Today is Good Friday, April 2nd. Kia ora. In New Zealand we have Good Friday before the rest of the world.
Last Easter was one week, a year ago, before this one. That was a different time! Most of the world was in some kind of lock down, churches were closed, and I shopped around for beautiful music and live-streamed services. In New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern asked us to have a “staycation”, and stay at home over Easter. The pandemic was still quite novel, and different economies were investigating (or not) how much help they would give to allow citizens to survive. Easter seemed an intensely solemn, and beautiful, time. People wanted to go to church, and couldn’t. People were concerned for their parents, and people in care, whether they be people with a disability, or the elderly, immuno-compromised, or imprisoned. Then there came concern for people working closely together, as in meat packing plants or Amazon warehouses. It was very interesting to see how different governments treated workers, and how disposable human life became, in many shocking instances.
This year, many things have changed. It’s apparent that although vaccines are being delivered, many countries are experiencing another wave of Covid 19 infections, and some (In Europe) are imposing new lockdowns. There also seems to be much less concern given to religion, both here and overseas. I am having difficulty finding out what church services are on here – formerly this has been quite simple. The local weekly “rag” is sometimes delivered, sometimes not. Some churches’ websites have not been updated. This is kind of upsetting. In the Christian tradition, this is the holiest time of the year.
The world seems filled with problems, although I guess ‘twas ever thus. The vaccine rollout is slower than expected. Covid 19 infections are now rising again in many countries, including the US, which has been strenuously rolling out vaccines since President Biden’s inauguration. It’s evident that life’s not going back to “normal” any time soon; there will be a new “normal”, freer than this one, we trust, sometime not too far away.
It is now Easter Sunday. Happy Easter, everyone! This morning I went to church in Khandallah. It was nice, I enjoyed it. Last night was a long night- the end of daylight saving in New Zealand. So there was an extra hour of time to get up and ready. We did not sing the Easter hymn, Jesus Christ is Risen Today, but Malcolm played it with great fanfare on the organ. It was very cold and windy in Ganges Road, but JD came to pick me up afterwards and we had morning tea together.
Yesterday I visited my neighbour whose husband died recently. We went over his service together – it was beautiful. I did not know that amongst his many skills, he was a lay preacher.
I have been playing the St Matthew Passion by Bach, but it is a little trying – my Youtube feed keeps jumping, stopping for advertisements, or restarting. I found a shortened version from King’s College, Cambridge, with a very helpful narrator. I have listened to this several times.
On Tuesday I met one of my sons and his children at the library – a special time. On Wednesday morning I enjoyed hymn singing, where we had our biggest turn out yet. People really do enjoy singing the old hymns.
On Thursday morning we had our last singing session for the first term, followed by a shared lunch. This time I made cucumber sandwiches, in contrast to asparagus rolls, my previous party piece. As usual, there was plenty of food, and we left some for the Scrabble group that was meeting that afternoon.
On Thursday evening we went to another concert at the Michael Fowler Centre – our first for 2021. We heard part of the pre-concert talk. After the overture, the wonderful Deidre Irons played Mozart’s 23rd Piano Concerto with a slimmed down orchestra. What a beautiful piece of music this is! In the first movement, I felt she was warming up a bit, with slightly less control than usual, but she played the Second Movement with exquisite pathos and beauty.
After the interval the NZSO played Stravinsky’s Firebird (45 minutes). We moved seats, sitting just under the overhang (there were some spare seats, although upstairs the hall looked full). This was a good move – the acoustics were still fine, there was much more room, we were away from the Philistines who insisted on talking, and it was cooler. I watched the tuba player, with his enormous tuba and large mute. Even muted, the tube made a big sound. I wish I’d taken a photo of him with his instrument.
The orchestra played with great power, control, and subtlety. They are, in my estimation, a great orchestra. How fortunate we are to be able to attend concerts like this.
On Friday I was really tired, but I went to the library and picked up another book by Philippe Sands, The Ratline. This book is the story of Otto von Wächter, another Nazi fugitive. Having read his East West Street made reading this much easier; indeed, it is very readable. I am also reading Anne Applebaum’s Red Famine, Stalin’s War on Ukraine, another story of the Holodomor. It strikes me, reading the early chapters, that what is happening now (in terms of Russian aggression in the east of Ukraine), is very similar to what happened before. Poor Ukraine! I think it should be its own nation, but, of course, it’s complicated. In fact the more I learn of history, the more complicated things are, I learn. People have been migrants, nomadic, as much as they’ve tried to form nations anywhere. We are mostly, if not all, immigrants. Over the centuries people have fled from oppression of various kinds, whether it be racist or religious bigotry or the threats posed by climate change, conflict, or disease. This is not new, to want to move to somewhere where one and one’s children are perceived to have a better chance of survival.