Bonne Année!

Today is Friday December 31st, 2021. Kia ora! It’s New Year’s Eve.

Some reflections this morning: Ghislaine Maxwell has been found guilty on 5 out of 6 charges, and will probably get jail time for this. She stood alone in the court:  all the rich and famous men who were “friends” of Jeffrey Epstein: Trump, Prince Andrew, Alan Dershowitz, Bill Clinton and others were nowhere to be found, and so far have not paid any legal penalty for their shady actions.  Their reputations are mud, but then I think many of us had our suspicions, anyway.

In the UK, British people will not be able to transit through France to get to their homes in the EU.  So they won’t be able to drive through the Channel Tunnel. Perhaps they could take the Channel ferry to the Hook of Holland.  I find this mildly amusing, although it does reek of pique, somewhat. Later I read that this rule has now been suspended. Overseas, records for new case numbers are being broken, more flights are being cancelled, and quarantine tines are being shortened. In the US, heaps of people are in hospital, including many children. This applies to Australia as well as the US, the UK, and European countries. I don’t think governments should sit on their hands and wait for things to get bad: they’ve gotten bad very fast, much faster than anyone expected.  This might (hopefully) be the coronavirus’s dying gasp, but Covid 19 has bee very hard to eliminate – anywhere. It may not be finished yet, however much we’ve had enough. I fear that coming impacts of climate change will be like this: change will suddenly be upon us and impacting many more people than it’s already having an effect on.  And if it’s a mild disease, how come there are so many new cases each day?

In New Zealand, there is a new case of Covid 19 in Napier. That’s not good news. There are two new locations of interest in Wellington:  the Rydges Hotel in Featherston Street, and an apartment on The Terrace.  Apparently the DJ Dimension had been granted 3 exemptions to get into MIQ.  Many New Zealanders, whose family members can’t come home, can’t get a place, or even an exemption, so that’s not great news, although perhaps the administration was trying to help the arts and the hospitality sectors.

In China, disgraced covid rule-breakers have been paraded through the city of Jingxi, reviving a practice of public shaming that had been abolished for a time. In New York, one of the subway lines is closed because of lack of staff availability. In another US city the fire department is closed. There is a Washington Post story about someone who “did everything right”, but still got the coronavirus. In the US, all the states are red (with case numbers). I don’t think people realise just how contagious this latest variant of the virus is. It’s airborne, which is an added challenge.  I don’t fear so much for myself, catching it, but I would hate for my daughter, or my school-age grandchildren to get it. The vaccines are good, but some are now saying you need another booster (that would make four jabs), or three injections a year!  You only get one flu jab each year, by comparison.  People here seem to be relying on vaccine passes (for two jabs); while they provide a shield of sorts, they don’t give complete protection. One can’t help feeling we’ve come so far, and yet so little distance, in terms of how much we know about this coronavirus.

On the pods, The Rest is History dealt with the Battle of Wakefield, in 1460, and the fall of the Duke of York, and Karl, the last Habsburg Emperor, crowned in 1916, towards the end of World War 1. I must confess I know little about either of these episodes, although I did see the movie Mayerling, about the murder/suicide of an heir to the Habsburg throne, and of course I know about the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, an event which precipitated the start of World War 1. The movie is famous for its inclusion of the Elvira Madigan suite, a movement from one of Mozart’s Piano Concertos, No. 21, 2nd movement, think.

Today’s news (NZ Herald) tells that there are 62 community cases of Covid 19. A few minutes later, the Stuff website advises that there are 49 new community cases, and no new omicron cases in the community, although there are 10 at the border. There are 46 people in hospital and 8 in Intensive Care.

It’s now Sunday January 2nd, 2022.

Yesterday was New Year’s Day, although I think that here as for Christmas Day, celebrations have been pretty muted. It’s been fine and warm, even hot, in Wellington. I haven’t felt much like doing anything, although I did go to church this morning – in Wadestown.  It was fine and warm there, although there weren’t many of us; very different from what I’ve come to be used to. Afterwards, I waited for JD to pick me up. I find this heat really enervating, although it’s nice, of course. This morning I had my morning tea outside, at my home, and again I find the sun, although “lovely”, is quite intense.

We are hanging out for having our booster shots of vaccine, and thinking we’ll see how the queues are at the Johnsonville Shopping Centre once vaccinations reopen. I tried to do as my cousin advised and book a time, going on the advertised website, but when I entered the date of my second jab, it said this date could not be in the future (ha ha! 2021 in not the future). Obviously the website hasn’t been fixed yet. Or tested, perhaps.

Yesterday there was no Covid 19 news, it being New Year’s day, except to say that Covid 19 had been found in another retirement home, one in Mt Albert this time.  Today it’s reported that there are 105 new community cases, none of them omicron, thankfully. There are however 2 new cases of the omicron variant in MIQ.  There are 43 people in hospital, and 5 in Intensive Care; there have been 2 further deaths. Sunday’s new community cases reported from the past two days are from Auckland (71), Waikato (7), Bay of Plenty (22), Lakes (Rotorua) (4), and Hawke’s Bay (1). The Hawke’s Bay case was first announced on Friday after the reporting cut-off but was officially included in Sunday’s tally. There’s lots of traffic on the roads – why, one wonders? Since the next two days are public holidays.

It’s been quite boring, really. I’ve been reading John Le Carré’s latest novel. Silverview (a Christmas gift), and quite enjoying it. Edward Avon refers to W G Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn, which I’m proud to say I have read; in fact, I have a book about Sebald out of the library.

I’ve also been listening to lots of podcasts – more about Elizabeth Holmes, CEO of Theranos (the trial is currently being held, in fact the jury are still deliberating); what a piece of work she is/was!  I’ve also listened to Harsh Reality, a series about reality television, and a series about Enron.  I do find the incessant ads and promotions in these podcasts very annoying.

I’ve also been listening to The Rest is History podcast special for the 12/13 days of Christmas. These are not cheerful!  There’s lots of mutilation and massacres. On New Year’s Eve I listened to one about the African Emperor Jean-Bédel Bokassa, and the coronavirus; yesterday’s topics were Byzantine: the four emperors of Rome, and a battle that led to the fall of the Byzantine Empire. Although I know about the four emperors, this episode was pretty obscure to me. I have also been listening to more In Our Time BBC4 podcasts about The Rosetta Stone, Herodotus, the Congress of Vienna, and so on. I do enjoy listening to serious conversation.

In Australia, you can see what happens when the official attitude is to live with the coronavirus. The other day, NSW had over 7,000 new cases; today it’s 18,278. It’s reported they’ve been flying in medical staff – where from, I don’t know. A doctor in ICU in Wellington thanked the public recently for their part in heling keep this outbreak under control, so that the health system is not overwhelmed. Queensland has 3,587. Omicron is now Victoria’s dominant strain as new cases number 7,172. Apparently the Australian government have determined that “close contact” means you were in contact with another Covid 19 case for 4 hours!  That would rule out a lot of casual contacts, I think.

It’s now Monday January 3rd, 2021. How dull these hot days are!

The Covid 19 news here today is really rather good, though There are 27 new community cases of Covid 19, and 24 at the border – but none of them is the omicron variant. There are 44 people in hospital, and 5 of these are in Intensive Care. Cases at the border have arrived from the following countries: Australia, the United States, Canada, France, Qatar, United Kingdom, India, United Arab Emirates and Singapore. In other words, from all over. 12 of the community cases are from Auckland, seven from Waikato and Bay of Plenty and one new case in Rotorua. Close contacts of international DJ, Dimension – who tested positive for the Omicron variant and was in the community – have returned negative tests. In Auckland, a rest home in Mount Albert has several residents and a staff member infected.

Overseas, it’s a different story with hospitals being overwhelmed, operas being cancelled, more flight cancellations, very high testing rates, when you can get a test, and lack of staff availability. It’s said that anti-lockdown protesters are going to south America.  But there are few lockdowns to protest: heaps of things just can’t happen because there aren’t staff available who aren’t sick or haven’t been deemed close contacts. In the UK they’re talking about reducing the isolation period from 7 days to 5 days, so that asymptomatic people can get back to work. Some close contacts can’t get tests that would allow them to get back to work.

In the US, Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin has tested positive for Covid 19.   Congressman Marjorie Taylor Greene has been suspended from Twitter. Thank goodness for that!  In Israel, the government is offering fourth booster shots to those over 60. And, by the way, tis morning I listened to an interview between David Axelrod and Prime Minister Ardern (on the Axe Files podcast). How intelligent she is!

People are finding that although this may be a “mild” disease (some experts’ terminology), there is ensuing chaos over the lack of availability of tests, queues of ambulances at hospitals, and an overwhelming number of positive tests: in Victoria and in NSW, one in five PCR tests are positive. Here in New Zealand, Prime Minister Ardern has done rather well, I think.

On Saturday night we watched Fiddler on the Roof on Māori television. Last night we watched the new Olivia Colman masterpiece, The Lost Daughter. What sad stories they both are!  It is indeed very hard to be joyful at present. Still, there is much to be thankful for.  We’re still doing all right, here. Ngā mihi.

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