Lockdown on the Rock

2 January to 20 February 2021

On 2 January, with nearly 1000 cases of COVID and an R rate of 1.51, Gibraltar was put into a full lockdown for the second time in a year. The escalation in cases after the easing of restrictions over the holidays was fast and frightening but unsurprising.

From 6 deaths just before Christmas, Gibraltar had lost 69 people to the virus by 26 January. As the Chief Minister said “here on the Rock the loss of one of us is felt by all of us” and it certainly felt like that even to us as visitors. That number would ultimately reach 94, the greatest loss of civilian life Gibraltar has seen in a century.

Confined to the boat, only allowed for walk to the shops and for exercise, we got back into the routine we had established during lockdown in Margate last March, just with a little less space! There was a lot of reading done thanks to the marina book swap, a lot of episodes of Death in Paradise caught up on and even the Rummikub came out of the cupboard. We resumed our winning streak at online quizzing against Lavinia and Richard!

I knitted until I literally had no wool left onboard. All our friends were sent fingerless gloves for lockdown walks and winter working from home and I got a new pair of slipper socks for cold evenings and a new yoga mat strap!

Nearly a year since starting, our daily Spanish lessons continued and we started getting to grips with past and future tenses. As the vaccine roll out commenced in Gibraltar, even the stories on our app were topical as Junior and Eddy went to get their ‘flu jabs!

Unable to mix households we had to take our daily walks without Dörte and Jens. We alternated walks up the Rock and to the Lighthouse but it was never quite the same without company and wearing masks all the time. Life seemed to stay much the same for the monkeys but they must have noticed how quiet Gibraltar had fallen.

As if one crisis was not enough for Gibraltar, the shelves in Morrison’s were suddenly empty of lots of fresh products in the New Year. Not this time caused by lockdown panic buying but because deliveries from the UK were being held up as new post Brexit customs regulations settled down. There was no meat, cheese or milk for a while. With all other non essential shops shut Stefan’s birthday on 11th January was celebrated with gifts sourced entirely from Morrison’s and despite the stock issues, I was able to deliver him a full breakfast buffet.

We also had time for some experimental lockdown cooking and, tipped off by my friend Chris, discovered a traditional Gibraltar recipe which has fast become a firm favourite on board. Jam packed with lots of Mediterranean vegetables, menestra is the Rock’s unique version of Italy’s minestrone, another example of the mash up of cultures that inhabit it. It’s so good we thought we would share it!

Menestra

Aubergine, courgette, kohlrabi, green beans, carrot, pumpkin or squash, garlic, olive oil, red kidney beans (or any other beans), basil, pasta (spaghetti or small shapes), Edam cheese

Chop all the veg into small cubes and soften in olive oil over a gentle heat until soft.

Cover with water and add red kidney beans and handfuls of chopped basil. Some people blend it at this stage but we prefer keeping it chunky. When you are ready to eat it add a couple of handfuls of broken spaghetti or any other small pasta and cook until soft.

Serve in a big bowl with a handful of grated Edam or any other hard cheese.

Freeze the rest for another warming lunch some other day!

Just as we were perfecting our menestra, things in Gibraltar were taking a turn for the better and we glimpsed a little more freedom.

Thanks to the generosity of the UK Government, Gibraltar was well on its way to vaccinating its small population by the end of January with the Chief Minister jabbed along with the other 40somethings in late January and the infection rate was falling almost as fast as it rose. By early February cases were down into double figures and restrictions started to lift slowly. Non-essential shops reopened with restricted hours and the first thing I did was restock with wool! Schools reopened and rules about mask wearing in all areas were relaxed a bit. We were allowed to mix again with one other household and were reunited with the Germans for walks, games of cards and tea and kuchen with squirty cream in the cockpit!

On 20 February we went out on with Dörte and Jens on SV Tendrel – Aurelie for a sail around the Rock. It was a bit cold. Still refusing to wear long trousers, Stefan modelled the latest long johns and shorts fashion! But it was great to be back on the water. That sense of freedom that sailing always gives felt all the more sweet after another lockdown and with the situation improving so fast in Gibraltar gave us hope that we might be able to get back to sea sometime soon.

Would we even be able to leave as planned at the beginning of March? Would the pandemic have another go at messing with our plans? Or would something else keep us on the Rock just a little bit longer…

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