Bach and Beauty

Today is Sunday September 13th. Kia ora katoa.

Yesterday I was very lazy, after being quite busy on Friday.  I went to the library to return a book I’d reserved and not read. I couldn’t renew it, so I guess I’ll have to reserve it again. 

Today I am listening to Bach’s Violin Concertos. They are so beautiful, I think I prefer them to his Brandenburg Concertos.  Bach was extremely prolific and he’s left us a great deal of wonderful music.

I miss my friend so much. I can’t really believe that she’s gone, although I saw her body in her plywood coffin, which was open at her funeral service.  But it didn’t really look like her, not as I remembered her. For one thing, I don’t remember her wearing makeup. I know that the funeral directors try to make a dead body look good.  With her funeral brochure, too, it all seemed to be at one remove. I think to myself, what would she say? What would she do? A line from her poem comes to mind: “You will find your voice, and you will know what to do”.

Today I have been reading the LRB online (this latest version hasn’t arrived in the post yet). I am reading the third part of The Suitcase, a fascinating account that takes in wartime Europe, particularly Romania. It reminds me a great deal of two trilogies I have enjoyed by Olivia Manning: Fortunes of War: The Balkan Trilogy, followed by The Levant Trilogy. The works echo each other, there are no discordant notes. Saunders conveys well the sense of dislocation, when things change so suddenly, lives are in danger, and “homes” abandoned. It strikes me that this is a bit like what we are experiencing with the novel coronavirus: we cannot travel, or see our loved ones as much as we would like to; lives are in peril, from the virus, and in the Western US, from extreme fires, and we are subject to special rules for our protection, such as the New Zealand managed quarantine of all incoming travelers.  As one of my friend’s sons said, on returning from New York, he was really well looked after, during his 14 day quarantine, staying somewhere nice, but it got really boring!

About walls, a quote from the Saunders narrative reads: “Erected to express power and permanence, it was, like all such walls before and since, a confession of weakness, a last resort when all other options had failed”. This referred to the “Atlantic Wall, a concrete and steel monotony that stretched from the northern tip of Norway to the Pyrenees”.[1]  I had never heard of this wall before! It reminds one of the wall on the US Southern border, a triumph of insanity, costing a great deal of un-approved money, falling over in places, and failing to keep determined asylum seekers out. One of its great ironies is that the US, far from being desirable, has proved to be a truly unkind, unwelcoming and toxic place, where coronavirus is rampant, and healthcare is only available for those who can afford it.

Our trip north the week before last was strange, with some places being really careful to avoid infection, and others just seeming to carry on as they did before. Today there are two new cases of Covid 19, one a traveller, in managed isolation, and one a worker at the Jet Inn Hotel where infectious patients are isolated. We have stayed there, by the way. We were very comfortable there.

Evidently two workers at the DHB in Waitemata have tested positive, as have three school students. The Herald published names of cafés and times of bus routes used by people who turned out to be infected. There was also a funeral connected with the Mount Roskill Evangelical Fellowship that prompted several cases of infection.  I find all this very frustrating. We know that people can be asymptomatic, and still carry the virus. There are not tell-tale signs like a rash or a boil: many people have spring allergies, such as hay-fever and a cough; at any event, everyone needs to take this seriously!

When the news media claim that these folk were not infectious, one presumes they mean that the person was presumed not to be infectious before they encountered an infected person, or a contact of one.  Schools, churches, hospitals and hotels all have huge and far-flung networks of people associated with them.

Today there was a march in Auckland to protest against lockdowns, under the auspices of the new Advance NZ Party; this seems to be an extreme far-Right party where Jami-Lee Ross has found his spiritual home. It’s co-leader is a Maori who believes in conspiracy theories. So the important bases are covered. He was previously treated for mental illness. These folk, estimated to be around 1,000, were marching for Freedom. Ho hum. More craziness.  This rally represents some of the resentment against the current restrictions in Auckland, and across New Zealand. Most marchers did not wear masks. This contrasts with the BLM March in Auckland a few weeks ago, which also caused some ire.  It is so amazingly good not to be afraid of getting this virus, because we have been so well looked after. Our grandchildren can go to school, and play sport. I think New Zealand is still the envy of the world. We can handle these restrictions.

Today we are waiting for news from the US, where not only is the coronavirus an ever-present danger, but also there are severe fires in California, Oregon and Washington, where our daughter-in-law’s family live. The news this morning seemed even worse than yesterday. Things just seem to get worse and worse there.  Trump remains undaunted by recent revelations about him: the 18 Woodward taped interviews, Michael Cohen’s book, Mary Trump’s book, Stephanie Wolkoff’s book, Michael Schmidt’s book, Peter Strzok’s book, the Senate Intelligence Committee’s bi-partisan 1,000 page report, another whistle-blower complaint, that a Trump employee was ordered to cover up Russian interference in the 2020 election, the Atlantic article by Jeff Goldberg, and so on and so on. I’ve probably missed some out. And Woodward and Goldberg claim there’s more sad data to come. Trump, cornered, continues to attack Joe Biden and the Democrats.   I remember when the Access Hollywood tape came out just before the 2016 Presidential election, and many thought his chances of winning were doomed. Sadly, not. His “reptilian” cunning continues.

Although this year’s election is not far away, the prospect is fraught with fear and confusion: the pandemic, changes to the US Postal Service, purging of voter rolls, and different states’ rules all contribute to the difficulty not only in casting a vote, but having it counted appropriately.  That’s to say nothing of what damage foreign actors (especially the Russians) may inflict. Voting rolls were never that secure in many states. While the prospect of another four years of Trump is truly terrifying, and Biden is doing all right in the polls, the election still has to take place, and votes to be determined legitimate, and counted, and reported.  Trump is hugely unpopular, but nonetheless he’s pretty determined to win, by any means. The pandemic is deemed to have caused over 194,000 deaths.

This afternoon I went for a walk. This was nice, although I didn’t buy much at the store.  Today’s paper advertises another NZSO concert, to be held next Friday evening. I would love to go, but don’t know if we can attend physically: the government is due to announce tomorrow if we are to go to level 1 in Wellington (and what levels will apply to Auckland and the rest of the country).  Actually I’m quite happy with the current restrictions. They aren’t arduous. Nga mihi.


[1] Frances Stonor Saunders, The Suitcase: Part 3, London Review of Books Volume 42 Number 16 13 August 2020

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