A Pandemic Year continues

America's Cup 2021: Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa locked at 3-3 but low  action racing pattern continues
America’s Cup Yachts

Today is Sunday March 21st. Kia ora.

I haven’t written for a few days now. So what’s been happening? Easter is coming, and with it the prospect of loneliness, of needing to get through the long weekend. The local supermarket is closed for Good Friday and Easter Sunday. JD and I generally don’t go away for long weekends, mindful of the increased traffic (and risks that entails), and increased prices. It spells the start of school holidays, an end to Tai Chi for term one, and a break from singing. It marks the end of Daylight Saving here, and we are suddenly plunged into darkness, i.e. darker mornings and evenings starting earlier. I hope there will be some good movies on; I must ensure I have good books to read (this shouldn’t be a problem).  I posted a parcel of Easter eggs to my daughter in Wednesday morning, hoping it would arrive in time for Easter, bearing in mind the vagaries of NZ Post: it arrived on Friday!  So she’s already eating her Easter eggs.

I have been to Tai Chi, and two lots of singing. We went to see Blackbird, starring NZ’s own Sam Neill, but I hadn’t realised that it was about in effect a suicide plot.  It received very good reviews, and besides our Sam, it starred Susan Sarandon, Kate Winslet, Lindsay Duncan, and Mia Wasikowska. So that was a bit of a downer. Nevertheless, it was well-written, and well-acted. Last Friday I had not one, but two funerals that I wanted to attend so I had to make a choice. I then decided that, whatever my reservations, I would arrange a gathering for later this year, while we’re still alive.

NZ won the America’s Cup last Wednesday!  I found it difficult to watch at times, what with my double vision, the moving lines, the delays, the moving yachts, and ever-changing camera angles. I also found the Louis Vuitton Cup races pretty boring, although it was interesting to see Sir Ben Ainslie, skipper of Ineos, the UK boat, doing rather well.  The vagaries of wind shifts, delays, and near disasters made this frustrating. But I did watch the last race. Emirates Team NZ and Prada Pirelli’s Luna Rossa (sailed by former foe Jimmy Spithill and the Italian owner), were tied for the first three days. The last, and winning race, was delayed, but was the best yet – a definitive win. And now, all of a sudden, it seems, it’s all over!

Things I remember: Jimmy Spithill’s graciousness in congratulating the NZ team on their win; the elegance of the Italian team at the press conferences after each two-race session; the anger of Dean (I kept forgetting his Christian name) Barker – he used to be quite a dish! The beautiful Italian spoken by one of the Italian team; for Peter Burling, ever cool and calm under pressure, it’s just another day at the office (but what a day, he almost makes it look easy); the patient crowds at the America’s Cup Village (I do hope they will go touring and help the flagging tourism market); and, last but not least, Rod Stewart’s rendition of Sailing (we sang it the next day, too). 

There was a family discussion about the taxpayer funding supporting this event. Most of us concluded that it was worth every penny, to be able to do this here, to bring in many visitors, and for NZ to win decisively, in the end. Would their “boat” be fast enough? Would the famous foils work? The innovative Kiwis did it again, and we are so proud of them.  Sure, it’s costly, but no one gets hurt (other than some egos).  We go for good sportsmanship, and a sense of fair play.

In Aotearoa/New Zealand, vaccinations are proceeding, although not as quickly as one would like. We are to have the Pfizer vaccine, but MIQ workers are being vaccinated first, then Counties Manukau. This is as it should be, of course, but I suspect we will get this year’s flu vaccine first. It’s suggested that JD, our daughter and I are in Group 3, likely to receive the first dose of the vaccine in May (end of May?), and the rest – under 65’s – later.  There is a suggestion of a trans-Tasman travel bubble from April. So that would open the way for some Australian visitors to come to my party later this year.

Overseas, one member of our immediate family has received her first jab – my daughter-in-law in the UK. She expects to receive her second jab towards the end of June (not the ideal three weeks).  There seem to be all kinds of issues with vaccines. Although we were hanging out for them, and it’s wonderful that several have been developed so quickly, distribution seems to be really difficult, I gather NZ is trying to build a new IT system to record who has the jabs, but it’s not as though administrators haven’t had several months to think about this and plan for it.  Then there are the people who won’t have a vaccine. While there is a risk to having it, it’s far less than the risk of having Covid 19, and you’ll probably need to be vaccinated in order to travel. That said, there are alarming cases of vaccinated people catching Covid 19.  There are also alarming stories of deadly new variants, one doing damage in New York, while Paris is to impose a new four-week lockdown. Then there are alarming situations in the US of Republican-governed states throwing caution to the wind. American people are fed up with restrictions, and who can blame them? Except it’s unwise to be unwise, as President Biden and Dr Fauci keep telling them.

There is great and legitimate horror and upset about the killings in Atlanta, where it seems Asian women were targeted by the lone gunman (who was said to be “having a bad day”). While this is terrible, why were these businesses open? If massage (and sexual relations) isn’t close contact, then what is?

I recently watched New Amsterdam, all three series, and while some of the stories are rather far-fetched, it’s impossible not to like some of the characters and be interested in them. Series 3 (only a few episodes have been made and released so far) concentrates on life several months after the pandemic struck, and the impacts are evident on everyone’s already stressful lives – of doing everything remotely, and always being afraid. The last episode I watched brought home to me just how difficult things are for folk overseas, and how scary; not only to have one’s way of life so disrupted, but one’s way of work, too; what strains this has put everyone under. Yet again, I feel guilty here, that I have not really been affected by this schemozzle, but my loved ones have. 2021 may be a New Year, but we are not out of this mess yet. However I discovered during our strict lock down, now a year ago, that one can hug one’s grandchildren (they are much shorter than us!), and at my dear friend’s funeral, that wearing a mask does not stop you hugging someone.

I am reluctant to comment on US politics. It is such a relief to have President Biden being “presidential”, and not to have Trump reacting to everything on twitter.  I have been reading Mike Duncan’s The Storm before the Storm. I read the story of Tiberius Gracchus, and how he was murdered, and his body thrown into the Tiber, after introducing agrarian reforms. Then his brother Gaius came to power, and did immense good for the Roman Republic. But it all went sour, the conservatives came to power, and Gaius, in ignominy, took his own life, It had all gone sadly wrong for good statesmen.

Some have said that the riot at the Capitol on January 6 represented a turning point in American history. These dreadful events are now being “normalised”. Others say the turning point was the failed plot to kidnap and kill Governor Gretchen Wittmer, of Michigan.  Whatever they say, some truly terrible things have been happening in America, with alarming death threats made against many officials. This time is a relief, fraught as it is with other crises; further backsliding is feared as Republican governing bodies introduce voting laws that will make it even more difficult to vote. I am reminded of the scene in Germany after The Great War (WW1), when the lie was perpetuated that Germany hadn’t really lost the war. The Nazis, led by Adolf Hitler, told many lies, and made the Jews he scapegoat for all troubles. It strikes me that a certain person is very like Hitler, and the perpetuation of the lie that Joe Biden didn’t really win the 2020 presidential election is very dangerous. Some say he is weakened; others that he is just biding his time, and the republicans won’t let this happen again: Democrats in charge of the White House, Congress, and the Senate, albeit by very slim majorities. What the Dems are doing, is actually very popular.  We’re enjoying the sanity break. Ngā mihi.

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