Level 2 Bliss

Today is Tuesday May 26th. Kia ora katoa.

We went to Napier over the weekend and reconnected with our daughter! It was wonderful to see her again. We hadn’t seen her since Christmastime, and although we had planned to travel there in March, and then over Easter, Hohepa discouraged family visits, and then we were in lockdown, and couldn’t go.

While it was a bit scary to travel, I reasoned that everyone would still be extra careful, there would be fewer vehicles on the road, and it was probably as good a time as any, especially if there is a second wave of the novel coronavirus.

I had assumed that we would spend time and eat at my daughter’s house, but this turned out not to be possible – it would break the maximum gathering size of ten, as well as Hohepa’s desire to keep the home a safe site. We knew that we couldn’t go into the house to pick her up – we would have to collect her and drop her off at the gate, and I racked my brains as to what we could do. I figured we could take her back to our motel, where we could eat takeaway food, or buy some from a supermarket.

We drove north on Friday afternoon. I was expecting my cleaner to come, but evidently he wasn’t rostered on last Friday. We had a good trip, although there was a surprising amount of traffic. Having had lunch before we left Wellington, we stopped at Shannon for afternoon tea.

On the way, we learnt that the National Party has a new leader and a female deputy. We heard Todd Muller’s first public speech, where he spoke very authoritatively, but evidently does not care about the environment or poverty or homelessness. He does not have a social conscience. His deputy, Nikki Kaye, was not allowed to speak. The next day Muller sported a MAGA hat, as if there were still any doubt about his political leanings.  He seemed surprised at the very negative reaction to this.

They were being very careful at the café we went to. There were only three tables inside, all the cabinet food was wrapped, the kitchen was closed, and there were no napkins, plates, trays or cutlery available, however these were brought on request. We had a nice break there.

When we got to Napier, it was very cold. We went to our usual motel, where it looked busier than usual, with lots of big cars and SUV’s almost filling the car park. Apparently it expects to be quiet for Queen’s Birthday Weekend.

That evening we went shopping, and I bought pies and salads for our evening meal, and a cake of soap, our motel having transitioned away from the nice miniatures to squeezy containers on the wall of liquid soap, hand and body lotion, and, I assume, combined shampoo and conditioner.  I had taken sanitiser and disinfectant hand wash and hand cream there, not knowing quite what to expect.

It was extremely cold that night, down to 0 degrees Celsius, and frosty. Despite the heat pump, it was pretty cold inside. The next day was warm and sunny. We picked our daughter up at the gate of her house. We went for morning tea at a café we’d been to previously, and, thankfully, it was almost empty and we felt quite safe there. We had scones and coffee, as you do.

Afterwards we went to Farmers’ store. They had advertised that they were having a sale, and previously I’ve bought some nice clothes there. Not this time – there was 25% off if you bought two or more items, and there wasn’t a specials rack. JD and our daughter went up to the toy section, but the store was quite busy and we escaped to the beach, where we sat and watched the big waves inexhaustibly rolling in. This is a very dangerous beach, although I didn’t spot any warning signs.

At 1 pm we picked up a pizza from Dominos, and had a nice little picnic outside at our motel, in the sun. In the afternoon our daughter enjoyed a spa bath, and she looked at a magazine I’d brought her, and we danced to pop music on the television.

After delivering her back to her house, I got changed (dressed up a little!) and JD and I had dinner at Portofino. It was a real treat, and probably the first meal out we’d enjoyed since early February. The tables are well spaced there, there’s plenty of room, and it was nice. Other diners were enjoying it too, some a little too loudly, but that’s par for the course, I guess.

The next day was cloudy and almost drizzling with rain. We drove past the Warehouse, intending to buy a movie on DVD, or perhaps some toys, but it looked very busy. We then drove to Ahuriri, and had morning tea at a lovely place, quite uncrowded, where we had scones and muffins and tea and coffee on fine china. We shared our round table with Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddle duck! The individual servings of jam and cream came in small wine glasses, with spoons. It all felt very civilised, and safe.

We returned to Napier, where there was now a queue of people wanting to shop at the Warehouse, so we gave that idea away, and instead walked to Whitcoulls, where we bought a Sunday newspaper, a dominos set, and Connect Four, each in its own box.  Then JD asked our daughter what she’d like for lunch. The options were takeaways, or bread rolls, back at our motel, or going to a café. There was no question, she wanted to have lunch at a café!  We found a quiet one, where she had a hamburger, JD had corn fritters, and I had a Spanish omelet.  We were heartened by the fact that New Zealand has no new cases each day that we were away. It is certainly nice to eat out again.

Back at the motel, we washed our hands again. She’s still terrible at washing her hands!  She rubs her palms together, but doesn’t wash the backs of her hands or between the fingers.  JD played dominos and Connect Four with her, but there really are limited things to do there, strange as it sounds. We were going to go to Pirimai for a swing, but it was raining, so we didn’t.

Some of the things we usually do include going to the Aquarium (always great value), going to a park, walking in the Botanical Gardens, or going to the Golf Driving Range in Hastings, or going to the Hohepa workshop in Tennyson Street (still closed), but we didn’t want to do many of these very public things at present. We often go for a walk along the waterfront, a lovely area, but our daughter is scared of dogs and birds, so it’s not always a great idea. We were still avoiding crowds.

On Monday morning we went to the local supermarket to buy a newspaper. They had hand sanitiser (and trolley wipes) at the entrance. A nice feature was that the hand sanitiser worked automatically, when you put your hand underneath it, like some liquid soap dispensers do.

On Monday we drove back to Wellington, passing a crash, not far south of Napier. It rained lightly most of the way, and was really foggy on the Saddle Road. We ate lunch in Woodville, a nice spacious café, where we had to sign in and sanitised our hands. I always think you should use your own pen when signing in, as we did. In spite of the weather, we had a good trip home.

We just had another earthquake, (12:35 pm), first a rumble, then quite a sharp shake that seemed to go on for a few seconds. We missed the one (same place) on Monday morning, but there was one last night, I think. This one was 5.2 magnitude, and again was near Levin. I still feel some shaking, but that’s probably mostly my reaction – this one gave me quite a shock.

I am reminded again that the lockdown has hurt some very badly, and I feel for them. Some businesses won’t survive this crisis, but things happen, and there are crises from time to time. It seems to me that when there’s a crisis like this, you have to re-evaluate whatever you’re doing. The fact that this one’s been quite pleasant for me is very strange. Going to Napier was a good idea, although it did have some challenging moments!

Overseas, numbers of deaths from Covid 19 seem to be falling in the US and UK, as limitations are withdrawn. There is much debate about all of this, about how safe some places are, and about children going back to school. There is now a feeling that fresh air is important, that people should eat outside, rather than inside a restaurant, that you should open windows rather than using the air-conditioning. In the UK, Dominic Cummings’s breaking lockdown is huge news; in the US, Trump has called for churches to reopen. I wait anxiously for some debate on this, but it’s not forthcoming, yet. While I agree with him that the US needs prayer, one doesn’t have to go to church to pray. I do listen to some great sermons on Youtube.

The US “celebrates” Memorial Day today (well Monday 25th), it’s a solemn day for them, with the added frisson that the US has had almost 100,000 non-military deaths from Covid 19. This is deadly serious for most; instead, Trump plays golf and tweets. One can but pray.

Coming out of the New Zealand’s level 4 lockdown proves to be a tad disquieting for many people, who appreciated being looked after, experiencing the peace and quiet, the holiday from the rate race, slowing right down, and enjoying the basics of good food, clean air, and the absence of much relentless advertising. The editorial in Saturday’s Dom Post says it all: “let us out!…we kind of liked being locked down!”. We experienced that on our trip to Napier and back.  Let us hope that in the build up to the new normal, we don’t forget the treasure of a quiet time, where nothing much was expected of us. We found, somewhat unexpectedly, that most of us could cope really well, and furthermore, we seemed  more “equal”, we had a more egalitarian society.

I am heartened to see in this morning’s paper that local tourism is being boosted, while the Prime Minister has spoken of four-day weeks.

Back in Wellington, it was very cold yesterday, but today is sunny. Let our cautious optimism lead the way. Nga mihi nui.

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