aware of the global situation but not the reality of what is coming for them in just days or weeks.
I’ve seen the ripples of this spread through Madrid, a week ago it reached here. In the UK, things get serious tonight.
I will keep writing about football (even if none is played) because that’s all there is for me to do really. I will eventually stop qualifying every article with a disclaimer about how I’m aware of how ridiculous it is to be writing transfer rumours at a time like this, but it will take a while.
Once football returns, hopefully in the Autumn, the excitement will be incredible. The one bright spot I can see, after all this gloom, is that maybe 6 months solid of no sport will make it all the more glorious when it’s back. A football detox may be no bad thing. Just think of the atmosphere at Stamford Bridge for the first game back – that is, assuming fans are ever allowed to attend games en masse ever again.
We have readers all over the world, but no matter where you are, this tragedy is coming for you. The advice for everyone is the same – wash your hands, and enjoy your freedom to leave the house while you can. And when you’re told to stay at home, it’s your duty to the human race to do so. It sounds dramatic, but it’s true. For most people it will be the biggest opportunity we get to save lives.
*I’m not trying to take any credit.