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I know one such octogenarian who loves his morning coffee, a pleasant stroll and a lot of chat! Gibraltar Senior Citizens Association President and spokesman, Manolo (or Manny) Ruiz is the one I directed my attention to as I, and he – in the much-used parlance during this Covid crisis – set about to ‘work from home’.

“…I jumped at the idea when I was invited to be interviewed,” Manolo declared, “At long last something to keep my mind active for a couple of hours or so.” And so Manolo proceeded to express his views on the whole affair and how he managed to keep sane during the insane virus period.

“I can say I’m one of the lucky ones”

Logic, I think, always prevails for someone like Manolo who went on to say that, despite the boredom with not a lot to do and so many daylight hours to fill, leaving the safety of his home was a definite no-no! Better to stay indoors than move out to an area where the dreaded virus lurks ready to pounce and emit untold harm. And I’m sure advised many other seniors to do likewise: stay home and not risk venturing outdoors where the risks and outcome can be so tragic.

“And of course, sticking to staying safe at home has meant my missing the pleasure of talking to friends, peers, and others, some of whom I’ve never met before!” Yes, restricted like many others during this period, to chatting to family members, some friends and exchanging comments via email, Manolo tells me, with those seeking advice or information on some item or other and sadly not being on the street listening to our seniors’ individuals concerns, visiting government departments and even attending to appointments with ministers and others regarding the Association’s concerns and problems, must’ve created a big vacuum in Manolo’s day-to-day doings… not to mention the recently introduced and now running quite successfully ‘Seniors’ Tea for Two’ sessions held once monthly: “That’s right, it runs every second Tuesday and we do that together with Sophie Clifton-Tucker and Jason Harper, and I’m really looking forward to the end of the pandemic for that one.” Manolo claims with great expectation.

On the necessary issue of keeping well-stocked with food and beverages, Manny says there’s been no problem there. “I can say I’m one of the lucky ones as my family and a couple of neighbours, who have been kind beyond words, have been doing the fetching for me and my wife. Right from the start I’ve been asked if we’ve needed something from the shops and it was also great to hear there were many volunteers willing and very eager to help where necessary, like collecting prescriptions from pharmacies etc. Also, supermarkets and other establishments have been offering to undertake home deliveries, so I would say very few if any will have suffered scarcity of essentials.” So Manolo won’t have been short of a cup of tea and a biscuit, to say the least!

4pm has been an important landmark for Mr Ruiz everyday as he sits to watch or listen to the daily press conference… “Oh yes, I look forward to those, to keep abreast of what’s happening but I know there are others who don’t want to hear anything to do with Covid-19 or any such disruptor of daily life…” And yet Manolo informs me there’s one senior who also tunes in religiously and even keeps a graph for easier and instant interpretation of how the virus is doing and what’s going on, whether it’s gaining ground or otherwise… “Once the conference is over, he WhatsApps me to discuss it all and I really look forward to our chats whilst at the same time relieving the boredom!”

“We must be conscious of why these restrictions are there and why we must accept, tolerate and obey them.”

As regards to how the whole affair is being handled by the Government, Manolo says he’s yet to talk anyone who disagrees with the policy and decisions taken so far. It goes without saying, we’re all longing for this confinement to end, but he tells me, “At the same time we must be conscious of why these restrictions are there and why we must accept, tolerate and obey them.” Too true, patience is not a common attribute in many or most of us but patient we must be… sit tight and wait! All of Manolo’s contacts without exception agree and are livid that the RGP should have to intervene with lawbreakers. “That’s correct. Having to send people home and even on some occasions having to arrest them for blatantly breaking the current laws on Covid is terrible. As one of my regular contacts said, ‘What would that person have to say if a member of his or her family was infected by someone doing what they are doing? How would they react?’.

Concern also, expressed by the Chief Minister that there are those claiming benefits to which they are not entitled, hence abusing the system during these difficult times especially – is not a pretty state of affairs either!

But of course it hasn’t all been negative, the majority of our citizens are being compliant: “Our health care professionals have been excellent, we’re kept well informed and the GHA certainly seem to be well prepared should things take a downturn which we sincerely hope never will if we all keep to what is required of us, ‘Stay Home and Stay Safe’, as the slogan goes.

Manny, like many of us (at the time of writing) who are now well into our confinement, are longing to be released to complete freedom which is what we’ve been used to all our lives and always enjoyed. “So when you asked me what I missed the most, I had no hesitation in saying, the simpler things in life: being outdoors, going for a short walk strolling along Main Street, sitting at a cafe enjoying a hot cup of coffee, chatting and exchanging pleasantries with friends and others and that’s what makes me happy!”

And I’ll be quite happy and look forward to chatting to/interviewing Manolo face to face, as we’ve done a number of times in the past, and hopefully confine the practice of the tapping of keyboard to keyboard, from home to home, indeed ‘Working from Home’, to the depths of Lower St Michael’s Cave… along with the feared virus!

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