Nearly there: Christmas Eve

Today is Wednesday December 22nd, 2021. Kia ora!

Nothing too horrendous today, really.

At 1 pm we learn that there are 56 new community cases of Covid 19, and 6 new omicron cases at the border. The big news is that there’s a case in Lower Hutt (not Wellington), and there are five locations of interest in the Hutt Valley.

The location of today’s new community cases are: Auckland (33), Waikato (6), Bay of Plenty (11), Lakes (4), Taranaki (1), Hutt Valley (1). There are 51 people in hospital, 7 in ICU as of today.

Overseas, omicron has rapidly become the dominant variant of Covid 19, (73% of all cases in the US), although a delta outbreak is still raging in many places.

Covid 19 has been detected in wastewater from Napier and Whitianga.

It’s now Thursday, December 23rd.

So nothing much happened yesterday, although I did get into an email discussion with a podcast provider. The issue was, I was listening to a series which drops a new episode each week. The new episode was loaded, but it was the wrong one: they loaded an episode from an earlier series. Anyway, the correct episode was duly loaded, and I listened to it with interest.

Today again there are 56 community cases of Covid 19, and 3 new cases of the omicron variant in MIQ. So that’s probably good news.  I’ve seen really scary news stories overseas about omicron’s terrifying rate of increase, and that it’s rapidly becoming the dominant variant, even replacing delta, which is still causing problems. There are 48 people in hospital, including 7 in Intensive Care.

The new cases are located in Auckland (42), Waikato (four), Bay of Plenty (six), Lakes (two), and one each in Tairāwhiti and Taranaki.  Late this afternoon I learnt that there are 4 new cases in Murupara, a town that was devastated during the unemployment crisis of the 1970’s, and with a low vaccination rate. So that is a worry.

In the early afternoon we went to New World supermarket in Thorndon.  It was nice to come here, but it was very busy. I managed to get most of the things I wanted in strange places. (Where are the cucumbers? kiwi fruit? where’s the salad dressing?) I bought pâté, brie, grapes, raspberries…and we got pies to eat later for lunch, and a donut, of course.

I’ve learnt that some rich countries are recommending a second booster jab of vaccine, i.e. two vaccine shots and now two boosters!  Forget about vaccinating Africa, or India, then. Our survival now depends on multiple doses of boosters, and we struggled to get the vaccines. I’d have to acknowledge that New Zealand got off to a frustratingly slow start with vaccines, but they’ve done an amazing job, and now I believe over 90% off eligible Kiwis have had two injections.

It’s now Friday December 24th – Christmas Eve. It’s a fine day, and the shops are quietly busy, but not madly busy.

In the US, Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland and Rep. Jim Clyburn have covid 19 infections. Later I learnt that Vice-Admiral Tim Laurence, the second husband of Princess Anne, has the coronavirus. In China, the city of Ti’an, a  city of 11 million people, has been locked down for 127 covid cases. New York has scaled back its New Year celebrations.

The January 6 Committee is delving ever deeper into those dreadful events, and they want to speak to politicians: Scott Walker and Jim Jordan, so far. It seems that republicans did everything they could do declare Joe Biden’s election invalid, and keep Trump on as President.  The death threats, and the acceptance of violence (and lack of condemnation by republican leadership) is frightening indeed. Those threatening such nasty violence seem to have no conception of it being done to their own loved ones. There are many situations where there’s a lack of discrimination as to who gets hurt, when things are really out of control.

This morning I listened to the latest The Rest is History podcast again featuring Rachel Morley, from the Friends of Friendless Churches charity, talking about her top ten Christmas Churches.  I was surprised and delighted to here that St Mungo’s Cathedral in Glasgow was number 7 on her list! I have been there, and I loved it too; it had a purple stained glass window, and reminded me of Blackadder, the television series.  There was a lot of talk about charities and collection boxes, and also some quite naughty acts!  You’ll have to listen to it yourself to find out!

The 1 pm announcement tells that there has been another death from Covid 19: person in their 50’s, who had been in North Shore Hospital since December 11. There are 45 people in hospital, and 8 of them in intensive Care. Meanwhile, 62 new community cases were reported on Thursday, in Auckland (37), Waikato (5), Bay of Plenty (14), Lakes (five) and Canterbury (one). There are nine new cases in MIQ, including 7 with the omicron variant of Covid 19.

After lunch we went briefly to Johnsonville, where I picked up two reserved books from the library there. I grizzled about having to show my vaccine pass, which can be time-consuming, but later went back and apologized to the nice security guard who was photographing them; after all, he doesn’t make the rules, and they’re there to protect us.  I’ll know to have my pass ready next time I’m there. We then called at Whitcoulls in the Johnsonville Shopping Centre, where they helpfully had lots of inexpensive gift suggestions.

I picked up two reserved books from the library. One is a book about of W. G. Seward called “Speak, Silence”. It’s a large tome. I remember reading Seward’s books several years ago, and I found them most interesting. In fact, based on ‘Austerlitz”, I tried to go to the Austerlitz Railway Station in Paris in 2016; there were lots of armed police there, and evidently it was no longer a railway station but was being turned into something else.  Despite the huge police presence, there was no obvious terrorism threat. I was disappointed not to be allowed inside the former Station. Railway stations can be quite wonderful, memorable and intriguing places.

The other book is Prisoners of Time, by Christopher Clark.  I don’t remember requesting this book, but it is so interesting. Christopher Clark is Regius Professor of History at Cambridge University, and he compiled this book during the Covid 19 lockdown of 2020.  It may have been referred to in a podcast I listened to, or he may have been a guest.  At the moment I’m reading a chapter about Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, as retold and interpreted by Daniel, in the book of Daniel. Chapter 2. I have read the preface, and the chapter about Colonel General Blaskowitz, who committed suicide before his trial at Nuremberg, but who showed elements of resistance to atrocities against civilians by the Nazis during World War 2. When he tried to highlight these, he was demoted, although he always stood up for the army as a non-political body. Of course, he was conflicted about its role and purpose and responsibilities. He did some bad things, and some good things, although it seems he could expect to be acquitted at the Nuremberg trials after the war. His suicide came as a surprise, but perhaps he fell into deep despondency about the terrible things that had been done.

JD and I went to a lovely candlelit service on Christmas Eve. He came in because there was really nowhere else for him to go.  We heard the Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke, and sang lots of carols. The church looked really beautiful in the flickering candlelight. There were lots of people there, although in that church no one’s uncomfortably close. Then we went home and tried to sleep.

What a strange time this is, and how fortunate we are to  be here.  The world is a very troubled place, with Russia threatening Ukraine and China threatening Taiwan, and the coronavirus threatening all of us.  For Christians, it is truly a time to be thankful, and joyful, and put aside frustrations and concerns.

The historian Christopher Clark has a podcast, The History of Now. While he writes very well, and I am reading more of his book, I don’t find his voice great to listen to.  It’s interesting to me just how important this is – the voice (or voices) have to be good to listen too, in my view, as well as having interesting subject matter. I listened to an episode where he interviews John Henderson and Jane Stevens Crawshaw entitled: Quarantine, Isolation, Lockdown: The Plague in 17th Century Venice and Florence. I found this episode most interesting, partly because I had read a review of Henderson’s book, Florence under Siege, in the London Review of Books. I was so interested from reading the review that I wanted to borrow the book from the library, but Wellington Public Library doesn’t have it, and it’s really expensive to buy.

The essence of what he’s saying is that in Florence the authorities saw to it that the poor were well fed during a lockdown, that they had wine, and basically the Italian authorities saw that it was important to be kind at this time and help people get through it.  I found this approach really interesting, similar to South Korea’s approach (which was successful, initially), and to Prime Minister Ardern’s here, where we were so well looked after during the nationwide strict lockdown of 2020, which was a bit of a novelty, and a circuit breaker. Sporadic localised lockdowns followed, generally of a fairly short duration, and the borders were closed, imposing the dreaded MIQ system. This was modified, and has protected us all really well, until it didn’t, and people couldn’t get a place to come back for a funeral, and our loved ones couldn’t come home to visit. The government has made some modifications, but now we’re all threatened by the omicron variant of Covid 19, and restrictions are being put back in place.

It’ll be a very strange Christmas here, for sure. More to come! Stay tuned. Ngā mihi.

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