From Balla to Barcalona


BACK IN LOCKDOWN  Just like Ireland, restrictions have been reimposed on Liam Timmiss and other residents of Barcelona.


Ger Flanagan

IN the not-so-distant past, living and working in central Europe was an attractive proposition for Irish people, particularly due to the pain-free accessibility and cheap air travel.
Being able to jump on a plane on a Friday afternoon and land back home for a long weekend made being abroad seem so much less daunting and closer to home.
But right now with Covid-19 and quarantine rules, living abroad has never seemed more out of reach for those who sought new pastures.
Current Barcelona resident, Balla native Liam Timmiss, was a regular ‘toer-and-goer’ between his adopted workplace in Catalunya and the west of Ireland. However, the uncertain future has made that way of life a non-runner.
“We had a Bank Holiday on a Thursday here a few weeks ago so I would have taken the Friday off and headed home for a long weekend,” the 25 year-old told The Mayo News last week. “But due to the 14-day quarantine complications or having to get tested either here in Barcelona prior to travelling or when I got back home, it just makes it feel pointless going back for such a visit.
“Needless to say I would have loved to been home for the celebrations when Balla won the Intermediate title but I had to watch through my phone!
“I also think the uncertainty of travelling anywhere at the moment means I could go back to Ireland and new restrictions could be introduced here [Spain] during this time that could see me having to stay there for who knows how long. That happened to my brother, Luke, back in March when this all started. Barcelona closed its borders and that was that, he couldn’t return for three months.”
The situation in Catalunya, Liam says, has ramped up again recently due to a surge in cases, with all bars and restaurants closing, and all non-professional sporting activities ceasing, for the next 15 days.
“I read that it’s the first time one of Spain’s 17 regions has ordered such a drastic measure since the [Spanish] central government’s State of Alarm came to an end in mid-June. So unfortunately, the second wave is here,” he stated.
And as Spain attempts to flatten the curve once again, his friends and family are in the same position back home.
“It’s difficult for my family too,” the Digital Marketing Executive said. “My parents usually visit in March and September time, but haven’t been able to get over since all this started.
“Luckily they got here right at the start of March and got to see Barcelona’s last match in a packed out Nou Camp – my Dad’s first time there. It might even be the last time Messi plays for Barca in front of a full house!
“But you’d miss family and friends a lot and not being able to nip back for birthdays and that sort of thing is annoying.”
He noted that Spain adopted a different approach to Ireland in tackling the virus back in June, with everyone going about their life in the new normal and trying to live with the virus.  
“On the one hand you’ve got Spain, who have taken the ‘get on with the new normal’ approach,” he said. “And Ireland who have taken a far more cautious approach but seem to have ended up at the same place in terms of cases per population.
“Things have been operating as normal to a certain extent in Spain since mid-June, and the economy has somewhat recovered albeit still taking a massive hit from the lack of tourists visiting.
“Yes there’s new restrictions again now, but for the last few months people have started to get on with life and adapt to the new normal. But with Ireland not opening pubs and now not allowing people to visit each other, I think it’s very extreme. Don’t get me wrong, it’s awful what’s happened this year to families around the world but there has to come a point where you’ve got to get on with things to a certain extent.”
A trip home at Christmas is pencilled into Liam’s diary right now. He’s hopeful, but like many of us, he knows we’re heading into a Christmas like no other.