Written by Jimbo
|It’s been an unusual year to say the least and we’re not even halfway through it yet. As we came out of the lock down in Spain last week, among other things, the light aircraft activity suddenly started and had increased dramatically. A few of us, here in Spain, were comparing stories earlier this week of planes flying in circles over ‘the valley’. Two days ago, thanks to the spotter planes, the guardian raided a farm a few kilometers from me and seized 2,000 Auto flowering plants, which were in their final stage. |
When you do what I do, you are always on ‘self-isolation.’
Along with 42 million Spaniards, you live with the tightest lockdown in Europe, from a bit of a different perspective to a lot of people. I had previously described myself as an isolationist by trade, and that was before it was trendy. I grow weed and make extracts, neither of which are legal in Spain. Sure, there are relaxed laws in some aspects of cannabis. Some associations are sort of legal, but coffee shops akin to Amsterdam and dispensaries similar to California are not. Especially considering the amount of plants that I have and grow which are certainly not allowed. The fact remained for me that before, during, and after lockdown; I must be private and secure, social distancing is for the public, I need ‘social invisibility.’ It’s probably worth noting that there is more chance of being robbed than there is of being arrested, it therefore makes sense that you keep tight on security and practice social invisibility. Due to my self-imposed isolation conditions, I expected my lockdown to be a fairly simple affair. After all I’ve been to prison for growing cannabis in Europe, and I’ve spent time in jail in Africa for hashish smuggling. I survived those challenges, and thought, how much harder can this be? I mean, it’s basically a self-imposed isolation in my own home surrounded by my cannabis plants, no? Well, it’s not as simple as that, not in reality. Firstly, I needed better comparative analogies than my two prison sentences, because it’s not until you get a few months stuck in your own house, that you actually get to think about how fucking horribly harder jail is; ask any prisoner if they would swap for house arrest! Hell, I would have taken twice the sentence if I could have done the first time in the worst English prison instead of a festering African jail.
But I digress, lockdown 2020 is the point of this story, Coronavirus SARS-COVID.19 or the Chinese Virus as the U.S. Commander in Chief insists on calling it and how it affected little old Me.
Well, to be absolutely honest I was shit at it. I discovered within about two days that I don’t quite social distance myself as much I previously thought or had convinced others because the first thing that I actually genuinely missed, and to the point of madness as the weeks went on, was popping into a Spanish village for a coffee and tapas. It was crazy, a simple thing that had become a bit of a ritual over the previous year, was ripped from under me. That was like a dagger in the heart for my mornings, it killed them stone dead. Then I started dreaming that I was sitting in a street cafe with a cold beer while families with children, sometimes in pushchairs, promenade the streets at 10 or 11 at night. All the while smells of paella and pastries drift in the breeze and loud old men making themselves and each other laugh; even though they’ve heard each other’s stories a 1000 times or more. Although, I’d wake up and I was on my own; in the mountains and in fact there was a pandemic sweeping the country and the world.
I missed interacting with people, terribly, and ultimately. Although I still lived here, I missed Spain.
Breakfasts in cafes and an odd glass of beer, now and then, were my distractions from the fact that my girlfriend and mother of my two sons, still lived in Europe. Unfortunately, she was unable to get to me in Spain because the lockdown happened so fast that by the time anyone had realized what was going on, flights were only available out of Spain for non-nationals; my Spanish dream looked as though it was about to crumble. My partner and I had about a week to weigh up the options. Sometimes I wish I’d made a snap decision and returned to Europe to be with her and my youngest son, but it wasn’t as easy as that Hence, the theme of my life. Our eldest son was in Barcelona and Barcelona was about to lockdown with severity. Problems manifested themselves quite quickly over the next few days, when Martial law was declared in Spain under the name ‘State of Emergency.’ All police forces at all levels across all 17 regions of Spain fell under the direct control of central government. Essentially for the first time since the death of the fascist dictator General Franco. Spanish people have a deep-rooted distrust of other Spaniards, even their own government and any type of internal militia forces. As there are many people alive today with very vivid memories of life under a fascist regime. The ‘local’ cops who come from the local families and who generally have sympathies and understanding with the community they grew up in, are suddenly no more! Police forces combined are no longer ‘local,’ and were therefore totally unsympathetic to local concerns. Barcelona on March 10th was a city of hope, expectation, excitement, and a lot of very very good Cannabis, there had been talk for a couple of weeks previously that ‘Spannabis Expo’ may be cancelled for the safety of the half million or so people who were expected to arrive in Barcelona that week. Well it got cancelled on Wednesday evening, effectively with a day and bits notice. Weirdly that didn’t stop some people still traveling to Barcelona and it didn’t seem to make anybody who had gone a few days early, decide to end their breaks early, or try and make their way home.
The attitude at the time was, fuck it, we came for a party, so what if ‘they’ cancelled the expo, who cares? Let’s do what we came here to do!
That was the attitude on Friday afternoon, by Friday evening rumors were spreading. People were beginning to take notice (a bit), but it didn’t stop the party. Thousands drifted from bar to bar and club to club, mostly unaware of any real danger. Saturday, Spanish people are bustling suddenly, the president is going to speak to the nation, are the rumors true? Will people listen anyway? Well, martial law was declared at lunchtime on Saturday and everyone had until 8am Monday morning to be where they live or are going to stay for the foreseeable future.
Fuck it gave way to disbelief, confusion, and then panic for a lot of people. I actually lost friends that weekend through them refusing or claiming to be unable to help my son who was caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.
We didn’t have hindsight to rely on and there had never been a world pandem-lockdown in anyone’s living memory, so nobody knew what to do or expect. Living in the mountains of southern Spain, I didn’t think any of those city problems would concern me. My priority was getting my son safe and I personally had nothing to worry about myself. Remember I’m an isolationist by trade remember. That’s how I thought until I was stopped at 11pm at a checkpoint on a mountain pass, a few nights later. There were six people, no idea whether men or women, who were in black hazmat suits, black head and face masks with some kind of military or police insignia held onto their arm with an elastic armband. My Spanish instantly failed me. I couldn’t even remember ‘my name is’ in Spanish.
I was forced to hand my cellphone over. Luckily it was double locked, and scary for a grower; I had to tell them, prove my address as it was illegal at that point to be more than 5 kilometers or 7 miles from your place of residence without a damn good reason.
I don’t know what he said, and I don’t think he knew what the fuck I was trying to say. I know for a fact he knew I was stoned and could smell weed. However, I’m 56 look half sensible and he was probably just collecting data on who’s using the mountain pass, rather than looking to arrest anyone. Even though I could leave the house to go to the supermarket, bank, tobacconist or pharmacy once a day; the fear of having my paperwork or reason for being out distrusted and therefore causing a home search, meant that I limited my trips out for supplies to an absolute bare minimum. In the first few weeks, I relied on friends who were going to the supermarket to get me cigarettes, brandy beer, and chocolate. It felt like contraband being passed through the gate by a masked friend from 2 meters. Oh yeah, everyone stayed 2m from everyone, no matter how close a friend.
I used to grow cannabis in the Europe, I got busted with 312 plants in 2012 and was sentenced to two years in prison for conspiracy to cultivate on a grand scale – I loved that charge, so beautifully worded.
When I was released I decided I didn’t want to experience British jail again, so I moved to a country with a more open, and free attitude towards cannabis and life in general. Even with spotter planes circling daily, the constant risk of arrest or robbery; I can safely say I’m never leaving the valley now.
Viva Española, Te Quiero!