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The right side of the border

Geographically, we live as far north in Portugal as you can get without falling in the international river Minho which divides us from NW Spain.


The last international statistics I saw - I think there are all sorts of reasons for mistrusting these comparisons - show that Portugal, with one quarter plus of the population of Spain, has been doing fairly “well” in terms of Covid-19 deaths (proportionally) compared with its larger and only neighbour.


It is quite astonishing how little the crisis has affected our everyday lives. It is true that for a few weeks the local supermarkets reduced their opening hours from 12 hours a day to seven (recently they have gone back up to ten), but that does not fit my definition of austerity. Nor has the fact that I have abandoned my morning coffee at the local café really changed my life. The café has a sign outside saying that it is closed, but my wife and I know that there are habitués inside stealthily imbibing, and I know I could join them if I wished.


The situation is quite different when I look out of my bedroom window. Fifty per cent of what I can see is Spain, where the situation is entirely different. The nearby border is closed. Melodramatically, I sometimes think I was living on the right side of the erstwhile inner-German border. ■