Mere Kirimete

Pohutukawa and rata: How to grow New Zealand's Christmas trees |

Today is Christmas Day. It is 4:23 am. Kia kaha! Mere kirimete!

We are in Napier. It would be fair to say there have been various challenges.

We drove up from Wellington on Wednesday, leaving at 12:15 pm.  Traffic was fine, and we were happily speeding along the ever-advancing expressway, when we ran into a queue and stalled for what seemed like a long time. The traffic queue barely moved at all. Finally we reached Otaki at about 2:45 pm, and stopped there, although the traffic was still quite heavy. By now we worried that cafés would be closed as we slowly drove north, and I was hungry. We had a late lunch, and headed north again. Now the traffic was queued heading south. At this stage there were no reports of accidents, although later we heard there had been an accident around Otaki, and SH1 had been closed for a time. Reports of heavy traffic continued throughout the day, and I think we got off lightly, all things considered. The persistent rain was also a nuisance for much of our journey.

We got to Napier, where it was fine, but not too warm. We went shopping at New World in Greenmeadows, and had supper in our motel.

During the night I struggled with the computer. My mobile phone won’t connect to the internet, and this is extremely annoying. I decided to put off getting a new phone until after Christmas, seeing there is difficulty in having a package delivered at this time.  But although I can play podcasts on my laptop, there are various problems with doing so. I have to unlock it frequently; it’s not intuitive, like my phone was: I have to key in the exact address, and I can’t see the keyboard in the dark.  I could use JD’s mobile phone, in theory, but it’s difficult to regulate the sound and the brightness. It’s also very hard to use his phone if it’s not beside my bed!  I am used to having my phone close by, with headphones plugged in, and the brightness and sound already turned down. My phone also “knows” what newspaper and podcast sites I’m after.

It’s also annoying not to be able to look up opening hours for favourite cafés, road blockages, weather forecasts and so on.

On Christmas Eve we did last minute Christmas shopping, and had lunch at Cappadonna.  Then we picked Vicky up, and went to Taradale, where we looked at a rather nice Paper Plus store and bought our daughter an art magazine. Then we went to the Hohepa Shop, but alas that was closed.  We drove to Havelock North and visited Bellatino’s, but they had a very poor cheese selection, with no Hohepa Cheese; the store was much smaller than I remembered it, and quite crowded.  We looked at some stores, but the cafés were all closing, and we went back to the motel for afternoon tea.

On arriving back, we discovered that the housekeeping had not been done. The bed was still unmade, the used towels still on the bathroom floor, and a rather large amount of unwashed dishes in the sink. How very annoying!  One of the reasons we stay in a motel, rather than at a cheaper Airbnb, is that I don’t have to make the bed or do the dishes! Housekeeping had called while I was still in the bathroom; evidently JD communicated not to come back, rather than giving us 30 minutes, say. I made the bed; JD set about getting clean towels, and I left him to do the dishes (he didn’t do all of them). There is no housekeeping expected on Christmas Day, so this was extra annoying.

We had an early dinner at Café de Laos – what a lovely place to go. They were very welcoming there.  Afterwards we went shopping again, at Greenmeadows. Surprisingly, the music played was not Christmas Carols. Everyone was very friendly. How fortunate we are to be here, and I think most Kiwis realise this.

On the Christmas Eve we “watched” and listened to Nights on RNZ, and heard some inspiring stories of kiwis overseas, making the best of things. During the night there has been activity upstairs from our unit: someone using the bathroom; someone walking around; some strange noises. (We learnt the next day that a couple had left the spa bath tap running, and gone to sleep, resulting in an overflow and quite a a lot of damage, including to the downstairs unit next to us). For me, it has been a spectacularly bad night. I listened to two long podcasts decrying Trump’s lack of knowledge about foreign affairs, and the evident tie Putin has over him. Both were very depressing.

This morning we wrapped up remaining Christmas gifts. The temperature in Napier is 22 degrees Celsius, which is not too hot. It should be a lovely day.

Overseas, things are just not great. In the US, Trump now argues that the relief deal, negotiated between Republicans and Democrats, is now not generous enough. He hasn’t signed it; apparently he’s off to Mar a Lago. The US is in chaos, with huge concern being expressed about the relief package, which is urgently needed, the distribution of vaccines, Russia’s recent cyber attack, and the general chaos that prevails.

In the UK, things are very restricted, but Boris Johnson has negotiated a deal with the EU for Great Britain to leave the EU. Details of the arrangement are not forthcoming as yet.

We had a very nice Christmas lunch with our daughter, and reflected on how well we have survived this very strange year. We spoke to our loved ones in the US, and it is great to see them all looking well. The parcel we sent by mail has arrived, although it was posted a day late.

In the afternoon I continued reading A Gentleman in Moscow.  I am about half-way through this delightful book. It has just got on to the Holodomor, the dreadful famine in Ukraine in the 1930’s, a manmade disaster when Stalin ordered collectivisation of the kulaks, and sold the grain overseas. This terrible event was memorialised in the film Mr Jones, about a Welsh journalist, Gareth Jones, who exposed the truth about the famine, despite dire threats to his own and others’ lives. He was later killed in Mongolia, a day before he turned 30 years old. A recent podcast, part of the Skullduggery series, also talks about the film and those events, noting that the New York Times’ man in Moscow, Walter Duranty, not only denied that there was a famine, but received a Pulitzer prize, despite being of very doubtful moral character. Duranty’s Pulitzer has not been revoked, or his picture taken down, despite his covering up the truth about the famine.

Here in Aotearoa Christmas celebrations have been muted, yet joyful. I think the main emotion is one of gratitude. We feel desperately for those overseas, where Christmas has been in effect cancelled in many countries. It seems as though vaccines are to be this year’s Christmas present, but people will have to hang on to receive them. We hope and pray that our loved ones will indeed keep up their cautious recommended behaviours to stay safe, and soon get vaccinated and protected from Covid 19. In the meantime, the new extra-infectious variant is almost certain to come here at some stage. I should like to think we are prepared. Ngā mihi.

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