OPINION: Why we'll remember lockdown in rural Spain a little more fondly than most

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OPINION: Why we'll remember lockdown in rural Spain a little more fondly than most
An empty street in Santiago de Compostela. Photo: AFP

For Heath Savage, who moved to rural Galicia from the Sydney suburbs, Spain's coronavirus lockdown has one obvious silver lining.


We hosted a few Workaway volunteers when we first arrived eighteen months ago, and I wrote about it back then in The Local. Workaway is wonderful way for people to travel and see the world, and a real boon for hosts.

Before the pandemic, we invited a volunteer from Czech Republic, who worked with us for a week in November, to return to us in March. Originally, it was to house-sit, while we travelled to the UK to attend a family wedding, which has now been postponed due to the lock-down.

He was volunteering up in the mountains, herding goats, and, because of tightening travel restrictions, asked us if he could come earlier than previously arranged.

He lives in his converted VW van between jobs and Workaway stints, which is not easy to do at present, so we agreed, knowing that it might be many weeks before he was able to travel again. We really needed the help in the garden, so, it was win-win.

He has been with us now for five weeks, and he has worked very hard to get our garden and small orchard into good shape for summer. He is performing heavy work: digging, gravelling and landscaping, that is beyond my strength, and he has also been renovating our nasty, dusty, ramshackle shed.

We had a great idea, to re-use old windows from our house renovation, and replace the existing, rotted window. We also cut out a section of the wall, and added a new window at the front of the shed, which now captures the sunlight and brightens the interior.


I am excited! Finally, my own little haven down in the garden; a place where I can potter, and sit in the sun after tending the raised beds. A filthy, dank storage unit, is transforming into somewhere I can boil a kettle, listen to the radio, and put my feet up – like I really need to do more of that!

Having a house guest for five weeks has been…different. We are used to life as a duo. Now we are a trio – an octet if you count our three pets, and the neighbours two dogs, who have moved into our alpendre for the duration!

Lock-down tension isn’t too much of an issue for us, because we are blessed with a large outdoor space, as well as an enclosed garden terrace with a view of the village.

Neighbours who live in our aldea (the Galician term for a hamlet) pass by the house each day, and we chat as usual, so we don’t suffer the cabin fever that is afflicting those stuck in apartments in cities.

But I have noticed that my partner seems to need to be under my feet in the kitchen just at the wrong moment. I, of course, have no annoying traits, and am never grumpy.

It has taken a bit of organization and some “freezer diving” to provide three decent meals each day for us and a worker, without stretching the budget too far. He has the upstairs to himself, I have my kitchen, and my partner has her study, so we aren’t exactly tripping over each other. This is a symbiotic relationship that has worked well. Now he is moving on, to help out a friend of ours in another village, who lives alone.


Maybe it is clutching at straws to seek silver linings, but I have enjoyed being able to offer someone safe harbour, and he has reciprocated by bothering to get to know us and slide into our ways, in addition to gifting us his hard work.

Perhaps this arrangement wouldn’t suit everyone, but it has worked for us, and changed the very nature of our lock-down experience. When we say “adios” next week, and our neighbour comes to collect his dogs, we will return to our usual routine.

I think we will all enjoy the change, and I think we will all remember this strange and scary time a little more fondly than perhaps we would have if we had not all been marooned together in Panton.

Follow the adventures of Heath in Galicia and read through her previous columns. 




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