Today is Sunday December 12th, 2021. Kia ora!

This morning I went to church. Today, on Gaudete Sunday, the Advent theme is Joy. Gaudete is a command, it’s in the Latin imperative mood: “Rejoice!” There seemed to be fewer people there than usual, both physically and on zoom, although the rules have been relaxed: we can now pass the peace of Christ (some shoulder bumps!), and they were having morning tea afterwards.  My friend Malcolm played the organ, and that was beautiful. ”It was raining quite heavily today, and it’s quite a bit colder than it has been.

There’s been no bad news overnight, but today there are 103 new community cases of Covid 19, and there are 61 people in hospital, including 3 in Intensive Care. On reflection, frustrating as this outbreak is, I think the New Zealand government has managed it rather well, keeping the numbers of those in hospital limited, and limiting the number of deaths. Are the vaccines making a difference? One hopes so. The new cases are in Auckland (86), Northland (two), Waikato (nine), Bay of Plenty (three), Canterbury (two) and Lakes (one). One case in Taranaki and one in Nelson-Tasman were also confirmed, but would be added to Monday’s total, the Ministry of Health said.

Back here, Dr Michael Baker, ever a voice of caution, advises against opening borders (presumably overseas ones) as advised by the government, given the presence of the Covid 19/omicron variant overseas;  Aucklanders are apparently desperate to be anywhere but Auckland. In Australia, people are now advised to get a booster shot of vaccine 5 months after their second shot; in New Zealand, the advice was considered, and remains – after 6 months. In NSW, it was reported today that there are 11 cases of omicron, and one of those is in hospital.  Perhaps the hope that it wouldn’t make people so sick is a pipe-dream. 

Last night, again on Maori television, we watched the film Learning to Drive, starring Ben Kingsley and Patricia Clarkson. This film too was about relationships, and their challenges, especially marital ones. It was a good film.

Tonight on Māori television we watched Lilting, a charming film about the relationship between the partner of a gay man who dies by accident, and his partner’s non-English speaking Chinese mother, who did not know that her only son (Kai) was gay. The former partner engages a young woman fluent in Chinese and English to translate, and sometimes navigate, between the mother and her romantic relationship with another man, and between Kai’s mother and himself.

I am reading another novel by Elizabeth Strout called Oh William! This was recently published, and I reserved it from the library. I had read the first book in the series called My Name is Lucy Barton.  The book I’m reading is quite intense, focussing as so many modern books do on family relationships, and their ups and downs. Lucy is somewhat fortunate in that although her second husband David, whom she really loved, has died, her first husband William, father of her two daughters, who remarried twice after she left him, and is now alone again, turns to her for support. Now they have a different relationship, now that they’re both more mature and they have adult children, but aren’t grandparents, yet.  Reading this book has forced me to re-evaluate many of my own relationships, and see them in a different light. It has also struck me how different things are when lack of money is not a concern, and doesn’t affect all the decisions one makes. One of the interest questions it explores is to what extent we marry our parents. 

It’s now Monday December 13th. What a lot has happened! Here in New Zealand, a new case of Covid 19 has been diagnosed in Rotorua. There is to be a press conference at 4 pm, where Prime Minister Ardern is expected to announce any changes to New Zealand’s traffic light system. It’s reported that Auckland will be deserted over the holiday break: people are desperate to get out of there, although it’s a big place with lots of beautiful beaches.

Overseas, it’s reported that several cases of Covid 19/omicron are now in hospital in the UK So much for it being a “light flu”. I remain sceptical.

In the US, there has been a devastating series of tornadoes, wreaking havoc through several mid-western states, and cutting a swathe of destruction. Some of the worst damage has been done in the Kentucky town of Mayfield. While the odd house is still standing, the scenes of devastation are shocking.  Someone asked about going door-to-door to offer help: but there are no doors! The power and the water are off, of course. Yesterday it was reported that 70 people had died; today they’re saying at least 100.  There were terrifying cries for help from people who had sheltered in a candle factory in Mayfield. This isn’t hurricane season; tornadoes like this in December are very unusual.

Also in the US, and the UK, damaging information just keeps leaking out.  Both about the January 6 riot in the US, and the Christmas Party at 10 Downing Street in December 2020, when Christmas was cancelled for most people.  I saw somewhere that information about this event would keep coming out, and so it has. Now there is film of Boris Johnson holding a quiz show at this meeting where no rules were broken.  One can’t escape the conclusion that there is one rule (or perhaps no rules) for Tory MPs and another set of rules and expectations for everyone else. Far be it that Tory MP’s and their PM should lead by example. Boris Johnson continues to face more heat on this issue.  Many other issues are being brought up, like, for example, the British leaving Afghanistan recently, when the Foreign Secretary was on holiday, and apparently pets (i.e. dogs) were given air priority over desperate Afghans.  No one is covered with glory by this withdrawal.  Most agree that it’s a good thing that the US war against Afghanistan (that never should have happened, in my view), has ended, but the withdrawal was chaotic.  Now the Taliban are in charge there; woman cannot go to work and girls cannot go to school; there have been ghastly reports of random killings and violence; and now there is a grave humanitarian crisis, where people don’t have enough to eat.  This poses a further problem for those who would help: hunger is hunger, whoever’s in charge, and however badly they’ve managed the situation.

In the US, Mark Meadows, former Chief of Staff to the former guy, seems to be very confused; he’s written, and hawked, his book, which tells, amongst other things, that Trump has a positive Covid 19 test several days before he revealed that he’d tested positive.  People are shocked that he put Joe Biden and many others at risk; he was infectious at the dreadful first debate with Joe Biden.   But evidently the former guy did not appreciate this! Meadows was cooperating with the January 6 Select Committee; now he’s not cooperating; he’s suing Congress and Nancy Pelosi; but he’s already given the January 6 Committee many papers, including a power point presentation, that sets out (with many conspiracy theories) how Trump could retain the presidency. Evidently he’s not a wealthy person; he could well be having trouble with legal fees. In what is seen as another legal defeat for Trump, a Court of Appeal has ruled, very quickly for them, in a voluminous report that he cannot withhold January 6 communications with the White House from the January 6 Committee. A news anchor and a commentator were prepared to say this report is scathing, and although this matter is due to go ot the Supreme Court, there is doubt that they would take it up.

In the US, coronavirus is surging in many places, even without the omicron variant, which is hardly surprising after Thanksgiving celebrations. I repeat, again, the Good Lord gave you a brain; perhaps you should use it, and be thankful in private. Give this year’s celebrations a miss – they will probably make you sick. This scourge too will pass.

In Russia, troops are massing on the Ukrainian border, and the world is poised to see if Putin will invade Ukraine.  When the USSR broke up, and Ukraine became a country separate from the Russian Federation, it gave up its nuclear weapons in return for the US and the UK guaranteeing its safety. Does anyone remember this?  Rachel Maddow reminded us during one of her shows last week. President Biden has had a discussion with Putin, but on the animal channel, and other right wing television channels, the anchors are taking Putin’s side against Ukraine’s independence.  Another scene of interest is the nation of Taiwan, where its much larger neighbour, China, is continuing to display some very scary and threatening actions.

So what will happen? Will the January 6 Committee succeed? Will Bojo fall? Will anyone cheer up? Will something dreadful (like the Challenger disaster, the Indonesian Tsunami or the Texas freeze) happen in January? Many times we’ve got through Christmas, and the joy of the Saviour’s birth, even the Boxing Day sales, muted New Year celebrations, and then something dreadful happens. Yesterday we sang Joy to the World; I remember last year in the US people singing “Joy to the polls”! Peace be with you. There is much to be thankful for.  Rejoice! Ngā mihi.

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