Though George liked to describe himself as “A non-avid user of social media”, as the weeks had gone by, he found the isolating nature of the lockdown had induced him into consulting, much more often than usual, his rarely-viewed Facebook stream. He had always quite liked to see the light-hearted posts featuring pets, birthday greetings and food treats, of the few family members and colleagues he was “friends” with. Only lockdown could have brought an end to the posts of walks, holidays and crowded dinner tables he was also quite partial to.
But the depressing effect of the COVID lockdown had prompted in George a most uncharacteristic habit: he had taken, surreptitiously, to typing in names of colleagues he would not normally pay the slightest attention to. And the search on “Jernej Kovačić Brussels” had turned out to be most interesting.
At first he couldn’t tell if Jernej’s posts had been from the past – those Facebook “See your memories” features often confused George. But the photos on Jernej’s page certainly looked recent. Of a bar. Some sort of music show, or cabaret. A stage, burgundy-coloured curtains, lights. Not the best photos, as if he’d been taking them without wanting to be seen. Not many people in the bar either. A barman, or two. An old guy. A jolly woman, the landlady? A girl with a baby, of all things. Photos of two beer glasses and three bottles of Corona on a table, posted with comments, with some sort of in-joke: ‘It feels so good to get Coron-ed when you need it!’
“This all reminds me of that film, back in the 70s, ‘Confessions of a Window cleaner’. Why, we could write a book together, only this would have to be called ‘Confessions of a COVID government teleworker’” hailed George, as he poured out the last dregs of his second bottle of ‘Binchoise Spécial Noël’ beer.
Christmas Eve that year found George, rather unusually, reclining on his lounge sofa in the company of his wife Patricia and Lucija, a Croatian colleague, who had been unable to return home for Christmas, due to the prohibitive COVID travel restrictions.
“If you discover you are on your own over Christmas” George had offered warmly in early December “Come and eat with us, you can stay as long as you like, we’ll consider you part of our very own bubble.” Lucija had arrived at the house a while ago but had soon taken up Patricia’s greeting to “Make yourself at home”. Each quaffing their aperitif beer, the conversation had dwelt, inevitably, on how the year had been in the European Regulatory Authority, the ERA, under the ‘régime du télétravail’, which had meant that, apart from two emergency late-night sessions for George in the autumn, neither George nor Lucija had stepped foot in the office for the previous nine months.
“What gets me most,” Lucija had begun “is the way Lecomte sends out his cheery ‘I’m de boss and I care for you’ e-mail messages early in morning and then, if you send him e-mail asking something to do with work, you don’t hear from him for hours on end!”
“You’re so right,” chimed George “it really makes you wonder what is going on, as they say in television parlance, ‘behind the scenes’.”
Y mientras se comía esa merluza al horno frente al Mediterráneo, Angela se dijo que eso era vida y lo demás, pamplinas.
Con el gusto aún de ese pescado fresco comprado en la lonja del pueblo, el aroma del romero recién cortado, y con las imágenes de fondo de los lugareños comiendo tapas, bebiendo claras o zambulléndose en el mar, no le quedó otro remedio que reconocer en su fuero interno que esos meridionales no solamente eran unos especialistas con esas mezclas culinarias de mar y tierra, sino también unos campeones del disfrute de las maravillas que les rodeaban. Continue reading →
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