Peace be with You

Air strikes on Gaza

Today is Monday May 10th. Kia ora katoa.

The weather here is so weird. The days are short, and it’s windy and foggy, but quite warm! Yesterday (Mother’s Day) was a miserable day, but quite warm. If the weather’s wild, one tends to dress up for the cold, but yesterday I found myself quite over-dressed.

I had a nice day yesterday. I went to church in the morning, and offered a friend a lift home to Malvina Major. We had lunch at Zampelles, well before 12 noon; I thought it would be quiet but I had not realised it would be very busy, being Mother’s Day. We had afternoon tea with one of my sons, and I saw the granddaughter who had had her 6th birthday the Saturday before. We gave her her birthday present (a jigsaw puzzle, as requested. I had fun buying it).

I had two thoughts for Mother’s Day:  first, be thankful that you have a mother; and the text from Isaiah, Can a mother forget her child?  I resolved that whatever my failings as a mother, I could still be a good grandmother. Regarding motherhood, I probably have a rather romanticised memory, forgetting the fatigue, and the challenges of always being so busy. I did enjoy my babies.

Last night we went to dinner at two friends’ house, and had a lovely evening – great food, wine and conversation. Another guest, a mother of one daughter, asked how I had coped with 5 children. I explained that it wasn’t like having your child first times five; that it was a joy when one could put several in the bath together; that they all ate whatever I put on the table for dinner; there were hand-me-downs, too; and it was useful to have a schedule that younger children had to fit into. Of course, teething was terrible, and croup, too. Somehow, I got through it, and was blessed to have five wonderful children.

It is now Wednesday May 19th. Time has moved on. Nothing much has happened, apart from Liz Cheney’s “defenestration”, and the US Republican Party’s lack of insight and accountability. Covid rages on in India, and Nepal, and is now in other Asian countries; the coronavirus is now spreading in Taiwan, which, to date, has handled the virus amazingly well. Perhaps China won’t invade while the virus spreads. They aren’t letting anyone in, at present. They’ve only vaccinated 1 percent of the population, seeing that they thought they didn’t have a problem.

The Indian variant of the coronavirus is spreading in England, as the UK tries to “open up”; a case has been diagnosed in Germany. I must say it is very impressive that these variants can be diagnosed so quickly; there must be sharing of medical information. It seems that fully vaccinated people are much better protected against Covid 19, and even if they do catch it, they aren’t likely to be so ill or to need hospitalisation or die. Vaccines are presumed to be effective against the Indian variant of Covid 19. Last week I signed a consent form for my daughter at Hohepa to have her vaccine.  JD and I are in Group 3, and we’re awaiting our turn.

And, by the way, there’s a war in Israel, between Jews and Palestinians.  As usual, Israel is merely defending itself; as usual, their defence seems disproportionate to the need for it. Children have been killed, and there is huge suffering. War did not break out in the Middle East during Trump’s term as president, but he moved the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a very provocative move, amongst others. One can, I suppose, be grateful that armed conflict has broken out now, rather than earlier. It is a complex and very sad situation, and the chances of amelioration seem very slight. All the Israeli talking heads I’ve watched seem to me to be very aggressive. Where did they learn to be so unkind? It’s not Biblical, for Heaven’s sake, unless the opposing side are your deadly enemies and we’re in the Old Testament. Netanyahu’s cynical response seems particularly unkind. While thousands of people are dying in India from Covid 19, children’s deaths from rockets seem totally unnecessary. Having a go at the AP and Al Jazeera news organisations seems unnecessary too.

What else has been happening?  I’ve listened to several podcasts about the Arab-Israeli conflict, and I think I favour the Guardian’s one. US commentators are very intelligent, but many of them are Jewish, and tend to bring a certain American pro-Israeli bias to their comments.

Podcasts continue to be interesting. There is a new series about Maria Butina (called Spy Affair); there is a podcast series based on the television series A French Village; I do enjoy the breadth of knowledge and history that Ben Wittes brings to this series. There is another series of Slow Burn, about the lead up to the Iraq War, and the supposed existence of what came to be known as WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction); this too is interesting – many folk opined on this issue, seemingly unaware of the dreadful consequences of this conflict. I think it is never a good idea to go to war.  “Peace be with you”.

I have read several interesting books about World War 2, inspired by Philippe Sands’ East West Street; today one of my reserves arrived at the library: Stalin’s War by Sean McMeekin. Oh dear! This book was well-reviewed, but I had no idea it would be so large and heavy! I doubt that I shall read it all in six weeks, even If I can renew it once.  With such a large, and heavy book, you can’t take it with you to read on the bus or on the train. I was reading Anne Appelbaum’s Red Famine, but I had to return that to the library – I was about a third of the way through it. I do like reading these books, but it generally takes me much longer than the allowed issue period. I must make a list of somewhat-read books, that I would like to read more fully.

I have been enjoying weekly Tai Chi – last time we had to do some moves in a different order and direction than we were used to. This took some figuring out! Singing has been very enjoyable, with a good turnout to our session this morning. It always does one good to sing.

I am still waiting for the LRB to arrive. I bought twelve more issues back in January, and although I can login to read it, I would like to get a printed version. So far, none have turned up. I got the Listener last Saturday, after missing one the week before. It’s so frustrating when you expect something, and it doesn’t come.

We are a bit short of good programmes to watch on television. Maori television is usually marvellous, but now, alas, I’ve seen many of their programs. We’ve watched series 6 of Line of Duty (I’ve had to watch each episode again On Demand to figure it out), and we’ve been watching Mare of Easttown on Neon. Last night we watched episode 5, and I wondered if that’s the last one or not. I’ve enjoyed New Amsterdam (three series, with new episodes coming out each week); we both enjoyed a new series of Unforgotten, which was quite enthralling, even if the original premise of the story was a little far-fetched. Watching this mystery being unraveled made for good television.

I am seeing my doctor again next week. I have been diagnosed with “pre-diabetes”, and, needless to say, I’m a bit angry and upset about this. It came as a shock, since, although I put on some unwelcome weight during our Covid 19 lockdown, I don’t consider myself to be overweight. However I was reading in the UK’s Guardian a review of a new book stating you should get back to whatever you weighed at 21; that weight-loss is key, as well as dietary rules. Well, I have never been fixated on rules and my figure; I try to eat only when I’m hungry. I have tried to navigate between milk dislike and intolerance, gluten intolerance, vegan and vegetarian preferences, Crohn’s disease, high cholesterol, and “healthy” food, high on vegetables, low on fat.

The irony here is that before I was so ill, now almost ten years ago, I was living very healthily with regard to diet and exercise. I went for a 20 minute walk every morning, and I didn’t eat pastry, or chips, or batter. Now, illness has left me with persistent nausea, loss of balance, inability to digest food, and a serious desire not to cook.  I always feel tired, yet I don’t sleep well. It’s painful to cook. I do like drinking coffee, eating cake (with cream), and watching movies (when the double vision’s not too bad). I enjoy scones with butter, I like plenty of salt on my food (after I was ill, everything tasted like mud); sometimes I put sugar in my coffee; I don’t drink alcohol, since I already feel drunk most of the time. We do eat pies and chips, now, since you have to eat something.  I know that things happen, but to be referred to a dietician, assuming I have some kind of agency over all this, I find really insulting. Probably no one meant to be insulting, but the advice seemed pretty tone-deaf. Now I don’t want to lose what’s left of my eyesight (double vision and all), and I don’t want an amputation.

Back to reading, singing and podcasts. We are grateful, here, at the bottom of the world, to be away from Covid 19 and from conflict (although the Australia-China relationship could be better, one might say). That’s it for now. Ngā mihi.

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