Shadow Lockdown

Washington and McDormand in The Tragedy of Macbeth

Today is Tuesday January 11th, 2022. Kia ora!

I heard on a podcast that NSW is having a “shadow lockdown”. I guess this is what happens when you let it (Covid 19) rip.

The Covid 19 news today here isn’t too bad. There are 14 new community cases and 9 at the border. Both figures seem remarkably low, compared to what we’ve become used to. It’s the lowest number of community cases since September 28! There are 34 people in hospital; that is less, too. There were new community cases in Northland (two), Auckland (nine), Waikato (two), and Wellington (one). There are two new cases in Canterbury, which will be included in tomorrow’s total.

So that’s not too horrible. JD and I would like to go and see our daughter in Napier, and we’re tentatively arranging a trip for early February.  Hohepa authorities agree, that depending on Covid 19 numbers, this should be all right.

JD and I have been watching The Great on Neon, series one and two. It’s very well acted, and very colourful. The guy playing Emperor Peter, Nicholas Hoult, is amazing, in my view. Peter is quite mad, and quite impervious to any hurt towards others. Sexual immorality is rife; Peter is very strange, and unpredictable, although likeable in some ways.  There’s a strange mixture here of deference and lack of worshipfulness, quite different from things one might see in The Crown. In one scene, Peter walks around naked. He has no shame about this. He thinks nothing of inspecting other men’s genitalia; he even procures a lover for his wife (the Empress, who becomes Catherine the Great). She’s remarkably canny, though, and eventually gets him to abdicate in her favour. The coronation scene is quite remarkable.

On the pods I have been listening to the Bulwark daily podcast; I do find this frustrating, although I like to keep up with the news of crazy.  I’ve been enjoying much more The Rest is History podcast, presently about Caesar crossing the Rubicon (I’ve heard episode one so far), and I also listened to Tom and Dominic speaking to Stephen Fry about The Trojan War (he’d just written about this). What a treat it is to listen to intelligent conversation. I’m looking forward to hearing the second part of the Rubicon episode. 

Tom has a way of speaking about these folk, Caesar, Sulla, Pompey and others like real people, making comparisons with living icons. This is a far more interesting view than just presenting the dusty facts, and makes these intrepid people come to life in a new way.

It’s now Wednesday January 12th.

This morning I listened to some old pods: one about Trump, obviously recorded before the January 6 insurrection, but interesting nonetheless; how naive we were back then! and one about the year 1981, when Charles and Diana married, and Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister. In New Zealand, it was also a time of great unrest, being the year of the South African rugby tour (and, of course, the royal wedding).  I was relieved to be pregnant with my second son, and so had a very good excuse for not joining in any of the protests that took place. The tour was extremely divisive, and should never have taken place, in my view. Rob Muldoon was Prime Minister here, and he was certainly a very divisive figure.

I also listened to a Bulwark podcast about the likelihood of another civil war in America.  This is a very scary issue. The guest (Barbara Walter) had just written a book about civil wars, and the kinds of events that precipitate them. 

Overseas, the omicron variant of Covid 19 continues to break records with case numbers and hospitalisations. So much for it being a mild disease!  Most people who’ve had it claim that it’s not mild, and you certainly don’t want to have it. In the UK, a former health secretary has contracted the virus for a second time; it occurs to me that perhaps omicron cases at the border have declined because so many flights have been cancelled. China has locked down a third city, Anyang (home to 5.5 million people); in Australia, the Djokovic saga continues, and I read last night on ABC news that, yes, they are in effect having an unofficial lockdown.  Remember, you heard it from me first.  No one is predicting when this wave will peak anymore. In the UK, there’s yet more annoyance at Boris Johnson inviting 100 people to another party at 10 Downing St (in the garden) in May 2020, while the rest of the country was enduring severe restrictions. In the US, the weather is causing problems with flights and with Covid 19.

Today’s Covid 19 report is mixed. There have been two deaths, including that of a man in his 30’s (who was diagnosed with Covid 19 after his death). There are 28 new community cases today, and 65 identified at the border. Of the new community cases, there are 17 in Auckland, 1 in Waikato, 4 in Bay of Plenty, 4 in Lakes and 1 in Christchurch. There are 31 people in hospital.

Very sadly, a man of 39, a father of six, died while surfing. It’s reported that he suffered a brain aneurysm. Actually he died in Intensive Care a few hours later. While his death is truly tragic, it’s just not true (in my understanding) that someone dies suffering a brain aneurysm: many people have a brain aneurysm that may not cause any problems unless it bursts causing a brain bleed, or grows to such a size that it causes problems.  Having suffered an undiagnosed brain bleed myself, I do claim some knowledge of what I speak.

This afternoon I went to see The Scottish Play (aka The Tragedy of Macbeth) at a picture theatre.  It was nice to go, and I felt quite safe: there weren’t many people there, and I do enjoy the Bard. I even managed to carry my free Long Black coffee into the small theatre, without spilling it or falling over.

This was the film version with Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand. I thought it was perhaps the best film version I’ve seen, once I got over the American accents, which I found quite incongruous at first.   McDormand was magnificent, as she always is, and yet right from the beginning I wondered just what was biting her: she seemed truly evil from the get-go, whereas her husband is a more conflicted figure. The film is all in black and white, and seemed very theatrical, with limited sets, and the actors sometimes spot lit. The outside is always bleak, populated mostly by the ghostly hags and by black ravens; the castle is purely functional, quite unadorned (there are no paintings), and the human beings seem dwarfed by its size and its darkness.  The whole atmosphere evokes fear. In many cases, royalty aspires to much greater grandeur: not so, here; Macbeth’s crown could be a child’s toy.  Lady Macbeth has her hair done up, but is she wearing a crown? Perhaps later in the play she is.  The film seemed to stick very closely to Shakespeare’s wonderful dialogue, which sounds quite modern when spoken: what a wonderful dramatist the Bard is.  The spoken words are so apt: at one point, Macbeth talks about sleep knitting up the raveled sleeve of care. How true that it!  All his plays were written in blank verse, or iambic pentameter. I remember a fascinating talk about how he used this discipline. I fear this film was made in covid times: there’s no tender touching that I recall, except for I think it’s Banquo giving Macbeth a hug.  There are horrific sword fights.

It’s now Thursday January 13th.

There are more locations of interest locally: I can’t remember what they are, although when I read them last night I was relieved that I hadn’t been to any of them, and also noticed how close to home they’re getting.  A Rod Stewart tour of NZ in April has been cancelled ((by him), including a concert at the Mission in Taradale (Napier). He’s cancelled “due to ongoing travel restrictions amid the influx of Covid-19 cases due to the Omicron variant”, according to the NZ Herald. He was due to give three concerts. All I can say is, thank goodness for that. I know many people will be disappointed, but needs must. The Stuff website reports that NSW has a record 92,264 new cases of Covid 19.

Some years ago we went to a concert featuring José Carreras at a winery in Hawkes Bay. We had brought our daughter back to Hohepa, and I thought how nice it would be to hear him sing. He was one of my favourite tenors, and recovered from a cancer that could well have affected his beautiful voice. It did not, he could still sing again. We drove to the concert venue, parked in a field, and took our seats. The NZSO was accompanying the singer; the singing was miked.  But the worst of it was the generators which made a very loud noise throughout the first half of the concert. It was explained to us that they were needed to chill the wine that concert-goers were expected to buy at half-time. But afterwards, the noise continued: the caterers had to clean up, and did not care how much noise they made. JD remarked it was like listening to a CD on a tractor.  Well, it was certainly not what I expected; some musicians were not at all happy about it either. The concert was a lovely idea, but the reality was dreadful, and it seemed the organisers were not at all sympathetic to music, singing, and the challenges of a live performance. They may have been wine lovers and quite commercial, however.

Today the covid 19 news isn’t too bad. There are 13 cases at the border, and 28 new community cases. The stuff website reports that there are new cases in Auckland (nine), Waikato (three), Bay of Plenty (five), Lakes (two), Hutt Valley (two), Wairarapa (four) and Canterbury (three). An unexpected detection of Covid-19 in wastewater in Kawerau, in the Bay of Plenty, on January 10 was also reported. There were 34 people in hospital with Covid-19 on Thursday, up slightly from 31 on Wednesday. This included two people in intensive care or high dependency care units. There are two new cases in the Wairarapa town of Featherston, and two in Lower Hutt.

I’m going to finish today by quoting some of Macbeth’s wonderful lines. Ngā mihi.

Methought I heard a voice cry, “Sleep no more!

Macbeth does murder sleep”—the innocent sleep,

Sleep that knits up the raveled sleave of care,

The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath,

Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,

Chief nourisher in life’s feast.

And, because you can’t have too much Shakespeare:

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,

Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,

To the last syllable of recorded time;

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools

The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,

And then is heard no more. It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.

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