The solar is slowly rising over the Atlantic and I sit watching from the home I’ve rented overlooking dunes on the small Portuguese island of Armona. The sound of fishing boats heading out marks the pre-dawn, a time referred to as the blue hour, now a time when many are awake, having thrashed the bedding throughout one other fretful pandemic night time. I attempt to meditate and do respiration workouts to settle myself down. “It will likely be all proper,” I say. And the solar says it again.I hadn’t supposed to go and stay by myself on an island for Covid’s second wave. However I spent the primary lockdown in my flat in Spitalfields, London, making a podcast known as On the Floor for the BBC about my time as an embedded journalist working for the Guardian through the invasion of Iraq. It was a tricky, traumatic expertise, and isolation made it onerous. However what made it even tougher was the relentless noise of constructing works throughout my tiny cobbled avenue as excavations started to create a basement for what’s going to change into the British artwork duo Gilbert and George’s new gallery.As September unfolded and Nicola Sturgeon introduced that we couldn’t go to different individuals’s houses or get of their vehicles, I knew {that a} household Christmas in Scotland can be cancelled. I’ve no ties in midlife. No associate, no youngsters – simply household, associates and a bit godson, and I started to sense that I’d quickly not be capable of see any of them for some time.The boardwalk resulting in Armona seaside. {Photograph}: PTX Garfield/Getty ImagesIn Glasgow, we are saying “I felt it in my watter”, and I did. I knew I couldn’t do a lockdown once more in my flat and so, 4 days later, I used to be on a aircraft to Faro, and from there to a home in Olhão, a fishing city that I’ve come to like over the previous decade or so. I had been there final March – in these sudden, terrifying days after we realised this illness was really coming – engaged on a narrative concerning the meals of the jap Algarve. The journey was abruptly reduce quick and I flew house and into lockdown.Final September, we might journey once more so long as we self-isolated for 2 weeks as soon as again within the UK, so I stocked up my cabinets for my return, which I assumed can be in a few months, and purchased a one-way ticket.Audrey painted by Fiona GrayIn Olhão, I stayed with a British painter, Fiona Grey, and spent days writing in her wondrous plant-filled courtyard, the place she captured a picture of me frowning and puckering my lips, as I do, over my laptop computer. A brand new tenant had booked her house for the next month and so I moved on, to a home I quickly found was subsequent to some constructing works – the very factor I had sought refuge from. The 7.30am grinding of a cement mixer drove me away, to the stillness of a vacation island out of season.Armona is one in all 5 barrier islands within the Ria Formosa that defend the mainland from the complete drive of the Atlantic. It has no vehicles, simply bicycles and some quad bikes used to maneuver constructing supplies and take away the garbage. Three outlets promote necessities and alcohol, and there are six eating places, a restaurant and a seaside bar. Within the peak of summer time, there are 13 ferries a day, however in winter there are simply 4.In excessive season, the air hums with vacation sounds: the flap of flip-flops, the shouts of kids enjoying, individuals splashing within the sea, households consuming alfresco on the terraces of the little homes and out of doors the chalets of Orbitur tenting park. The concrete path – the passadeira – by means of the guts of the island is crammed in summer time with individuals heading to the picket boardwalk that results in the huge seaside on the Atlantic facet, or again to the ferry.However in winter, there’s quiet. A lot of the homes are shuttered. A small neighborhood stays: Portuguese individuals, lots of them older, and foreigners who fell in love with the place and determined to remain. Now, the passadeira is spray-painted with arrows reminding pedestrians to socially distance.Tó Luís presents a present. {Photograph}: Audrey GillanWhen I arrived on Armona, I stayed in a home on the bay, the place the solar blazed because it waned. I grew to become associates with my neighbour, António, who introduced me 13 contemporary sardines after I arrived. I quickly discovered that this was in return for entry to working water and turning my nostril away when he emptied his rest room bucket out on the turning tide.His white hair bobbled up in a tiny ponytail, his fingernails lengthy and curled, António – nickname Tó Luís – is without doubt one of the individuals who stay on Armona with little or no. His shack has only a mattress. Years in the past, Tó Luís went to jail for 3 years for stealing 20 escudos – about 10p. He fought eviction from Armona, gained sitting rights and now he will get by. Kindness on the island permits him his contemporary fish, a kindness he stored extending to me.Within the early winter, I’d go to Olhão to buy in among the finest markets in Portugal, eat lunch with associates and run for the final ferry at 5pm. I reassured my mother and father that I had made the precise selection: the Covid circumstances within the city weren’t excessive and there had been none on Armona.An empty Armona seaside, lapped by a tranquil sea. {Photograph}: Audrey GillanI recorded the sounds of the island and despatched a collection of audio postcards to a really pricey previous pal who was unwell with Covid and in intensive care – making an attempt to take him away for a number of moments to the world I do know I’m fortunate to be dwelling in. The crashing waves, the wheels of procuring trolleys as individuals shuttle to the ferry, the bom dia, boa tarde or boa noite – good day, good afternoon or good night time – known as out in greeting relying on the time of day. The few aeroplanes coming out and in of close by Faro airport. The birdsong at nightfall as a whole lot of sparrows collect in eucalyptus bushes. I whispered to him, typically by means of tears. And felt responsible. As I do now, being right here and penning this.On Christmas Eve (which, as in most of Europe, is extra necessary right here than Christmas Day), Tó Luís gave me a kind-of Christmas tree – an previous espresso jar stuffed with sand and pine branches and yellow flowers, and adorned with milk-bottle tops and cotton wool snow. I cried. On Christmas Day, I briefly jumped into the ocean and ate a lunch of Belgian stew and chips on the terrace of Lanacosta restaurant, overlooking dunes and the ocean.On 31 December, I moved once more, to a brand new home on the finish of the passadeira, an excellent place with huge floor-to ceiling doorways that usher in a lot gentle.Sardines are plentiful within the surrounding sea. {Photograph}: Audrey GillanThe clack, clack, clack of the dominoes hitting the Formica desk and the mushy shuffle of the tiles being blended up, the laughter and jokes of the group of males who gathered each night time to play within the Armona 4 bar and grill had been quickly to be silenced. Over Christmas, Portugal went in to what president Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa later termed “laxism”. Restrictions had been lifted and households got here collectively – simply because the British variant emerged right here.It was catastrophic and Covid surged. In January, Portugal’s deaths totalled 5,576, which was, on the time, almost half the nation’s whole to this point within the pandemic. A state of emergency was declared and all however important providers closed down on 14 January. Flights had been cancelled and the UK put Portugal on the pink checklist, which meant anybody touchdown would instantly be taken to resort quarantine at a value of £1,750. My “watter” and my pockets determined to sit down it out. My “watter” was proper: Portugal was faraway from the pink checklist on 19 March, however there are not any flights to the UK.Pam and Zé Pardo. {Photograph}: Audrey GillanI embraced the winter, the coldest the Algarve has skilled in 10 years. The storms threw plenty of plastic, a number of face masks, even a tv set on to the seaside, and this introduced one other sort of unhappiness. However I discovered concerning the tides, and purchased conquilhas – candy little bivalves which can be higher than any clams I’ve eaten – instantly from the lads who dig them out of the sand when the ocean has gone out – backbreaking work. I delighted in spring rising, watching the wonderful yellow mimosa bloom all throughout the island and slicing flowers to stay within the jars I’ve collected.I’ve spent months by myself, however I’ve associates right here now. Feathers, the gray and pink parrot that whistles at me after I stroll by. Pam and Zé Pardo, who personal the Armona 4 by the ferry pier and hosted a bit lunch for me on my birthday in February, the place Zé bought out his guitar and we sang Carole King’s You’ve Obtained a Buddy. Pam is now my “island mum”. There’s Gil, who waves each single time he passes my home on his quad bike, and Leonor, who, together with her inexperienced cart, sweeps the passadeira and empties the bins and all the time cheerily says whats up and asks how I’m. After which there’s Ulrike who, due to Covid, needed to depart India and the charity she based to vary the lives of poor village youngsters by constructing a skateboard park, which known as Janwaar Fortress. We take lengthy walks collectively, Ulrike and I. I prefer to cook dinner for her. And daily she says, “Life is nice.” Which is so extremely heartening. We all know we’re fortunate. To be right here, and to be right here nonetheless.Armona awaits the return of higher days. {Photograph}: Daniel Boavida/AlamyTomorrow is Easter Sunday, Páscoa. One other viscerally necessary time for households to come back collectively in Portugal. However, having discovered from the laxism of Christmas, and with strict lockdown seeing circumstances plummet as quick as they rose, the federal government just about banned motion from 26 March and informed individuals to remain at house for 10 days.However on Easter Monday, issues will start to ease. Eating places can open if they’ve an out of doors terrace, and tables will likely be restricted to 4 individuals. On Armona, the place everybody is aware of that only one case would devastate the island, there’s a feeling of hope. The paint cans are out. The eating places are refreshing and refurbishing. A brand new ice-cream store has been created subsequent to Armona 4, which has overhauled its roof terrace; and the as soon as dimly lit “massive” store has new homeowners, who’ve reduce out new home windows, bought in additional inventory and put a elaborate signal above the door: O Cantinho da Ria (translating roughly as Estuary Nook).Tomorrow there will likely be quite a lot of prayers. That this can mark the tip of lockdown, that guests will return to the island, that flights will start once more. And, ultimately, I should return house.