IT was perhaps the worst year in recent memory.
But amid the car crash wreckage that was 2020, we found plenty to celebrate, even when bad stuff seemed to be lurking around every corner.
It was the year the word ‘unprecedented’ became part of our daily vernacular – and for good reason. Nothing in the first six months of 2020 were anything like we’d witnessed before.
Need a refresh? Take a look at our rundown of the 2020 from January to June and see how much you remember.
And don’t forget to look out for part 2 tomorrow, when we recount the final six months of the year that was like no other…
POLITICAL uncertainty in Spain finally came to an end just in time to usher in 2020.
Hopes were high that the new socialist coalition government of Pedro Sanchez could get the country – and its economy – booming after two years of minority rule by the Partido Popular had hamstrung any meaningful decisions by government (Andalucia Issue 334).
A first warning that the forces of nature could overwhelm man came within two weeks as Storm Gloria swept across Spain, with the Baleares particularly hard hit when 14-metre high waves lashed the coast, as the Mallorca Olive Press reported (Issue 72). Twelve people died in the natural disaster.
There was good news when a controversial project to drill 14 gas wells and build a 70km pipeline in the heart of the iconic Doñana National park was thrown out by the supreme court.
Brexit dominated the news as the UK officially left the EU and the Olive Press reporters were out and about to see what people thought of the news.
Perhaps unsurprisingly the vast majority of expats we spoke to were remainers and drowning their sorrows, with one calling Brexit ‘a f***k up’
Meanwhile, Barry and Marion Joyce had taken on the might of Rothchild bank when they found themselves on the verge of losing their Costa del Sol home after a ‘dodgy’ investment sold to them left them owing thousands. A Malaga court ordered the bank to repay them every penny in a ruling that potentially affected dozens of other homeowners.
And a warning was put out against an expat ‘pet taxi service’ with one Costa Blanca reader claiming to have lost out on €350 after she cancelled a transportation trip for her cat after reading Olive Press reports of animals dying en route with Pet Transport Limited.
This was the month that coronavirus reared its ugly head.
What had seemed a problem for far away China became a plague on our own doorsteps.
In the same issue that we celebrated the achievements of women for International Women’s Day, we reported how hotel and restaurant owners were alarmed at the prospect of Easter being cancelled as airlines started to slash the number of seats available.
It is hard to believe now, but in the first week of March the total number of cases reported in Spain was just 150 – a number that would soon be dwarfed as cases quickly reached the thousands.
But we also reported how Spaniards and expats alike were taking the impending crisis in their stride, with a good-natured ‘civil war’ breaking out in Benidorm as people vied with each other to contain the pandemic.
And Benidorm police provided one of the best picture opportunities of the month, with ‘Quedate en casa (Stay at home) written in giant letters on the beach.
On a lighter note, Cuban-Spanish actress Ana de Armas was revealed as a Bond girl in Never say Die. The movie itself became a coronavirus casualty, with its release postponed until later this year.
AS the coronavirus lockdown started to bite at the start of the month the Olive Press reported that despite 8,000 deaths, the army being called onto the streets to help police restrictions and millions of jobs at risk, there were in fact many reasons to be cheerful.
It may have been little consolation for those stuck at home, but petrol prices plunged to lows not seen in years, while air quality improved around the world and carbon emissions fell dramatically – helping in the fight against global warming.
But questions were being asked about the legality of the Draconian lockdown. Spanish lawyer Jose Ortega complained to the European Union parliament that the Spanish government was abusing its powers by forcing everyone to stay at home, as we reported on our front page.
His complaint to the Human Rights sub committee, did, however get short-shrift, and no more was to be heard about it.
THE arrival of May brought some much needed hope for the people of Spain as the pace of the virus slowed and adults were allowed to exercise outside for the first time in seven weeks. The country had some of strictest lockdown regulations in Europe and the chance for people to head out into the great outdoors was a much needed breath of fresh air.
Spirits were further lifted by the news that the oldest woman in Spain, 113-year-old Maria Branyas, beat COVID-19 after experiencing only mild symptoms. We also shared the story of British expat Ian Tanner, who survived the virus not once but twice and the tale of Naghmeh King, who revealed she was stuck in locked-down Spain after splitting from her Jehovah’s Witness husband. The 50-year-old mum of brain cancer survivor Ashya King ditched her family to flee to Spain shortly before the travel ban amid concerns that Jehovahs were branding coronavirus an ‘Armageddon’.
And if that wasn’t Strong Enough, we also heard that pop legend Cher was releasing a version of ABBA hit Chiquitita in Spanish – proof that we could believe in life after lockdown!
JUNE was the month that British tourists returned to Spain for the first time in nearly 12 weeks. International travel soared as air bridges were established and cultural hot spots like the Alahambra in Granada and The Prado museum in Spain’s capital, Madrid, once again opened their doors to visitors.
It wasn’t just the tourist industry making a killing – author Luke Jennings cut through the noise to reveal that his character Villanelle, played by Jodie Comer in the hit tv show, was based on Idoia López Riaño, a Spanish ETA hitwoman also known as La Tigresa.
Meanwhile the capture of Britain’s Most Wanted Louis Robinson in Murcia was one of our biggest stories of the month. The 25-year-old who vaulted the dock and fled court moments after he was sentenced for attempted burglary in the UK was arrested by armed Spanish police in Murcia after a six-year manhunt.
Another major scoop saw us exclusively reveal that Maddie snatcher suspect Christian Brueckner hid out in Granada hills just three weeks before the youngster went missing. We tracked down the German pervert’s best friend Michael Tatshl, who revealed shocking details about his time living with sick Brueckner, even claiming that he believed his former pal was responsible for the three-year-old’s murder.
Finally, we reported how one British expat couple were conned out of €2,800 through a fake holiday website. Lucia and Peter Myers, both 53, were left livid when the conman convicted of duping failed to repay the money he stole by filing for bankruptcy.