Life in lockdown

A reflection from Spain

UOW Bachelor of Engineering alumnus Paul Batten lives and works in Barcelona, Spain and started living the quarantine life from March 1, 2020.

The strict lockdown was put in place by the Spanish authorities on March 14, in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19, in a country that has been one of the hardest hit by the virus in Europe. Unfortunately for Paul, he had been holidaying with his fiancé in New York, so was required to go into self-quarantine when he returned - two weeks prior to the country-wide lockdown.

Whilst some restrictions have started to ease, Paul says he found the lack of freedom incredibly difficult.

“I hadn’t prepared myself for it at all. I was still wondering if the death rate was actually worse than the flu, so it was a big shock.

“Up until a few weeks ago we couldn’t exercise outside at all, now we can exercise in the mornings and evenings. There were a few loopholes, like walking to the supermarket with a granny trolley rather than taking the car, but you could expect to get pulled over at some point by the police. There was a story of a guy desperate to go for a walk who was arrested for walking with a fake dog”.

He reflects on how the simple things in life are so often taken for granted, but this pandemic has highlighted what he values most.

“I didn’t realise how much I need (and I use the word need) time in nature and exercise. I remember taking the rubbish out and trying to figure out if I could sit covertly on the beach in a hidden spot for a few minutes, then I saw a police boat patrolling…”

Paul works as a Senior Vehicle Dynamics Engineer for McLaren Automotive and says while he can’t physically work on the cars, lockdown has provided other opportunities.

“As luck would have it, because we are generally quite busy we had a fairly substantial backlog of work, so we worked from home on process improvements, training and reports. It wasn’t how I expected it to be honest. I thought I would be super-efficient, but I personally found that I wasn’t as productive as I had forecast – understandably given the circumstances”.

Like many industry sectors around the world, his business is not immune from the economic impact of these slower times.

“In situations like this it becomes more obvious what our needs are and which things are ‘nice to haves’, and I think supercars fall into the latter category. A significant portion of the employees were put on Furlough (UK’s version of JobKeeper) and the remaining workforce has taken a pay cut”.

Whilst lockdown was no party, Paul has been able to focus on a lot of positives.

“Really, it was a reminder of what is important. Close relationships have become closer, and I’ve spent some time thinking about other relationships and in some cases, re-assessed them to better match them with reality rather than what I wished they could be.

“I’ve been able to see how much little things mean to me, like lying under a tree, and it really surprised me that I get as much enjoyment from that, as I get at work sliding a supercar around a racetrack,” he shares.

With lockdown restrictions now starting to ease in Spain, non-essential services are now back, which has meant Paul has been back at work testing for the last few weeks. But his time in lockdown has definitely changed his perspective on life.

“I think a lot of the things that make up our days can be churn. Some of that is necessary and some of it is a bit life-sapping. I’m quite fortunate that I get to do something I like for work, and I have been able to avoid a lot of churn. At the same time, I realise that there are lots of ways I could be doing things better and that I’m not taking all of the opportunities open to me.

“I think a real lesson has been to take the opportunities I do have, and don’t pine for the opportunities that I don’t have. Sure we have to have goals, work towards them, be resilient and don’t give up – so keep doing “all of the right things”. But I think it has helped me be more grateful for what I do have, which is a lot. More than I need even, although it can be difficult to see that sometimes”.

UOW sends its support to all of our alumni and students around the world. We look forward to reconnecting in person again when we can.

Paul Batten
Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical), 2005