Back in the Wetlands

In Auckland many beautiful homes are teetering on cliff tops.

It’s now Tuesday January 31st, 2023. Kia ora!

Last Sunday we had lunch with a nephew and his partner who live in Melbourne, before flying back to New Zealand.  I was quite amazed on the drive there: there are lots of big houses in Churton Park, where I live, but these Australian houses are bigger!  My first thought would be how do you clean it? And then how do you heat it?  Still, it’s very nice to have plenty of room, and a big dining table. 

We had very nice pizza and salads, and then a caramel cheesecake with cream and ice cream – delicious.  There was a bit of talk about my husband’s family history. Afterwards my sister-in-law dropped us off at Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport.

Well, this Airport could certainly do with a re-vamp.  We couldn’t check in for our flight, so we sat down near the Air New Zealand kiosks. There were lots of people there, and seating was in short supply. You had to pay $4 for a trolley, so we didn’t. There was an information board above where we were sitting; eventually it said we could check in. We did that, and dropped our bags off, and proceeded to go through security. And then my troubles started again. Again there was the body scanner: the dude operating it told me to sit on a chair nearby while he scanned other people. Was I meant to wait? He then seemed to forget about me.

Meanwhile, JD was several feet away from me, as I watched with dismay my carry-on bag being emptied and rifled through, spilling out my cardigan, which was in a plastic bag in a tote bag within the carry-on bag;  he found a water bottle – silly me, I should have discarded it, but sometimes you just need a drink and can’t get one. I left my seat and went to rescue my carry-on bag and my handbag. I just hate letting these go out of my sight. Meanwhile, had I been asked to wait by the body-scanner guy? I didn’t want to do anything wrong here. He was busy scanning people, and seemed to have forgotten about me. I joined JD and we proceeded through to the Duty Free store.

Although I was quite shaken, I really wanted to get an opal bracelet here. On a previous trip we’d bought a beautiful opal bracelet, which I was very fond of. Furthermore, at that time they were advertising 50% off the retail price, and I felt we’d got a good deal. Sadly, this bracelet fell off my wrist, and I looked everywhere on my walk to the Churton Park shops, not finding it, and I left a message at the New World Supermarket there. It wasn’t there, and it wasn’t handed in, so I had to accept the loss and hope that another such opportunity would arise.

There were very few bracelets for sale. There was lots of Swarovski jewellery, but I didn’t want Swarovski. Eventually we found something we both liked, although it’s quite different from my former bracelet. My birthday is coming up soon, so I feel a little justified in wanting to buy something.

Then we found a café where we bought coffee and I tried to rest while we waited to board our flight. I enjoyed reading my book, although I would have liked a more comfortable seat! At least I could put my feet up.

Then we moved through to the departure lounge, and again sat and waited.

The flight back to Wellington was uneventful, apart from a two patches of turbulence. I was afraid we’d run into a thunderstorm near Wellington, but we did not. Dinner was served – braised beef with some very overcooked broccoli and sweet potato, and a caramel slice, followed by coffee. Again, I found the food container far too small, and it was really difficult to cut the food with the wooden cutlery. The beef was quite tough, and in large chunks. It was hard to be tidy, and I’m not a messy person!  There was a bread roll too, and a container of butter and sunflower oil: you squeezed the contents onto the roll. What a novelty! This was a really nice mixture.  Of course I didn’t need the roll, but eating it helped to pass the time.

The entertainment was sadly lacking. There were no movies or television shows I wanted to watch, or even to watch again. I was so glad I had my book to read – although I’d been tempted to finish it back in Australia.

Then we descended to Wellington Airport, a remarkably smooth descent and landing. I’ve never had such a smooth descent and landing.  Although I thought I’d need my puffer jacket, it was so warm in Wellington that I didn’t put it, or my cardigan, on.  It was much muggier than Australia, and we missed the dry heat of Adelaide and Melbourne, although the latter was a bit stickier than Adelaide.

Then we went through the disembarking routines, collecting our checked baggage along the way. It had arrived, safe and sound. We caught a taxi home, and marvelled that it had all gone so smoothly.

Now back in Wellington, there is lots to catch up on. We keep getting dire reports of the continuing flooding in Auckland, north of Auckland, the Coromandel. Waitomo, Tauranga, Bay of Plenty, and now Rotorua. In Auckland all education facilities including early childcare are closed for a week until February 7. Unfortunately many only heard this via the news media. The newly elected mayor of Auckland, Wayne Brown,  is being widely criticised for his (lack of) response; he is blaming emergency procedures, which are about to be upgraded; nevertheless, he is the mayor. In these situations you really need a leader to be inspirational and reassuring.

This morning it was fine and warm, although there was fog over Wellington Airport for a time. Then this afternoon it became much cooler, and rained heavily for a time. The Labour Party has gone up in the polls, and the new Prime Minister Hipkins has edged just ahead of National’s Chris Luxon in a new poll. PM Hipkins has also done a cabinet reshuffle. So he continues to hog the limelight!

This morning I had an Aclasta infusion at the Medical Centre. I actually slept really well last night, after several nights of a few hours of disturbed sleep; I didn’t wake till almost 9 am! So I had a bit of a rush to have breakfast and get showered and ready. It all went smoothly, and afterwards I walked to the Johnsonville Shopping Centre. I’d drunk a large (very nice) coffee while I was being infused, and needed to use the rest room.  While I was there, I noticed my left elbow had been bleeding, and the site of the line looked a bit messy. I went to the chemist to pick up a repeat prescription, and asked them to put something over it. They got alarmed; wouldn’t touch the wound; got the chemist to look at it when he was free; he advised me to go back to the Medical Centre. I did this, but by this time the nurse who’d given me the infusion had gone to lunch. They found another nurse to look at it, and she established that I was no longer bleeding, cleaned me up, and put a new plaster on.  No further drama.

There is lots to catch up on. Two Listener magazines were delivered while we were away, and there are television programs to catch up on. So important!  Actually I really missed newspapers during our time in Oz, although I knew to expect this. They’re very scarce even in the shops! I know I can look up the websites online, but it ain’t the same.

I did listen to several podcasts while we were away, but there was a The Rest is History podcast about Hitler and the Nazi Party’s electoral win, and their subsequent steps to ensure that they had supreme power.  This included the Reichstag Fire; and questions as to whether this could happen again. I finally managed to listen to the whole thing.  I also caught up with The Rest is Politics podcast, talking about Prime Minister Ardern’s seemingly sudden resignation. Politics is a brutal world, as the hosts reminded us again.

Yesterday we went shopping; I walked to the local supermarket to buy fresh croissants for lunch (you always need to check the labels for today’s date!). There were plenty of eggs there, but I didn’t buy any, since I was walking and didn’t want to carry too much. But at Thorndon New World, where we went later, there were no eggs! None at all.  There were no pies, either, but we did get some Caesar Salad and coleslaw for dinner.  I bought fresh raspberries, too, but there didn’t seem to be many in the punnet. I bought some rhubarb sticks; sadly, there was none ready cut.  And we got more Vogel bread, bananas and Havarti cheese slices, which I’ve been unable to get. I like to get a large container of Greek yoghurt sweetened with honey: they had five other flavours (plain, lite, vanilla, mixed berry, and blueberry), but no honey-sweetened yoghurt. I don’t like the berry one, so I got blueberry flavoured.  It was quiet there, which was nice.

I am amazed again looking at the devastating weather conditions, worsened by the fog at Wellington Airport earlier today. Again, DG, we flew to Australia from Auckland and back into Wellington, avoiding any disruptions. 

It’s now Wednesday February 1st.

Last night I had a really bad night. Reactions to my infusion really kicked in. After trying to get to sleep, I realised there was a problem with my legs. It wasn’t cramp or Restless Leg Syndrome, but more like the “growing pains” I had experienced while growing up. I took one Sinemet tablet, but felt very nauseous and didn’t dare to take more. I wondered if the Sinemet would interfere with my Aclasta infusion. I got out and read the fact sheet I’d been given. It didn’t say anything about “growing pains”; it said, rather heartlessly I thought, that surely a few side effects was better than having a fall! Well, I suppose it is, but I had a very uncomfortable night. I got up to get a drink at one point, thinking that might help. Perhaps it did; who knows. I listened to many podcasts, one (American Scandal) about a case in Chicago in the late 1980’s/early 1990’s of brutality by while police against black suspects. It was truly shocking. And it’s happened again, with Tyre Nichols.  The (police), i.e. the gang in blue are still just that – the gang in blue.

In Auckland and northern areas heavy rainfall continues, but it doesn’t affect everyone, of course. Newly elected mayor Wayne Brown needs a lesson in making the media his friend; then he could take some control over the narrative. He manages to look heartless and uncaring, when people want someone to take charge and inspire them. New Prime Minister Hipkins is doing rather well, on the other hand. Former Prime Minister Ardern has posted on Instagram, giving some really useful information. Now she’s one to take charge in a crisis. Yesterday it was announced that in Auckland ECE (Early Childhood Education Centres) can open if it is safe to do so. Today it’s announced that schools can open from tomorrow (Thursday).

That’s it for now. Tomorrow I hope to go to my Thursday singing group, providing I have a better night/ Slava Ukraini! Ngā mihi nui.

Wonderful Melbourne

Tiepolo’s Cleopatra’s Feast

Today is (still) Monday January 30th, 2023. Kia ora!

It seems that Prince Harry’s memoir Spare is not being sold in large numbers; in fact, I haven’t seen a copy sold at all, and I’ve been to several Whitcoulls stores. It’s not even prominent in some of them. I saw one woman in Queensgate Mall stopping to look at a copy, while her teenage daughters urged her away.

In Australia, everything is bigger and better. Our relatives have big covered outdoor areas with large tables and plenty of comfortable furniture, as well as many comfortable table chairs.  They seem to have a lot of things that would be regarded as quite expensive luxuries here.

Our niece has a large pool, which is fenced, and  has a hammock and poolside covered area with comfortable furniture. There are overhead fans.  As it got hotter, we moved inside, where there are lots more couches and comfortable chairs. They are so well set up for big family parties.

It’s strange here. I’m not drinking nearly as much tea and coffee as I usually do.  Everything tastes a little different. Everything is different. Ordering coffee is tricky: JD rushes to order a “long black” for me; something comes which is certainly “long” and “black”, but in no way resembles a strong espresso coffee in a small coffee cup, without milk or sugar, In Australia, if you want sugar, you usually have to request some, which is awkward if you’ve said No and the coffee turns out to be really bitter. Back in New Zealand, I sometimes add part of a sachet of raw sugar and don’t stir it. Naughty, I know, but it tends to make the coffee more drinkable.

The food here is – different (from what I’m expecting); the plates are too small; the knives aren’t nearly sharp enough, and everything is overcooked, sometimes with quite unpleasant cooking oil. It’s hard to get a salad, let alone a piece of fruit. I did get rather sick of platters, which sounded good but weren’t what I was expecting. There were lots of carrot and celery sticks, and dukkha (or bird seed, for Philistines like myself). The bread, however, is great.

On Wednesday we were to fly to Melbourne. There was some confusion as to how early we had to report to Adelaide Airport and check in.  I had a bath, dressed and packed, and got a message from Qantas to check in to our flight. I checked both of us in. At least we were sitting together, albeit at the back of the plane.

Eventually we got to the airport, but there my mobile phone had no internet connection!  JD asked a Qantas staff member to print out boarding passes; then we could scan them to print baggage tags. The baggage tags did not work as well as the Air New Zealand ones.  We loaded our suitcases on the baggage rack; there was a nervous moment when the machine thought my suitcase was over weight, but we knew it wasn’t, and it disappeared.

Then we went through security, and the fun really started.  Unlike in Auckland, I could use one tray for my two bags. They disappeared though while there were delays. However security at Adelaide Airport for our domestic flight was, frankly, over the top.

My precious carry-on bags disappeared while I went through the body scanner. You had to step up and onto it, which was tricky for me. It had markers where you were supposed to put your feet, which were uncomfortably far apart for me. I was told I didn’t have to have my feet that far apart. I had to spread my arms.

When I got through, the lady doing the scan had found some areas of concern, although it was very hot and I was only wearing pants, a cotton skirt, and a bra,  and sandals. She offered to take me to a private room. Was she going to do a full body search? A strip search? No, she was going to pat me down. As already I couldn’t see my precious handbag, I opted for the pat-down there and then.

Having got through that, I walked further on, to where an officious border guard insisted on emptying my handbag. My passport, my precious 50th wedding anniversary ring, and other contents were roughly spilled out. He found a pair of nail scissors, which had escaped detection to date, and which of course are very useful to have handy. I had to ditch them, which is really not a problem. He shuffled things back into my bag, and shoved me forward. I wanted to check the contents, but there was nowhere to sit.  I did manage to check, however, and everything seemed to be intact.

Next we tried to have an early lunch. There was a cafe with cabinet food, but very few seats. Next to it was a pub, very well patronised, and we found a table there.  All the things I felt like eating were off the menu, since it was after 11am.  There was no coffee menu like there usually is in New Zealand.

We found another place to eat which claimed to use “locally sourced” ingredients. The staff were very friendly and it looked new and modern. JD ordered a burger and I ordered a chicken panini, and a double espresso, thinking that would be a safe choice.  JD also ordered a glass of chardonnay and some orange juice, which he shared with me. Australian orange juice is delicious.

The panini came with chips, on a barely big enough plate. The bun was not what we would regard as a panini bun; it was a large thick oblong bun, a bit over-toasted. When I tried to remove half of the top, I managed to spill some of the contents on the table. Actually the food was delicious; the chicken was in small pieces and it had been marinated; there was lots of red cabbage. The coffee turned up first – it was tiny! Instead the waitress offered to get me a “long black”. Which she did, and when it came it was almost like what I would call a “long black” coffee.

Although I did not intend to eat the chips, they were delicious and I did eat quite a few, leaving most of the bun, which was really difficult to cut with the knife they’d given me.

Afterwards we went to the W.H.Smith bookshop nearby, to get something to read on the plane. I saw no books by New Zealand authors and no New Zealand magazines.  There were some specials, but I found a Vera novel by Ann Cleeves and chose that. It wasn’t on special, of course.

While JD was still looking, I realized I needed to use a restroom. I headed off past Starbucks, probably in the wrong direction, since I had to walk a very long way to find one. Again I longed for the Hartford -Jackson Airport in Atlanta, with its bathroom signs – pink and blue. I guess you decide which applies, rather than figuring out the disturbing pictures of ladies – always wearing skirts. And men – always wearing trousers

The Qantas/Air New Zealand flight from Adelaide was what they call “very full”, one of those mystifying terms. To me, a thing is either full or it’s not.  Air NZ now has a codeshare arrangement with Qantas (5 1/2 years ago it was with Virgin Australia). JD accepted Qantas’ offer to put his carry-on back pack in the hold, but was refused.

The plane was a Boeing 737, I suspect an older and less fuel-efficient vehicle, but despite six recent Qantas flights that had experienced technical difficulties, since we had left New Zealand on 18 January, it got us safely to Melbourne. I was glad to have bought my new novel. It was very readable. 

There was a snack served on the plane: a cold drink (no tea or coffee, which I would have preferred), and a small sealed container with corn chips, spring onion dip, and sliced carrot and celery sticks. It’s amazing how you eat whatever is being offered, since it serves to pass the time, and you don’t know when you’ll get to eat again.

We landed without incident, and rather than descending via the air bridge (as we’d boarded the plane), we descended by the steps at the back door, since we were sitting near the rear of the plane.  The steps were all right, and we walked on the tarmac – I guess you’re allowed to now – and then up two flights of stairs to the terminal building. Now that I wasn’t prepared for.

We made our way to Baggage Claim, where there were lots of people. We waited hopefully by one carousel for our bags to appear, but it was the wrong one. JD tried to get a baggage trolley, but in Melbourne you have to pay for them! So we didn’t. Our suitcases are both walkers.  Meanwhile JD was texting his sister, who had come to meet us. He realized we were waiting at the wrong carousel, so we moved, and thankfully our bags turned up. 

We met our sister who had stopped nearby, by some magic of her charm and a photo of my disability parking permit – evidently you can use it in Victoria, Australia. We then drove to her home in Geelong. Thankfully the traffic wasn’t too bad.

The next day was a quiet one, binging on her television set. We watched A Very British Scandal, about Margaret Argyll, who was married to the Earl of Argyll and was briefly mother-in-law of Lady Colin Campbell. I had always wanted to watch this series.

We also watched an episode of Annika, the new detective series on Neon staring Nicola Walker, and a long episode of Taggart, set in the gritty city of Glasgow.

By then it was truly bedtime, and we’d watched far too much television for one day. We comforted ourselves with the thought that this made up for days of not watching any television at all.  Does mobile phone screen time count? I hope not!

The next day we were to go to Melbourne, firstly to the Lume at the Melbourne Convention Centre, called Monet and Friends. It was quite wonderful, with photographic displays over the ceiling and walls of the large hall. At one corner was a café, where we had lunch, after waiting to be seated. You had to scan a QR code into your phone, which enabled you to see the menu, order and pay – all quite a challenge.  My other sister-in-law and I had a ham and cheese croissant; JD had French toast (Pain Perdu) which came with ice cream!  I had some coffee – somewhat unsuccessfully; the water was good. After this wonderful display we exited – through the Gift Shop, of course!  That had many beautiful things. A son’s partner has a birthday coming up: I got her a present, and then presents for all my grandchildren.  They wouldn’t take cash there but did take my debit card. I bought some postcards to send to my daughter, and we bought a CD of the music played (never mind that Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake isn’t French music).  What a beautiful set up, and how very good at relieving one of one’s money.

After this we walked to the wonderful NGV (National Gallery of Victoria). It was 2 km, a 20 minute walk, but I thought I was up for it. We walked along the Southbank, along with many other people, having several rests along the way in areas shaded by trees. Eventually we reached the Gallery. There was an Alexander McQueen exhibition on there, which followed closely the documentary we’d seen on Te Whakaata Māori. It was wonderful to see his magnificent designs again. Then we dashed upstairs to see the famous Tiepolo painting of Cleopatra’s Feast. It had been moved, though, and looked quite different this time. The gallery was to close for an hour, and we tried to figure out how to have coffee, and get back to the car. I was pretty well all done in i.e. totally exhausted by now.  Our sister got a rickshaw to take us back instead of walking – a huge relief, although we all had to cram up to sit three abreast on the seat. After we were belted in, the driver/ bike rider took us back to the Convention Centre parking building.  We then drove back to Geelong. Thankfully because we’d been to the Monet and Friends exhibition, we were able to leave the car there until 6 pm, and the parking was free!

The next day was our last one in Geelong. We went to the library, to look out over the city from the sixth floor; we then went to the gallery next door – very unprepossessing, but a great and gracious gallery, nonetheless. There was an exhibition of art works by Mandy Martin, a member of the PAM (Progressive Art Movement). There was a large and confronting photo about immigrants, and of course paintings about colonial life, with all its difficulties, and frequent deaths. After that we drove out to Portarlington, where we had coffee and delicious donuts, and sent my daughter a photo of us all.

Meantime, tanks are being sent to Ukraine, from Germany, Poland, and the US; in a truly shocking incident a black man was beaten to death by five black police officers.  How can this still happen, after the George Floyd killing and consequent protests and hand-wringing? The video is really upsetting, to hear him calling for his “mom. What was he pulled over for? He was just going home! For some reason I find this incident so very upsetting.

In the UK former Chancellor of the Exchequer, Nadhim Zakawi, has finally been sacked. He was leader of the Tory Party. There was some huge tax issue, which has been hanging around for days; now he’s gone, perhaps. 

Today is (still) Monday January 30th, 2023. Kia ora!

It seems that Prince Harry’s memoir Spare is not being sold in large numbers; in fact, I haven’t seen a copy sold at all, and I’ve been to several Whitcoulls stores. It’s not even prominent in some of them. I saw one woman in Queensgate Mall stopping to look at a copy, while her teenage daughters urged her away.

In Australia, everything is bigger and better. Our relatives have big covered outdoor areas with large tables and plenty of comfortable furniture, as well as many comfortable table chairs.  They seem to have a lot of things that would be regarded as quite expensive here.

Our niece has a large pool, which is fenced, and  has a hammock and poolside covered area with comfortable furniture. There are overhead fans.  As it got hotter, we moved inside, where there are lots more couches and comfortable chairs. They are so well set up for big family parties.

It’s strange here. I’m not drinking nearly as much tea and coffee as I usually do.  Everything tastes a little different. Everything is different. Ordering coffee is tricky: JD rushes to order a “long black” for me; something comes which is certainly “long” and “black”, but in no way resembles a strong espresso coffee in a small coffee cup, without milk of sugar, In Australia, if you want sugar, you usually have to request some, which is awkward if you’ve said No and the coffee turns out to be really bitter. Back in New Zealand, I sometimes add part of a sachet of war sugar and don’t stir it. Naughty, I know, but it tends to make the coffee more drinkable.

The food here is – different (from what I’m expecting); the plates are too small; the knives aren’t nearly sharp enough, and everything is overcooked, sometimes with quite unpleasant cooking oil. It’s hard to get a salad, let alone a piece of fruit. I did get rather sick of platters, which sounded good but weren’t what I was expecting. There were lots of carrot and celery sticks, and dukkha (or bird seed, for Philistines like myself). The bread, however, is great.

On Wednesday we were to fly to Melbourne. There was some confusion as to how early we had to report to Adelaide Airport and check in.  I had a bath, dressed and packed, and got a message from Qantas to check in to our flight. I checked both of us in. At least we were sitting together;

Eventually we got to the airport, but there my mobile phone had no internet connection!  JD asked a Qantas staff member to print out boarding passes; then we could scan them to print baggage tags. The baggage tags did not work as well as the Air New Zealand ones.  We loaded our suitcases on the baggage rack; there was a nervous moment when the machine thought my suitcase was over weight, but we knew it wasn’t, and it disappeared.

Then we went through security, and the fun really started.  Unlike in Auckland, I could use one tray for my two bags. They disappeared though while there were delays. However security at Adelaide Airport for our domestic flight was, frankly, over the top.

My precious carry-on bags disappeared while I went through the body scanner. You had to step up and on it, which was tricky for me. It had markers where you were supposed to put your feet, which were uncomfortably far apart for me. I was told I didn’t have to have my feet that far apart. I had to spread my arms.

When I got through, the lady doing the scan had found some areas of concern, although it was very hot and I was only wearing pants, a cotton skirt, and a bra,  and sandals. She offered to take me to a private room. Was she going to do a full body search? A strip search! No, she was going to pat me down. As already I couldn’t see my precious handbag, I opted for the pat-down there and then.

Having got through that, I walked further on, to where an officious border guard insisted on emptying my handbag. My passport, my precious 50th wedding anniversary ring, and other contents were roughly spilled out. He found a pair of nail scissors, which had escaped detection to date, and which of course are very useful to have handy. I had to ditch them, which is really not a problem. He shuffled things back into my bag, and shoved me forward. I wanted to check the contents, but there was nowhere to sit.  I did manage to check, however, and everything seemed to be intact.

Next we tried to have an early lunch. There was a cafe with cabinet food, but very few seats. Next to it was a pub, very well patronised, and we found a table there.  All the things I felt like eating were off the menu, since it was after 11am.  There was no coffee menu like there usually is in New Zealand.

We found another place to eat which claimed to use “locally sourced” ingredients. The staff were very friendly and it looked new and modern. JD ordered a burger and I ordered a chicken panini, and a double espresso, thinking that would be a safe choice.  JD also ordered a glass of chardonnay and some orange juice, which he shared with me. Australian orange juice is delicious.

The panini came with chips, on a barely big enough plate. The bun was not what we would regard as a panini bun; it was a large oblong bun, a bit over-toasted. When I tried to remove half of the top, I managed to spill some of the contents on the table. Actually the food was delicious; the chicken was in small pieces and it had been marinated; there was lots of red cabbage. The coffee turned up first – it was tiny! Instead the waitress offered to get me a “long black”. Which she did, and when it came it was almost like what I would call a “long black” coffee.

Although I did not intend to eat the chips, they were delicious and I did eat quite a few, leaving most of the bun, which was really difficult to cut with the knife they’d given me.

Afterwards we went to the W.H.Smith bookshop nearby, to get something to read on the plane. I saw no books by New Zealand authors and no New Zealand magazines.  There were sone specials, but I found a Vera novel by Ann Cleeves and chose that. It wasn’t on special, of course.

While JD was still looking, I realized I needed to use a restroom. I headed off past Starbucks, probably in the wrong direction, since I had to walk a very long way to find one. Again I longed for the Hartford -Jackson Airport in Atlanta, with its bathroom signs – pink and blue. I guess you decide which applies, rather than figuring out the disturbing pictures of ladies – always wearing skirts. And men – always wearing trousers

The Qantas/Air New Zealand flight from Adelaide was what they call “very full”, one of those mystifying terms. To me, a thing is either full or it’s not.  Air NZ now has a codeshare arrangement with Qantas (5 1/2 years ago it was with Virgin Australia). JD accepted Qantas’ offer to put his carry-on back pack in the hold, but was refused.

The plane was a Boeing 737, I suspect an older and less fuel-efficient vehicle, but despite six recent Qantas flights that had experienced technical difficulties, since we had left New Zealand on 18 January, it got us safely to Melbourne. I was glad to have bought my new novel. It was very readable. 

There was a snack served on the plane: a cold drink (no tea or coffee, which I would have preferred), and a small sealed container with corn chips, spring onion dip, and sliced carrot and celery sticks.

We landed without incident, and rather than descending via the air bridge (as we’d boarded the plane), we descended by the steps at the back door, since we were sitting near the rear of the plane.  The steps were all right, and we walked on the tarmac – I guess you’re allowed now – and then up two flights of stairs to the terminal building. Now that I wasn’t prepare for.

We made our way to Baggage Claim, where there were lots of people. We waited hopefully by one carousel for our bags to appear, but it was the wrong one. JD tried to get a baggage trolley, but in Melbourne you have to pay for them! So we didn’t. Our suitcases are both walkers.  Meanwhile JD was texting his sister, who had come to meet us. He realized we were waiting at the wrong carousel, so we moved, and thankfully our bags turned up. 

We met our sister who had stopped nearby, by some magic of her charm and my disability parking pass – evidently you can use it in Victoria, Australia. We then drove to her home in Geelong. Thankfully the traffic wasn’t too bad.

The next day was a quiet one, binging on her television. We watched A Very British Scandal, about Margaret Argyll, who was married to the Earl of Argyll and was briefly mother-in-law of Lady Colin Campbell. I had always wanted to watch this series.

We also watched an episode of Annika, the new detective series on Neon staring Nicola Walker, and a long episode of Taggart, set in the gritty city of Glasgow.

By then it was truly bedtime, and we’d watched far too much television for one day. We comforted ourselves with the thought that this made up for days of not watching any television at all.  Does mobile phone screen time count? I hope not!

The next day we were to go to Melbourne, firstly to the Lume at the Melbourne Convention Centre, called Monet and Friends. It was quite wonderful, with photographic displays over the ceiling and walls of the large hall. At one corner was a café, where we had lunch, after waiting to be seated. You had to scan a QR code into your phone, which enabled you to see the menu, order and pay – all quite a challenge.  My other sister-in-law and I had a ham and cheese croissant; JD had French toast (Pain Perdu) which came with ice cream!  I had some coffee – somewhat unsuccessfully; the water was good. After this wonderful display we exited – through the Gift Shop, of course!  That had many beautiful things. A son’s partner has a birthday coming up: I got her a present, and then presents for all my grandchildren.  They wouldn’t take cash there but did take my debit card. I bought some postcards to send to my daughter, and we bought a CD of the music played (never mind that Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake isn’t French music).  What a beautiful set up, and how very good at relieving one of one’s money.

After this we walked to the wonderful NGV (National Gallery of Victoria). It was 2 km, a 20 minute walk, but I thought I was up for it. We walked along the Southbank, along with many other people, having several rests along the way in areas shaded by trees. Eventually we reached the Gallery. There was an Alexander McQueen exhibition on there, which followed closely the documentary we’d seen on Te Whakaata Māori. It was wonderful to see his magnificent designs again. Then we dashed upstairs to see the famous Tiepolo painting of Cleopatra’s Feast. It had been moved, though, and looked quite different this time. The gallery was to close for an hour, and we tried to figure out how to have coffee, and get back to the car. I was pretty well all done in my now.  Our sister got a rickshaw to take us back instead of walking – a huge relief, although we all had to cram up to sit three abreast on the seat. After we were belted in, the driver/ bike rider took us back to the Convention Centre parking building.  We then drove back to Geelong.

The next day was our last one in Geelong. We went to the library, to look out over the city from the sixth floor; we then went to the gallery next door – very unprepossessing, but a great and gracious gallery, nonetheless. There was an exhibition of art works by Mandy Martin, a member of the PAM (Progressive Art Movement). There was a large and confronting photo about immigrants, and of course paintings about colonial life, with all its difficulties, and frequent deaths. After that we drove out to Portarlington, where we had coffee and delicious donuts, and sent my daughter a photo of us all.

Meantime, tanks are being sent to Ukraine, from Germany, Poland, and the US; in a truly shocking incident a black man was beaten to death by five black police officers.  How can this still happen, after the George Floyd killing and consequent protests and hand-wringing? The video is really upsetting, to hear hum calling for his “mom. What was he pulled over for? He was just going home! For some reason I find this incident so very upsetting.

In the UK former Chancellor of the Exchequer, Nadhim Zakawi, has finally been sacked. He was leader of the Tory Party. There was some huge tax issue, which has been hanging around for days; now he’s gone, perhaps. 

That’s it for now. See the next instalment for our (not so) exciting flight home. Slava Ukraini! Ngā mihi nui.

In New Zealand, Chris Hipkins has made a very smooth transition to becoming Prime Minister. And there’s been dreadful rainfall and consequent flooding in Auckland, resulting in the Domestic and International Airports being closed. Thank goodness we aren’t scheduled to fly through Auckland this time.

That’s it for now. See the next instalment for our (not so) exciting flight home. Slava Ukraini! Ngā mihi nui.

Party Time!

Adelaide’s (Gawler’s) Hewett Centre

It’s now Monday January 30th, 2023. 0Kia ora!

We arrived at Auckland International Airport at around 6:20 am on Wednesday January 18th for our flight which was scheduled to depart at 8:25 am. There already seemed to be hundreds of people there already. An overhead notice advised us to go to Zone A. We duly checked in at a kiosk and printed baggage tags and boarding passes. Then we went to load our checked baggage.  This was trickier, but we eventually figured it out.

Then we went through security, and came across the first duty-free store, a large one, which seemed to sell only alcohol and make-up.  JD didn’t want to carry any more stuff, so we walked until we came to a Food Hall.  Thankfully I had looked up to see what food options were available beforehand, and I ordered ciabatta toast and spreads and a long black coffee from Aroha.  The toast came in a cardboard tray, and I selected butter, strawberry jam and peanut butter sachets, wooden cutlery, and paper napkins.  I had found us a table nearby.  The toast, which I shared with JD, turned out to be a good choice.

Then we walked what seemed like a very long way (with several travellators – perhaps 6), to Gate 18, where we sat and waited, again.  On the way I used a rest room, where the toilet flushes automatically!

The plane was boarded in sections, from the rear of the plane first. We were seated in row 23. The overhead lockers had plenty of room, but our seats had little space, less than the plane we’d flown in the previous night.

The flight time was almost 5 hours. It was very smooth for the most part. They served breakfast, but this took ages to arrive, and I was so glad I’d had some toast at the airport.  Breakfast was chorizo frittata or muesli, a chocolate Danish pastry, and a hot drink. The frittata was very nice, actually.

I tried to watch the movie Mrs Harris Goes to Paris with the lovely Lesley Manville. I’d seen it before, of course, but I was happy to watch it again, especially once I realised the small paper parcel I was sitting on contained headphones! Actually they weren’t very good, and kept falling out of my ears. Also, I couldn’t tilt the screen, and wished I’d been a few inches taller. That was annoying. I could cross my legs, but i did get really uncomfortable.

We had a smooth landing, but it took a long time to get off the plane. Than we queued up for some entry check, I don’t know what they call it here. It took a very long time. The checkers were meticulous. No E-passport swift entry gates here.  On the plane I had managed to find my sister-in-law’s address in my diary in my travel bag, so at least I had that.

We eventually got through, and retrieved our checked luggage. Thankfully it had arrived intact.  Then we queued up for another check, before emerging into the airport proper. En route I used a rest room which was very Hi-Tech, not with a loo that flushed automatically, but with a large sink, where you put your hands out for warm water, liquid soap, and drying. Now the latter I had not seen before.

Our sister was there to meet us, and drove us to her home. We had seen it on our last visit, when she was in the process of buying it, but she has done so much to it since she moved in!

We are in Gawler, which is a rather beautiful and quaint old town, with lots of very pretty older brick cottages.  The local government keeps doing odd things with the roadworks, but that’s no great matter, it’s still charming, for the most part. I had forgotten that in Adelaide and surrounding areas, the sun is the enemy, to be shut out, and the interiors are quite dark. There are lots and lots of trees, many of them very big ones.

When we arrived it was quite cool, by their standards, having just had a heat wave. We joked that we’d brought Wellington weather with us, but without the humidity.  My phone shows me the temperature in Churton Park each day along with Gawler, and it’s sometimes cooler in Gawler than in Wellington.  It’s very comfortable for me. I’ve brought the right clothes, for once! I’ve brought clothes that I would normally take to Napier, perhaps not even wearing them in Wellington. It’s nice to be warm enough, without wearing lots of warm clothes.

The next day we called in at our niece’s house, and then went shopping, again marvelling that Australia has the edge on New Zealand with its ability to offer more consumer goods. We picked up wine from a liquor store. Although they had overseas wines, I did not see a single New Zealand wine there, other than a bottle of Oyster Bay Pinot Gris at $20.

We drove out into the Barossa Valley to have lunch at Lyndoch.  I had the pasta special with prawns, forgetting how messy pasta can be to eat. I hesitated between this and the fish special (snapper), my favourite, but it came with Thai basil, which I’ve previously reacted badly to. Afterwards I asked for a small long black coffee; when it came, it was much bigger than I expected, and I had to take it away with us. It was good coffee, but I should have ordered an espresso, I think.

That evening there was a family dinner, with perhaps 25 people there?  Thoughtfully my sister had ordered platters and had grazing food available, with lots to drink. These Australian homes are great for entertaining with big dining tables and big, covered outdoor areas and lots of comfortable furniture, which absorb a lot of people. JD regaled us all with the family story behind the gift (a painting) we’d brought for his sister. Amazingly, it arrived intact, in my suitcase. We’d considered carrying it as hand luggage, but decided that would be quite problematic to do so. I’m glad we made the right decision.

This is the first family gathering after JD’s mother died in 2019; before that, they met at a nephew’s wedding in 2017. So it’s a significant occasion, where there are a few new faces, a few new children, a few new ailments, but thanks for the opportunity to be together once more. Again, we of my and my husband’s generation marvel at how amazingly well our precious children and grandchildren and great nieces and nephews have turned out, despite their somewhat dysfunctional parents. Our children have turned out to be great parents, too.

The next day most of us gathered for lunch at a restaurant in the Barossa Valley. What a beautiful part of the country this is!  A beautiful, fertile landscape. Having lunch was a great idea. Thoughtfully we’d been asked to send through our orders the night before, so although there were so many of us, there was plenty of room and it was very well-organised.

Later some of us had a barbecue dinner at our niece’s house, which again had plenty of space, indoors and out. There was a breeze in the evening, which had some of us reaching for cardigans and jackets. There were some great discussions about politics both in New Zealand and in Australia.

Amongst all this came the dreadful news that Prime Minister Arden is resigning as our Prime Minister. I first learnt this on Thursday morning. We’d stopped to pick up some wine, and I happened to check my phone. The Guardian headline it came up with was Ardern’s resignation as Prime Minister. Then I looked at the Stuff i.e. Dom post website and saw a photo of National Party Leader Christopher Luxon smiling.

In my email was a message from Ardern, explaining the rationale for her decision.  Of course, I can totally understand it, but it is still a devastating shock. Her “star power” was really something. Some have written about her amazing legacy; others have written about the vitriol and misogyny she encountered as people became more and more sick of Covid-19, and the restrictions imposed became very frustrating. It wasn’t her fault, for goodness sake! The MIQ lottery caused great grief, too, although it protected us all here for so long.  I think perhaps people have forgotten how devastating Covid 19’s impact was initially, when hundreds of people were dying, and health and hospital and funeral services were overwhelmed. Thankfully they weren’t overwhelmed here, although things got quite serious at times.

Many of us greatly admired and appreciated the work of Prime Minister Ardern, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, and Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Grant Robertson (and others) to look after us so we’ll, but this turned into some pretty violent protests and campaigns against vaccination and measures to protect us (and the health system). I was not an early fan of Prime Minister Ardern, having become very cynical about politics, but I was won over, especially with her (and Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson’s) firm and decisive handing of the Covid 19 pandemic from its outset in early 2020. I turned into a huge fan of her common sense, intelligent appeal.

Now there are no restrictions, but still at least 50 people dying each week, and things are by no means “back to normal”. Or perhaps it’s a new normal. This pandemic has certainly gone on for longer than many of us expected.

I feel very sorry for Prime Minister Ardern having to deal with the Christchurch mosque shootings, the White Island Tragedy, and then the pandemic. She handled them incredibly well.

What a strange time! People are saying Chris Hipkins is most likely to become to next PM.  I guess he’s The Best of the Rest, then, given that Grant Robertson is not contending for the role, but I fear this era is over. Aotearoa/New Zealand was a nation that the rest of the world could look up to, for many things: a good Labour Government that cared about people over business profits.  For a time the NZ government demonstrated sanity as opposed to the governments of Scomo in Australia, Bojo in the UK, and Trump in the US. Now they have gone, and Prime Minister Ardern will soon go too.  Let’s hope New Zealand doesn’t go hard far-right authoritarian in future, where women are subjugated (again), and abortion and being gay are difficult if not illegal. Prime Minister Ardern, thank you for your service, and for being quite wonderful. You are greatly admired and appreciated. In the event, Chris Hipkins is the new Prime Minister, Carmel Sepuloni is his deputy, and Grant Robertson will be a list MP. The handover has gone incredibly smoothly; Jacinda Ardern has stood down gracefully, unmarked by scandal, with her reputation intact, unlike Scott Morrison, Boris Johnson or Donald Trump. It’s really sad that she’s gone, but Chippy (as he’s known) seems to be stepping up to the mark. Perhaps all is not lost.

Saturday January 21st is party day, and the temperature promises to get up to 30 C.  It’s already fine and warm. The party is due to start at 4 pm. We both wash our hair, and, like Kate Middleton, I will do my own makeup. (She’s rumoured to have done her own makeup on her wedding day, an aspect of her character that adds to greatly my admiration of her). JD and I try to stay out of the way. I shower and wash my hair, and blow-dry it, but it doesn’t look great

Already I feel rather dowdy.

Sister-in-law had arranged for a friend to give us a lift to the Hewett Centre, where the party is to be held. The party was great fun, although we knew very few people there other than family. There was a lovely area outside for children of all ages to play cricket. The air conditioner inside is quite cold, but outside there is plenty of room.

Inside the family commandeer one of the perhaps 5 – 6 tables.  We help ourselves to some of the finger food on a table near the entrance.  I help myself to some very nice bread, and dips (tzatziki and hummus?) and some camembert cheese. 

Eventually there are speeches, led off by JD. Then there is the Birthday Song, and cake cutting.  During this time platters of hot food are brought out – pizza, some very nice sliders, skewers with beef and chicken, chicken bites, mini spring rolls and so on.

The cake is cut and slices put on individual plates with forks. It is a vanilla sponge with pink frosting.

At 8 pm we vacate the venue, and return to my sister’s house.  After a while I head off to bed.  There are some drunken forays into my room looking for the toilet, and it gets very loud, but somehow I go off to sleep.

The next day is Sunday, and as we are only 2 1/2 hours behind New Zealand, I dial into Sunday church service on my phone. I have to install zoom first, and it’s complicated, but I manage to dial in without video.

Later in the morning we all gather at my niece’s house nearby. What an amazing set up she has, with a large pool, a hammock, and comfortable covered seating both indoors and out.

We have a beautiful barbecue lunch. There were delicious lamb chops and sausages, but the highlight was a Mexican Salad which worked really well.  I think it would be suitable for vegans with non- dairy sour cream and non-dairy grated cheese.

In the evening we had a quiche for tea.

On Monday January 23rd we went sailing. Most of the family came, plus another friend. I think everyone wore trousers except for me: I hadn’t brought any, thinking it would be too hot to wear them. We drove into Adelaide to go sailing. I was well-equipped with sunhats and sunscreen. It was very hot, but breezy on the water. Our sister had packed an amazing picnic lunch. My only “gripe” was that it was quite difficult to see anything outside. I had thought we were going to do a river sailing, but we just sailed out to the harbour entrance and back.

The sailing was booked from 2 – 4 pm. Afterwards we had an early dinner at the Birkenhead Hotel.  I had a cup of coffee, a glass of tonic water with ice, and salmon on wild rice with salad. On the way there, we drove past our sister’s old house, the one where we’d stayed when we last came to Adelaide, almost six years ago.

People from the extended family were leaving now. The next day, Tuesday January 24th, we drove up the beautiful Barossa Valley again, this time to Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop. We bought some goodies for our sister-in-law in Geelong, and shared two platters for lunch: a meat platter with pâté, salami, and pear chutney and beetroot chutney, and another platter with olive oil and dukkha. I had delicious coffee -two small cup! I finally got some delicious coffee that I really enjoyed. I thought I had ordered a regular coffee with an extra shot, not expecting too much. It was all very nice.

Afterwards we visited Tanunda, a beautiful small town. The houses are so picturesque! We bought red wine and chocolates.

Then we visited our niece’s house again before ordering pizza for dinner for our last night in Gawler.

Tomorrow: Wednesday January 25th, Melbourne here we come!

Slava Ukraini! Ngā mihi nui.

Dipping our Toes

A file picture of the Airbus 310 neo

It’s now Sunday January 15, 2023. Kia ora!

I haven’t blogged for several days. So what has happened? On Thursday afternoon I met a friend for coffee; on Friday morning I met another friend for coffee. It was lovely to see them both.  On Friday afternoon I picked up some airline tickets: we are off to a sister’s 70th birthday party in Australia, another Big Family Event.

On Saturday afternoon we went to Queensgate. It’s always busy there, but I did manage to get a dress (like my daughter’s dress, that I had admired so much when we were in Napier).  There was one left in size 10; the others were much larger.  I tried it on, and it fitted perfectly.  It has semi-sleeves, no pesky waist line, and no zips or buttons. I am stoked to find something that is so comfortable to wear.  I also tried on some other garments: a nice top, which was a little large at size 12, and a pleated green skirt with a stretchy top. I am weighing up what to get – they have a special on giving 50% off the price of a second garment. I find a counter, but it’s busy, and the single lady serving seems to be taking ages over each transaction. I asked her to hold the garments I’d tried on, while I looked around for more, thinking I might buy four garments, with two at half price. I didn’t find anything else I wanted, and found the “Please pay here” station again. There was still the same woman serving, but by now there was quite a queue to be served. Eventually another staff member turned up, and I queued up to be served by her. She told me that the discount did not apply to the skirt I’d selected, so I ended up just getting the dress. I don’t think it’s particularly kosher to fancy your daughter’s dress, but I’ve searched several Farmers’ stores, and I’m very pleased to find it.

Eventually I made my way out of Farmers, and went to find the H & M store. Strangely, there was nothing I wanted to buy there!  This is most unusual for me. They had cream jackets for $39!, but I already have cream jackets. I made my way to Whitcoulls, where I had a lovely browse, and bought JD’s birthday present. Nobody was buying Prince Harry’s Spare. (Note: he’s presently 5yh in line to the throne of England, not 4th).

Eventually I met JD at The Coffee Club café, where the food was fine but the coffee wasn’t great. I ordered a small coffee, and JD a medium, but my small coffee was far larger than what I’m used to.

We’ve been watching Annika starring Nicola Walker on Neon – a new series set in Scotland. Between this, and re-watching the Winds of War, and watching anything worth watching on free-to-air television, there are lots of things to see at present. The latest series (series 5) of The Crown is now showing on Netflix, so I can watch that – without JD.  I watched an episode with Imelda Staunton as Queen Elizabeth II and Lesley Manville as Princess Margaret. I have a lot of time for Lesley Manville, but I do not like Staunton as Queen Elizabeth. I greatly admired Claire Foy, and I thought Olivia Colman was quite good, but I guess I’ll have to put up with it!  On Sunday evenings we have McDonald and Dodds, and a new series of Happy Valley with Sarah Lancashire on Monday nights; a new series of Call the Midwife on television one as well, so there’s plenty to watch at the moment.

On Sunday morning we are due to go to the Ngaio Union Church, but I don’t particularly want to go there – it’s hard to get to, for a start, and I really don’t want to catch covid; also, they don’t have zoom. Instead, I manage to zoom into a service at St John’s Presbyterian Church in Willis St.  They have a very good website, advising people what to expect when they come to church.  I guess that being inner-city they get plenty of visitors.

On Monday what did I do? Packing to travel to Australia was tricky: should we take the birthday present in my suitcase, trusting that it would arrive safely; would my luggage fit on top? Would my suitcase still weigh less than 23 kg?  As we were to stay a night in Auckland, the logistics were quite tricky, as I didn’t want to have to delve into the suitcase, but of course needed my meds and some cosmetics in a carry bag. I also wanted to take some bling in my handbag, not trusting it to my checked luggage. We ate leftover Chinese takeaways for dinner.

On Tuesday January 17th we were to fly to Auckland late afternoon. We used up the remaining eggs in the fridge for lunch.

Today is Friday January 20th, 2023. Kia ora from sunny Gawler (near Adelaide)!

We took the plunge and flew to Australia for a sister-in-law’s 70th birthday party. It was to be a big family occasion – how could we not go?  We haven’t been “overseas”, even to Australia, since 2017, almost 6 years ago, so it all seemed quite different and quite a novelty.

I made a list, and we established that the birthday present would fit into my large suitcase.  We further established, after I’d packed my clothes, that it was under the 23kg limit.  JD would take a small suitcase and a backpack.

We were to fly to Auckland, stay overnight in the Novotel Hotel near Auckland Airport, and fly to Adelaide the next morning.  Our bookings were all intact, thankfully. It was nice to be able to check on the Air NZ ap.

We ordered a taxi to Wellington Airport, and arrived very early. Better early than late, however. A kind Air New Zealand staff member helped us log in at the kiosk. JD went to get some Australian money, despite the high exchange rate. An overhead sign indicated that we should go through security. We did this without incident, and we through to our gate lounge – far too early. We watched the flight to Auckland before ours be boarded, and we continued to  wait. There was one café there, but it was closed, so we couldn’t have anything to eat or drink either.

Eventually we boarded our flight to Auckland. The new plane (Airbus 321 Neo) had more legroom than we were expecting, and the seat next to JD was empty. When we got to Auckland, we retrieved our bags. There was to be a shuttle to the Novotel, which was a 15 minute walk away, but we waited while several other buses came and went. Eventually we decided to walk to the Novotel. It had been raining in Auckland, and was quite cold, way below the 24 C that had been forecast. I was glad I’d brought my puffer jacket. 

We eventually got to the hotel, although it wasn’t clear how to get there. At the entrance there was a strange circular entry, which I had some trouble negotiating. And then the real trouble began.  The hotel did not have a reservation for us, under either of our names, or the travel agent’s name. A payment had been made to Expedia, but our booking was not there. I did not have a reservation sheet, but a summary of the payments that had been made, for the plane fares and the hotel booking. They pointed us to seats in the lobby, and we waited and waited for the receptionist and whatever higher authority she was consulting to make a decision.  Eventually JD asked if there was a room we could use and pay for, and we would take it up with our travel agent on our return.  There was a problem with that – the hotel was fully booked. They did find us a room, however, but it would cost $419 for the night (or what was left of it), and they required a $100 deposit for “incidentals”.  The restaurant (a buffet) was due to close at 10 pm, but tonight it would close at 9:30 pm, thus ruling that out as an option. We were offered a voucher for the bar, but declined that – it was almost 10 pm by this time.

We finally got up to our room, which may have been a staff room, perhaps. The television was going, and there was no mini-bar.  It certainly wasn’t a large room, and it was a bit cold. It was dark, too, in the room. We had to adjust the air conditioning. There were no nice toiletries to take away – only soap and shampoo containers, and compostable shower caps (I did take those). There were two bottles of water. There was a hot water jug and some tea bags.

We were very hungry by now, and ordered from the limited room service menu – a margherita pizza, to share, and two desserts: chocolate brownie with berry compote and ice cream, plus a glass of wine for JD.  Eventually our order arrived, without plates to share the pizza, and only one dessert, with no ice cream. Nevertheless, JD tipped the waitress. I don’t mind tipping for good service, but for this?

I set the alarm on my phone for 5:15 am; there was no folder in our room and the hotel didn’t appear to offer wake up calls. I woke early, and showered; then JD got up and we checked out and went across to Auckland International Airport to check in two hours before our flight to Adelaide..

I’ll leave it there. More (not so) exciting news to follow! Slava Ukraini! Ngā mihi nui.

Seriously Disturbed

The US Congress Tries to Elect a Speaker

Today is Sunday January 8th, 2023. Kia ora!

Today it is cold and wet, and very windy.  It is much cooler than it has been. This morning I went to church in Johnsonville. There was quite a good turnout, but they were a tad disorganised!  The Rev. Reg Weeks from St Ronan’s Presbyterian Church in Eastbourne took the service. Apparently a new minister has been appointed, so Rev. Reg will finish there soon.

He preached again about the Magi visiting the infant Jesus, similar to his sermon this time last year for the Feast of the Epiphany.  Again, I found this very affecting. Here is a link to a recording of last year’s sermon, called The Star Gazers: for some reason, the link doesn’t copy across.

After that we had lunch at Kaizen Café in Porirua, one of my favourite haunts.

It’s now Monday January 9th.

Today started out cold and wet, but it became fine and warm in the afternoon.

The Covid 19  report came out today.  It is as follows: 21,685 new cases have been reported, and 422 people are in hospital, with 9 of them in Intensive Care. There’ve been 53 further deaths in the last week, bringing the total deaths in New Zealand to 2,393. Numbers are dropping, although 2 people with the sub-variant XBB1.1.5, nicknamed “Kraken”, have been detected.

It’s getting increasingly hard to avoid titbits from Prince Harry’s memoir, entitled Spare.  Well, I say, spare me any more details of your ghastly upbringing.  I thought I already knew quite enough about this man-child; evidently not. The revelations just keep coming.  And they’re so mundane, for the most part!  I think that if almost anyone wrote about their past, there would be many things where they’d think well, thank goodness the world doesn’t have to know about that, and thank goodness I’m now adult and a husband and parent myself and I’m dealing with my own children’s questions, like, How come we never see our cousins? Or our Grandpas? Did Harry’s lawyers not see this first, and if not, why not?  Surely Meghan will divorce him after this? It would be so embarrassing to be married to such a stupid person. Goodness knows, we all make mistakes, but how was this person (and his wife) brought up? Personally, I blame Diana. And I feel really sorry for King Charles. and the Prince and Princess of Wales and their lovely children. Thank goodness her majesty the Queen wasn’t alive to have to put up with this drivel.

It’s now Tuesday January 10th.

Yesterday there was news that Jair Bolsonaro’s supporters had stormed the Presidential Palace and Assembly in Brazil’s capital Brasilia, in an echo of the US’s January 6 2021 insurrection. It was reported that 400 arrests had been made, unlike the US insurrection where no one was arrested on the actual day. Steve Bannon, although he’s waiting for prison, has endorsed this uprising in his podcast. Former president Bolsonaro was rumoured to be in Florida, along with the security chief.

In the US, Kevin McCarthy, having won the speakership after making several concessions, now prepares for the next gathering of Congress.  Many are waiting with baited breath, to see what the next steps will be.

The repercussions from Prince Harry’s memoir continue to spill out, revealing a seriously disturbed youngster who, in his 30’s, is no longer a young man. This is someone who left royal life to flee to California, because he wanted privacy.  He’s now spilling the beans on many irrelevant details, which must be hurtful to his family. Amongst various revelations, he now says that the Royal Family is not a racist institution, despite claims that were made on the famed Oprah Winfrey interview  and despite Harry and his wife accepting an award for resisting such racism.

Oh well, consistency was never the couple’s strong suit. Harry also shows himself to have some seriously childish and perhaps old-fashioned ideas.

I must acknowledge that when my youngest son got married, several years ago, I advised him to shave off his beard. He said that his fiancé quite liked it; I asked him if he would like it to be in his wedding photos. Apart from this discussion, I had very little to do with the wedding, or its arrangements. However, I now await worldwide scorn and vituperation for having dared to express an opinion on such a sensitive and personal issue. I’m only his mother, after all..

Commentators echo me in saying Harry has been extremely unwise to disclose so many “facts”, or, in other words, “his truth”.  Not so very long ago much of what he said would be regarded as treasonous, with very severe physical penalties; often, death, whether you were royalty or not.

It’s now Wednesday January 11th,

This afternoon I had a hair cut. I have a new computer, which my son set up for me. It’s wonderful!  It’s very fast, and easy to use. I’m very pleased, since I’d had my old one for almost eight years. It was good, but it was time for a new one. People were complaining that my appearance on zoom was very dark, but I couldn’t do anything about it.

So, what’s happening today?  Trump’s CFO, Allan Weisselberg, has been sentenced to five months in prison.  Most people think this is not nearly long enough.  While many people around Trump have gone to jail, if they hadn’t been pardoned, he has not yet been indicted. In Georgia, the grand jury convened by District Attorney Fani Willis of Fulton County has finished hearing witnesses (some subpoenaed) into Trump’s election interference after the 2020 presidential election, and it’s hoped its report will be released.  Trump’s tax returns have finally been released…but there’s so much else going on that they haven’t been greatly analysed yet. There’re now a tad boring, with so much else going on. They show devastating losses, which rather belie his boast of being a good businessman. If anyone believed that.

This morning I listened to The Bulwark podcast with Charlie Sykes talking to Olivia Nuzzi. Another journalist. I found this very interesting; Olivia spoke about Trump mucking around at Mar-a-Lago, watching the movie Sunset Boulevard, again and again. His presentation when announcing his run for the presidency in 2024 was really “low energy”. 

Prince Harry’s memoir continues to cause ructions, as many people admit to rather enjoying the revelations, in an uncomfortable way, while continuing to be amazed at the amount of self-pity and naivety therein. One English writer likened it to reading “Mein Kampf”, although here the ghost writer has done a better job of writing. If he could write so well, how come he didn’t advise the prince not to reveal so much mundane and potentially hurtful detail? For example, if he has been so badly hurt, what about the wives/children/parents/extended family of the people he claims to have killed, from a helicopter, in Afghanistan? Why does he display so little self-awareness? And who is this famous therapist, who has been so useless?  Why is his regard for Meghan so obsessive, while seeming so heartless at times? See, I’ve got involved now, too, much as I have tried to avoid it.

In some kind of karma, the dastardly duo’s California home has been evacuated because of the flooding there.

It’s now Thursday January 12th.

I have several things on today: a meeting on zoom (it will be interesting to try zoom on my new computer), a meeting with a friend this afternoon, and an appointment. 

Going back to Harry’s memoir, his attempt to control the narrative is contrasted by his frequent lies. There are too many to itemise here, and many others have listed them, but he evidently claimed Meghan booked and paid for a first class seat with Air New Zealand for her father to fly from Mexico to the UK.  How generous, one thinks; but the first problem is that Air New Zealand doesn’t fly from Mexico!  It strikes me that his lying is very like Trump’s: did Meghan actually say the Royal Family were racist? Well, not in so many words, but that was the inference that most if not all people took from what she claimed in the Oprah Winfrey interview.  The hypocrisy is just startling.  Also, apparently years ago the UK’s The Sun newspaper praised hero Harry for his killings in Afghanistan; now he’s being vilified for seeming to brag about them. It’s the “gutter press”, stupid!  So there’s plenty of hypocrisy to go around. Anyone’s memoir is how things look to them at the time: anyone in any family will acknowledge that different family members may have very different views on the same event, especially the death of a parent.  There is no such thing as absolute truth: there are facts. Of course, but one only has to look at different history books to see that facts may be presented from different viewpoints. Twas ever thus.

It also occurs to me that most if not all families are dysfunctional in some ways: I consider myself greatly blessed in this regard, but I have a special needs daughter and four super bright sons: at one stage we boasted from having one teach at Harvard, to one attending Hohepa School: quite a contrast. Everyone, including me, reacted differently to the birth of my daughter.  Within families, we forgive each other, and try to help, in any way we can.  Many, sympathising with Harry,  are saying that the Royal Family is dysfunctional, but what about former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, or Liz Truss? Most people agree that Johnson is a seriously disturbed person. He doesn’t even comb his hair. On another very scary note, Prince Harry is fourth in the line of succession, so he could be our king, one day. What a truly dreadful thought. I know whom I’d prefer, any day. We are all flawed people, all have come short of the Glory of God, but most of us try to live by some moral standards, and seek forgiveness when we’ve knowingly or unknowingly betrayed them. Was it Socrates who said first know yourself?

Within families, we love each other, we forgive each other, we respect each other, and we try not to hurt each other. We are all different, and we emote differently.

In Ukraine, there is very heavy fighting in the Donetsk region, where most of the town names are really difficult to pronounce, let alone remember.  Russia are making claims of success; Ukraine are denying them. Perhaps both sides are exaggerating?  A few days ago, hundreds of Russian soldiers were killed and ammunition blown up in a Russian base by Ukrainian forces. Putin acknowledged this as an upsetting event. More important Russians have suffered strange deaths, some falling out of windows.

This morning I had a meeting on zoom. I was looking forward to this on my new computer, but, silly me, I had to install zoom first. Then, my picture is still really dark, despite my pressing CNTL F9 several times and pulling curtains and turning lights off. This darkness was the problem I had with my old computer. Everyone else on the call looked wonderful!

That’s it for now. Slava Ukraini! Ngā mihi nui.

Contrasts

Today is Wednesday January 4th, 2023. Kia ora!

Last night we watched Bohemian Rhapsody again, this time on TV2. I must say it’s a pleasant change to get some good movies on free-to-air television, since there doesn’t seem to be much on the streaming services. Try as I might, I cannot get the latest series of The Crown on Netflix. Perhaps it hasn’t been released here yet? Privately, I would quite like to watch it.

Today it’s hot again, and I don’t feel great. I don’t plan to go anywhere today.  I ring my cousin this morning, to hear that her husband has Covid 19 too, as does one of her sisters-in-law.  They recently attended a Bible Camp, and many now have Covid 19, perhaps as a result. She and her husband are going to take Paxlovid – their local chemist will deliver it to their house! 

In the US, Republican Kevin McCarthy has lost a third vote to be House Speaker. Three votes!  It makes a pleasant change, dare I say it, to see Republicans in some disarray, as Democrats are being praised for putting their differences aside (really?) when it mattered. Joe Manchin must be having a wry grin, at this point. But Joe Biden is now being seen as a wonderful president, who has an amazing ability to get things done, which make a real difference to people’s lives. There is evidence of much bipartisanship, which speaks to his years as a politician.  Republicans now have control of Congress again, but can they use this effectively? Or even use it? Kevin McCarthy had even moved into the Speaker’s office. Family and friends came along for the show. The New York Times showed a picture of a child yawning.

Actually, I don’t gain any satisfaction from seeing anyone suffer. But while it hard not to find this drama mildly amusing, it really matters, just as Trump’s presidency really mattered. It doesn’t matter as much, but American government means a great deal to the rest of the world, especially while the war in Ukraine goes on, seemingly without any obvious ending. Most  Americans have yet to realise that the brave Ukrainians are fighting for their freedom, on our behalf. Does anyone think that Putin would stop once he’s conquered Ukraine? Or that President Xi doesn’t have wider ambitions? It is naïve to bicker over support for Ukraine: US forces are not on the ground there, but the support of armaments and $$$ from the US and from Europe is huge and means a great deal.

While it is interesting, if rather discomforting, to watch this chaos unfolding, one is reminded that loyalty to others is something Trump doesn’t do:  while McCarthy publicly humiliated himself by visiting Trump at Mar-a-Lago to “kiss the ring” after the January 6 insurrection, despite recordings of his disavowing Trump, to expect Trump to return this loyalty is a fatal flaw. I fear that Kevin McCarthy  will join the cast of thousands that Trump has “thrown under the bus”.  I repeat, he doesn’t necessarily deliver loyalty to his supporters, although he expects it from then.  “Everything Trump touches dies”, wrote one author.

Perhaps they’ll get Jim Jordan as speaker, and wish they had Kevin McCarthy to  kick around after all. “They” includes all the commentators and (not so) wise heads.

The Covid 19 report is out today, and as expected, numbers are down over Christmas, although still quite high. The report is as follows: today’s Covid-19 case numbers are the highest in a week – but still significantly less than a peak earlier this month. There are 4578 new cases reported today. That is about half of the highest daily tally two-and-a-half weeks ago. Counties Manukau has the most cases – 641, followed by Canterbury, with 546.

There are 482 people in hospital with the virus, down from a peak of close to 600, in the lead up to Christmas. Waitematā has the most hospitalisations – currently 83.

More than 32,000 new cases have been reported in the last week, but numbers are down from the 43,000 cases the week before. We’re not told how many deaths attributable to Covid 19 have occurred in the past week.

It’s now Thursday January 5th.

Last night we watched Alan Partridge, Alpha Male on Te Whakaata Māori – another “fun” movie, to use the vernacular. 

Today it’s cooler, and it’s drizzling with rain. When I went outside to get the newspaper, the driveway was wet, indicating it has been raining during the night. It’s a relief actually to have it a bit cooler, and not so sticky.

In the US, the drama continues over Republicans’ refusal (inability?) to elect a House Speaker.  Last night was punctuated by boxes of pizza, howling, and what is known as “f-bombs”.   McCarthy has lost the vote to be speaker 6 (six) times, increasing, not decreasing his minority. So the situation has moved from being amusing to being embarrassing, as we watch what is almost (after India) the largest “democracy” in the world try to elect a Speaker to do really important stuff, like funding the government. Last night Trump said “We’ll see what happens”; today he has apparently endorsed McCarthy, and is “working the phones”. Will it make a difference?  Who knows.  Will Trump continue to lose?  Most commentators aren’t prepared to write him off just yet. Look how he “won” the 2016 Presidential election. The eyes of the world are transfixed, again, by American political antics. Meanwhile, Ukrainians are paying with their lives for the right to even have a democracy.  It’s the kind of ridiculous comparison that “what about-ism” brought about, with Brexit and Trump’s election as president. The democrats meanwhile look amazingly sensible and well organised.

I am reminded of the destructive role of the Tea Party movement, and the decisions of John Boehner and Paul Ryan not to be speaker, despite its being a prestigious position, and despite their having significant support for the role. Nancy Pelosi’s role as Speaker for the democrats looks ever more amazing, as her skill in holding different elements of her caucus together is more and more admired.  Great support for her nominated replacement, Hakeem Jeffries, is also demonstrated. This chaos is being played out publicly, in a manner that we have not seen to date. C-Span cameras are having a ball.

Disgraced New York republican representative George Santos was being ignored yesterday, but he manage to tweet out that he’d been sworn in. Another lie, then. 

At 1:30 pm I learn that the House is holding a vote to adjourn.  Ironically, this vote takes place after the Prayer and the Oath of Allegiance, both of which seem highly ironic in this situation.  Before voting, the quorum has to be established, which it is. But are there enough votes to adjourn?  We wait with bated  breath.

On a more positive note, the Brent Spence Bridge, which connects Kentucky and Ohio, has long been due for replacement, and is now going to be strengthened while a new bridge is built beside it.  This is due to Biden’s infrastructure bill, I think, Anyway, it’s a huge achievement, as Rachel Maddow outlined in her TRMS show on Monday night (we get the podcast here on a Tuesday afternoon).  This is a really big deal, or a “BFD” as Charlie Sykes of The Bulwark would say. I’ll leave you to figure out what the “F” stands for.  There is a clip on Youtube of President Biden, Republican Senator of Kentucky Mitch McConnell, and other important people making a presentation:

I’m sorry about the ads.

It is quite wonderful to see some bipartisanship working to do something that will benefit many, many people. Obama and Trump could/did not achieve this. Biden made a speech: at first, I feared he would make the halting gaffe-ridden remarks for which he is ridiculed so often, but as he went on, he spoke really well. What a moment! And what a contrast to the embarrassing, very public meltdown in the US Congress, where McCarthy has now lost six votes (11:21 am on Thursday 5/1/23 here in Aotearoa) in the Speakership contest. I guess this shows that American Republicans don’t do this kind of simple, straightforward democracy very well – where a majority of votes actually counts – without the help of a very conservative Supreme Court, or a filibuster, or an Electoral College, which are generally tilted to support a weak republican “majority”. 

I think they voted to adjourn.

It’s now Friday January 6th.

It’s muggy and raining sometimes drizzling.

This morning I cancelled Access’s visit; instead I went to have lunch with a friend.  We had a lovely time, and a lovely chat. 

This afternoon I am catching up with the US politics situation: apparently Kevin McCarthy has now lost 11 votes to be House Speaker, over 3 days. At present (4:30 pm NZ time) the House is voting to adjourn (again).

Evidently Matt Gaetz nominated Donald Trump to be speaker; he received one vote. Even Lauren Boebert didn’t vote for him.  The far-fight members of the so-called Freedom Caucus were initially causing problems, but the differences go wider than that. McCarthy’s vote deficit has widened since Trump endorsed him.  Everyone is saying that not only is this embarrassing, but Nancy Pelosi would never have allowed such a situation to develop. She had really narrow margins at times, but woudln’t allow a vote that she couldn’t win..

It’s now Saturday January 7th.

It’s a quiet, wet day.  It’s also very dark. It’s overcast, but it is very dark, especially for midsummer!  I have almost all the lights on, and the curtains pulled back, but it is still dark.  I feel sorry for those camping, as although it’s not really stormy here, camping grounds in the Far North, the Coromandel peninsula and the Bay of Plenty are flooded or threatened by flooding. One of the roads in the Coromandel Peninsula has been cut off by a slip. 

In the US political situation, the chaos continues, with Kevin McCarthy having lost 13 votes to be house Speaker, and the House having voted to a adjourn until tonight their time, probably the middle of the night for us.

I am concerned about this situation, as the chaos continues. It seems that the goal of making countries ungovernable is coming true, as we see ongoing chaos in the UK with their strikes, and inflation, and in the US, inability to elect a speaker. It seems that there is no accountability in some of the Tories in the UK, and some far-right republicans in the US. They simply don’t take the business of governing seriously, and it’s a serious business; after all, when you’re elected to government, you are the government of all the citizens of that country, not just the ones who voted for you. This situation greatly concerns me.

It’s also the two-year anniversary of the January 6 insurrection. There have been many prosecutions (perhaps 900?), but some election deniers have been elected to congress, and are mainly responsible for the current inertia. Although Trump was nominated by Matt Gaetz to be speaker, and gained only one vote in the subsequent election, the chaos he created (favoured by Steve Bannon and Nigel Farage amongst others) pursues long after him, if he is to be written off. He certainly seems to lose elections, but the focus of some republicans is not to win elections legitimately, but to hold power. I watched an interview on Ari Melber’s The Beat where he spoke to Michael Moore and Timothy Snyder, a somewhat unlikely guest pairing.  Moore, unusually, was the more upbeat one; Snyder echoed a podcast I had listened to reiterating that this kind of unaccountable chaos is just what chaos-mongers want.

This delay is proving frustrating for politicians who need to be sworn in, and to go home, where their families are coping with storms, travel disruption, illness, and other winter ills.

It’s now late afternoon, and I gather that the US House of Representatives has reconvened and that Kevin McCarthy has now lost 15 votes to be House Speaker.  One has to wonder why he continues to humiliate himself. Maybe that’s 14. We are all wondering what concessions he has made in order to obtain votes. Apparently (ABC News) he’s lost his latest attempt by a single vote.

Later this afternoon I learn that he’s won, on the 15th vote.  That’s some relief, I guess.  I need to digest this news!

That’s it for now. Slava Ukraini! Ngā mihi nui.

A New Year – 2023

New Year’s Eve Fireworks

Today is New Year’s Day, January 1, 2023. Kia ora!  I hesitate to wish anyone a Happy New Year; I’d prefer to  say May the Lord bless you and keep you. It’s also a Sunday, so that prayer seems rather appropriate. That  text, by the way, is from the book of Numbers, part of what is known as the Pentateuch.

I have to mention that on Friday evening we watched the Doc Martin Christmas Special.  It was very eventful, but my highlight was seeing the grumpy Doc smile! I don’t think I’ve ever seen him smile in this series before now. Spoiler alert: his mother had just died from a heart attack, and he remembered his experiences of Christmas as a child.  His son James also showed some interesting resistance to his Dad. I  was very frustrated that although it was snowing, the Brits did not seem to wrap themselves up against the cold, the grumpy doctor almost dying of hypothermia after falling down in the snow, coatless!  JD always carries a jacket (or 2) in the car; I think it’s a wise precaution, since you never know when you night need one.

Yesterday was quite a busy day. JD wanted to see the film Avatar: The Way of Water, and we’d planned to see it at the Embassy Cinema in Courtenay Place, having lunch beforehand.  If it was fully booked (unlikely), we could go and see it at the Penthouse in Brooklyn, and not pay parking fees, although the Brooklyn screening didn’t have any advice about the movie being shown in 3D.

We were scrambling to get ready, but there was an interruption. JD had an appointment in the afternoon. So some re-planning went on. We drove to Lower Hutt, and had lunch at Tutaki. I had a delicious salmon steak with mashed potato and silver beet.

It became very hot in the afternoon, and I feared I had overdressed. Eventually we found our way onto the State Highway 58, the Haywards road, and it has been much improved. We drove to Pauatahanui, and to the Lighthouse Cinema there, where they were screening Avatar 2 at 4:15 pm. We even had time to buy drinks and ice creams, and for me to visit the rest room.

The theatre was lovely, and there was hardly anyone else there, so we were very comfortable. It was quite cool, too, and I was glad I’d brought a cardigan in my bag. I was even more comfortable when I put a cushion behind my head, hopefully not blocking the view of anyone sitting behind me. An attendant handed us 3D glasses – different from the ones I’d carefully brought from home. We weren’t charged for these ones, but we did have to return them after the movie.  One does hope that they’re sanitised after use.

I’d have to say I found Avatar 2 to be an endurance test. At 3 hours 10 minutes, plus various trailers we had to sit through, it was much too long, and had some maudlin moments. I must stress that these are my reactions, and I’m probably not part of its target demographic segment.  I am not employed as a film critic, either. JD, on the other hand, quite enjoyed it, although not disagreeing with my comments. I remember thinking that he could see the next movie ( a further 4 or 5 are planned) with one of my grandsons, but as I noted hearing two swear words, it’s not a family film. Mind you, if the next sequel isn’t released for another 14 years, the grandsons will be quite old enough to see it, and JD may not even be around. There weren’t any elderly people there – I doubt if their bladders would cope! Apparently it has an R13 rating, which would rule any of my grandchildren out, at the moment. It has some quite disturbing violence, although only one death.

Well, I found it frustrating; from the ridiculous tails, to the tattoos and the peculiar Hobbit-like ears. Compared with J. R. R. Tolkien’s Rings trilogy, this long movie lacked the underpinning of a strong and epic foundation script. I do still think that the Lord of the Rings, the first movie of this three-long-movies sequence, was and remains a great film, and the best of the series.  Cameron’s movie lacked a good scriptwriter. I felt that if I heard “Go go go!” one more time I’d throw up, but of course I had to listen to it many more times.

Cameron’s visions are strange: there were echoes of the war in Vietnam and Space Wars, and the potential ineffectiveness of US military grunt, in spite of the immense noise and the theatre-shaking sound effects.

The women were universally thin, and had very small breasts. The males wore ridiculous loin cloths.  The water was always warm, and the Navi weren’t at danger from being bitten or eaten by sea animals. They never seemed to need showers, sleep, or food, although someone caught a fish at one stage. There were no shops, although alarmingly powerful military force. Was the fish to be cooked and eaten? Who knows. We weren’t told, but there were shades of 19th century dreams of south sea islands (never mind the humidity, the heat, or the mosquitos).  Nobody needed health care, no one was other than male or female.  There were children, but no old people. So it was a fantasy world, of course.

Then there was some moralising at the end – an annoying voice over, much like the moralising you get in Disney films; not Christian; a kind oof humanism, I suppose.

Like on a plane flight, I tried not to look at my watch too often. When it was almost 6 pm, I thought there was only about 30 minutes to go. Then I worked out the time, and in fact there was 1 ½ hours to go.

Finally the movie was finished, and we drive home, finding our way onto the Transmission Gully highway.  There were two motorways to negotiate, and it seemed counter-intuitive to actually get there, heading in the right direction.

We got home and had salad for tea, and then watched La Dolce Vita on Te Whakaata Māori.  I explained to JD why it’s so different from Avatar. There were fireworks being let off outside, seemingly very close to our house, but JD went outside to check and they were in a park quite some way up the road.  I couldn’t wait for the movie to finish, and went to bed.

This morning I went to church in Wadestown. It’s suddenly much cooler today; I had planned to wear a summer dress, but had to change my plans. It’s not raining, but it’s not sunny either; it’s not raining but seems as though it’s almost raining.

The service was strange, to me, although I didn’t know what to expect. The hymns were unfamiliar; the lady doing Prayers for Others spoke mainly in Te Reo Māori. I don’t have an issue with this, but I doubt if many in the small congregation were fluent enough to have some understanding. In this situation, I think one needs to speak in Māori and then translate, so that there is more understanding.  What really surprised me though was a bible reading from Matthew’s Gospel 2, which referred to the Magi as magicians!  I would not call them Magicians with today’s connotations.  I have never thought of them as sorcerers or magicians. So that was amongst the strange things that happened this morning.

Next Sunday morning we are to go to Johnsonville Uniting Church, which will be different again.

It’s now Tuesday January 3rd. It’s very hot today.

Yesterday was a very quiet day. In the afternoon we watered indoor plants for one son, who is away camping, and then we went grocery shopping again. New World Thorndon was much quieter than usual.  It was nice to go there and buy more lettuce, bananas and beans and another avocado. We miss them now if we don’t have them, although they’re not as cheap as they were.

In the evening we watched the latest remake of the movie A Star is Born, starring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga.  We’ve also been watching the Tammy Wynette series on Prime Television, and I am so weary of talented men raising very talented women to stardom, and then being jealous of their success and quite paranoid about it, this paranoia fuelled by alcohol and drugs.

This morning I walked up to the local New World store. I managed to find perhaps the last packet of croissants baked today, carefully hidden behind ones baked on 01/01/23 or 02/01/23 It was very busy, although sadly lacking in check-out operators, with a queue for self-service checkouts. There were no packers, and no one serving at the few items (less than 10) checkout. It’s very unusual to have to wait here, and there’s usually no rush, but I was later home than I had hoped, and had to go almost straightaway if JD was going to drop me off on his way to his next appointment.

As we were leaving, my cousin rang me. She sounded very croaky. She informed me that she has Covid 19, although her husband is still testing negative. She is feeling very tired indeed. She has resisted it thus far.

In town JD dropped me off at the Railway Station.  That’s good, I thought, it’s a nice hub/transport interchange. Silly me! I made my way up to the bus departure points, only to be confronted by a Waste Land. There was an Airport bus, but the pavement was unusable – please cross to the other side of the road. I cautiously walked along uneven ground, where the former footpath has been torn up along to the new Stop A. There was no information board there. I walked to the next bus stop, and caught a bus heading for Kilbirnie. I was surprised to see that many places, shops and cafés, were closed.

The bus driver was grumpy. The bus sign said “Bus stopping” as it drew up to the former David Jones stop, but he refused to open the back door until asked, and then grizzled at the passenger who was alighting.

I was going to get out at the next stop and go to the Smith the Grocer café if it were open, but although someone had pressed the Stop button, the driver drove on past the next stop without stopping.

It did stop outside Unity Books, which was closed.  I was getting mighty nervous (and hungry) by this time. I thought Pandoro would be open, but it wasn’t, neither was Neo, another place where I’ve been, and they’ve fitted me in with a smile.

But there was somewhere open: a bar/café on the corner of Manners Street and Willis Street, where there have been several cafés, and several closures. Although there were a lot of leaves in the entrance, it seemed to have plenty of customers but several spare tables, and was quite roomy. The woman on the counter was having a long conversation with a gentleman customer, but eventually she took my order, for a BLT (thankfully without fries), and a long black coffee.

The coffee turned up quite soon, but it was very strong and rather bitter. I did get a glass of water, however. After what seemed like a long time my lunch arrived. It was very good, although I didn’t really need the hummus (pumpkin flavoured?), with delicious tomato slices.

There were lots of people in town, and I’m sure shops and cafés would have done a roaring trade.

I then walked down to Farmers in Lambton Quay, where, if it was open, I was hoping to change a shirt JD had bought. This was the excuse for going to town. I was almost there, when I realised he was ringing me. Suffice to say Farmers was open, I was able to exchange the shirt, and JD picked me up to drive me home.

It feels very strange today. It’s still a public holiday, whatever that means: perhaps it’s a public holiday for public servants, and for banks. Last week between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day one expected things to be closed. This week? There were many people in town today, and hardly anything open.  I guess hospitality outlets are still short-staffed, and their staff are trying to get a break.

In China, millions of people have Covid 19.  There’s a new subvariant doing the rounds, called XBB 1.5, and it’s very infectious.  Thousands of  Chinese people are flying all over the world, and many of them are infected when tested on arrival. Some countries are imposing testing restrictions, which is all very well, but begs the question of what happens then?  Do infectious arrivals go into isolation? If so, where?  Also, there are shortages of some painkillers and antibiotics. Paxlovid, the anti-viral drug, has gone on the market there and been snapped up right away. Yet again, three years later, the Chinese virus is infecting the world, and there’s not much we can do to avoid it. 

Covid 19 is still a serious disease here. Last week alone there were 78 deaths here. It would be most interesting to know how many of those hospitalised, in Intensive Care, or even dead, have been fully vaccinated.

In Ukraine, more Russian soldiers have been killed, and more rockets rained on Kyiv and other cities. It seems that Ukrainian forces have considerable successes, and yet this doesn’t reduce the brutality of Putin’s attacks on cities and on infrastructure.

That’s it for now. Slava Ukraini!  Ngā mihi nui.

Miracles

Ukraine will create its own Christmas miracle, says President Zelensky

It’s now Monday December 25, 2022; it’s Boxing Day. Kia ora!

I am very tired today, but we don’t have to do anything. The rubbish and recycling (bottles) are being collected, as usual; presumably the fact that it’s a public holiday doesn’t interfere with the contractors engaged to do these tasks. JD has expressed an interest in visiting Boxing Day sales; we’ll see if that desire persists.

It’s another beautifully fine, warm day – even better than yesterday. This morning I took another RAT test – it’s negative again, thankfully.

Some remarkable things have happened. President Zelensky of Ukraine has called Ukrainians’ resistance a miracle, saying “Ukrainians will create their own miracle this Christmas by showing they remain unbowed despite Russian attacks that have plunged millions into darkness”.

https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2022-12-24/ukraine-will-create-its-own-christmas-miracle-zelenskiy-says-in-defiant-message

President Zelensky is Jewish, but Christians celebrate a Christmas miracle that occurred over 2,000 years ago, when our Saviour Jesus Christ was born. “The word became flesh and dwelt among us”, John 1: 14. John’s Gospel is rather more intellectual than the preceding three.

I also watched King Charles’ III Christmas address, which I found very moving. He spoke about his visit to Bethlehem, where Jesus was born, and he spoke from St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle where his mother, the late queen Elizabeth II, was recently buried.  After he spoke, the choir sang O Little Town of Bethlehem. The town of Bethlehem is currently occupied by Israeli forces.

Here is a link to a piece about the speech from the UK’s Guardian newspaper:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/dec/26/kings-speech-tories-compassionate-conservatism

Moving to US politics, the huge report of the January 6 Committee has been released, and I’ve so far listened to an Emergency podcast from the Lawfare team discussing and evaluating different sections of it.  This has been very interesting, especially learning that Trump wanted to march on the Capitol with his fellow (armed and dangerous) protesters, stating that the National Guard would protect him – this being the same National Guard that he would not call out to protect people such as politicians and police or even his own Vice President. Opinions are divided, with criticism of the FBI that the unrest was  foreseen and not acted upon, and the lack of testimony from the current Director, Christopher Wray. There are also several typos in the released report, although it’s acknowledged that the January 6 Committee worked under significant time pressure to achieve what they did. Benjamin Wittes, with his wry sense of humour, is upset that he’s not on Roger Stone’s friends list, unlike many well-known names involved in the January 6 2020 insurrection.

Transcripts of their interviews are to be released; so far, the transcript of Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony has been released, and it’s even more shocking than her televised testimony, revealing the pressure a Trump-associated lawyer put her under not to testify truthfully.  When others say “I don’t recall”, it now seems very suspect indeed.

The Skullduggery podcast also released its final episode, interviewing both Congressman Jamie Raskin and Judge Michael Luttig.  It’s very sad that this will be their final episode; I do hope they’ll come back in another guise; I do find Michael Isikoff, while provocative, a most interesting commentator, I will surely miss these three. I doubt that Michael Isikoff can remain quiet for long, however.

It’s now Tuesday December 27th.

Last night we watched the Call the Midwife Christmas special, and then the first episode of Litvinenko on television one. The CTM episode was pretty cheesy, but had some lovely moments, like the beautiful thalidomide child Susan being included in the Talent Quest;  her dad going to Al-Anon, and Miss Higgins getting papers and an allowance for the young teenage mother who’d been abandoned by her “fiancé”.

This is a quiet and strangely boring time, after being very busy before Christmas.  It’s very welcome to get more sleep now, and not have to get up early.  Today we went shopping, having established from the Dompost that Boxing Day shopping was somewhat less than expected. JD had indicated that he wanted to take advantage of the Boxing Day sales.

We went to the Big Save Furniture store in Porirua.  I had given JD permission to buy a new recliner, and two and a half years later, he was happy to take up the challenge. Sadly, the prices have risen in that time. However I think we good a good deal, with a recliner operated by a hidden lever, that won’t take up a lot of room, and should fit in well with existing décor. We were the only customers in the shop! 

We also went to the North City Shopping Centre, and to Dress Mart in Tawa. The latter was perhaps the busiest;  no where was crazy busy and we didn’t have trouble driving around or finding car parks.

We did not go supermarket shopping, so still we will be without green vegetables or lettuce, although we have heaps of food. I do miss my greens, but I hope we’ll be able to get some tomorrow.  I tried to eat some fresh apricots at lunchtime, but sadly, they’re not as ripe or as soft as I like them.

There have already been several tragic water deaths in New Zealand, as well as some road accidents.

It’s now Thursday December 29th.

Yesterday I had an appointment to see my doctor in the afternoon. So why did you come she asked me. I came because she asked me to.  There were some lab results, and I had run out of some of my medications.  I did not go into my frustrations at her and the medical centre. I may still change doctors.  No one takes me seriously! It is so frustrating.

After this debacle, I collected my scripts, bought a diary for 2023, and we went shopping. New World in Thorndon was pretty quiet. They didn’t have salads, but they did have potato-topped pies.  I couldn’t find the Havarti cheese slices I like, but we got most of what I wanted.

Yesterday the Covid 19 report came out, since Monday and Tuesday were public holidays.

There are 32,010 new cases of Covid-19 in the community and a child under 10 has died with the virus, reports the Ministry of Health.

The ministry also reported a further 78 deaths, including the child, related to the virus for the period between December 19 and Christmas Day.

As of midnight on Sunday, 413 people were in hospital with the virus, including 15 in intensive care.

Of today’s reported deaths, four were from Northland, 23 were from Auckland region, eight were from Waikato, 11 were from Bay of Plenty, one was from Lakes, three were from Hawke’s Bay, one was from Taranaki, seven were from MidCentral, two were from Whanganui, six were from Wellington region, one was from Nelson Marlborough, nine were from Canterbury, two were from Southern.

Six were in their 50s, six were in their 60s, 15 were in their 70s, 30 were in their 80s and 20 were aged over 90. Of these people, 40 were women and 37 were men. Of the community cases reported today, 9660 were reinfections. The seven-day rolling average for new community cases recorded each day has decreased to 4,565.

There is an article in today’s Dompost about the Honourable Grant Robertson’s achievements as Minister of finance. He’s also been Deputy Prime Minister. Here’s a link to the story:

https://www.stuff.co.nz/opinion/130872334/morgan-godfery-topperforming-minister-but-you-wouldnt-know-it

There’s to be a General Election here late next year, and there is a definite feeling in the right-wing media that the Labour Government has done its dash, and it’s time for a change.  I guess people just forget how awful a National government can be, although it was interesting to see Act’s David Seymour claiming that Christopher Luxon as leader of National wasn’t conservative enough. Or some such.

I personally think Labour have done a good job, especially of managing the pandemic, but the long lockdown in Tamaki Makaurau (aka Auckland) last year did a great deal of damage. The government’s strategy has been to delay the impact of Covid 19 here, and in that they’ve succeeded, with vaccines available now and a milder strain of Covid 19 prevalent.  Their main focus seems to be how much strain is there on the health system?  This is summer; we’re “living with” Covid 19, and for many people it now seems to be a milder illness.

In China, on the other hand, all their strict Covid 19 rules have quickly been relaxed, and millions of people are now infected, with many dying. There ar e queues of hearses at crematoria.  Their vaccine is not particularly effective, and many older people have resisted it, so now, exposed to the virus like never before, it’s spreading wildly. There are fears that a new strain may be forming there. Given that Covid 19 started in China, and the authorities’ management of it has been severe, it’s difficult for me to feel too much sympathy for people there. Of course, I’m deeply sorry for the many people affected by Covid 19, and their government’s drastic policies.  I’m sorry that they’re so badly affected by Covid 19 now. I’m thankful that we no longer need to be as scared of it, given that we have vaccines and anti-viral treatments, although 78 people died last week.

It’s now Friday December 30, the eve of New Year’s Eve.

Yesterday was very hot. I went into town to get a blood test. It’s nice to go when it’s so quiet!  This morning my cleaner came from Access. I didn’t cancel after all because the cleaning really needs to be done.

There’s a shortage of eggs in supermarkets evidently. That seems strange, given that there were plenty of eggs at New World in Thorndon when we went there on Wednesday. 

This is a strange time; a time I call the “interregnum”.  It seems a bit weirder and lonelier than usual; I do find the heat (Ha! Ha!) hard to take, although it’s chickenfeed compared with the heat overseas, or in Australia. But it gets very sticky here sometimes.

I plan to go to church in Wadestown on New Year’s Day. JD has promised to drive me there, and bring me home, as I pick there won’t be much in the way of public transport on New Year’s Day. I’ve no idea what they’ll do, but it’s a nice church (when I’ve been there previously), and they have padded seating. Furthermore, I remember it’s opening, back in 1957, on a fine sunny Sunday. Women wore hats, back in those days!

In Ukraine, Putin continues rocket strikes on cities that are supposedly not in the “war zone”.  Putin has offered sperm freezing for free for Russians who enlist to fight in Ukraine. That seems such a cynical move, as though it’s near certain that those who enlist will ne maimed if not killed. 

That’s it for now. Slava Ukraini! Ngā mihi nui.

Meri Kirihimite from Aotearoa

Today is Saturday December 24, Christmas Eve. Kia ora!

What a strange time this is. This morning we learnt that one of our sons has diagnosed positive for Covid 19. I learnt last Sunday during a Church service that his daughter had diagnosed positive. Since then his son has had Covid 19 too (again), but he himself was hanging out – until today. We were supposed to have a family gathering at his house – tomorrow. 

This morning Santa made a special early delivery to his house. I dressed up in my red raincoat and Santa hat, and delivered a hamper with Christmas goodies.  We spoke to them outside, where it was hot and sticky, and the children opened their presents.

After that we went shopping to New World in Thorndon. It was busy there, but not as busy as before the Covid 19 pandemic.  Stone fruit was plentiful. We bought salads, bread, lettuce and raspberries.

Tomorrow we are planning to have a picnic with my other son who lives locally and his partner and children. I had a negative Covid 19 RAT test this morning; I’m hoping that tomorrow we, the rest, will all be all right.

Late this evening we are to go to a Carol service, and then church is on quite early tomorrow.

It is a very strange time, marked by bursts of extreme fatigue, activity, and anxiety, and then periods where nothing much happens. I’m now thinking what do I need to do that I haven’t done as yet, now that I may have more time to do things I had previously thought unnecessary.

I am sending Christmas wishes to many folk, for whom I have email addresses. I should have composed a newsletter, but it’s too late now, and I don’t have everyone’s email address. Previously, I haven’t sent wishes unless someone messaged me first.

It’s now Christmas Day, Sunday December 25.

Last night we watched a movie on Te Whakaata Māori about Charles Dickens writing A Christmas Carol. Christopher Plummer was a very good Scrooge, but I found the movie quite scary, and a bit maudlin towards the end.

Then we went to a candlelit carol service for Christmas Eve at 11:15 pm. This was a lovely service. We sang many carols to the accompaniment of the magnificent organ. I felt at the time that this was one of the things the church does best. I whispered to JD (who came) that one could almost imagine oneself in Nȏtre Dame, or the magnificent cathedral in  Toulouse where we went to mass in the early 1970’s.

Afterwards we went home and I slept really well.

This morning Christmas Day dawned fine and warm, with a slight breeze, but thankfully not too hot, a beautiful day.

This morning there was to be a church service at 9:30 am, 30 minutes earlier than usual.  I did get there on time, but didn’t have time to ring or message anyone first.  There was a lot of talk about the shepherds visiting the new born baby Jesus, before the Magi came.  An angel had appeared to them. This reminded me of one of the two Christmas plays that are performed at Hōhepa Hawkes Bay each December: the Paradise Play, and the Shepherds Play. I have seen them both, and found them very moving, especially the Shepherds Play.  I really miss these events now that Covid deprives us of such gatherings. My daughter’s birthday is early in December, and usually we can attend one of the plays. The residents really enjoy these plays. As the minister said this morning, although the story of Jesus’ birth is an old story, it becomes new for us every year.

This year my son in the UK tells us that ambulances will not go to people who’ve broken limbs, or to women in labour. At last night’s service I wondered about Mary giving birth to hr first born son; who helped, I wonder?  Even if the birth is “normal”, it’s still quite painful and messy, usually. Perhaps the innkeepers’ wife knew a midwife, who could help. We’re not told. I had five children, and I was very glad to accept experienced medical, sometimes specialist, assistance with each birth. I find the lack of compassion in the UK just astounding, where the Tory government seem tone deaf to these very human situations.  They seem to concentrate on ambulance drivers as being the focal point of industrial action, whereas the problems go much deeper than that.

After church I talked to several people, and then waited for JD to pick me up. There was no morning tea this morning!  When we got home, there was quite a lot to do: first we rang our daughter; then I needed to wrap more Christmas presents, pack up picnic stuff, and fill the thermos flask with proper coffee. I also needed to get changed out of my pretty dress which I had worn to church.

Actually I needn’t have taken much food, although much of what I did take complemented the beautiful food our son had brought.  We went to Battle Hill Farm Park – a beautiful place. Our son had found a good spot, with a table under cover. There was virtually no one there apart from us – we were quite private. We sat around a spacious table, and enjoyed the food and drink: a wide spread of delicious things to eat.

After lunch we went for a walk to feed the eels. There are big eels there, and they’re very bold!  There are ducks too. 

After this someone had taken our previous spot, so the cars were moved and we had dessert (yes!) at another picnic table: a delicious chocolate brownie and cream, with some left over strawberries. There were M&M’s in the brownie too.

The children unwrapped their Rubik’s cube game, which didn’t need batteries, and proved to be quite a hit.  After this, we drove home, through the complicated roundabouts that connected Pauatahanui with the Transmission Gully highway. This does seem unnecessarily complicated – you certainly need someone to navigate as well as drive. Roundabouts are complex:  you certainly need to know where you’re going.

The messages and photographs continue, as it becomes Christmas Day around the world. I feel like the Very Hungry Caterpillar: I’ve eaten rather too well, and just feel like eating a lettuce leaf now.

In China, Covid 19 is rampant, after authorities have relaxed their very strict quarantine regulations.  They’re not highly vaccinated, and haven’t been exposed to Covid 19 like we in the West have been; we’ve learnt to live with it, frustrating as it is; but it’s good to be free to go places and do things again.

That’s it for now. Despite Covid 19, I still think we’re better off here, as we feel for the US suffering a dreadful storm and outages; the UK suffering strikes, inflation, and a “winter of discontent”; the Chinese suffering from Covid 19, and the poor Ukrainian people, suffering extreme cold and outages of power and water, as well as rocket attacks. I’m sure there are many others suffering at this time, as we celebrate the Incarnation of our Lord and Saviour, the wonderful birth of Jesus Christ.

Slava Ukraini! Ngā mihi nui.

Next Year in – Wellington

The Peak Peka to Otaki Expressway is now open

Today is Monday December 19, 2022. Kia ora!

What a strange time this is.  My son is not going to come from the UK for Christmas, and a granddaughter has Covid 19 (again! She just had it barely 6 weeks ago!). Plans, travel arrangements  and family gatherings are thrown into chaos and restructured, yet again. Actually it doesn’t really matter for JD and myself, but of course we’re hugely disappointed that our son and his wife won’t be coming for Christmas, and I do feel sorry for the children at this time.  For a number of my friends, family members have already arrived.  Sadly, not for us this time. Perhaps later. We don’t have the dreaded MIQ lottery any more, but things are by no means back to normal.  Travelers tell horrific tales of travel delays and cancellations, expenses and problems, to say nothing of missing luggage.  And then there are the local Covid 19 figures, still terrible here, and in Australia.  JD and I are due to fly to Australia mid January, and we’re wondering about risking our checked luggage. Travel was certainly not problem-free in pre-covid times, and one certainly expected to stand in queues, but it seems to have grown exponentially worse, with flight cancellations, missed connections, and missing luggage now regular events. And then there’s Covid 19!

Today’s report from the Ministry of Health was worse than last Monday’s. It goes as follows: there have (officially) been 42,740 new cases of Covid-19 and 64 deaths of people with the virus over the past week, the Ministry of Health has announced. There were also a total of 581 people in hospital with the virus, including 15 in ICU.

Of the 64 people whose deaths were reporting today, three were from Northland, 19 were from the Auckland region, seven were from Waikato, two were from Bay of Plenty, four were from Lakes, four were from Hawke’s Bay, one was from Taranaki, five were from MidCentral, three were from Whanganui, two were from Wellington region, one was from Nelson Marlborough, 10 were from Canterbury and three were from Southern.

One was in their 30s, two were in their 40s, one was in their 50s, five were in their 60s, 12 were in their 70s, 28 were in their 80s and 15 were aged over 90. Of these people, 33 were women and 30 were men.

So it’s still a torrid time, especially for those with Covid 19, or with someone close to them infected. Still many transport services are cancelled.

This morning I was to catch up with a good friend at a café in Johnsonville. I caught the bus, and met her. We were able to sit outside; fortunately it wasn’t cold, despite the sliding doors and a hammer outside. It was so good to see her again! Afterwards I went home where JD made an omelette for lunch.

On Tuesday morning I wrapped up most of the Christmas presents for our son in the UK and his wife, and posted them to the UK – which is quite a mission!  Afterwards JD and I went shopping. I had been thinking we didn’t need much food, but now that our plans have been thrown into disarray, I bought lot more food, including fresh croissants for lunch – they were delicious, too! And now there’s a postal (The Royal Mail) strike in the UK, so goodness knows when my son and his wife will get their package.

It’s now Friday December 23rd, we’re  getting very close to Christmas.

JD and I briefly visited our daughter in Napier again. We drove north on Wednesday: a rather difficult trip. We had lunch in Shannon, where it was awful: most of the food had gone, and it wasn’t particularly clean or friendly, although busy. I would have liked to stop at Otaki, but we queued there and hoped the traffic wouldn’t be too heavy for the rest of our journey. When we got to Napier we had a brief rest, then went to have dinner at Portofino. It seemed very quiet there but we enjoyed our meal.

Our motel was very comfortable. It’s a bit dated, but it was roomy, quiet, and very clean. The spa bath was very comfortable – I could recline and enjoy the gentle waves.

The next morning we bought a newspaper from Whitcoulls and then had coffee and shared a Portuguese custard tart before picking up our daughter from  the Hōhepa workshops at Clive.  We made our way to Birdwood’s Café, with me carefully following the Google Maps directions. We had to drive through Havelock North, which was very busy indeed. Somehow my phone’s directions took us though the carpark for the New World supermarket there! There were several roundabouts to negotiate, always tricky. Eventually we were in Porter Drive, which became Middle Road, which we wanted.

We drove out to the café, which seemed very busy, so much so that we couldn’t park in the carpark, but had to drive into extra parking in a field.  Then we were there! What a lovely venue it is. We walked past four very fine geese, who were walking in parade somewhere else; and to the café. We were seated under an awning, and obviously this area could be closed off and heated should it be required. The day was cloudy, but quite warm, and we were very comfortable.

We had a lovely lunch there. The best part for me was the rhubarb and caramel layer cake, but our daughter’s hazelnut layered sponge with chocolate ganache looked pretty amazing too. Our cakes came out on fine china plates, too.

After lunch we went for a walk.  Birdwood’s is wonderful – like Te Papa, it absorbs a lot of people.  I heard frogs croaking, and as I drew near to the source of the noise, they disappeared into the water. We played outdoor games, too.

We eventually made our way to the car, and set out to drive back to Napier, again marvelling that it seems no great distance back to Havelock North, although it seemed quite a way to get there.

We drove through heavy rain, and went back to our motel for a rest, and games.  Rather than going to a busy, understaffed restaurant for dinner, we went to New World in Greenmeadows where we bought salads, rolls and ice cream to take back to eat at our motel.  Our daughter has a wonderful appetite! Then we took her back to her home.

Today we travelled back to Wellington. It was a fine, sunny day in Napier, but we drove through heavy rain between Woodville and Shannon.  Other than that, we had a good run, with little traffic. We stopped for lunch at a café in Woodville. They  had air conditioning running, and the table where we were sitting was really draughty. JD was not prepared to move, but he did get my puffer jacket from the car. That helped! Of course, we’re supposed to have the air circulating, but we wanted to sit inside, rather than outside where it wasn’t that hot. Everywhere is short-staffed, and the cracks show almost everywhere. 

Driving home went smoothly, apart from the rain. When we drove through Ohau, we saw a welcome sign: SH1 Expressway Open!  It was supposed to open today, and so it did. We got onto it just north of Otaki, bypassing Otaki and Te Horo, joining up with the expressway that previously reached to just north of Waikanae.  Once on the new extension, it was truly wonderful.  The expressway/SH 1 has a most interesting and varied vista; it’s far from being boring. We got home a few minutes before 3 pm, having left Ahuriri at 10 am and stopped for a leisurely lunch on the way. I would pick that the new road, including the Transmission Gully highway, has shaved several minutes off the journey time. There was no stopping for re-sealing, or any roadworks.

I have been listening to several podcasts lately, given that I didn’t sleep well in Napier. Thank goodness I wasn’t driving.  JD is a safe driver, although not a smooth one, having a tendency to swing around corners which I find really annoying. However he does drive safely, and I’m thankful for that.

The Rest is History podcast historians, Dominic Sandbrook and Tom Holland, covered all the countries that were playing in the World Cup held recently in Qatar.  Human rights issues aside, it turned out to be a great tournament, with some fascinating results and upsets. I found the episodes about Germany (The White Rose movement and the execution of Sophie Scholl), and Denmark (where most of the 6,000 Jews were saved from the Nazis in World War II) to be the most interesting.

Now they have turned their very knowledgeable attention to this time of Advent, and done two episodes on the birth and life of Jesus Christ; or, in other words, the “history” and the “mystery”.  There is very little documentary evidence about Jesus apart from the four Gospels, which are thought to have been written well after his death.  The first episode begins with the passage from Luke’s Gospel about the birth of Jesus; the second episode ends with Tim Holland quoting the last verse of John’s Gospel, chapter 21 verse 25: “and there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which if they were written one by one, I suppose that not even the world itself would contain the books written”.

I’ve also listened to podcasts from Lawfare and from MSNBC about the unanimous decision of the January 6 Committee to make criminal referrals, and their final public meeting, before their report is released. Predictably, I suppose, MSNBC think all outputs are quite wonderful, and the lawfare crew are much more critical.  It also now appears that Trump’s tax returns can be made public (i.e. a committee of Congress has received them, after a legal decision, and has voted to make them public). The most shocking thing about this is that the IRS never audited Trump’s tax returns while he was president, as they’re legally obliged to do; this despite Trump claiming that his tax returns were under audit, and this claim was never refuted!  Also, in another own goal, Biden apparently received a “shockingly gracious” letter from Trump when he became president; presumably Trump signed it even if he didn’t write it, but it would seem to be an acknowledgment that Joe Biden was the rightful new president and had won the presidential election.

I’ve also listened to The Rest is Politics podcasts, with Alastair Campbell and  Rory Stewart. They’re always interesting, but I tend to go off to sleep and have to listen to them again!

President Zelensky of Ukraine has travelled to the US and addressed the American Congress. Despite his halting English, he received several standing ovations, and his speech is being compared to Churchill’s when he travelled to the US during the Second World War, after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour.  Churchill was rather desperate to get the US involved in the war, in spite of a strong American trend of isolationism. The attack on Pearl Harbour resulted in some really intense fighting against the Japanese in the Pacific, as well as helping to defeat the Nazis in Europe.

I think the Ukrainians are having a terribly hard time fighting Putin’s quite unnecessary invasion; I feel they’re fighting on our behalf, and all power to them, suffering as they are.  The Russians seem determined to take out utilities in Kyiv, resulting in significant power cuts, as local authorities strive to conserve power. It’s also very, very cold there.

I’m pleased we went to Napier again – the third time in a couple of months. It was sad not to have more of the family there, but Covid continues to wreak havoc here, and we’re by no means back to “normal”, whatever that means.

This Christmas will certainly be different, but we’re alive, and not being bombed or attacked. Slava Ukraini!  Ngā mihi nui.