What can you do on a Saturday night that doesn’t require changing out of your sweatpants, brushing your hair (or teeth), or removing your fleece-lined reading socks? Join the eight o’clock clapping party. Just pour yourself a glass of wine, maybe fill up a bowl with your favourite party snack, open your window, and clap.
Tonight, perhaps since it’s Saturday night, an ambulance siren joins the chorus, and an apartment whose balcony flashes with hot pink and green lasers plays what I’ve since learned is the official anthem of Bueu.
More than an hour later, and the party hasn’t stopped. At the moment I can hear at least four different songs playing at once, including “Back in Black.”
For those of us from northern, more conservative nations, especially nations where the existence of something called winter keeps us confined indoors for months on end, where we write epic works about surviving the extremes and the joys of solitude, a lockdown, initially, might not feel much different than being snowed in for a few days.
But for Spaniards – accustomed to a climate where oranges ripen in January and fur-lined hoods are for show, not for preventing frostbite – remaining indoors with their immediate families, often in small apartments, such confinement must be tortuous. In this country, the streets and parks and beaches and main squares and cafés are extensions of people’s homes – their living rooms. Here is where you kiss each other on both cheeks, play card games, drink small glasses of beer – cañas – with your friends, kick soccer balls, eat small bowls of olives floating in brine.
Now, at 10:00, a time when the party usually just gets started in Spain, it has suddenly gone quiet. Even though the four songs at once was starting to get annoying, the meaning behind this silence is worse. Waves crash and recede. A dog barks. An entire town closes its shutters and retreats into itself.