It’s All Gone Pear-Shaped

Every single time I think about sitting down to write anything here, another episode on the Reality Show that is 2020 (aka The ShitShow) gets dropped and I think — why bother? What can anyone on earth possibly say in the face of this?

This morning, I actually got to see the news unfold in real time. At 6:15 a.m. in Madrid, I poured a cup of coffee and opened the New York Times website. It was full of doom and gloom, but it was regular doom and gloom so I clicked on over to El Pais to see if I could make heads or tails of what was going to happen to us here at midnight tonight (more on that later), but I couldn’t, because it was in Spanish and I was having a harder time parsing Spanish than usual, so I clicked over to the Guardian’s website. By now it was a little after 7:00 and I’d gotten up to pour a second cup of coffee and there it was: the President of the United States has COVID. Because it wasn’t an American newspaper I had a hard time believing what I was reading (maybe something had gotten lost in translation?) so I clicked back over to the New York Times — where now there was a completely different, confirming headline.

I shouldn’t have doubted the Brits: after all, they were the ones who thought up the only description that truly works in times like this, which is:

It’s all gone pear-shaped.

This is the equivalent to saying it’s going south (it’s of course meaning everything) but has a better ring to it, especially if it’s said with a posh accent.

Two Mondays ago, before it all went pear-shaped around here, I received a text from my Spanish school that there was a space for me in an in-person class as of the next day. Did I want it? I now realize the reason there was suddenly a space where there hadn’t been one was because someone more prescient than I was was getting the hell out of Madrid.

Because I’m trying to make my motto say yes to life, I took the spot, which has meant I’ve spent the past two weeks struggling with the nuances between por and para and debe de + infinitivo and debe + infinitivo while sitting masked and six feet apart from soft-spoken young women from China.

Meanwhile, the regional government of Madrid and the national government of Spain have been wrangling, in what are described in El Pais as rifirrafis políticos (political squabbles), over what restrictions are needed to curb Madrid’s ballooning COVID cases.

The upshot seems to be that as of midnight tonight Madrid restaurants will operate at 50% capacity. There will be less capacity at weddings, gatherings, and funerals. We’ll still be able to walk around. The catch? We can’t leave Madrid, and nobody from outside can come in, except in particular extenuating circumstances.

Of course this is where we are. To take my mind off the Reality Show that is 2020, I’d been planning a trip to Granada, which was the same thing I was doing before the last lockdown.

I have a special letter from the Spanish school to show the police should I be stopped on my way there on Monday.

2020 isn’t over yet.

3 thoughts on “It’s All Gone Pear-Shaped

  1. Interesting that rifirrafis is squabbles in Spanish and an insult to people based on caste in English. Unless I’ve gotten this wrong too. Just listened to about an hour of journalists either explaining the 25th Amendment and what else needs to be explicit or saying “I don’t know” when asked to say what will happen. The other refreshing thing—though I do not believe in Heaven—is a comment that the positive COVID tests on POTUS AND FLOTUS is RBG arguing successfully her first case in Heaven. I salute you for continuing with Spanish class. And for wearing the mask and staying six feet away from your fellow brave hearts. My dentist and my friend who is his hygienist wear very snappy shields as well as (my friend) two masks. Their shields are pricey at $60 or $75 dollars. Others in that office are getting cheaper ones to go to vote. The difference is seeing blurry or clearly. Be safe and keep reading multiple papers. The Washington Post is pretty swell, as is a column from the Boston Globe called “Fast Forward.” Love from me to you, Laura

    • This made me think about riffraff, so I looked up the etymology, which comes from “to scrape off” and “to plunder” and referred (at first) to the act of plundering the battlefield after battles. Interesting things we wouldn’t know if it weren’t for COVID. I usually save the WashPost for the afternoon after I get home from Spanish. My dad the journalist would be proud of what a newspaper reader I’ve become. You all stay safe.

  2. This made me think about riffraff, so I looked up the etymology, which comes from “to scrape off” and “to plunder” and referred (at first) to the act of plundering the battlefield after battles. Interesting things we wouldn’t know if it weren’t for COVID. I usually save the WashPost for the afternoon after I get home from Spanish. My dad the journalist would be proud of what a newspaper reader I’ve become. You all stay safe.

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