Many people ask us what we do with our days here in Spain. The answer is, really, that we do a lot of what everyone does. Living outside the USA, sadly, does not exempt you from cooking, laundry, dishes, banking, grocery shopping, housecleaning, and the like. We also have a lot of the same diversions we did in the States. I read, grow plants on our balcony, enjoy Zoom visits with book groups and friends, and write blog posts like this one. Mark reads, plays guitar, Zooms with his buddies, and finishes Sudokus in annoyingly little time. Together, we exercise, swim, see friends, attend church and language exchange groups, watch movies, and hang out with iPads and coffee before breakfast. Sometimes, as the recent picture above shows, we get to see beautiful spectacles celebrating holidays or feast days. And, of course, when we can, we travel.
One activity that’s new this year for me, though, is reading with a friend. This started during our lockdown and has continued after our restrictions eased. Every day about 6pm our time, I call my friend Kathleen in Texas, and we read the fun murder mysteries that we both adore. Courtesy of our internet telephone connection, I’ve had the pleasure of spending an hour or so most days reading with her. I love getting to discuss plot twists and share appreciation of fine turns of phrase. In case you’re wondering what our booklist contains, here’s our inventory to date: the first two Donna Leon mysteries, which are set in contemporary Venice; the first Billy Boyle WWII mystery, written by James Ben; Bruno, Chief of Police by Martin Walker (we are reading the second one in this series now); and Mr. Churchill’s Secretary, another WWII mystery set in London.
This last book introduces us to Margaret “Maggie” Hope, a new secretary/typist for the newly-elected PM, Winston Churchill, and from it comes the title of this blog post. Maggie becomes involved in thwarting Nazi and IRA espionage and a solving a mystery surrounding her family. By the end of the book she’s survived bombing, kidnapping, and several attempts on her life. Spoiler alert: she saves the code-breaking operation at Bletchley Park, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the PM all in the last five chapters. At the end all these spots of bother (we are talking about Brits, after all), a grateful Churchill inscribes a book for her, imploring her to continue on to the adventures in the subsequent books. He does this by signing his name and writing the letters “KPO” – Keep Plodding On.
KPO works for us here in Spain as well, at least right now. As happy as our lives are, we are aware of wars, natural disasters, and the pandemic around the world. In our beloved home country, COVID-19 rages on in eye-popping numbers, and federal forces are fighting our own citizens and, it seems, our democracy. And Spain has its own worries. In fact, the other question we get a lot these days is about what’s going on with the rise in Spain’s COVID numbers. For now, we feel relatively safe. The upticks are mostly in northern provinces several hundred miles away from us, and federal and provincial governments are requiring masks on everyone in public all over the country and closing down hotspots like night clubs and bars in the areas that have been hit the hardest. So we watch the numbers and the geography and know that the government here is following recommendations from doctors and scientists in its responses. That’s the best we can hope for.
So how do we spend our days? Mostly we KPO, like Maggie Hope. Out plod is quite lovely, but we know that our situation can change drastically and suddenly. Two days ago, for example, who was worried about dream sex with demons and alien DNA? Lately, I have started emails asking about plans with the phrase, “Assuming that the world hasn’t gone to hell by then…” But we go forward, keeping all of you in our prayers and hope (of the not-Maggie kind) in our hearts.