The Race

Who will get here first? Santa Claus or Delta?

Today is Monday October 25th   2021, Labour Day. Kia ora.

Yesterday I heard there were two new cases of Covid 19 in Otorohanga. This is a town on State Highway 3, between Te Awamutu and Te Kuiti, still in the Waikato area. It used to have the distinction of being one of he main stops on the Main Trunk Line, where people would rush into the Railway Station for a cup of tea, which they then took back on the train. I remember the think white cups and saucers.  I believe it’s much more civilised now!

Today there are 109 new community cases of Covid 19, with two in Northland, four in Waikato, and the rest in Auckland. There are 35 people in hospital, and 5 in ICU.  The national nightmare continues, then; there’s no relief coming any time soon. Meanwhile, delta edges closer, being found in Blenheim, near the top of the South Island, and in Otorohanga – the southernmost location to date in the North Island. What kind of Christmas will we have?

It’s now Tuesday October 26th. Today there were 79 new community cases of Covid 19, that comprising 75 in Auckland and 4 in Waikato. There’s to be a Press Conference with Prime Minister Ardern and Dr Bloomfield at 4 pm. We learnt earlier today that two of the new cases are at a college in Waiuku.

It seems that more than 300 people were diagnosed with Covid 19 over the long Labour Day weekend; sadly, the weekend’s road toll includes 8 deaths. Of course, that doesn’t include the injuries and the dreadful trauma of those involved and their loved ones, to say nothing of those bereaved. Here, many have been deeply affected by the sudden death of Sean Wainui (aged 25, a promising rugby league player), from a car crash.  Although he was recently married, with a beautiful wife and two young children, his death is now being regarded as a suicide.  That is enormously sad.  It’s one thing to be depressed, but this seems to be a devastating mental illness that makes someone blind to the desperate hurt their actions will have on others, while seemingly stopping their own pain.  This young man appeared to have everything going for him. It’s tragic that he failed to see a promising future ahead.

This morning we got a cream doughnut from Nada in Tawa. It was simply amazing! Better than any others I’ve tried (to date). 

The world’s a funny old place. In the US, Alec Baldwin, an actor with a troubled past, has shot dead a woman on set and wounded another, using a gun that was not supposed to be loaded with live ammunition.  I don’t know how you live that down; what a terrible thing to happen. She was married with two young children. There are all kinds of rumours about industrial action by Hollywood gofers, by what practices you should use on any set, about careless people, and so on.  Whatever the causes, it’s a dreadful thing to have to try and live down. This will always be associated with Baldwin, despite his rather good impersonations of the former guy on SNL.

Here, it seems, Covid 10/delta is here to stay for a while; for summer, at least. We simply don’t know what’s to come. At least, Christmas can be pretty low-key here; we don’t get too carried away on the whole, unlike the British and the Americans.  There’s no snow, it’s usually warm, and many people have a barbecue instead of a formal Christmas dinner.

The delta thing is devastating, however. We don’t know whether we’ll be able to travel, or just what we’ll be able to do. Let’s hope we don’t catch this virus. I feel JD and I are now due for our booster vaccine jabs, but, of course, we don’t qualify for that here.

It’s been a big change here, the way delta has changed everything.  It’s spread in Sydney and Melbourne, as well as in Auckland, and that lockdowns don’t work, although they may limit the spread of coronavirus/delta.  Last year, a strict lockdown in New Zealand saw cases of Covid 19 dwindle, and it stayed under control with regional limitations imposed from time to time. These were well accepted, on the whole. We had a nice Christmas in 2020, some celebrated New Year’s Eve, and then New Zealand held the America’s Cup Yacht races in Tamaki Makaurau.  New Zealand won this, too, and celebrated this with many tourists who having been though MIQ, were cleared to enjoy the spectacle.  New Zealand was the envy of the world. We knew how lucky we were; in spite of various levels of local lockdown since then, New Zealand has been very fortunate in escaping the ravages of delta to date. Not so any more – the scourge is now upon us, but thankfully we have not had large numbers of hospitalisations and deaths to date. We were special! Not so special, now, alas.

At the Press Conference, Prime Minister Ardern seemed tired.  She stressed that vaccinations are the key to regaining our “freedoms”; new measures will be introduced to make vaccinations compulsory for many events, and for many employment sectors. You don’t have to have the vaccine, but you’ll be unwelcome at many venues and some professions if you don’t get vaccinated. That’s not hard, really.

It’s now Wednesday October 27th.

I was reading in the latest Economist a rather admiring article about China’s (successful?) approach to the coronavirus, by quarantining all arrivals and attempting to “stamp it out”. Then the same day I read a Guardian report that in fact cases of Covid 19 had popped up in a number of northern cities, and this was being put down to internal tours of elderly Chinese citizens. It’s acknowledged here that Covid 19 probably won’t be eliminated, but there are still significant restrictions as the government urges people to get vaccinated. There are legal cases about the personal rights of people not to be vaccinated, but I think again, be considerate of your friends and family, your colleagues, and the kind folk who serve you in shops, supermarkets, and cafés, to say nothing of people enjoying leisure or sporting activities with or alongside you. Few of us are complete loners; even if we are, one likes to go to the movies sometimes. I think if there were a cholera epidemic, most people would surely rush to be vaccinated.

In the US, the FDA has recommended approval of a lower-dosed Pfizer vaccine for children aged 5 – 11.

Here, today, there are 74 new cases of Covid 19, 68 in Auckland and 6 in Waikato. It’s predicted that in level 3, schools will re-open for all children on 15 November. An anti-lockdown hikoi is progressing from Rotorua to Waitangi n Northland; but Waitangi doesn’t want them. The police are most probably going to stop them at the Auckland border.

Today JD and I went to see a fine film about Vincent van Gogh at the Penthouse Theatre. Although we left early, given there were warnings about glass panels falling off the HSBC Building in Lambton Quay, and possible disruption by Extinction Rebellion, we had a smooth run and got there early. While it must be very frustrating for those running businesses, I really enjoy there being so few people around, and having plenty of space.  The Film Festival booklet is still not out.

The film was very good. It was primarily about a wealthy Dutch woman, who collected van Gogh’s paintings and drawings, and planned a museum to house these works. We had commentators speaking rapid French, Italian and English – and lots of art work.  This woman felt she had a real affinity with van Gogh, in rejecting formal religion and seeking a personal relationship with God, can Gogh though his paintings, and she through viewing them.

On the way home, we listened to a beautiful recording of J. S. Bach’s 2nd Brandenburg Concerto with Wynton Marsalis playing the trumpet. I didn’t know he played classical music. I then read an interesting article in the New Yorker about Rachel Held Evans and her particular brand of evangelical Christianity.  I often wonder just why people have to be so complicated about Christianity. Silly questions, really; there are different branches of almost all the Christian religions. To cap this discussion off, I have been listening to the BBC’s Songs of Praise, and I was inspired by their 60th anniversary recording, which took place in Westminster Abbey. I was ever so impressed by Monique  McCann singing Blessed Assurance, accompanied by Yolanda Brown playing the saxophone, and, of course, the organ.  This was recorded quite recently, being the first post-covid time that people could sing together in the Abbey.

The coming Cop26 climate summit on Glasgow is to be chaired by Boris Johnson, whose government has just legalised letting sewage outlets flow into river water.  Previously, councils had to report when this happened. Now of course there’s not enough money to follow EU mandates about safe discharge. This just seems so dreadfully backward – during the hundreds of years leading up to the so-called Spanish Flu at the end of World War 1, it was recognised that clean air, and a clean, aerated environment were essential to combat the miasma of pollution in which the plague and disease festered. Indeed, efficient plumbing and sewerage disposal are a hallmark of a civilised society.

It seems that we are going backwards in so many ways:  cleanliness, good plumbing, basic good manners, provision of electricity, road rules, and an environment safe from violence, abuse and extremes of hot and cold are no longer to be taken for granted.

World leaders are pulling out of Cop26, notably President Xi, of China, who has plenty of problems at home; possibly President Putin of Russia; the Australians again are doing all they can to drag their feet.  Meanwhile, back here, Fonterra (the conglomerate responsible for negotiating dairy prices for New Zealand, is now doing rather well.  Seriously, how many dairy products does the world need? And aren’t cows an enormous burden on the environment?  Here they’ve added seriously to problems of polluted water ways, rivers and streams. The Queen is now not going to Cop26.  You have to feel sorry for Her Majesty; when she shuffles off this mortal coil, as she inevitably must, one day, what kind of mess will the Royal Family descend into?  I admire Prince William and the lovely Catherine, but one feels for them as they are just so busy, and not able to spend much time with their children.  One shouldn’t forget the stress of being always on show, having one’s clothes, jewellery, makeup, hair style, smile and so on analysed no matter how one is feeling, no matter how upset the children are, and no matter whether you’ve just had a marital tiff. They are both quite wonderful, I think, but it must be a strain at times.

Coming back to the climate crisis, I find this really scary. I’m thankful that all my children are very aware of the beauty of and potential damage to planet earth, and two of them are very committed to preserving it.  Personally, I’m glad that I don’t have to do much to deal with it, as I doubt that I’ll be alive, but I feel for my grandchildren and their future. I like to think of this as our nuclear moment. Back in the 1970’s, many young people thought that nuclear war posed the biggest threat to our continued existence on the planet, given the great danger of nuclear radiation. Like Covid 19, you can’t see it, or smell it. Disasters at Chernobyl, Mount St Helens in Washington, and Fukushima in Japan (as well as some hushed up catastrophes) have continued to provide a warning plus the reality of danger. Now several nations have nuclear weapons; there hasn’t been a nuclear war yet, but peaceful uses of nuclear power seem fraught with danger too – has anyone figured out a safe way to dispose of nuclear waste, yet? Many nuclear power plants are now past their “best before” date, and in need of maintenance; unexpected climate disasters have exposed potential risks to nuclear plants.  What a world we live in!  

It seems as though everyone is angry at present: angry that delta has come to New Zealand, and we simply don’t know what’s ahead.  Still, we are well off here, except for those in Tamaki Makaurau.  This isn’t Prime Minister Ardern’s fault! Ngā mihi.

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