It’s still Monday December 13th, 2021. Kia kaha!
This morning I went to see the film The French Dispatch at the Lighthouse Theatre in Wigan St. I had to show my vaccine pass, and they recorded my name and phone number against my booking. I had a couch to myself and felt quite safe there. But I did not enjoy the movie. It was seriously weird, and not about a French newspaper but a Kansas one. I should have read the review praising it first. It was directed by Wes Anderson. I had to see it, but I should have known better. Thank goodness I didn’t take JD. He would have wondered, loudly, just what we were doing there. If we’d been watching it at home, I would have recommended watching something else. I wasn’t brave enough to walk out. Frances McDormand was wonderful in it, of course, but she wasn’t on for the whole movie, which was a series of vignettes. It was very theatrical, with scenery being slid on and off-screen as though it were a play or an opera.
I’ve later remembered the artist who was discovered in a lunatic asylum, and his art was made to become famous. This has a close connection with an issue of the London Review of Books that I read recently, which featured a very long article about the Neuherne Mental Hospital in Ireland, which was not closed until 2013. The author’s mother had worked there, and had seen various changes in the ways that mentally ill people were treated. One of the treatments was the use of art therapy, and the discovery that many people who could not function well in the “real’ world were in fact wonderful, if untrained, artists.
When I came out of the movie, I stopped at a café for lunch. The kitchen was closed, but they served cabinet food. I was really hungry by this time and had a very nice little mince pie that had dried fig in it as well as my sandwich and coffee. I then caught a bus home and JD picked me up in Johnsonville.
While I was having my lunch, I caught up with the news. The South African Prime Minister, Cyril Ramaphosa, has Covid 19. In the UK, Prime Minister Johnson has called an emergency – cynics would claim it’s partly to distract from his other problems, that are getting worse, not better.
The figures today, at 1 pm, are not too bad: there are 101 new cases of Covid 19, and 61 people in hospital, including 4 in Intensive Care. Ninety-seven of the new cases announced were in Auckland, while new cases were also reported in Bay of Plenty, Taranaki, Nelson-Marlborough and Canterbury.
At 4 pm there is a press conference, fronted by Prime Minister Ardern. She announces that on 30 December, most of the country, including Auckland, will move to Orange status. Northland is to remain at Red – I suspect at the request of Maori kaumatua. There are grizzles, of course – why can’t Auckland move earlier? I think that’s wise, though. The strategy is still pretty risky. The next review is scheduled for January 17, 2022, and Prime Minister Ardern said she is aware of the threat posed by the omicron variant, and the government may make changes to proposed relaxation of MIQ rules, i.e. fully vaccinated people will be able to isolate at home for 7 days; the implication being that this requirement may be changed. January 17 seems a long way away, for now.
It’s now Tuesday December 14th. This morning I listened to a podcast announcing that the Steele Dossier, in particular the famous “pee-pee tape” has been discredited; i.e. the source for this information, which could not be independently verified, is a Russian living in the US who has been charged with lying to federal investigators. Naturally, this is being used by the Right Wing of American politics to discredit the Russia investigation. It was pointed out in the podcast by New York Times journalist Michael Schmidt that offences charged as a result of the Mueller Report had nothing to do with the Steele Dossier. There were many things to be concerned about, from well before Trump became President. Trump himself is said to have answered then FBI chief James Comey, “Do I look like I need hookers?” Not a great reply, but his concern that Melania might find out was proved to be valid when it was later shown that he had paid off sex workers with whom he’d had affairs, fearing that this wasn’t a good look. So that’s disappointing, but it doesn’t invalidate the rest of Mueller’s findings, or indeed the concerns that many of us had.
I learnt this morning that someone with omicron has died in the UK; meanwhile, a South African doctor is telling us not to overreact. The omicron variant is now the majority of cases in many European countries. It has even reached China. Prime Minister Johnson is very concerned. He has lots of things to be concerned about.
This morning I also listened to the Bulwark podcast. It featured Charlie Sykes talking to Damon Linker of The Week, who usually features on Mona Charen’s Beg to Differ podcast. I think he’s the centre-left dude. Anyway, I thought he spoke quite well. until it came to the matter of Ukraine’s defence. Like so many others, he seems to have forgotten that the US and the UK guaranteed Ukraine’s defence if they relinquished their nuclear weapons. Now they stand to be invaded by their larger neighbour, Russia, and President Biden has said that while there may well be other sanctions, the US has no intention of sending troops there. While the situation is complicated, I do feel that there’s an obligation to the West to defend Ukraine. It really upsets me to see the US seeming reluctant to accept their obligations here, although of course one doesn’t want to see any military situation escalate.
Back In New Zealand, Aucklanders are waiting with eager anticipation for their borders to open at midnight tonight. The rest of New Zealand waits with trepidation! Air NZ has put on extra flights, for Aucklanders (12,000!) desperate to get away. Poor things, I hadn’t realised that Mangawhai Heads and beach are north of the Auckland border. Meanwhile, the weather is terrible: it’s raining in Wellington, and there’s been some flooding further north. Many flights have been unable to operate as scheduled. Who’d want to go anywhere in this downpour? Everywhere one does go, one’s thinking – are many people there? If so, perhaps I should avoid it. I find that I am forgetting my mask sometimes.
There is a new poll out, in which the National Party has gained at the expense of Act, not Labour.
Today there are 80 new community cases of Covid 19/delta, a welcome new low. There are 62 people in hospital, and four in Intensive Care. There are new cases in Auckland (51), Waikato (21), Bay of Plenty (seven), and Lakes (one). A large proportion of the Waikato cases are in Te Kuiti.
Several members of a flight crew have been identified as close contacts of an Omicron variant case in Australia, the Ministry of Health announced. These crew members arrived in New Zealand last night and are in a MIQ facility, as per standard international air crew arrival procedure. That news is pretty scary.
There is also an additional case in Christchurch, which was reported after the cut-off so will be officially recorded in Wednesday’s case numbers.
Aucklanders are warned to expect gridlock on the roads, as they escape the confines of their spacious city. Meanwhile, Wellington traffic causes problems too: JD was supposed to go to a training session in town, but it’s been postponed because the presenter was stuck in traffic. Last Friday, someone else couldn’t come to our last Art Group session for the year because she was stick in traffic in Petone. Really! It’s doubtful that the new Transmission Gully highway will open before Christmas. I’d say it’s especially unlikely, given the amount of rain we’ve been having, but it’s tantalising to see it looking almost ready from the north Wellington end, with new signs covered up, and the road smoothed out. For so long we’ve been travelling at reduced speed over a bumpy surface in preparation for the big opening. At the northern end, the Waikanae expressway is wonderful, and it seems to inch back towards Paekakariki, and forward to north of Otaki, each time we head to Napier. I guess in future we’ll have to get off this lovely new road to stop at my favourite café in Otaki. I am not always in favour of new roads, but this one is quite wonderful, I think, and much safer, being dual carriageway. One time we stopped off in Paraparaumu, another in Waikanae, and it was still really busy there off the motor/express way. But there’s no rush to open the new road.
In the US, Mark Meadows, former Chief of Staff to the former guy, has been held in contempt by the January 6 Committee for defying their subpoena to testify to this Committee. He joins Steve Bannon in this (dis)honour. Correction: the January 6 Committee has voted to hold him in contempt of Congress. The Congressional vote is to follow. Before the vote, Liz Cheney read more text messages to Mark Meadows, including ones from Fox News Hosts and one of his sons, (Don Jr!) begging the then president to call off the rioters who invaded the US Capitol. These are truly shocking. I have watched a number of news clips, each showing Mark Meadows in a worse light as newly revealed information comes to light. It is shocking, indeed; the insurrection on January 6 was shocking, but the information being revealed now is even more so. Apparently he wanted to keep the national guard on hand to protect the rioters, not the politicians or the police struggling to hold the line.
After these requests, the Fox News hosts went right back to their usual right-wing blather. By the way, Chris Wallace has left the animal channel. Just like that!
That’s it for now. I’m sure there’ll be more news soon. Ngā mihi.