Here we are in December; Christmas is almost upon us and COVID-19 restrictions are becoming a part of our daily life. For a large part of this year many people have been working from home – something that has its benefits and its drawbacks. True it must be nice not to have the hassle of rush hour traffic, or all the expenses that are associated with going to work, petrol, clothing, and lunch out. And of course, less cars on the road are better for the environment. It’s fun for a while to sit at the computer wearing your tracksuit bottoms and eating from your own kitchen, but the downside must be the lack of social contact, the bouncing of ideas back and forth between colleagues. Yes, I can hear you saying, but there’s always Zoom. Without Zoom, FaceTime, WhatsApp and a host of other ways of contacting each other digitally, it’s true that life would indeed be very bleak.


But the downside of working from home is the long hours spent at the computer. I have friends who are working harder and longer than ever before; they don’t have any downtime, especially if they work for a multinational company. Video meetings are not uncommon on a Sunday evening, nor is a working day that stretches long into the night. They are expected to be contactable 24/7.

PictureChristmas lights in Málaga 2020

When I first came to Spain, over twenty years ago, I was surprised and pleased by the friendliness of the people. Every person you passed when walking down the street would greet you with a “Buenos días” and a smile or a nod. I soon got into the habit of replying. It was the same if you were in the waiting room of the local doctor, or going into the bank. Your presence was acknowledged in a friendly and positive way. But people’s behaviour has changed.
Now, when I go for my morning walk along the promenade I have to wear a mask, as does everyone else, and it is as if I’m not really there. Nobody speaks, nobody even looks at me. The mask has made me invisible. Occasionally I will pass one of my neighbours and they will stop and speak. And then what a lot better I feel. Before the pandemic, I hadn’t realised just how much those casual greetings could lift your spirits. I hope that when this is over and we all return to normality, that people won’t have forgotten how to greet each other as they used to do.

Happy Christmas to all my readers. Here’s hoping you all get to spend it with the people you love and that 2021 brings us all good health and prosperity.


Joan Fallon is a writer and novelist living in Spain.