Social isolation on Madeira: closer to you

Social isolation on Madeira: closer to you

Social Isolation is the flavour of the week where it comes to measures against the spreading of our very own modern time plague. Over the express roads, the matrix signs tell you Fique em Casa, stay at home. Police are patrolling and may ask you where you are going, where you live, will move you on if you sit down somewhere on a street bench telling you that a walk is permitted, staying anywhere but in your home is not. Everything is aimed at minimising human interactions. It seems to work: Madeira had 21 cases of Corona yesterday, all accounted for, only one in hospital and none in intensive care. Quite an achievement for an island with limited resources. Having said that, we have to honour where credit is due: Ronaldo, our island celebrity, has stepped up to support the SESARAM, the Madeiran health services. I know that many football fans do not like the man very much, but make sure and never say that aloud in Madeira, at the risk of being lynched. Ronaldo has always helped the island whenever it needed help, does a lot of investments and finances a home for elderly people all on his own. We think he genuinely cares about Madeira and its people. He is here now, since football is on hold in Italy and throughout Europe, with his mother, who is recovering from a stroke, and his girlfriend and his children, like everyone spending his time in social isolation.

social isolation, is it what it says?

So yes, we are told to stay at home, and the great majority is doing this on their own account. Those who try to ignore it are quickly corrected, still very politely by the police. For many, one would think that loneliness is lurking in the background, especially for those living alone. But even if you live with a life partner, the idea of really not interacting with anyone else is daunting. The joke is already going around that after this, there will be a wave of births and one of divorces. But as the first week of our voluntary quarantine draws to a close, I have noticed a steep increase of interactions via social media. I receive more emails, I have more Facebook and Whatsapp chats than ever before. I find myself searching the internet for old friends, that have gotten lost in the folds of time, involuntary, but slowly and surely. I have found some of them, and thanks to the free communication offered by the Net, have spoken to them after years, reacquainting with them in no time at all. Under today’s circumstances, there is no need to fill in the information of years-long gaps. We simply ask ‘how are you now?’ and that opens up a conversation as if no time at all has passed since we last spoke. Everyone immediately recognises that reacquainting is a simple purpose in its own right, underlining our ability to do so even in these days of social isolation. Especially in these days of social isolation.

Social media: curse or blessing?

Curse or blessing. It’s a no-brainer. I have a number of friends who have always steered clear of all social media. Usually, this was for privacy reasons. Sometimes these were justified because if you are a school teacher you don’t need your pupils to find out the details of your private life.  Sometimes the rejection of social media has a more paranoid background. I remember an argument with an acquaintance of ours, who is a heavy user of Facebook and other media, who went on and on about ‘They are watching everything you do and write’. It went as far as a real complot theory, in ‘they’ being anonymous and very powerful, a ‘big brother is watching you’ fear seemed to have the man in its grip. Seeing that he continued to use the media anyway, i asked him: ‘So what if they see what I write and publish. He: ‘But they can see everything.’ I: ‘And?’ He: ‘but it’s dangerous’. I: ‘so why do you go on using them?’ Silence. So I stopped worrying about it. If they want to enjoy my holiday images, I hope they like them. If I write something in one of the social media, it’s meant to be read by as many as possible.

I don’t believe in ‘private social media’. The point of social media is being social, not private. I have email, WhatsApp and my private chats for that. Even our former Queen Beatrix stated, in one of her annual Christmas speeches, that social media made people drift apart, made for more individualism and caused people to be colder and not looking after each other anymore. I was, and still am a great admirer of hers, as she was one hell of a PR woman for our country and usually was spot-on in her observations. But this time around I vehemently disagreed with her. And lo and behold: we find ourselves in the middle of a crisis, are told to keep away from family and friends and here are the social media proving all their haters wrong. It is the social media that enable us to feel the closeness of people far away, they make it possible for me to talk to Amy, Annie, Berendina, Martin, Branda, Duda, Zeger, and all the others who are on their own, but, like this, by no means alone. Reaching out gets a whole new dimension. I find myself reaching out much more than in the ‘old days’ when we could still go out. Social media are proving themselves social. Very social. And as for people who still don’t have any of these media at their disposal: pick up the good old Phone. I find that I do. I would urge everyone to reach out. It will make at least two people feel better.

Entertainment becomes interaction

If social media have taken on a new role for private people, performing artists have quickly adopted new ways of performing together while staying at home. Youtube is a proven way to share performances, but let me tell you about a touching performance given last night by Pedro Marques and his wife Sofia Ferreira. He is a well-known guitarist, with the Guitarra Portuguesa as his speciality. She is a Fadista, equally well known, and we happen to know them on a personal level.  Sofia had announced a live-stream Facebook performance last night. We found ourselves fiddling with cables to ensure a decent sound from our mobile devices, and suddenly, there they were. Not just performing. Peering at their screen, seeing who was there, watching, (we saw some 130 people were watching at some stage) greeting people personally as they could see on their screen who was opening the link. The spectators were no longer anonymous faces in a crowd. Everyone stood out, I could recognise several avatars of friends uttering their admiration of a song, just sending a hello, requesting a Fado. Imagine a known singer on-stage, recognising you in the crowd and tell you ‘olá Peter, beijinho’ (hello Peter, kiss). Unthinkable. Not anymore. Performing has become interacting. Both Noud and I found ourselves moved to tears several times during the more than hour-long performance.  For seeing our friends bravely performing. For feeling close to them, however far away we were. No glamorous costumes or clever lighting. Fado, brought back to its essence, touching each and everyone’s heart. Need I say more? And all this was possible because of a stupid thing called Facebook. If Facebook picks up on some of my preferences to send me an ad they think I might like, let them. A small price to pay.

Remember them

When all this has passed, we have to remember those lovely people who send us a beam of light in a dark moment. They cannot survive on just making free internet performances. For those who enjoyed Pedro and Sofia, there is a CD you could buy to support them. Minha Voz. My voice. I don’t usually make publicity this way, but I think these artists, and any other artist you may like, need our support if and when we can give it. They make these dark days bearable and continue to do so. Pedro and Sofia will perform next Sunday again.

Social isolation? No. Look at these performers reachuing out to you!

In these days of social isolation, do not forget these performers who have lost their gigs.

More to come.

There is more to come. Not only by our friends Sofia and Pedro but by many others as well. Not only Fado, but all kinds of music. At the bottom of this article, you will find a link to a Facebook page, called Festival Quarantine Sessions. There will be daily performances by all kinds of performers, all from Madeira, starting on March 30. So if you don’t already have it, make sure and create a Facebook account and enjoy these fine performers. And don’t forget to support them whenever and wherever you can.

The images below link to the corresponding Facebook pages where you will be kept updated on the live stream performances coming up. I am very sorry for those who do not have a Facebook account, for whatever reason. There is no way I can link you to these free online performances without using Facebook. But as I said, there is still time to create one. Meanwhile, stay at home, but stay in touch, stay safe and stay healthy. Here is a big hug for all of you.


By Peter Groen

Peter was born in Amsterdam in 1949. He has a history in PR and copywriting. Now, part time resident of the Island of Madeira of over 10 years, he writes about Madeira, its culture, its overwhelming nature, its food and drink, and about everything concerning travel to and on this beautiful island.


  1. Hi from london I was in Madeira so why are the Madedeiren obeying the law simple we love to live simple and the most important is the government trying to save lives simple

  2. Congratulations Peter for such valuable input about Madeira,s present really .You are great in communication and what you do.I really enjoy your positive news. Keep up the good work.

    1. Thank you very much, Tony. There is so much gloom in the media, who seem to thrive in negativity. Of course, we all know these are difficult times, but we have to keep it together, and only by reaching out to each other we can do just that. I keep reminding myself that our confinement is really not a big deal, compared to the suffering in China, Italy and Spain. And let us not forget how a greedy leadership in the United ‘states is responsible for many more casualties than there would have been in case of early and sensible intervention. So I will keep trying to do what I can to soothe people’s pain and anxiety, and the only way that is given to me is by writing. The pen is a mighty weapon, but I try and wield it in a healing way. Thanks for reading and for leaving your thoughts.

  3. Thank you Peter. This is such a heartfelt account of how we are all getting by. Being an introvert, I think it is easier for us to stay put. We already have solitary routines and interests that keep us sane. Though, I find myself doing exactly as you say in the article..reaching out, looking up old friends, checking in with friends and family more often. We have to circle the wagons, as we say in the States, it’s just virtually right now. Be well, both of you and keep writing. It has become one of the gifts I look forward to.

    1. You are very welcome, Amy. And indeed, everything I write is genuinely heartfelt. I am happy to read you are doing all right. Maybe, these days, it’s not really about seeing the people you love, but just knowing that somewhere in this world, they are there. Circle the wagons, yes, I can see where that comes from, And yes, that is precisely what we are doing. Circling the virtual wagons. I will certainly keep writing, even more so after receiving so many encouraging reactions. I was a little self-conscious at first, English not being my mother’s tongue, but my personal style – it comes natural for me in my own language – seems to come across well enough in English. So I have laid that worry to rest and will keep going now. Problem may be that nothing much is happening, so I run the risk of running out of subjects to write about. Any suggestions from you or any other reader are welcome! Stay healthy! Until we meet again un real life. Hugs!

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